Posts tagged Gospel
How to Free Your Local Church from Last Generation Theology (with Mike C. Manea)
why adventism (38) Cropped.jpg

Transforming your church is not simply about changing its structure, methods and leadership mechanisms. If you want to truly transform your church, you have to go deeper into its story. Sadly, in Adventism, many local Adventist churches are plagued by unhealthy theological paradigms that affect its capacity to do mission. Some of these beliefs include perfectionism, how we understand the nature of sin and the law, distorted versions of the gospel and - a shockingly common one - the idea that the battle between good and evil can’t be won until a group of last day believers achieve sinless lives.

This last view is a common idea taught by a theological paradigm within the church known as Last Generation Theology. And until it is addressed and discarded, the vast majority of local Adventist churches will simply never thrive.

 

Want to explore a healthy, gospel centred approach to Adventist theology?

Check out these books!

 

But why? Why are these ideas so dangerous to the mission of the local Adventist church?

This week, I share a new interview with pastor Mike Cyprian Manea as we discuss the root of the problem and how a healthy, Biblical alternative is imperative if we want our churches to thrive.

This episode is fire, so don’t miss out!

Listen below.


Copy of Copy of Copy of SUBSCRIBE BELOW (2).png
My Take on Why Teens Leave Church

Young people are leaving the church in droves and despite our many attempts to keep them, they continue to fall away. Growing up, my church had more than a hundred kids and teens running through its corridors, but today few of them remain in the church. For some time, many concerned Christians have sought to understand the reasons why young people leave the church. I believe that the answer is simple. They leave because they find no relevance in Christianity and most importantly, they have not fallen in love with God.

Christianity lacks relevance for many young people.To them, being a Christian involves nothing more than following senseless rules and participating in church services that are disconnected from their reality. Ask any teen in church about how they perceive Christianity and nine out of ten will most likely describe to you three things: the church service, good behavior, and telling others about Jesus. While none of these things are wrong, in and of themselves they have no relevance. Teens today are faced with multiple obstacles such as drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, self-mutilation, rising divorce rates, promiscuity, homosexuality and abortion among many other things. So the question is, How does the church service empower them to deal with this? What exactly is good behavior? Is it what the Pastor says? Or is it what society accepts? And why tell others about Jesus when our post-modern culture embraces the philosophy that there is no such thing as truth? When Christianity fails to answer these questions and fails to provide direction and practicality to everyday life, teens begin to see it as unessential to life. This sets the stage for disregarding God altogether and embracing the godless culture of the day. “What’s wrong with godless?” They might subconsciously ask, “God was never that important anyways.”

A friend of mine recently told me a story that I believe illustrates this point very well. He had just returned from a mission trip to Malaysia. During the trip he and several other students had preached to the local people. Among the sermons where many interesting topics, but for one student, as interesting as they were, something was missing. In her attempt to express how she felt she asked the question, “What does this have to do with the price of rice?” This question, silly as it may be, underscores the foundational flaw in our Christianity – irrelevance. In order to keep our teens in church we must demonstrate to them that Christianity is applicable to everyday life and that is has the solution to the problems of our lives.

While many teens leave church because they think it is not important, the greatest reason for falling away is that many have simply never fallen in love with God. In the Bible, the apostle John writes, “We love Him because He first loved us.” The idea is simple, Gods love for us awakens in us a love for Him. That love motivates us to have a relationship with Him. However, in the church we often seem more concerned in teaching our young people how to be good church members instead of helping them fall in love with God. For many, upholding the standards of the church is more important than leading young people to experience the love of God. The end result of this model is catastrophic because it fosters a spirit of division between the old and young generations. The old generation assumes the role of “good behavior police” while the young are left to feel incapable of ever living up to the standards imposed on them.

I once knew a pastor who would never speak to the youth. He had no relationship with them whatsoever and the only time he would speak to them was when he was correcting them for dressing inappropriately in church, and in my experience, having hair that was too long. This is a perfect example of trying to force teens in church to look and act like good church members while avoiding relationships with them that help them to experience the love of God.

Without the two foundational principles of relevance and love, young people are set up to fail in the Christian life. As Christians, leading the youth into a love experience with God and demonstrating to them the relevance of Christianity in our world must be our top priorities.

     ...

Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. He also blogs weekly at pomopastor.com
The Top 4 Arguments Against the Investigative Judgment (and How to Answer Them)

Note: This article is a follow-up to the post: "Why The Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed". Click here to give it a read first.

The Top 4 Arguments Against the Investigative Judgment (and How to Answer Them)
by Mike Ciprian Manea

Adventism is a robust and beautiful system of faith that deserves thoughtful consideration and exploration. However, quite the opposite has taken place. Criticisms and attacks against our church are common place. Myths and misunderstandings abound. And website after website is dedicated to exposing what they label as a "cult", "heresy", and "legalistic religion". There is almost no end to the charges labelled against us. At the center of every critique, every controversy, and every accusation is an overwhelming disdain for the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment which Adventists believe was foretold by Daniels vision of the 2300 days and began in 1844. Over the decades Adventists have responded to many of these charges and sought to vindicate the church and its history. However, our attempts have not always been successful. In this post I would like to present why our arguments have failed and how we can move forward in defending this pillar of our faith.

My experience with Adventist responses to the critics has been that they generally  take the following format:
1.Here is a list of several hundred arguments against 1844/Sanctuary/Investigative Judgment (henceforth S/IJ) 
2. Here is our response to each of those arguments (complete with prooftexts).
What our people have failed to discern is that, of the many arguments raised against this Adventist doctrine, 5% of the arguments do 95% of the damage. Not just this, but this handful of arguments are of such a nature that they muddy the waters, even poison the well, preventing the church from having a much needed, mature conversation on this pivotal doctrine. Therefore, for Adventists to respond by trying to answer each and every objection rather than focusing on the main arguments is a waste of time and has proven, time and time again, to be quite fruitless.

I have found that there are four types of arguments (the 5%) which have done the most to influence people against this Adventist doctrine than any others. It is these arguments which must be addressed before any real conversation can be had. I label the four arguments below as follows: the Soteriological Argument, the House of Cards Argument, the Hebrews Argument and the Eisegesis Argument.

The Soteriological Argument
As recently as his latest book, Desmond Ford states in the preface:
"This is not dry theology. It is not a matter to be left to scholars who have little contact with the 'real world.' This is about your personal assurance of salvation. The doctrine of the Investigative Judgment that began in 1844 denies the finality of the Cross, God's omniscience, and the reality of saving faith. Instead of the gospel being 'good, glad, and merry tidings, which makes the heart to sing and the feet to dance', it is made an accompaniment to fear."
In my opinion, soteriological objections strike at the very core of a denomination's belief system and should have taken precedence over other objections. Otherwise, this concern tends to skew people's perception of the issues and their ability to impartially evaluate the rest of the evidence.

As mentioned in the article "Why The Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed" (please read this if you have not as this article won't make complete sense without it) I don't believe that the critics have met the minimum standard of evidence for this argument to qualify as legitimate. If their intention was to argue for a Calvinist or OSAS-Arminian gospel, then they should have made that clear from the start as the Calvinism-Arminianism debate had been going on for centuries prior to Adventism and had nothing to do with the S/IJ.

If however, they were arguing for an Arminian gospel, it was their responsibility to demonstrate that changing the timing of the judgment from immediately after death to just prior to the second coming, impacted the soteriology in some way. Since all Classical Arminians believe salvation can be lost, they all believe that, prior to heaven or hell, born again believes are separated into two camps. The only difference is that they believe heaven and hell happen right after you die so this differentiation has to happen then as well.

In my opinion, the conversation with the critics should not have been allowed to continue until they first either acknowledged that the Soteriological objection is baseless or they found a way to demonstrate that IJ soteriology is in some way different from Classical Arminian soteriology. The onus really is on them.

The House of Cards Argument
This argument is pretty similar to the Soteriological Argument, and tends to play on people's fears in the same way, but its basis is a bit different. The idea here is that the Investigative Judgment is a theological construct that is entirely dependent on a long series of assumptions which, in turn, are themselves dependent on many more assumptions.

So if you picture a house of cards, the IJ is the pinnacle of the fragile structure. This pinnacle is resting on another layer of cards which represents things like Jesus entering the Holy Place in the book of Hebrews, the link Adventists make between the IJ and the Old Testament Day of Atonement and, the Adventist interpretation of Dan. 8:14. But this card layer rests on top of another layer which represents things like the correct translation of certain Greek words in the book of Hebrews, the correct translation of key terms in the book of Daniel, the Day-Year principle, the correct date for the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, etc.

The picture thus presented is that if Adventists are wrong on even one of these assumptions, the entire theological structure collapses. Not just this, but it's not even necessary to prove these assumptions wrong. All that's needed is to insinuate some doubt. After all, would God really expect His people to place so much trust in a theological framework that rests on such shaky a foundation? Would He expect them to preach a distinct message, to have a unique mission unlike any other denomination, to possibly even adopt a strange gospel, when everything rests on so many unsubstantiated assumptions?[1]

The argument is made that because Adventist scholars have been unable to demonstrate each one of these assumptions with absolute certainty, the doctrine stands on too fragile a foundation to merit putting our faith in it as a denomination. No wonder our theologians have had difficulty meeting such heavy a burden of proof.

But, once again, the Investigative Judgment is not dependent on any of these assumptions. The only foundation it needs is Arminianism and Soul Sleep:
1) Arminian Soteriology - people who were once fully saved can still lose their salvation and God has to differentiate between those who remain in Christ and those who don't. 
2) Arminian Theodicy - given that created beings have free will, God must win them over rather than coerce them. Therefore, He holds open/public judgment so that all created beings can discern for themselves if God's judgments are fair. 
3) Soul Sleep - since people don't get their reward at death but at the second coming, the judgment does not need to take place until sometime just prior to Christ's coming.
On these three points alone, the pre-advent investigative judgment stands securely, whether or not we can offer conclusive proof for which decree starts the seventy weeks, for the day-year principle or anything else. The investigative judgment is actually the foundation of the pyramid rather than the pinnacle.

The Hebrews Argument
An enormous amount of time has been spent by church scholars trying to demonstrate that the book of Hebrews doesn't teach that Jesus entered the Most Holy Place at His ascension. Arguments have been made that maybe He entered in only to inaugurate the Most Holy Place, not start the Day of Atonement ministry. Here is an excerpt from a Spectrum article by Andre Reis:
"The bias for interpretative tradition in regards to 1844 is illustrated by an interesting episode I witnessed not long ago. I recently visited a certain Adventist seminary and stumbled upon a class on Hebrews. The teacher was a prominent author of DARCOM and the subject was the 'inauguration' of the heavenly sanctuary which the teacher used to justify the fact that, although Hebrews 6 undeniably places Jesus inside the Most Holy Place at his ascension, this entering in the Most Holy Place was merely to 'inaugurate' it. In other words, Jesus entered the Most Holy Place at the ascension, inaugurated it, left it and then went in again 1844.
"I was disturbed to see that he was presenting views that had been debunked by another Adventist scholar in an exchange they had in one of our printed magazines. Never did he mention his dialogue with the other scholar. I raised my hand and asked him where in the OT do we see blood going into the Most Holy Place in any of the OT inauguration passages. By his reaction, I suspected he knew that there is no such OT passage. He hesitated for a second and then appealed to the book of Hebrews. In other words, the book of Hebrews proves that in the same book Hebrews Jesus inaugurated the sanctuary with blood, even though none of the OT passages mention blood within the sanctuary, let alone the Most Holy Place. I didn’t press the issue and I doubt his students understood the implications of my question. The fallacy of the argument is disappointing, if not dishonest.[2]"
The unfortunate thing is that this was a battle that was wholly unnecessary. Adventist theology has no need for Jesus to enter any particular room at any particular time. Our only concern is with the distinction between the daily ministry and the yearly ministry of the high priest. Heavenly architecture, or geography, is irrelevant.

The symbolism of the Old Testament sanctuary was not intended to be taken as a 1:1 correlation with its antitype. To be an accurate correlation, the high priest would have had to double as the sacrifice as well. And, there should have been only one sacrifice, not many. The earthly priest was a sinful human and needed a veil to shield him from the Shekinah glory while Jesus was holy, undefiled, separate from sinners, and could sit at the right hand of the Father from the beginning. None of this in any way detracts from the validity of a pre-advent judgment firmly planted in Arminianism and Soul Sleep. And, given that the IJ is solid, the correlation with the Day of Atonement ministry is clear simply because the symbolism lines up so well.

The Eisegesis Argument
The idea behind this argument has been that Adventists needed some way to save face after the embarrassment of 1844 and, therefore, came up with a new doctrine to superimpose on Daniel 8 in place of Miller's interpretation. Much has been put forth by the critics trying to demonstrate that the Adventist interpretation of Dan. 8 is flawed. But there is a major problem with what the critics have presented that must be addressed even BEFORE we consider their objections. And, it's a problem with Epistemology.

Unlike most world religions, the religion of the Bible has always been a religion of evidence. God gave evidence to Abraham and to Moses before expecting them to follow Him. God sent plagues on Egypt for both the Israelites' and Egyptians' sake. God delivered Daniel's friends through the fire to get through to Nebuchadnezzar. God followed the ministry of Jesus and the apostles with all kinds of signs and miracles, etc. But at this time in history, when people are more skeptical than ever and have high expectations that evidence be provided for any religious claim, what exactly do we have to offer them? What can we present to outsiders as reason why they should consider Christianity rather than hundreds of other religious perspectives?

And, the reality is that the only thing we have in Christianity that would qualify as such evidence is Bible prophecy. Without prophecy, there is no reason for people to pay any more attention to us than to other non-Christian religions. Subjective evidence like, a coherent worldview, a transformed life, help in time of trouble, etc., are claims all religions make. Now the Bible has always acknowledged prophecy as an important line of evidence, even a superior line of evidence (ex. Luke 24:13-35). And, Revelation seems to indicate that other lines of evidence, like miracles, will be hijacked by the opposition at the end of time. Moreover, a plain reading of the apocalyptic passages themselves (Daniel and Revelation), indicates that they were in fact intended to be taken as such evidence.

So before the critics bring up any problems with our interpretation of these passages, they need to first clarify how they address these epistemic concerns. What objective evidence can they offer interested outsiders in support of Christianity? Or are they really satisfied with a religion that lacks such evidence? What reason can they give against using prophecy this way when it was clearly intended for this purpose?

If however the critics do agree that prophecy should be used as evidence, then there are certain criteria that must be present before prophecy can qualify as evidence:
1) Prophecy cannot make obscure claims about nondescript events (ex. In the future someone will conquer some nation). It should address specific and major world events that are well known to history. 
2) A prediction must cover events far enough into the future for us to know that the prophecy was not made after the fact or through the common human intuition of someone with a deep understanding of political affairs. 
3) If the prophecy is encoded in symbols, there must be some strict rule or key of interpretation evident in the text that would prevent someone from arbitrarily interpreting the symbols in whatever way fits with history. Otherwise, any version of history could be made to line up with the prophecies making them useless as far as evidence goes. A person who doesn't know anything about history should still be able to follow the keys/rules and come to decipher the correct interpretation.
In essence, any rational outsider looking at Christianity will not take the prophecies seriously if they don't conform to these rules. But, by these criteria, both Preterism and Futurism as systems of interpretation are automatically disqualified.[3]

Adventists are descendants of William Miller who, as a former deist, approached the bible from a skeptic's point of view. Similarly, we live today in a world where many people will not take Christianity seriously unless some line of evidence can be provided for its legitimacy. In this context, Adventists do have a coherent system of prophetic interpretation that abides by these criteria. And, before we take the objections of critics seriously, they need to first demonstrate that they can provide an alternative system of interpretation that also abides by the necessary criteria. As of yet however, none of the critics that I am aware of have managed to offer a legitimate alternative. In essence, their whole system can be reduced to looking at history and then adjusting the prophecy to fit.

So no, it's not that we're superimposing our views on Dan. 8 in order to save face. We're bringing a set of interpretative keys to the prophecy because this is a necessary step; something our critics also must do but have failed to do. And sure, there might be aspects of the Adventist interpretation that need additional work, but we should not allow the critics to give the impression that their approach to prophecy is in anywhere near the same class with ours. Neither should we acknowledge their critique of our approach until they can present us with a legitimate alternative

Conclusion
In my experience, there are significant segments of the church today that no longer see value in the S/IJ doctrine. But, their reasons for this are not based on sound arguments. If these four elements were dealt with, a more adequate evaluation of this Adventist doctrine would be possible.

And, this affects the church more than most people realize. The S/IJ, if correct, carries certain implications that impact our understanding of what our message is as distinct from other denominations. The fact that our message is unique means that we also have a unique and global mission. If we have a global mission, then we need a centralized church government that is able to keep up with the needs of the global work and to allocate resources accordingly.

On the other hand, if the S/IJ is either wrong or irrelevant, then our message is not very different from other denominations, our mission also is not very different, and so we could get by just fine with a more Congregationalist-style church government that tends to local needs. So even when it comes to issues that impact organizational structure how someone feels about the S/IJ will affect whether they are willing to jeopardize its integrity.

The church today is divided on many issues. But at the root of many of these issues is a significant difference of opinion regarding some of the foundational elements of Adventist theology, the S/IJ being one of them. I believe that until we confront these foundational differences, we will keep spinning our wheels debating everything else. And, it would be difficult to adequately deal with the S/IJ when the discussion has been muddied by these faulty arguments.


mike_maneaMike Manea studied theology at Andrews Theological Seminary and has served the church for over twenty years as youth pastor, missionary, Bible worker and teacher. He is currently a senior partner at Zahid|Manea LLC, a marketing and management consulting firm based in Southern California. He runs several theology and philosophy sites and podcasts and is co-founder of Intelligent Adventist. In his free time he enjoys spending time in nature with his wife and four year old son. You can follow his blog at mikemanea.com.



_____

[1] Here is an article that makes such a case: https://adventiststudies.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/assumptions-re-1844-full-version.pdf
[2] http://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/10/22/perspective-1844-pillar-faith-or-mortal-wound
[3] [3] For a more in depth analysis of this, see: http://mikemanea.com/conversations/bible-prophecy-for-atheists/
Check Out My New Bible Class Series!
Pastor Marcos Torres at Livingston Church
This past year I had the privilege of teaching a series of Bible classes at the Livingston SDA church where I worked as an associate pastor. Now that the year has ended, the entire series of classes is available online for all to enjoy! 

To give the classes a listen go to www.livingstonsda.church/bible-classes

You can also find them on iTunes here or Soundcloud here.

Blessings!
Why The Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed

Why The Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed
By: Mike Ciprian Manea
Co-author: Marcos David Torres

On October 22, 2015, the 171st Anniversary of the Great Disappointment of 1844, Spectrum Magazine published an article entitled, “1844 - Pillar of Faith or Mortal Wound.”

According to the author, “...the viability of 1844 as a prophetic marker continues to depend heavily on isolated proof-texts. It seems Adventist scholars who defend 1844 as an unmovable rock are satisfied with finding tiny hooks in a few chosen verses that appear to (albeit remotely) support our position.” Moreover, “...we have been given in to the temptation to hold on to tradition instead of continuing to study Scripture. We have overstated our case and stretched the evidence in order to confirm our “prophetic identity.” And frankly, that is all 1844 really is, it only massages our corporate ego, it does little for the individual believer. I can believe that Jesus has been my perfect intercessor since the ascension without jeopardizing my standing with God.” Therefore, “We should have the humility to accept that we may have been wrong all along about the nature and timeline of Christ’s priestly ministry in heaven.”[i]

This article is just one of hundreds that have been written over the years by non-Adventists, former Adventists and, church members alike, questioning the validity of this unique Adventist doctrine. Objections have been raised that:

-The Investigative Judgment (IJ) is nothing more than a feeble face-saving attempt to address the mistake of 1844. 
-It is an extra-Biblical doctrine invented entirely by Ellen White.
-It cheapens the Reformation gospel of Salvation by grace through faith.
-It robs Adventists of the assurance of salvation and causes them to live in constant fear.
-No other denomination has seen any value in this doctrine and hence all have rejected it.
-A good number of Adventist ministers and theologians secretly know the doctrine to be false but are afraid to admit it.

Adventists have repeatedly refuted each of these claims. Nevertheless, the critics do not relent. If we respond with a humble and open mind on these issues, we are interpreted as being uncertain. If we reply with perfect confidence, we are accused of being dogmatic and intransigent. It seems no matter what answers Adventists can come up with they appear to always be interpreted as reactionary inventions cooked up to keep ourselves from having to bury a dead concept; one that depends on the KJV translation for its veracity, on isolated and dubious texts such as Daniel 8:14, on the day/year principle, or on the translation of some uncertain Greek or Hebrew terms.

In light of these attacks, one would think the debate was over. Nevertheless, as we will now demonstrate, the debate is far from over. While critics may pride themselves in their long list of seemingly conclusive arguments, the truth is they have no argument. But if they have no argument then why do they continue to press the matter?

The answer is simple. Over the decades, Adventists have allowed the critics to portray the IJ as a sort of theoretical concoction that is entirely dependent on the veracity of a long series of prerequisite assumptions (such as day/year, Daniel 8:14, etc.). And if there is any doubt regarding any of these assumptions, the entire theological structure collapses like a house of cards.

However, the IJ cannot be refuted this way (as the author of the Spectrum article and other critics have gone about it). Their approach, in essence, has been a futile attempt to kill a tree by plucking off the leaves. This doctrine is not dependent on the day/year principle, Dan. 8:14, Leviticus or some passage in Hebrews - that is only the route by which Adventists came to discover it. In reality, the IJ is much broader and rests first of all on an Arminian understanding of the Protestant gospel.

Classical Arminianism and Free Will 
During the Protestant Reformation, two distinct camps emerged under the banner of Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide and Sola Gratia with conflicting views regarding the human will. The first, Calvinism, rejected the idea of free will in favor of predestination.[ii] This perspective was later articulated as five distinct points using the mnemonic T.U.L.I.P. (see chart below for more info).

(T)otal Depravity
(U)nconditional Election
(L)imited Atonement
(I)rresistible Grace
(P)erseverance of the Saints

In contrast, the second camp, Arminianism, fully supported the concept of human free will and therefore rejected each one of the five points above. Please take a look at the following chart for a more detailed explanation of the differences, paying special attention to point number five:

Copyright © 2016 CRI/Voice, Institute by Dennis Bratcher [iii] 
Now here comes the tricky part and, incidentally, the most important part:

Over time, a third camp emerged that took something of a hybrid approach. They adopted the first four points from the Arminian side and the fifth point from the Calvinist side giving rise to what is popularly referred to as the concept of Once Saved Always Saved (hereafter O.S.A.S). What's tricky about this is that they still call themselves Arminian even though, in discussions about the IJ, how they feel about point number five of the TULIP formula is the single, most important factor. (For the remainder of this paper I will be using the labels “Classical Arminianism” vs. “O.S.A.S. Arminianism”)

Therefore, in any discussion about the IJ, before any mention is made of Hebrew terms in Daniel or Greek terms in Hebrews or the validity of the day-year principle, two questions should be asked of any critic:

1) Are you a Calvinist?
2) If not, do you believe in Once Saved Always Saved?

Why does this matter? Because all Classical Arminians reject the idea of Once Saved Always Saved, they all believe that a person who has experienced a genuine new birth can still be lost, and therefore, all believe in some form of IJ differentiating between believers, even though they don't call it that.[iv] However, most Arminians also believe that when a person dies, they are carried directly into the presence of God for judgment. At this moment, it is determined if they were faithful or not and the sentence is pronounced for either reward or punishment.[v] Adventists, on the other hand, believe that people rest in their graves until the resurrection. Thus, there is no longer a necessity to force-fit the IJ immediately after death; we don’t need to rationalize away all the Biblical passages that speak of the judgment as being in the future. Since we believe Jesus will bring His reward with Him at His coming, the judgment needs only to take place shortly prior to that.

In essence, the Adventist doctrine of the IJ is the natural outgrowth of Arminianism and Soul Sleep. All the other elements (1844, the Hebrews passages, the day-year principle) are useful in understanding the judgment and its relevance, but they are not essential.[vi] In other words, the IJ does not stand or fall on any of those issues. Its necessity stands or falls on the validity of Classical Arminianism and its eventuality stands or falls on the validity of Soul Sleep theology. Since Adventists correctly affirm both of these foundations to be true, we are therefore correct about the nature of the IJ. At this juncture, the likelihood that we are also correct about all these other elements, including the timing, is extremely high before the conversation even starts.

In summary, if a person believes that:

1) Salvation can be lost,
2) That God judges,
3) That the souls of men sleep until the resurrection
4) And, that this reward/punishment is not received until the resurrection,

Such a person will very likely come to believe in an Adventist-like pre-advent IJ irrespective of any other factors. If salvation can be lost, this matter must be objectively decided before the church goes to heaven. If God judges, then part of his judgment work would be to determine the faithful from the apostate (the nature of the IJ).[vii] At this point, we have the basic building blocks for the IJ. And while 3rd and 4th propositions do not lead us to 1844 (the timing of the IJ) they leave the door comfortably open for such a possibility.[viii] And, this is why those who attack this doctrine on peripheral issues like Greek or Hebrew terminology are, quite honestly, wasting their time. If critics would like to tear the IJ down as a theological concept the only way to do it would be to deny its Classical Arminian foundation and the Mortal Soul concept which naturally gives birth to the IJ as Adventists understand it (Appendix A). However, the critics have not and cannot do this which is why, after many decades of effort, they have failed in their attempts to refute this doctrine.



Johnny, Jim, and Bob 
For the sake of clarity, let’s take a brief look at how each of the three theological traditions views salvation.

Calvinism

Before the foundations of the world, God decreed that Johnny would be lost, and Jim saved for reasons having nothing to do with them. So, for example, Johnny might be a relatively good person and Jim a criminal. Nonetheless, because God ordained it, Johnny would never come to recognize his need of a Savior or repent of his sins. Jim, on the other hand, at some point in his life, will come to repent and experience a genuine new birth.

Moreover, even if Jim falls away after being born again, some time before his death, he will come back to Christ and die having made peace with God. Again, all this for no other reason than that God has decreed it to be so; neither Johnny nor Jim chose any of it or could change their fate if they wanted to. Therefore, an IJ in such a case would be pointless.

O.S.A.S. Arminianism

Under this paradigm, both Johnny and Jim are offered the gospel invitation. They are both free to accept or reject that invitation, and God does not interfere with this choice. Johnny, of his own free will, chooses to reject it and Jim to accept it. However, having accepted the invitation and having experienced a genuine new birth, his salvation is secure and can no longer be lost. It does not matter if after being born again he turns away from God, becomes more evil than Hitler himself, or longs with all his heart to undo his former decision to come to Christ. His salvation is sealed; he no longer has free will in this respect. So a pre-Advent IJ in this situation would be pointless since there is, in a technical sense, no such thing as an apostate.

Classical Arminianism

To understand this perspective, we need to introduce Bob. As before, the gospel invitation is still being extended freely to all. Johnny, as usual, rejects it. Both Jim and Bob accept it. They both open their hearts to Christ; they are both born again, sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, pardoned of their sins, declared to be the sons of God, and there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels on behalf of both. However, only Jim makes it to heaven while Bob ends up lost in the end.[ix] So it is evident that an IJ, in this case, is far more complex a process than simply whether a person has accepted Christ or not.[x]

Again, Arminian Protestants would argue that this IJ of sorts takes place when Jim and Bob die. Both would be ushered into the presence of God where their case would be reviewed either for heaven or hell. Jim would make it to heaven by virtue of his faith in Christ. Bob, on the other hand, having decided to turn his back on Christ, would be turned away. Since, as Adventists, we do not believe in the immortality of the soul and therefore that God has to have a place ready for the soul immediately after death, there is no need to enter into this judgment then and there. In fact, there are even some Christians who, recognizing that the judgment takes place in the future, attempt to harmonize this by proposing some type of “holding cell” where people don’t immediately get their reward but only await their day in court. To support this, they make reference to Peter’s “spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3:19 KJV) and to the example of the fallen angels whom “he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6). All these being workarounds Adventists don’t need because we don’t believe the dead are conscious. Nor does God need to judge each person one at a time but instead “has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world” (Acts 17:31).

For over a century and a half, the Adventist church has been challenged by critics from inside and outside the denomination, insisting that the doctrine of the IJ is unbiblical at best and cultic at worst. These voices have called us to discard this teaching if we wish to remain orthodox. Nevertheless, we remain unconvinced by the many peripheral attacks made against this doctrine for we see it, not as dependent on a long list of small exegetical presuppositions, but as the natural outgrowth of Classical Arminianism and Soul Sleep. In light of this foundation we concur that many critics of the IJ are, quite possibly, either:

1) Concerned with Classical Arminianism, a debate that was raging centuries before Adventism came around.
2) Concerned with non-essentials (day/year principle, Daniel 8:14, 1844, the meaning of chatak in Daniel 9, the connection between Daniel 8 and 9, Leviticus, the book of Hebrews, etc.) in which case, we are free to disagree without having to discard the entire doctrine.
3) Concerned with a pseudo IJ in which case they are really attacking a straw man.
4) Unaware of the real theological issues at hand such as the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, and their development throughout the centuries.

In conclusion, the Adventist church will not discard the IJ because we have no need to do so and critics have failed in providing us with one. Therefore, our message to the critics of the IJ is as follows:

1) If you are a Calvinist/ OSAS Arminian, you need to be upfront about this. At this juncture, the debate is not so much about the IJ peripherals as much as the IJ foundation – Classical Arminianism. So rather than expending valuable time debating non-essentials let’s get to the core of it.[xi]
2) If you are a Classical Arminian, then we invite you to re-explore the topic with an open mind. There are countless resources that conclusively demonstrate that the IJ doctrine is scripturally sound.
3) If, regardless of anything the Adventist church does, you maintain that the IJ is heretical and false then we have no burden to enter into controversy with you. The church cannot consume valuable time and energy in attempting to satisfy the accusations of those whose minds are made up beyond reason.

Moreover, we have a message to the Adventist church as well. As a church, we need to be more proactive in confronting people of influence (counter-cult apologists, Christian leaders, etc.) who continue to either misunderstand or misrepresent our views.  There is no reason to keep struggling against the current when taking our message to the general public because a few key people continue to incite prejudice and superstition. We have a solid foundation for the IJ and we can stand firm on it as we continue to explore and perfect our understanding of the details that make this doctrine so unique in the Christian world.

Appendix A: Possible Objections 
The Classical Arminianism/ Soul Sleep combination gives Adventism a strong philosophical basis for believing in an IJ. However, some may continue to argue that while this combination may leave the door open to an IJ as the church understands it, it does not necessarily demand that such a conclusion be reached. In light of this objection, this appendix will explore each of the alternative views of judgment that are logically possible under the Arminian/ Soul Sleep combination and demonstrate how the official SDA understanding on the matter continues to be the most satisfactory conclusion.

The IJ Cannot possibly be true because it is anti-gospel/ perfectionistic in nature.

Little needs to be said regarding this attack. While we wholeheartedly agree that this doctrine has been abused to promote legalism and perfectionism, Adventist theologians and scholars have repeatedly demonstrated that this is a perversion of the doctrine, not its essence. The fact that critics continue to make this claim demonstrates that they are either Calvinists who think Classical Arminianism is anti-gospel, OSAS Arminians who think the doctrine of eternal security is a test of gospel orthodoxy, or they remain ignorant of Adventism’s soteriological heritage. Needless to say, any student concerned with the implications that the IJ has for a proper understanding of the gospel can find numerous resources that answer this question to the satisfaction of anyone who acknowledges the legitimacy of Classical Arminian soteriology. We recommend some in our resource page below.

God knows who is saved without a judgment

One might argue that while Classical Arminians reject once saved always saved it does not necessarily follow that a judgment is necessary for “God knows those who are his”. In this argument then, the need for any judgment of any sort remains unnecessary due to the omniscience of God. While the Arminian/ Soul Sleep combination may, in fact, leave the door open for a concept such as the IJ, it does not necessarily mandate such a conclusion. Because God knows who has turned their back on Christ, there is no need for him to perform a work of judgment to determine who has been faithful and who has not. God can simply allow the faithful in and reject the apostate on the basis of his own perfect knowledge.

Such a conclusion, while certainly permitted within the Arminian/ Soul Sleep framework, is nevertheless lacking in various aspects. The most obvious would be that such a position is more in keeping with Calvinism than Classical Arminianism. Part of Classical Arminianism’s meta-narrative is that God is benevolent. This benevolence of God opens the door for a fairness, transparency, and general other-centered concern that is not self-evident in Calvinism. Because Christians acknowledged that the sin-drama has affected the entire universe, including angels, it is only fair and transparent for God to allow the finite creation into his all-knowing judgments. However, the idea that God would judge everyone based solely on his omniscience denies this other-centered concern and does not fit the Arminian framework. Again, such a position is more logically consistent with Calvinism, which elevates the sovereignty of God to such a height that God becomes, in the estimation of all Arminians, arbitrary and aloof. In Calvinism, God acts according to his desires with no input or apparent concern for the thoughts of others. This makes perfect sense for Calvinism denies the freedom of the will. Thus, within this framework, a God who acts according to his omniscience without any benevolent concern for the thoughts of his created beings is perfectly in keeping. However, Arminianism is a denial of Calvinism, which, while maintaining the sovereignty of God does so by paradoxically balancing this with the freedom of man thus resulting in a much different picture of God. The picture that emerges from the Arminian concept of God is that of a God is certainly omniscient but likewise benevolent. Thus, to suggest that God would judge the world based on his omniscience alone is to deny his benevolence toward the angels who have been involved in the same drama over humanity’s salvation and the sin problem. Sadly, many Classical Arminians, in their desire to refute the IJ doctrine switch their God-picture from Arminianism to Calvinism in order to raise this objection without even realizing it. Thus, while it is true that God does know who is saved without a judgment, it is equally true that the judgment is not intended to be based solely on Gods omniscience but on his benevolence as well. As a result, it makes much more sense to see God as participating in a work of judgment that is transparent for the benefit of all creation.

Thus, while it is certainly permitted to argue against a judgment on the basis of God’s omniscience in the Arminian/ Soul Sleep framework Adventist theologians are under no obligation to do so and in fact, are more internally consistent by not switching their view of God from Arminian to Calvinist for the sake of arguing against a particular doctrine.

God judges through unconscious soul sleep.

One might likewise argue that while Adventists reject the immortal soul doctrine, it does not necessarily follow that the judgment must be a corporate event that begins at some point in human history. God could just as easily judge each person while they are unconsciously asleep. According to this view, the only difference between Adventists and other Arminians is that the human is not consciously present at their judgment but is nevertheless judged at the moment of their death.

This is certainly a viable position to take. However, those who take this position are still affirming that believers must be judged and that Christ’s ministry did not end at the cross. In addition, they still have to explain why God would have to judge if he is omniscient, what benefit the judgment has for creation, why the judgment has gone for so long, what the judgment actually means for believers, the relationship of that judgment to assurance, the relevance/ importance of such a judgment and the relationship of the day of atonement to the judgment (since every believer would face their own "day of atonement" where the faithful were separated from the apostates after death so to speak).

In other words, if a person affirms the need for an IJ they may continue to deny the validity of 1844 by suggesting that the judgment takes place at each individual person’s death. However, at this point, they would have to embrace all of the concepts of the IJ doctrine with the exception of its structure or timing. If a person decides to go this route, the entire debate has shifted from two fronts (soteriological and eschatological) to just one – the eschatological. By affirming the need for an IJ under the Arminian / Soul Sleep framework, we eliminate the soteriological debate and find ourselves in need of an IJ of some sort. At this point, the only question that remains is: How does God choose to perform the judgment? Does he do it individually? Or, has he ordained a day in history in which he will begin a judgment process? (We will address this question in more detail in a future article. Appendix B briefly explores this.)

Because Adventists do not believe in the immortal soul, we are under no obligation to force the judgment onto each individual at the moment of death. Such a judgment would be unnecessary since the person would rest in the grave until the second coming anyways. Thus, there would be no need for the judgment to take place at each individual death. As a result, Adventist theologians are free to take the Biblical texts pointing to a judgment day future of the cross but prior to the second coming as literally pointing to a judgment process that begins at a certain point in human history.

God may in fact judge, but has not revealed how.

Finally, one may attempt to argue that while the Classical Arminian + Soul Sleep combination may lead to an IJ of some sort the Bible does not reveal any details on how. In other words, the foundation for the IJ may be solid but everything else we believe about the IJ is false because scripture simply does not reveal the details of the IJ as much as Adventists claim it does. With this argument in mind, a critic may insist that the best we can do is affirm that all will be judged but will still have to discard all of the peripheral details which Adventists believe about the IJ leaving us with a similar pre-advent judgment theology to that of the United Methodists who, - in reference to the judgment – refuse to enter into specifics. Adventism’s IJ is, therefore, still false because it claims to understand more about God’s judgment than scripture actually reveals. To borrow the words of Andre Reis (the above cited article), “We have overstated our case and stretched the evidence…” A critic who raises this argument may, in fact, go on to say that the foundation for the IJ does not help the SDA case at all because all it does is give us the basics – but it’s not the basics that are the problem it’s the details that we foolishly claim to have ironed out (especially the idea that this judgment began in 1844).


However, this argument also fails. For starters, it’s really not that different to the previous “God judges through unconscious soul sleep” argument. And because it’s not that different it leads to the same conclusions. If we are agreeing to an IJ of some sort logic alone would lead us to the same questions as if we were talking about Adventism’s detailed IJ. Questions such as, “Why does God need to judge?” “Does this judgment deny assurance of salvation?” and “When does this judgment begin?” With these, and many other questions, Adventist theologians would have two options: 1) Opt for a “We don’t know and the Bible doesn’t say” or, 2) In typical Adventist fashion, go back to the scriptures and search for answers. It would be ridiculous to assert that the most noble course would be to evade the question and Adventist theologians and scholars are under no Biblical obligation to ignore the many texts that clearly answer the natural questions that would arise from a basic IJ motif. And it is by answering those naturally arising questions that we arrive at Adventism’s IJ doctrine. In addition, Adventist theologians and scholars have repeatedly demonstrated that the way in which we comprehend the details of the judgment are exegetically and theologically sound. Critics are free to disagree but our challenge would be that they not simply disagree but come up with a better IJ doctrine than what Adventism has discovered. And the truth is, they cannot do this. The best they can do is evade the question by claiming that scripture does not reveal these things. 

Summary

In summary, there are four primary objections that can be raised against the philosophical foundation of the IJ doctrine within the Arminian/ Soul Sleep framework. Those four arguments, while permissible, nevertheless fail to account for the meta-narrative of both Arminianism and Soul Sleep. And while other arguments can be raised we are convinced that these four constitute the most plausible alternatives. Thus, we conclude that to believe in both Classical Arminianism and Soul Sleep demands a judgment narrative that begins at some point in human history between the cross and the second coming. The only way to deny such a powerful foundation is to deny Classical Arminianism. However, at this point, a person is no longer debating the IJ but the age old Calvinism, Arminian, OSAS debate that has raged from centuries past until this very day. In addition, if a person takes this position they are certainly free to label Adventists as heretics so long as they are ready to label all Classical Arminians heretics alongside us. And if that is the case, I speak on behalf of many Adventists that I know when I say we will gladly accept the label.

The IJ stands strong, not based on little verses here and there, but on the logical outworking of the Arminian and Soul Sleep meta-narratives coming together into one cohesive theological system. While this certainly does not settle all of the questions it gives the SDA church a foundation for believing in the IJ from which we can confidently debate, discuss, and explore the sanctuary, Hebrews, and the eschatological ramifications of Daniel 8-9. It is to some of these themes that we now turn.

Resources
The Case for the Investigative Judgment by Marvin Moore: http://www.amazon.com/Case-Investigative-Judgment-Marvin-Moore/dp/0816323852

The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism by George R. Knight: http://www.amazon.com/The-Apocalyptic-Vision-Neutering-Adventism/dp/0828023859 

The Judgment and Assurance by W.W. Whidden: http://www.amazon.com.au/The-Judgment-Assurance-Woodrow-Whidden-ebook/dp/B0088HJJEA

The Pre-Advent Judgment by Marcos Torres: http://www.pomopastor.com/p/books.html

Facing Life's Record (An Analysis of the Great Controversy's Scariest Chapter) by Marcos Torres: http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/08/facing-lifes-record-analysis-of-great.html

Website: www.1844madesimple.org

Footnotes

[i] http://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/10/22/perspective-1844-pillar-faith-or-mortal-wound
[ii] While technically Lutheranism classifies as the first camp to emerge during the protestant reformation it failed to answer certain questions which then gave birth to Calvinism and Arminianism. It is these two camps that are most relevant to our discussion.
[iii] http://www.crivoice.org/tulip.html
[iv] Some may argue that if all Arminians believed in a type of IJ differentiating between believers that they would A) have produced a parallel theology to the IJ by now or, B) have embraced Adventism’s IJ. However, these propositions can be rejected for the following reasons. A) Just because an IJ is logical within a Classical Arminian framework does not mean the theologians will willingly go that route. For example, in regards to the question of what happens at death (judgment, holding cell, etc.) United Methodists refuse to take a stance even exhibiting a level of uncertainty regarding their own immortal soul theology and using this as the basis for refusing to answer the question of the judgments eventuality. [http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-happens-after-a-person-dies] In addition, their rejection of Adventism’s IJ is most likely due to the way in which we as a church have failed to properly present this doctrine to the world. We elaborate on this in Appendix C which explores the relevance of the IJ but will elaborate in more detail in future articles.
[v] There are a variety of views in the protestant world regarding judgment. Some believe that the dead are judged right away. Others believe in a “holding cell theology” in which the dead are placed on hold until the return of Jesus at which point they receive their reward. With regard to the living some believe that they are judged just prior to the secret rapture. 
[vi] Some might argue that Arminianism and Soul Sleep are not enough but that we also need the Great Controversy theme in order to arrive at the IJ. However, we would counter by saying that without Classical Arminianism the Great Controversy theme would not exist. While the Great Controversy theme is instrumental in making more sense of the IJ it is not essential for its foundation and is, in reality, yet another outgrowth of Classical Arminianism.
[vii] Some are entirely at variance with the idea of God having to engage in a judgment process that would determine the faithful from the apostate by virtue of his omniscience. However, such a judgment must necessarily take place. It is of no consequence if this judgment takes place in God's mind, at death, a judgement prior to second coming or a judgement at or after second coming, or even if the knowledge of the faithful and the apostate has eternally existed in God’s foreknowledge. These are nonessentials. The point is, God necessarily engages in a judgment process that separates the faithful from the apostate. The timing of this judgment is a separate, non-essential (albeit relevant) issue.
[viii] By saying that the door is left comfortably open for the possibility of 1844 we do not intend to portray 1844 as an uncertain teaching. A future article will deal with the philosophical and exegetical foundations of the timing of the IJ and demonstrate that Adventists have no need to question this conclusion either.
[ix] Lest the reader be tempted into thinking that Classical Arminianism is inherently lacking in providing assurance of salvation observe the challenges that Calvinism and OSAS Arminianism have in this respect as well. In Calvinism God elects those he saves with no choice of their own. You can only become aware that you were elected. You cannot actually choose to be saved. But what happens when a seemingly born again Christian apostatizes? Calvinism only has two answers. Either he will repent again in the future (at which point you have a person whom God has elected for both salvation and apostasy and then salvation again) or you were never really elected for salvation to begin with. Thus, many Calvinists who struggle with a post-conversion fall have been left wondering if they are eternally reprobate or not. OSAS Arminianism faces the same struggle. Either your apostasy is proof you were never saved to begin with or you will forever remain saved despite your apostasy. In the end, believers are left having to wonder which one is true of them. Classical Arminianism teaches that we are saved by grace through faith and that we remain saved, not by works, but by continued grace through faith. Likewise, a Classical Arminian can potentially experience a lack of assurance knowing that its possible for he/she to apostatize and be judged accordingly. Thus, all of these systems fail to provide “air-tight assurance” meaning in the realm of assurance none can confidently claim to be superior to the other. Nevertheless, an Arminians hope never rests on his/her performance or ability to be “faithful” but on faith in Christ as their only hope. This faith can be rejected for either legalistic reasons (such as the book of Hebrews) or carnal reasons. But so long as that faith (a gift of God) is maintained we are secure in the one in whom we put our trust.
[x] Let’s be clear here that this has nothing to do with Adventists but applies to all Classical Arminians such as Methodists and Pentecostals. And again, while not in either category Lutheranism also rejects Perseverance theology and OSAS leaving the possibility of a genuinely born again person to turn their back on God and be lost wide open.
[xi] The article cited in the opening claims that "We should have the humility to accept that we may have been wrong all along about the nature and timeline of Christ’s priestly ministry in heaven.” However, its nature is derived from Classical Arminianism and its timeline is firstly based on Mortal Soul theology. The timing is discussed in Appendix B and a future article will tackle it in greater detail.

About the Authors:

mike_manea
Mike Manea studied theology at Andrews Theological Seminary and has served the church for over twenty years as youth pastor, missionary, Bible worker and teacher. He is currently a senior partner at Zahid|Manea LLC, a marketing and management consulting firm based in Southern California. He runs several theology and philosophy sites and podcasts and is cofounder of Intelligent Adventist. In his free time he enjoys spending time in nature with his wife and four year old son. You can follow his blog at mikemanea.com



Originally from New Jersey, Marcos now lives in Australia with his wife and children. His dream is to share the story of Jesus with the post-modern culture that pervades the continent. Marcos’ greatest passion is to help others realize that Christianity is a passionate and committed relationship with God, not a religion. He also runs his own blog at pomopastor.com

Q & A: What Does "Without a Mediator" Mean?


Q: One thing that I've been struggling with is reconciling a quote from EW like the above- We cannot say, “I am sinless,” till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body [the second coming]. {ST March 23, 1888, par. 13} with this one from GC "Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator" The Great Controversy, p. 425. That's obviously sinless perfection, right? How would it ever be possible to stand before God without Jesus' righteousness applied to us? Any thoughts you have would be appreciated.
A: The statement you are reffing to says, "Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil."
Some people misconstrue this statement to be referring to absolute sinless perfectionism. Its as if, unless we reach this state of sinlessness we will, at last, be rejected by God. This conclusion must, nevertheless, be rejected for two major reasons. 
1) It contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ* 
2) It contradicts the very writings of EGW herself**
Thus, a different interpretation must exist. One that harmonizes this statement with both the Bible and the full picture of EGWs soteriology. A closer more thoughtful reading of the passage does just that.
1) First of all Ellen White is referring to something that happens after the close of probation, not before. This means that standing without a mediator takes place when the judgment is over and no one else can be saved or lost. The irrevocable decision has been made. Thus, to be worrying about whether you are good enough after probation has closed is a waste of time because, er..., probation has closed. At this point you have either been declared righteous or wanting and nothing can change that decision. Thus you are, at this point in human history, either eternally lost or eternally saved.
2) This then raises the question, how can we be sure to be declared righteous? The answer is simple for the perfection which we have before God is no different in this instance as it has been all throughout history. Notice that Ellen says we must stand before God with spotless robes and purified characters. However, how is it that we attain these? Ellen answers the question when she adds, "by the blood of sprinkling". It is through Jesus blood that we stand spotless and purified before God. Not our works or performance.
3) The statement is simply saying that before Jesus comes we need to have our minds made up. Will we trust in him alone? Or like the Hebrews Paul wrote to in the NT, will we - in the midst of persecution - turn our backs on Jesus? Once the judgment is over no more changes will be made to the verdict. We are either covered by his blood or not. So now is the time to come sincerely before God and surrender our lives in full trust of his saving grace.
The late Adventist theologian Edward Heppenstal put it best when he wrote,
"To live without a Mediator does not mean to live without the righteousness of Christ, or without the Holy Spirit, or the saving grace of our Lord. Since all cases are decided for weal or for woe, the work of our divine Advocate is concluded. No further charges by Satan can be brought against the saints, for Christ has answered them all. The cases of the saints have all been called to the bar of heaven. Christ has successfully pleaded our cause and secured a judgment in our favor. Nothing can now reverse that verdict. There is nothing more to say. Excepting Satan and his host, there is perfect agreement throughout the universe as to Christ's verdict in favor of the saints. All questions have been answered regarding the future of the saints. No member of the Godhead needs to make any further defense on their behalf. All that remains is for Christ to return and for the saints to live and reign with Christ a thousand years (Rev 20:4-6). Because of their unchangeable irrevocable standing before God, there is no further need for Christ to intercede with God for their salvation or for their redemption. The saints have been declared the legal heirs to the new earth. Their standing from henceforth is one of final justification and vindication before the bar of God and before a sinless universe. The fact that they have chosen without qualification, the righteousness of Christ, leaves only the actual conferring of that sinless nature and entrance into their eternal inheritance at the second coming of Christ, when this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruption shall have put on incorruption (1 Cor 15:52-54). 
"As we have clearer views of Christ's spotless and infinite purity, we shall feel as did Daniel, when he beheld the glory of the Lord, and said, "My comeliness was turned in me into corruption." We cannot say "I am sinless," till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body. But if we constantly seek to follow Jesus, the blessed hope is ours of standing before the throne of God spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, complete in Christ, robed in His righteousness and perfection." (Signs of the Times, March 23, 1888)[1]
In his article, "Without a Mediator" Mike Manea explains a further implication of this statement when he writes:
"Although it is always dangerous to resist God’s call, the average individual usually has repeated opportunities to come to Christ. However, there have been times throughout history when those opportunities were cut short: the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of Jerusalem, etc. Whether young or old, those events brought probation to a close early for the people involved.
The second coming of Christ will have a similar impact, not just on a city or nation, but on the planet as a whole. People will no longer have the same opportunities to come to Christ that they would have had if history continued. Adventists call this event, the close of probation, and we believe God has placed us on this earth to prepare humanity for this solemn event. We believe Christ will come when every individual has had sufficient warning that probation is closing and their opportunities are running out.
Thus, the warning that we will soon be living without a mediator means several things:
1) It means that the people who have not yet accepted Christ are running out of time to make a decision.
2) It means that people who have accepted Christ but then went back to the world, are running out of time to return.
3) It means that Christians who have been holding on to willful/known sin, are running out of time to give it up.
What the statement does not mean however is that there will ever be a time when we will no longer need Christ. Nor does it mean that we will need to reach a state of complete sinlessness after which we will no longer be covered by Jesus’ blood. Salvation has always been and will always be by grace through faith. Even after the close of probation, we will be safe only because we are covered by the blood of Jesus."[2]
So in conclusion, the above statement cannot possibly mean that each person must reach a certain performance level which - if failed - will doom the person to condemnation. Such a belief is in direct contradiction to the gospel and the writings of EGW herself. What the statement does mean is that we are to trust in Jesus and not turn back. In truth, this statement is simply a natural outflow of Classical Arminianism which rejects the concept of once saved always saved. For a more thorough exploration of Ellen Whites foundation in Classical Arminianism I recommend you read "Facing Lifes Record: An Analysis of the Great Controversies 'Scariest' Chapter"[3]
Hope this helps! 
_________
*To being an exploration of the SDA understanding of the gospel, I recommend the following article: http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/04/the-sda-gospel-is-legalistic-isnt-it.html
**To begin an exploration of the relationship between EGW and the gospel I recommend the following article: http://www.pomopastor.com/2012/10/ellen-g-white-on-legalism.html#more
[1]https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/perfection%20Heppenstall.pdf
[2]http://mikemanea.com/conversations/without-a-mediator/
[3] http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/08/facing-lifes-record-analysis-of-great.html 
The Fallacy Behind our Preaching


I don’t know about the rest of the Christian world, but if you are a Seventh-day Adventist chances are you are no stranger to some pretty exciting preaching. I’m not talking about the Henry Wright type of exciting (such passionate preaching is clearly found in every denomination). Instead, I am referring to the kind of preaching that makes you say, wow, I never thought of that before. I call it the wow-sermon. Grant it, this kind of preaching is good. There is nothing better, in my opinion, than hearing a preacher open up a text in a whole new way. It’s as if you walked into the church blind and left with sight. Who wouldn't want that?

Having gone to an SDA church all my life, I was no stranger to wow-preaching. However, it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I was introduced to certain preachers who took this to a whole new level. The wow-sermons I was used to certainly shared fresh ideas but somehow those ideas remained simple. It was as if, upon hearing them I would think Oh yeah! How’d I miss that? But these new sermons were way beyond “wow”. These were super deep and breathtaking expositions on the word of God. At times the sermons were on present truth, at other times they dealt with broader topics, but regardless of the theme one thing was guaranteed: I would hear something I had never heard before and see something I would never had thought of in a million years. Far from the simple newness of the wow-sermon, these sermons tended to be more complex in their newness, or dare I say, more sensational. I call this kind of sermon the toy-sermon (you will soon see why).

I was mesmerized. Amazed. Dumbfounded at times and downright intoxicated. Toy-sermons were the stuff of Bible gurus and because most of them were based on present truth I began to believe that Adventist preachers where the greatest preachers on earth. As a preacher, I too began to mimic their fresh and astonishing approach to Bible truth. When preparing sermons I would pray for new insight and pour through the text searching for something different and exciting that had never been seen before. I was no longer satisfied with the simple story of scripture. I wanted something new.

In case you are still confused allow me to give you an example of wow-sermon versus toy-sermon. A wow-sermon would look at the parable of the lost coin and, following Jesus own interpretation, would identify the lost coin as our lost world, or as individual people. One preacher I admire interpreted the lost coin as “those who are lost but don’t know they are lost”. He then proceeded to interpret the lost sheep as “those who know they are lost but don’t know the way home”, the lost (prodigal) son as “those who know they are lost and know the way home” and the elder brother as “those who are lost but think they are saved.” This is a perfect example of simple new. Now a toy-sermon is more like the sermon I heard which interpreted the lost coin as the Sabbath. There were 10 coins and the woman lost one, so she swept the whole house until she found it. There are 10 commandments and one has been lost but the woman (church) has found it. The first time I heard this sermon I was floored. "This guy is amazing!" I said to my wife. "How does he get this stuff?"

I continued to be amazed, that is, until my first day studying biblical exegesis. For those who don't know, Biblical exegesis is the process of studying to determine what the text meant to the original reader and writer before attempting to interpret it for today. The process requires a study of the literary, historical, and cultural context surrounding the text, among other things. Once the Bible student has determined what the text meant to the original audience he is then safe to apply the text to his own context provided none of the original meaning is lost or contradicted in the process. While I had already begun to question the veracity of the toy-sermon prior to this, it was then that the spell was broken. The toy-sermon was exciting, yes. It was fresh and invigorating. But it had one major flaw – it used the Bible as a toy to be played with instead of a holy text to be revered. Literary, historical, and cultural context were often ignored. It wasn’t what the Bible clearly said that was interesting; it was the obscure and mysterious. The goal was to find something new and exciting, something sensational and riveting. As a result textual integrity was sacrificed at the altar of innovation and the end result, while not necessarily heretical, was a sermon that played games with the Biblical text, misused the Hebrew and Greek, “word-smithed” the English translations,* made interpretations that bordered on allegorical drivel, linked verses together that were never meant to be linked, proof-texted flippantly, and drew new and exciting interpretations that impressed the audience but did little else.

I have studied a lot in life. I have learned a lot in life. And I have forgotten a lot in life. But if there is one thing I will never forget, it’s the words of my exegesis professor Dr. Martin Klingbeil. “Don’t preach sensational sermons that get people excited” he said, “preach the simple truth that changes lives.” Whether he knew it or not Dr. Klingbeil hit me hard that day. In fact, he echoed the words of Peter when he said,

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles (2 Pet. 3:1-2).
Peter uses two powerful words in this text: “remember” and “recall”. It wasn’t something new that his readers needed. It wasn’t something fresh or exciting. It was the same old truth. The same old sermon. The same old message. Peter’s goal was to influence their thinking. He wanted to lift their minds up and lead them to think balanced, healthy, and wholesome thoughts. And the tool he used to perform this transformational shift was not a sensational and exciting sermon – it was a simple admonition to remember. Somehow, the act of remembering the old truths that God has shared through the prophets and apostles is all his readers needed to be renewed in their minds.

I am not here to question the sincerity of those who preach or enjoy a good old toy-sermon. When I preached them I was sincere and was simply eager to share something new. But now I know that it’s not new that I need. All I need is to be reminded. Reminded of God’s love. Reminded of God’s grace. Reminded of God’s power. Reminded of his will for my life and of the soon return of Jesus. These simple reminders are all I need to be renewed.

Today I want to appeal to all the young-up-and-coming SDA preachers out there. Though the trend is increasingly fading, there still remain way too many Adventist preachers who use the Bible as a toy. This is the fallacy behind our preaching. People love them. People rave about them. People follow them. But at the end of the day they don't preach what the Bible says; they only preach what they want it to say. Don't fall into that trap. The Bible was not designed to give us paint for oratorical art nor was it written to provide a platform to show off our cleverness. It was designed to tell us a story – one that is meant to be repeated over and over again for with each repetition our hearts are changed. Don’t feel the need to be new and innovative. Don’t go wild trying to be exciting. Don't sacrifice sound Bible exposition just to make people say "wow". Instead, I challenge you to tell the ancient story over and over again. It is then, and only then, that broken lives will find healing and new birth.



photo credit: Bront Nolsen via photopin cc
A Night with the Counterfeits

 Some time ago I wrote a blog titled "Do You Qualify For Salvation?" In the past few months I have taken that singular blog post and expanded it for a series at thehaystack.tv presented by the same title. Because the expansion proved to be a real joy and blessing for me as I wrote it, and also for others who read it, I have decided to share it here. However, because I already have a blog titled "Do You Qualify for Salvation?" I will give each of these posts a different title. Below is the first one titled, "A Night with the Counterfeits". For some, this series may be nothing more than a repetition of what you have read on this blog for the last few years. For others it may be a breath of fresh air. Whatever your experience, I pray you are blessed.


A Night with the Counterfeits. 

There is a true story told of an Indian missionary. The young man was in India during a great festival in which all of the Hindus travel to the river Ganges to wash themselves for the forgiveness of sins. Thousands of Hindus traveled for miles to wash themselves in this river. The story goes that this missionary was crossing a bridge over the river when he saw a woman weeping uncontrollably. He approached her to see what was wrong.

She told him that her husband was unable to work. They had no money to provide for the family. She told him that her sins were so many that no one knew about. She was burdened with guilt and shame. She needed forgiveness and blessings. In order to receive the blessing and forgiveness of the goddess Ganges, she said, “I have given her the most valuable offering I could give her. My six month old baby boy. I just threw him into the river.” The missionary proceeded to explain the gospel to her. To tell her that she didn’t have to kill her son. God had sent his son in order to save mankind. When he was done the woman looked at him. “Why didn’t you come a half hour sooner?” She asked. “I didn’t have to kill my son.” And with that she began weeping again. She’s not the only one you know. There are thousands. Millions are crying out “why?” Longing and searching for an answer to the void in their heart. Looking for forgiveness and salvation. Their religion tells them that salvation can only be gained by working hard to earn Gods favor. Their religion tells them that they have to climb, struggle, work, sweat, bleed, and suffer in order to enter the Kingdom. But the Bible says something else. In Ephesians 2:8-9 it says,


“For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.”[i]

The Bible teaches that it’s not what we do that saves us, but what God has done. In other words, this whole salvation thing is never about what we do; it’s about what He did. But what exactly does that mean? Before I explain it, I want to back track a bit. The book of Ephesians, which I just quoted, reveals God’s mysterious purpose for what we call “church.” Now, what does church have to do with salvation? Well, lets find out. Paul, the author of the book, paints a picture of a secret weapon that God had planned from the beginning of time in order to defeat evil. That secret weapon is the church. Why church? I mean. Isn’t church boring? Irrelevant? Hasn’t the church caused more evil than good in history? How could this be God’s secret weapon to defeat evil? That answer is found in Ephesians 1:22-23. Here Paul says,


“God has placed all things beneath His [Jesus'] feet and anointed Him as the head over all things for His church. This church is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.”

According to this verse, Christ is the head of the church which is his body. However, there is something powerful here. The Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which means congregation or assembly. According to the Bible “church” is not a building, it’s a community of people. So God’s secret weapon to defeat evil is a community of people. But what kind of people? Ephesians 2:1-2 answers that question. It says,


“As for you, don’t you remember how you used to just exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world. You were the offspring of the prince of the power of air—oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobedience.

Did you catch it? God’s secret anti-evil weapon from the beginning of time was a community of people. But not good people. Bad people! People who were rebellious, wicked, and selfish. People who were slaves to sin. God’s mystery of the church is that He was going to get these “evil people” and use them to defeat evil. However, in order for God to do this He would have to get these people to be on His side. But how? The answer is found in the story the Bible tells about salvation.

Now of course, there are many different versions of this story floating around. Even though the Bible only tells one salvation story, this story has been retold in countless ways. However, we can boil down all of those countless versions into four. 1) The most common is that you are saved by works. This means you have to be good and if you are good enough you are allowed into heaven. This is the version that forms the foundation of paganism. I call it the “performance” version of salvation. 2) The second is that you are saved by grace, but in order to stay saved you have to work. In other words, Jesus covers your past sins but your future is uncertain. You are saved, but not really. There is still something you have to do in order to earn the right to stay saved and enter heaven at last. This is the foundation of religions such as Catholicism and Mormonism. I call this the “but” version of salvation (you will soon see why). 3) The third is that salvation is a ticket to heaven and nothing more. No change takes place in the life. But because you once believed you now have a ticket that guarantees you access into eternal bliss. This is the foundation for some (though certainly not all) evangelical churches and is often referred to as “once saved, always saved”.[ii] I call it the “ticket” version of salvation. Being raised Adventist, I was too smart to fall for the “performance” version (most Christians are). However, that didn’t make me immune to being duped by “but” and “ticket” versions. For many years I viewed the salvation story though those two lenses. The “ticket” was useless. While I didn’t have any anxiety over my eternal security, I had no victory over sin. Since I knew I was going to heaven, I had no rush to find victory. But I was depressed, always feeling defeated and filthy, and eventually my sin caught up with me and the consequences were extremely painful. If only Jesus had set me free from sin I wouldn’t have had to go through those dark nights of shame and guilt that nearly choked out my life. But Jesus wasn’t the problem. The problem was I had come to view Him, not as a savior, but as a ticket and tickets have no power.

From there I fell into the “but” version of the salvation story. This is the version that teaches that Jesus forgives and saves but in order to stay saved you have to perform at a certain level or else you are out.  This version was instrumental in showing me that victory over sin was possible, but as time went on I found this to be nothing more than a baptized version of the “performance” model. Even though I was saved by grace I always felt I hadn’t done enough to stay saved and that I had to do more. I had to be a vegetarian or else I would lose my salvation. I had to keep the Sabbath perfectly and be nice to people and do everything right or else I would lose the free gift of salvation. And I was miserable. I call this the “but” version of salvation. Why? Because anytime someone spoke about the grace of Christ, I always felt the need to add “but” at the end of their conversation. “We are saved by grace!” They would shout. “But!” I would shout back, “don’t forget you still have to do A, B and C!” For some reason I couldn’t just enjoy the grace of God for what it was. Instead, I always had to add the “but” at the end just to make sure everyone knew what the requirements were. During this time I knew some of rest that is to be found in Jesus, but there was always a voice in the back of my mind that prevented me from having full assurance. I experienced spiritual growth and victory over sins that had long controlled my life, but something was missing.  However, I refused to admit there was a problem with my salvation story because in my mind, the only alternative was the “ticket” version and I sure wasn’t going back to that.

4) Eventually, the “but” version of salvation led me to the fourth version of the gospel. It is a subcategory of “but” known as the “light switch” version of the gospel. The light switch version nearly killed me. This version (which was nothing more than the logical result of the “but” version) teaches that a person is justified freely by Gods grace but must, from then on, continue to perform well enough to keep their salvation. That’s pretty much what the “but” version is, only in the “light switch” version every time you sin you lose your salvation until you confess and repent and then you are saved again. It’s as if God is in heaven flipping a “light switch.” Every time you sin, the light switch goes off (you have lost your salvation), and every time you confess and repent the light switch goes back on (you are saved again). When I believed in “light switch” I was always worried about whether I had sinned or not and often times found myself debating myself over whether or not I had just sinned, almost just sinned, or thought I just sinned but hadn’t really. The situation was worse when I felt that God wouldn’t forgive me for a sin I committed if it involved another person. I would suffer for weeks and months over a supposed sin that I needed to confess to someone else and at times found myself confessing things that were not only unnecessary but ridiculous. But I did it anyways because I wanted to make sure that God wouldn’t have any reason to not let me into heaven. I was daily and hourly tortured by my conscience and became so hypersensitive that I eventually found myself at a counselors office diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. God was my enemy desperately trying to keep me out of heaven. And I was responsible for changing his mind, but no matter how hard I tried one plaguing accusation remained: “Never good enough.”

Negative as this experience may have been I do thank God for it because if it weren’t for my hopelessness and despair I would never have turned to him for answers. I would never have studied and researched and explored. I would never have asked those deep, gut wrenching questions that many people never think to ask. My defeat paved the way for my victory and though I have much to learn I eventually discovered that none of those previous versions were the true salvation story. When I did in fact discover the Biblical story of salvation my entire soul was enraptured with a joy and conviction I have never before experienced. I was free! The 4 versions were false, but there was a fifth. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it the fifth. Instead, I prefer to call it the only. The true. The genuine. All the others were counterfeits, but I had finally discovered the beauty of the gospel and the overwhelming joy it brings.

But more on that next time.

_____
[i] All Bible verses quoted from The Voice.

[ii] Contrary to what I believed growing up “once saved always saved” is not a universally accepted teaching in the evangelical world. Adventists are in the company of Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Free-Will Baptists (also Pentecostal) and others in denying this teaching. Most Protestants who embrace the theology of Martin Luther, Jacobus Arminius, or John Wesley are likely to also reject the concept of “once saved always saved”.
The Cross & The Dissolution of Present Truth


Last summer I had the opportunity to preach an entire evangelistic series in Macon, Georgia. The series was called "Revelations Hope" and I, along with the other students, was given an entire set of presentations to use as my sermons. The idea was, as it has always been, to present the unique Adventist doctrines (known as "present truth") to those who had never heard them before. Being a lover of present truth one would easily guess I enjoyed the experience. But I didn't.

OK, let me be fair. I didn't hate the experience. However, I found it very difficult to enjoy. There was just too much weird stuff going on. First of all, the series was marketed as "Revelations Hope" and gave the impression that it was going to be a seminar on the book of Revelation to help people understand this often confusing book. However, the series was more about Adventist doctrine than it was about Revelation and sadly enough, it used the book of Revelation sort of like a proof platform to launch into various topics that weren't in Revelation at all. But that isn't the part that really bothered me. What bothered me was that the series as a whole lacked the one thing it was meant to be proclaiming: "present truth."

Night after night I found myself editing the sermons that had been given to us. There was no way I was going to preach that stuff. It was overcomplicated. It was confusing. And worst of all, it lacked truth. Sure, the Sabbath was presented along with Daniel 2, the Investigative Judgment, the State of the Dead, etc. But I learned a long time ago that there is a difference between preaching present-facts and present-truth. As Adventists, we have historically prided ourselves in always having the right answers, but the world doesnt need right answers, it needs truth and there is a difference between the two. 

It wasnt easy. At times I felt like a rebel. At times I felt arrogant. And at times I felt as though I was somehow in the wrong. Maybe the way its always been done is the right way, I thought. Maybe I am diluting the message by making them so simple and Christ-centered. And so on and so forth. But I pressed on because the truth is, I just couldn't preach those sermons. They were full of "answers" and "facts" but they didn't have truth - they didn't have Jesus. And anytime we preach present truth without Jesus we engage in one of Satans master deceptions - the dissolution of present truth.

The deception is powerful for this reason: By preaching doctrine void of Christ many Adventists think they are actually preaching Christ. In other words, none of these Christless sermons are ever even perceived to be Christless. Most Adventists never see anything wrong with them and if asked, many would say that the sermons are indeed Christ-centered. But allow me to set the record straight: Mentioning Jesus at the end of your sermon, quoting his words, or having Power Point slides with his pictures don't actually make a sermon Christ-centered. A sermon is Christ-centered when the entire thesis is drenched in the blood of Jesus. A sermon is Christ-centered when, no matter your topic, Jesus is presented in all of his beauty and majesty. A sermon is Christ-centered when it results in repentance, faith, and a greater love for God. A sermon is Christ-centered when it inspires change as opposed to requiring it. A sermon is Christ-centered when it reveals Jesus' more and not simply some biblical concept that other churches aren't teaching. A sermon is Christ-centered when both preacher and listener leave the church and they know, they just know, that they have been with Jesus.

You can preach doctrine and theology all you want. You can have the right answers and the right facts, but that doesnt make it truth. Truth is discovered only when it is found in Jesus. "The seventh day is the Sabbath" is not truth. It is a biblical fact. Jesus said, "I am the...truth" and any sermon that lifts up doctrine without lifting up Jesus does not deserve to be called present truth. Call it present facts or present answers, or present points or present information, but dont call it present truth


The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.—Gospel Workers, 315 (1915).
_________

After much editing and praying and struggling I was able to, along with my friend Michelle Doucoumes (whose Christ-centered convictions were an enourmous help!), preach the "Revelations Hope" series in a way that actually fit the Biblical admonition "If I be lifted up..." Though I still feel that there is much more work needed to lift Jesus up more in these presentations I am glad we started down that road. Here is the entire series (except for the last sermon. I dont remember what happened to it). 

Overcoming the LGT Formula


I love the gospel. There is so much power and beauty in it — it is the one biblical theme I never get tired of. I preach about it constantly, write about it tirelessly, and talk about it passionately. And while I have much to learn about the grace of God I am thankful for what he has already taught me.
But such love and appreciation for the gospel does not come without a few scars. For years I have had to fight, struggle, and wrestle for a clearer view of what Jesus did for me. And even now I continue to grapple with the many voices both inside and outside my head that try to pull me away. There are Pharisees, misconceptions, and ignorances that live inside of me. There are biases, counter-biases, and selfish ideologies that are in there as well. Then there are the voices of fanatics, conservatives, liberals, and emergents — all of whom want me to believe their version of the gospel.

But at the end of the day, I love the gospel. I love it because it’s unassuming. I love it because it’s experientially life-altering. And I love it because it fills my troubled, hypersensitive mind with a stillness otherwise unattainable.

While I have been a Seventh-day Adventist all of my life, my love for the gospel did not begin until around five years ago. Years of hypocrisy and self-induced obliviousness led me to a crux in the journey that demanded resolution. I was in Babylon even though I was Adventist — confused and bewildered by an eclectic view of the cross that failed to sustain me during some of the most challenging years of my life. Confronted for the first time with my sin-problem, I plunged into a state of depression and anxiety that would last for years. During that time, my mind attempted to juggle the gospel of grace I had learned as a teenager from Hispanic preacher
Felipe Andino and the gospel of perfectionism that I had now been exposed to – a gospel known as Last Generation Theology. In my gospel illiteracy, I assumed both were the same gospel and then attempted, rather unsuccessfully, to syndicate the two. What I ended up with was subverting the gospel of grace by subordinating it to the gospel of perfectionism and emerging from the iron and clay mixture with a subconscious formula that was not so sure to get me to heaven: The grace of God + Your efforts and obedience = Salvation.I tried to soften the impact by adding “by God’s grace of course” to the second part of the formula, but it didn’t make a difference. I had very little peace. And while this skewed version of the gospel was not to blame for my emotional instability, it certainly did not help to foster healing.

Time went on. I continued to study the gospel and listened to almost every
Alejandro Bullon sermon on the face of the earth. His explanation of the gospel was impeccable — my problem was not his explanation but my own amalgamation of cross and beast. While Bullon’s sermons did much to point me in the right direction I still was not making a distinction between the true gospel and the one that continued to insist that I would be lost if I did not perform well enough. While none of these thoughts were clear in my mind, they were lodged deep in my subconscious and emerged from their cavernous lair in the form of knots in my stomach.

I arrived at Southern Adventist University and ran into a book that beckoned me from the shelves of the library: My Tortured Conscience by Martin Weber. I devoured the book, and though the road ahead was long and arduous, that book, with the horrible 90s cover, was a fork in the road for me. Then came Conquering the Dragon Within by Marvin Moore and there I discovered that I did not lose my salvation every time I sinned unless I confessed right away. Oh, the relief! But true freedom did not come until my wife walked into our tiny living room one evening and said, “I finally get it! I finally feel free! I finally get the gospel!” I read the chapter from the book that had revolutionized her life, Seeing With New Eyes by Ty Gibson. It was then that my subconscious formula of What Jesus did + What I do = Salvation was exposed in all of its soul-destroying light. For the first time in many years, I felt relief. I felt free. The formula was wrong. I had had it wrong all along. “What Jesus Did. Period.” That was the formula. All I had to do was say yes, but even the act of saying yes was an act made possible by grace, prevenient grace as Jacobus Arminius (and yes, the Jesuits) had taught it.

Excited with my new found joy I prepared a sermon — and then I ran into a wall. It was too good to be true. There just had to be something I had to do. Jesus-only was way too good. So I put my sermon aside and went to the official SDA website to check our belief on the gospel. I had to make sure I had it right, and after reading it I was blown away. We did have it right. I preached my sermon and moved on with my newfound joy. But one nagging question remained: What about Last Generation Theology?

During my time in the LGT camp I had come to believe that the SDA church — Ellen White included — taught LGT up until the 1950s when, during the "Questions on Doctrine" crisis, Adventist leaders compromised on the gospel in order to gain evangelical approval. If this was true, then my new understanding of the gospel was actually false, for it reflected the SDA compromise in the 1950s. This meant that LGT was true after all and that I had been hoodwinked into embracing this “new theology.” I lived with this fear for some time until Leroy Moore settled all of my doubts in his bookQuestions on Doctrine Revisited. I did tons of research and study (too much to summarize here) and came to discover that while QOD was not perfect, LGT as constructed by its founder M.L. Andreasenwas further from the truth than QOD ever was. The history regarding this topic is long and complex, so I won’t reconstruct it here, but suffice to say that not only had I come to love the gospel more than ever but I emerged from my studies on LGT and QOD with a greater love for Ellen White and Adventism as a whole.

Last Generation Theology was helpful to me in the sense that it assured me that victory over sin was possible – and believe me, I needed some victory. In this sense I am thankful for LGT. But I lived with a constant sense of having to add something to what Jesus did. While there are some LGT preachers and believers who have a more cross-centered approach, the general result of this theology is subordinating the cross to works. Not only that, but LGT relies heavily on a presupposition which cannot be supported by the Bible or Ellen White: the human nature of Christ as post-fall. And while many LGT proponents continue to insist this is not the case, modern scholars and historians such as Edward Heppensal, Woodrow Whidden, Leroy Moore, and George Knight have effectively demonstrated that LGT proponents do not own the market on the human nature of Christ or any of the other issues raised by LGT founder Andreasen.

So what about perfection? I still believe in it. Every time I walk into a church where no one says hello, every time I read a story about Christian intolerance and insensitivity, every time I interact with leaders who are more concerned with themselves than with the broken, and every time I am exposed to a church that is more concerned with drums and cheese than loving the hurt, the dispossessed, and the addicted, I am reminded of Ellen White's words, “When the character of Christ is perfectly reproduced in his people…” You know the rest.

However, while I still believe in perfection, I differentiate it from the perfectionism inherent in LGT. For now, here are 3 ways in which I differ:

  1. Victory over sin is possible but anytime you tell someone they must overcome or else they won’t go to heaven you rob the joy of victory and where there is no joy there is no hope and where there is no hope there can be no victory. LGT preachers were very clear that we had to be absolutely perfect in order to go to heaven, and while I am all for some victory preaching the lack of balance led me to feel that no matter how much victory I had, I would never be good enough. In order for us to be truly victorious in this life, we need to feel safe in the arms of God. If we don’t feel safe, we will never truly overcome. The truth that God sees us as perfect in Christ during the process of making us perfect is a liberating thought that makes the believer feel safe and thus able to grow in their walk with Christ. In short, God does perfect his children, but never as the basis or as an additional merit for their salvation.
  2. LGT preachers had a knack for making it seem as though the final generation would be holier than any other generation that ever lived. I no longer believe this. The idea that I could possibly be holier than Paul or John is ridiculous. The main problem with this idea is that it made it seem as though being a part of the last generation was more of a curse than a blessing. For some reason, everyone else got to go to heaven if they were almost perfect. But not the last generation! Unless they exceed everyone else’s holiness and match the perfection of Christ perfectly then, they can’t go! Such an idea made me wish I had been born in the past with no possibility of being a part of the final generation. The pressure was too much! I have now come to realize that the last generation will be no holier than older generations were. The only difference is that we will have the privilege of living for God during a time when Satan will have full control of mankind. Thus, our holiness will be more contrasted with the earth's wickedness than it has ever been, but that doesn’t mean we will be holier.
  3. True biblical perfection is about love. This is how Jesus taught it. This is how John Wesley taught it. This is how Ellen White taught it. And this is how I have come to understand it. True perfection is not about your behavior, but about your love. If we are meant to be Christ-like, we must realize that Christ is not remembered for what he did not do but for what he did do: love fervently. No one remembers Christ because he didn’t eat pork – they remember him because he fed the hungry. No one remembers Christ because he didn’t sleep around – they remember him because he honored women. No one remembers Christ because he didn’t steal – they remember him because he gave. No one remembers Christ because he didn’t do anything on the Sabbath – they remember him because he did good on the Sabbath. Unfortunately, in LGT the focus is on what you don’t do in order to avoid staining your perfect character. But true perfection is about being like Jesus, which means we should love fervently, serve selflessly, and live abundantly.
Jesus-only has revolutionized my life. It has given me a new passion for living and for ministry. It hurts me every time I run into people who still live as though their diet, dress, or behavior can get them into eternity. But I thank God for the ride he has led me on and the opportunity I now have to share it with others.

If you would like to read more about my story and how I have come to make sense of all of these issues I invite you to explore this website and purchase my newly published eBook “Making Sense of Adventism: Faith-Journey of an Adventist Blogger”. You can also follow me at thehaystack.tv where I will be writing exclusively on the gospel from an Adventist perspective.

This article was originally published on
Spectrummagazine.org
Making Sense of Adventism: Faith-Journey of an Adventist Blogger

Do you have to be absolutely perfect in order to be saved? Is it wrong to have fun on the Sabbath? How can we say we are saved by grace and also say that those who don’t keep the Sabbath in the last days will be lost? Was Ellen White obsessed with obedience? How do we reconcile the cross of Christ with the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment? What does it mean to be “perfect”? How should Christians relate to Conspiracy Theories? Are Adventists even Christians? What do former or non-Adventists think about God and our church? What exactly is wrong with going to the theater? And what is the right way to worship?

These questions and many others are the subject of Making Sense of Adventism. Having grown up Adventist I acquired lots of different ideas and beliefs that I assumed were part of our identity. In fact, the confusion was so great that had I left Adventism during those years and written a book against the church it would have been entirely inaccurate – that’s how skewed my picture of Adventism was. All of that began to change when I arrived at Southern Adventist University (SAU) for what would be four years of theology school. Those four years were some of the most significant years of my life and it was during that time that I wrote more than 200 blogs and articles that reflected the epiphanies, discoveries, and paradigm shifts that were allowing me, for the first time, to discover the beauty of Adventism and its relevance for the world today. In Making Sense of Adventism I share the most relevant blogs, some of which began to be written long ago as I sat on the cushioned pews of Newark Spanish Seventh-day Adventist church in Newark, NJ. Others began to be written during my time in Hawaii and Iraq as a US Army soldier. And still others began to be written during my time in Australia where I was first exposed to concepts and theologies that would later demand explanations. It wasn’t until years later that they would find themselves onto paper, whether during my personal time or as an assignment for one of my classes at SAU. This is my journey and I share it with you with the hope that the answers I have discovered will help the struggling Adventist make a little more sense out of it all.




Buy this on Selz Sell digital downloads on Selz

View Table of Contents
Enigma (part 1): A Heart that Burns for the Post-Moderns
photo credit: Keoni Cabral via photopin cc


Since coming to Australia I have become more aware of the challenges the church is facing in reaching the secular post-modern culture. For those who don't know, the challenges in reaching post-moderns with Christianity are numerous, but perhaps the main challenge is the rejection of absolute truth. How do you communicate Jesus-truth to a culture that rejects the existence of truth?  The questions are many, and the answers are few. 

But we continue to reach for an answer. We reach for an answer because we believe that Christianity is more than an intriguing cultural icon. We seek for an answer because we believe that Christianity is more than a fascinating story, more than a worldview, and more than another religious system among the myriads. Christianity is truth, and although the culture mocks the declaration, those who know it cannot help but predicate it. Jesus is real. He can be experienced and he can be known. But telling the world about Jesus is not simply about inviting them into a marvelous relationship with God - its about leading them to the only source of satisfaction, peace, and eternal life. The human soul cannot straddle the fulcrum of Christ. We must all answer the question of his indirect executioner, the infamous Pontius Pilate, when he asked "What will I do with Jesus?" Try as we may, life does not permit us to avoid that question, and the answer to that question is the only answer that has eternal implications. So it matters to me. It matter to us. Telling others about Jesus goes far beyond any religio-ambitious goals for this temporary world. Telling others about Jesus is about introducing them to a personal constant whose friendship will literally alter the course of their mortality. 

Oh, if only the skeptics could see it! If only the disillusioned and doubting could catch a glimpse of this fire! It consumes to the inward and burns deeper than bone. It takes over every impulse and thought and emotion. That one more may know Jesus, that is the all of life, for his love flows through me and it does not relent.
Why I No Longer Believe in Last Generation Theology


Why I No Longer Believe in Last Generation Theology 
by Sam Millen

Growing up in the Adventist church, I was exposed to a brand of Adventism promoting what has been identified as Last Generation Theology (LGT).  We were taught that those in the church who disagreed with LGT were in apostasy.  It was much later, while studying in the seminary, that I discovered LGT didn’t enter Adventism until the 1930s.  It was introduced by Adventism's premier theologian during that period, M.L. Andreasen.  The concept is not new, however.  I have also learned that the Pharisees had their version of LGT.  They firmly believed that if Israel kept one Sabbath perfectly, the Messiah would come immediately.  That is why they wanted to get rid of Jesus when he broke their Sabbath rules.


LGT proponents like to cling to one particular quote by Ellen White.  She writes, “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church.  When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69).  When I view this quote now, without an LGT bias, it becomes clearer that Ellen White is not necessarily talking about sinlessness, but setting aside our differences and being loving, just like the disciples in the upper room before the Holy Spirit was poured out.  Jesus says the end will come when the gospel reaches everyone (Matthew 24:14).  He also says that everyone will know we are his disciples when we love each other (John 13:35).


The focus of LGT is character perfection.  From an LGT point of view, Jesus hasn’t returned because he is waiting for a generation that is sinless in order for God to prove that his law can be kept perfectly.  LGT teaches that God is depending on us to vindicate his character.  If we could demonstrate to the watching universe that God’s law can be obeyed, nobody would have an excuse.  We would prove Satan wrong!  God would be reasonable in his expectations.  I now see this as blasphemy.  Jesus fully vindicated God’s character on the cross.  God is love.  We cannot take Jesus' place and fulfil that role.


Instead of partying with my peers, I spent most of my teenage years trying to be perfect.  I tried to have only pure thoughts, and to conquer my temper and other character flaws.  After all, God was relying on me to overcome sin!  I didn’t want to delay his coming any longer.  I also knew that the time was coming when “probation" would close and we would be without a mediator.  I had to be sinless by then.  Much later, I was relieved when someone pointed out to me that we will always have a Savior.  At that point, there may be no more switching of sides (requiring a mediator, see Revelation 22:11), but our sins are covered by Christ’s blood until the end when we are on God’s side.  


Although this theology did spare me from the consequences of a typical teenage rebellion, LGT can be just as (if not more) harmful emotionally and spiritually.  Even though we were told that we could overcome sin through Christ’s power, the focus was not on Jesus.  I focused on my behavior.  How was I performing?  Isn’t that what the whole universe was supposedly focused on?    Every time I messed up, I knew I would be lost unless I repented and started again from scratch.  That was not a joyful Christian experience.  It was miserable!  I desperately wanted to be perfect so that I could be a part of the Last Generation.


I now see Christianity as a relationship.  Because God is love, he created us for a relationship with him.  That is our purpose.  It is why we exist.  Since we are born on a rebellious planet, God's primary objective is to win our hearts.  He wants us to trust him.  However, when we give God our hearts, we still have the weaknesses of the flesh.  Even though our hearts are in the right place, we still mess up.  When we fail because of the flesh, we do not lose our salvation.  We haven’t turned our back on God.  We love God.  We want to do what is right, and when we get a new body at the resurrection (without any weaknesses), we will not be rebelling in heaven.  It’s because God has won our hearts.  We trust him.  We love him.


It’s like a marriage (a biblical metaphor for our relationship with God).  I am not a perfect husband.  I make mistakes that hurt my wife (not physically).  However, because I love my wife, I am sorry when I mess up.  I don’t want to hurt her.  When I mess up, I am still married to her.  I haven’t turned my back and walked away.  We are still in a relationship.


The only way to lose your salvation is to deliberately turn your back on God and walk away from him.  He will never leave you.  Even if you reject him completely, he will try to win your heart again.


I am convinced that we will never be perfect.  We don’t have to be.  When we are in a relationship with God, our sins are covered by Christ’s blood until the end.  If God has won our hearts, we will get a flawless new body when Jesus comes.  That is when our new hearts will finally be compatible with our bodies because our bodies will also be new.


Am I trying to make excuses for sin?  Not at all.  In fact, the harder I tried to overcome sin, the more I failed and became discouraged.  Now I find that when I focus on my relationship with Jesus, the sins that seemed so appealing before, start to lose their power in his presence.  It’s miraculous.



_________

Sam Millen pastors the Luray Seventh-day Adventist Church in Virginia, in the Potomac Conference. He grew up in Australia, moving to the US to study for the ministry at Andrews University. He and his wife Angie have a six-year-old and two-year-old twins.

This article was originally published on Spectrum Magazine. Used by permission.



Further Reading:

REclaiming Adventism (A Response to the Testimony of Former Adventist Eliana Matthews)
For other posts related to Last Generation Theology click here.

The Civil War Did Not End Slavery
photo credit: Ira Gelb via photopin cc
The heart can be very cruel when Gods fear and love are removed. - E.G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 608.




In her signature book The Great Controversy Ellen White speaks of a last day revival of slavery. The events that she speaks of are, of course, still future. However, many often ask how it can be possible that slavery could be revived especially in a civilized country like the United States. The proposal appears to many as an outlandish prediction. Perhaps the End It Movement can settle those questions. As the video above shows, the End It Movement is a social movement with the mission to raise awareness of, and bring an end to, modern slavery. Not only is slavery still alive around the world, but even here in America it is growing by leaps and bounds. According to their website, "there are roughly 200,000 slaves working in America. And 17,000 more will be trafficked in the next year." Perhaps Ellen White was not so outlandish after-all.

The Apostle John also states in the book of Revelation that when Jesus returns, "the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains" (Revelation 6:15, emphasis added). Evidently for John, slavery will still be around at the time of Jesus' return. So the question is, What are we willing to do to help bring an end to slavery? While prophecy tells us that the return of Jesus will be the only event cataclysmic enough to deal an eternal death blow to slavery, we can still do a lot to bring freedom. And not only physical freedom, but spiritual freedom as well. I invite you today to join the fight to end slavery in whatever small way you can,
Slavery is Wrong.You know it. We know it. As a country, we've officially known it since 1863. But here's something you might not know -- Slavery still exists. We want every man, woman and child to know that there are 27 million men, women and children, just like them, living in the shadows. In brothels. In factories. In Quarries. Working as slaves. In 161 countries. Including our own. We are here to shine a light on slavery. No more bondage. No more sex trafficking. No more child laborers. No more, starting now. - enditmovement.com




Other Anti-Slavery Movements:

Walk Free
Anti-Slavery International
Free the Slaves
International Justice Mission
ECPAT
Not For Sale
Polaris Project
Facing Life's Record (An Analysis of the Great Controversy's Scariest Chapter)
photo credit: katiew via photopin cc
Have you ever read the chapter "Facing Life's Record" in The Great Controversy and walked away feeling anxious and hopeless? Has anyone ever quoted that chapter to you in a way that promotes legalism and perfectionism? If you have ever experienced this then you are not alone. Because of this common occurrence I decided to do a paragraph by paragraph analysis of this most dreadful chapter to see whether or not it really is as scary as some people make it out to be. What I discovered was both simple and amazing. Rather than promoting legalism this chapter makes it impossible to do so. But don't take my word for it. Read along and you will see for yourself.

Now before I begin allow me to make a disclaimer of sorts. This post is intended for Seventh-day Adventists who already understand and believe the doctrine of the investigative judgment, therefore, this post is not apologetic in nature. There are many questions that are often raised when studying the investigative judgment that I will not answer here. My only burden in this post is to discover whether or not the chapter "Facing Life's Record", found in Ellen Whites signature book The Great Controversy, is antithetical to the gospel. However, at the end of this post I will attach some links which contain resources that will help answer those other questions. And of course, if there are any more questions feel free to contact me.


Facing Life's Record

“I beheld,” says the prophet Daniel, “till thrones were placed, and One that was Ancient of Days did sit: His raiment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool; His throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:9, 10, R.V.


There is not much to be said about this paragraph. It is simply setting the apocalyptic stage for the judgment as SDA's understand it.

Thus was presented to the prophet’s vision the great and solemn day when the characters and the lives of men should pass in review before the Judge of all the earth, and to every man should be rendered “according to his works.” The Ancient of Days is God the Father. Says the psalmist: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” Psalm 90:2. It is He, the source of all being, and the fountain of all law, that is to preside in the judgment. And holy angels as ministers and witnesses, in number “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,” attend this great tribunal.


Again, not much to be said. The judgment is described as a "great and solemn (serious) day," which I don't think anyone would debate, and the judge is God himself. Not much to comment on there.


“And, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.” Daniel 7:13, 14. The coming of Christ here described is not His second coming to the earth. He comes to the Ancient of Days in heaven to receive dominion and glory and a kingdom, which will be given Him at the close of His work as a mediator. It is this coming, and not His second advent to the earth, that was foretold in prophecy to take place at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844. Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies and there appears in the presence of God to engage in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man—to perform the work of investigative judgment and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.


Yet another descriptive paragraph. God the son enters the picture as mans "mediator" and "great High Priest" who minsters "in behalf of man" and make an "atonement" for us. Each of those titles (mediator etc.) reveals the work of Jesus on behalf of mankind. Nothing scary here. The only phrase that is suspect is that he will "make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits." The question then is, What does it mean to be "entitled"? Are we "entitled" to the benefits of the atonement Christ made at the cross by our works? Or are we "entitled" to those benefits by faith in his finished atonement on Calvary? Hold on to that question. It will soon be answered.


In the typical service only those who had come before God with confession and repentance, and whose sins, through the blood of the sin offering, were transferred to the sanctuary, had a part in the service of the Day of Atonement. So in the great day of final atonement and investigative judgment the only cases considered are those of the professed people of God. The judgment of the wicked is a distinct and separate work, and takes place at a later period. “Judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel?” 1 Peter 4:17.


So, according to this paragraph, the investigative judgment only considers the cases of those who have professed faith in Jesus. Now the picture is starting to get a bit scarier isn't it? At this point many begin to stumble. Why are Christians judged? Does this not remove the assurance of our salvation?


First of all, we need to remember that "the Lord knows those who are his" (2 Tim. 2:19). Therefore, the judgment is not for his information at all. Throughout the Bible we see examples of God "investigating" even though it is clear that he knows all things. For example, when Adam and Eve sinned God entered the garden and asked, "where are you" (Gen. 3:9)? Why did God ask that question? Didn't he already know? Also, in the final judgment of the wicked the Bible says that "Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15). Why does God need to look into a book in order to determine who goes into the lake of fire and who doesn't? Doesn't he already know who the saved are? Then why the "investigation"? The only logical conclusion is that these "investigations" are not for God's benefit but for the benefit of his creation. Therefore, as will soon become clear, the investigative judgment is not for Gods benefit or enlightenment. It is for the benefit of his creation. Lets move on and it will soon come together.


The books of record in heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgment. Says the prophet Daniel: “The judgment was set, and the books were opened.” The revelator, describing the same scene, adds: “Another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Revelation 20:12.


So the names of those who have placed their faith in Jesus are written in the book of life. That means my name is there! However, something interesting is happening here. Both Ellen White and the Bible say we are judged "according to our works". Ellen says that the "the deeds of men... are to determine the decisions of the judgment" and John says, "the dead were judged... according to their works". So does this mean that we pass the judgment by our works? 


It is important to point out that Ellen White mentions two distinct judgments in this paragraph. The judgment Daniel describes is the investigative judgement which takes place before the second coming of Christ and only considers the cases of those who have confessed Christ as Lord and savior. The judgment John describes is the one that will take place after the millennium. It is known as the Great White Throne judgment and it only considers the cases of the lost. In the investigative judgment the righteous are the ones that are judged and they are judged according to their works. In the judgment of the wicked (Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20) it is only the wicked that are judged and they too are judged according to their works. The difference however, as we will soon see, is that the works of the righteous are covered by the blood of Jesus whereas the works of the wicked are not. In addition, the works of the wicked testify that sin is their god for their works are sinful. However, the works of the righteous testify that they are children of God for their works are the fruit of the spirit (Mat. 7:16; Gal. 5:22-23). However, the question remains - do we pass the judgment by our works? Let's keep reading.


The book of life contains the names of all who have ever entered the service of God. Jesus bade His disciples: “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20. Paul speaks of his faithful fellow workers, “whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:3. Daniel, looking down to “a time of trouble, such as never was,” declares that God’s people shall be delivered, “everyone that shall be found written in the book.” And the revelator says that those only shall enter the city of God whose names “are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Daniel 12:1; Revelation 21:27.

Amen! Good news! Lets keep going.


“A book of remembrance” is written before God, in which are recorded the good deeds of “them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.” Malachi 3:16. Their words of faith, their acts of love, are registered in heaven. Nehemiah refers to this when he says: “Remember me, O my God, ... and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God.” Nehemiah 13:14. In the book of God’s remembrance every deed of righteousness is immortalized. There every temptation resisted, every evil overcome, every word of tender pity expressed, is faithfully chronicled. And every act of sacrifice, every suffering and sorrow endured for Christ’s sake, is recorded. Says the psalmist: “Thou tellest my wanderings: put Thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book?” Psalm 56:8.


Again, good news! Notice: This paragraph says nothing about our good works earning us salvation, but what it does say is that God notices our faithfulness. Isn't that awesome?


There is a record also of the sins of men. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Says the Saviour: “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36, 37. The secret purposes and motives appear in the unerring register; for God “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” 1 Corinthians 4:5. “Behold, it is written before Me, ... your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 65:6, 7.


Anyone shaking in their boots? Ellen White is not saying anything new here. All of our sins are noticed by God, not only our good works. But the question is, what does this mean for the believer? This question will soon be answered.


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.


Again, this is a clear biblical teaching in both the Old and New Testaments.


The law of God is the standard by which the characters and the lives of men will be tested in the judgment. Says the wise man: “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14. The apostle James admonishes his brethren: “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” James 2:12.


This paragraph is just painting a clearer picture. Lets keep going.


Those who in the judgment are “accounted worthy” will have a part in the resurrection of the just. Jesus said: “They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, ... are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” Luke 20:35, 36. And again He declares that “they that have done good” shall come forth “unto the resurrection of life.” John 5:29. The righteous dead will not be raised until after the judgment at which they are accounted worthy of “the resurrection of life.” Hence they will not be present in person at the tribunal when their records are examined and their cases decided.


Taken alone this paragraph (and John 5:29 as well), seem to teach salvation by works. But is this what they are teaching? And what does Ellen White mean by those who are "accounted worthy"? How are we "accounted worthy?" Is it by our good works? Or is it by something else? And while we are asking these questions, what did Jesus mean when he said that “they that have done good” will receive eternal life? Is he too teaching salvation by works? This paragraph does not answer these questions, but the answer is coming up. 


Jesus will appear as their advocate, to plead in their behalf before God. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1. “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 9:24; 7:25.


Aha! So far Ellen White has only presented the problem. We are sinners and all of our sins are recorded with "terrible exactness". Now she presents the solution. And what is that solution? Jesus is our "advocate (lawyer)," who appears "in the presence of God for us (mediator) and is able to "save (savior) to the uttermost them that have good works!" Is that what it says? No! It says he is able to "save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him (faith in the substitutionary sacrifice)" because he lives with one purpose and that is to make "intercession for [us] (High Priest, redeemer)". Therefore, while our sins are many we need not fear if we are covered by the righteousness of Christ.


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. The Lord declared to Moses: “Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book.” Exodus 32:33. And says the prophet Ezekiel: “When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, ... all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned.” Ezekiel 18:24.


It is at this most critical paragraph that many Adventists freak out. Salvation, they think, is based on repenting of every little sin (so they become paranoid about repentance and are constantly trying to remember some sin they have not repented of so that they can secure their salvation by their repentance). Salvation also seems to be based on absolute perfection. Therefore, in order to secure my salvation I had better overcome every sin. The result is a naval-gazing experience where they are constantly looking to self in order to secure salvation instead of to Christ. Others assume an equally dangerous error, that they must look, not to self, but to Jesus in order to obtain the victory which will then make them "worthy" of eternal life. The error is that "worthiness" is still determined by human performance and not by the righteousness of Christ. In other words, the believer sees Jesus as the way by which he "might" obtain eternal life and not the way by which he "will". This view does not present Jesus as the promise of salvation but as the possibility of salvation. The person constantly worries if they are abiding in Christ, if they are allowing his grace to work through them, if they are surrendering enough, and if they are obeying the will of God well enough to "retain" their justification. This is a Christ + Me centered religion that turns the "obedience out of love" concept into a legalistic experience where the believer is constantly worrying whether or not they are "obeying out of love" enough or not. In addition, many continue to struggle with sin and eventually give up thinking that Jesus has failed them, that they cannot be saved, and that they might as well quit trying. But the problem was never with Ellen White or with Jesus. The problem was with surface reading, listening to legalistic teachers who themselves misunderstand these issues, and never having grasped the true gospel. So lets analyze this paragraph.


In order to properly understand this paragraph it is important to remember that Adventists, like Pentecostals, Lutherans, and Methodists, do not believe in "once saved, always saved." That is all this paragraph is about. It has nothing to do with "absolute perfection" or being worthy of heaven by my good works. It simply has to do with the fact that many who profess Christ do in fact turn their backs on him. During the judgment those who turned their backs on Jesus are given what they want - an eternity without him - while those who loved Jesus to the end are given what they want (though they don't deserve it) - an eternity with Jesus. Ellen White says that it is "our Advocate" who "presents the cases of each successive generation." What do you think that means? If an advocate, someone who speaks on your behalf, presents your case - Is he looking for any excuse to remove your name from the book of life? Or is he defending you and doing everything he can to keep your name there? Please don't ignore that powerful word "Advocate". That single noun forms the interpretive framework for this entire paragraph. Each name is "closely investigated" by the "Advocate" or the "one who pleads another's cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant..." So again I ask, What does this scenario look like? Is it one of God looking for every excuse to keep you out of heaven? Not at all. 


Then what does Ellen White mean when she says, "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"? Again, Adventists do not believe in "once saved always saved." This statement does not mean that you have to confess and repent of every tiny little sin you have ever committed "or else", nor does it mean that you have to be absolutely perfect. It simply means that anyone who professed Christ, was covered by his blood, and then rebelled against him again without ever repenting of that rebellion will be removed from the book of life. This is exactly what Paul means in the book of Hebrews when he said, 

"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God (Heb. 10:26).  
Again, this paragraph is not in opposition to salvation by grace through faith. it is simply rejecting the heresy of "once saved always saved." In this investigation God is not looking for any excuses to keep us out of heaven, He is looking for one thing only. What is that? We will see it in the next paragraph. 

All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven; as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal life. The Lord declares, by the prophet Isaiah: “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Isaiah 43:25. Said Jesus: “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.” “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” Revelation 3:5; Matthew 10:32, 33.


So what is God searching for? What is the Advocate doing as he "presents the cases of each successive generation"? The first sentence makes it very clear. He is looking for the blood. If you have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ, you have pardon entered against your name. That's it. No hypersensitive repentance of every little sin, no ultra-perfectionistic goal to be reached. The test is simple. Are you covered by the blood, or are you one of those who accepts Christ only to reject him when life gets rough or temptation attractive? The verdict of the judgment is determined, not by your performance or obedience, but by your faith in the blood of Jesus. Here is an illustration:

Suppose you are drowning in the ocean. A helicopter comes by and drops a rescue line to you. All you have to do is take hold of the rescue line. You take hold of it and you are elevated to safety in the helicopter. Your salvation from the watery grave is now secure. But what if you decided, for some awkward reason, that you liked things better in the ocean? What if you then leapt out of the chopper back into the ocean and then refused to get back on when the chopper returned to you? Can you logically say that you are still secure in your salvation from the watery grave? Obviously not.
That is all Ellen White is saying in this paragraph. While we are safe in the arms of Jesus we are ever free to turn our backs on him (this is what the book of Hebrews is all about). If we do, he will give us what we ask for. He will leave us, not without much pleading, to the fate we chose. "He that overcomes" then is not "he who reaches a state of sinless perfection" but he who clings to the righteousness of Christ by faith (both of which are gifts of God) for dear life and never lets go.

The deepest interest manifested among men in the decisions of earthly tribunals but faintly represents the interest evinced in the heavenly courts when the names entered in the book of life come up in review before the Judge of all the earth. The divine Intercessor presents the plea that all who have overcome through faith in His blood be forgiven their transgressions, that they be restored to their Eden home, and crowned as joint heirs with Himself to “the first dominion.” Micah 4:8. Satan in his efforts to deceive and tempt our race had thought to frustrate the divine plan in man’s creation; but Christ now asks that this plan be carried into effect as if man had never fallen. He asks for His people not only pardon and justification, full and complete, but a share in His glory and a seat upon His throne.


Wow! This is the most beautiful paragraph yet. It is absolutely amazing. It begins by saying that "earthly tribunals but faintly represents the interest evinced in the heavenly courts when the names entered in the book of life come up in review." Why? Is it because God is looking for every excuse possible to reject us? Never! Such a belief is a soul crushing heresy! The intense interest is because the judgment is an opportunity to defend us against the sophisticated accusations of Satan. When the cases "come up in review" Ellen says that "[t]he divine Intercessor presents the plea..." In other words, we have absolutely nothing to fear. The record of sins so perfectly maintained does not testify against us in the judgment because the blood of Jesus covers each and every sin written there. The purpose of the investigative judgment is thus to demonstrate who "have overcome through faith in His blood" that they may be forgiven, restored to their Eden home, and crowned as joint heirs with Jesus. I don't know about you, but this judgment sounds exciting!


This is also a good point to revisit the question, If God knows everything why does he need to investigate? Remember I concluded earlier that God never investigates for his own benefit but for the benefit of his creatures. While God knows who his true children are, the angels in heaven do not. Satan presents powerful accusations against each of us before God and the angels. Now remember, every human being has a guardian angel. Since those angels have also seen our sins they cannot argue with Satan. His charges against us, as far as they are concerned, are correct. Therefore, God opens up the books of our life's record and the investigative judgment begins - not for Gods benefit, but for the angels benefit. Of course, God could say, "Just trust me guys. Don't ask any questions. I am God and I know what I am doing." But the amazing thing is that the judgment reveals to us just how transparent God is. He has nothing to hide. This scenario is repeated in Revelation 20 during the Great White Throne judgment of the wicked. Only here, it is the redeemed who investigate what is written in the books. Not only is God transparent with his loyal angels, but he is transparent with us! He shows us why certain people we expected to see in heaven are not there and he answers all of our questions. Many people say they have tons of questions to ask God. Do you think that will go away once we get to heaven? No. God will answer everything and the investigative judgment is the beginning of that process. What a beautiful God we serve!


While Jesus is pleading for the subjects of His grace, Satan accuses them before God as transgressors. The great deceiver has sought to lead them into skepticism, to cause them to lose confidence in God, to separate themselves from His love, and to break His law. Now he points to the record of their lives, to the defects of character, the unlikeness to Christ, which has dishonored their Redeemer, to all the sins that he has tempted them to commit, and because of these he claims them as his subjects.


According to this paragraph, Who is it that "points to the record of [our] lives ...the defects of [our] character... [our]unlikeness to Christ, which has dishonored [our] Redeemer [and] to all the sins that [we have been] tempted... to commit..."? Is it Jesus our Advocate who is doing this? Not at all! It is Satan. How ironic is it that so many Adventist teachers portray the judgment in a way that makes it appear as though it is God who is pointing out these things. However, while Ellen White says he reviews the record of our lives that review is always done in the context of an Advocate (defender) and it is Satan (accuser) who points out, accuses, and claims us as "unworthy" not God! How sad is it that many well meaning Adventists have unwittingly switched the role of Jesus with the role of Satan by making God out to be against us in the judgment. How much damage has been caused by this heresy! But notice, it did not come from Ellen White but from those who have misinterpreted her writings.


Jesus does not excuse their sins, but shows their penitence and faith, and, claiming for them forgiveness, He lifts His wounded hands before the Father and the holy angels, saying: I know them by name. I have graven them on the palms of My hands. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” Psalm 51:17. And to the accuser of His people He declares: “The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” Zechariah 3:2. Christ will clothe His faithful ones with His own righteousness, that He may present them to His Father “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Ephesians 5:27. Their names stand enrolled in the book of life, and concerning them it is written: “They shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy.” Revelation 3:4.


If anyone still thinks that "Facing Life's Record" is scary after reading this paragraph then I don't know what to say to you. Here Ellen White makes it very clear that Christians are not judged, but Christ is judged in their place. Therefore, while we each come up for judgment those who are covered in the blood need not fear because Jesus 1) claims for us forgiveness, 2) rebukes our accuser Satan, 3) clothes his faithful with His own righteousness 4) presents them to the Father without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing (perfect), and 5) He dresses them in white (his righteousness). It is after all of this is said that Ellen White closes the paragraph with Revelation 3:4 "for they are worthy." How are they worthy? Is it because they kept the 10 commandments so well? Is it because they were absolutely sinlessly perfect? Is it because they repented of every little sin they ever committed? Is it because they were perfectly obedient? Not at all. Their "worthiness" relates only to the fact that they are covered with the perfect life of Jesus. Therefore, Christians have nothing to fear in the judgment because while they face the record of their own sinful life, it is covered by the record of Jesus perfect life, and are thus accounted worthy of salvation. Thus, the only ones who have anything to fear in the judgment are the apostates who have turned away from Christ and the hypocrites who claim Jesus with their lips yet do not truly embrace him as their Lord and Savior. However, those who sincerely believe in Jesus, though far from perfect, have the assurance that they are covered by his blood. Praise the Lord!


Thus will be realized the complete fulfillment of the new-covenant promise: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.” Jeremiah 31:34; 50:20. “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even everyone that is written among the living in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 4:2, 3.


Ellen White has a way of emphasizing that follows the pattern of repeat and expand. Thus, so far we have seen 1) an introduction to the judgment (7 paragraphs), 2) a picture of the problem we face in judgment as sinners (4 paragraphs), and 3) the solution to the problem (6 paragraphs so far). This last paragraph is another example of repeat and expand. Ellen White is repeating and expanding on the truth that in Christ, and in Christ alone, all of our sins are blotted out. Therefore, while it is possible to make this a "scary" chapter by surface reading or by focusing more on section 2 "a picture of the problem" than on the chapter as a whole. In the end, it is not possible to view this chapter as scary when read in its gospel context.


The work of the investigative judgment and the blotting out of sins is to be accomplished before the second advent of the Lord. 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. But the apostle Peter distinctly states that the sins of believers will be blotted out “when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ.” Acts 3:19, 20. When the investigative judgment closes, Christ will come, and His reward will be with Him to give to every man as his work shall be.


Does this mean that we are not forgiven? Of course not! The moment we come to Christ by faith we are forgiven of our sins and have no more need to ever worry about them rising up against us ever again. Remember Ellen White stated that, "All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven..." Therefore, we are forgiven. The issue here is not forgiveness but blotting out. Why do our sins remain in the record-books of heaven if they have already been forgiven? The next paragraph answers the question.


In the typical service the high priest, having made the atonement for Israel, came forth and blessed the congregation. So Christ, at the close of His work as mediator, will appear, “without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28), to bless His waiting people with eternal life. As the priest, in removing the sins from the sanctuary, confessed them upon the head of the scapegoat, so Christ will place all these sins upon Satan, the originator and instigator of sin. The scapegoat, bearing the sins of Israel, was sent away “unto a land not inhabited” (Leviticus 16:22); so Satan, bearing the guilt of all the sins which he has caused God’s people to commit, will be for a thousand years confined to the earth, which will then be desolate, without inhabitant, and he will at last suffer the full penalty of sin in the fires that shall destroy all the wicked. Thus the great plan of redemption will reach its accomplishment in the final eradication of sin and the deliverance of all who have been willing to renounce evil.


Why do our sins remain in the record books of heaven if we have already been forgiven? This paragraph answers the question. Now, before I analyze this paragraph allow me to give you an illustration that will simplify this topic.

Amy is failing one of her classes in university. She asks the professor for help and he refuses unless she sleeps with him. Desperate to pass the class, Amy concedes to the demand and passes the class. However, the secret is soon exposed and Amy faces expulsion from the school for her actions. She explains her situation and the faculty has mercy on her so they decide to forgive her and re-institute her into the school. To show just how forgiving they are they take every single document containing any information on Amy's escapade and burn it. Amy is happy. However, there is a problem. In the process of destroying all of the information about Amy's sin they have unwittingly destroyed all of the evidence needed to prosecute the teacher who took advantage of her. 
Now suppose instead of destroying the evidence they put it to the side until a future "day of judgment" in which case they would bring out the charges against Amy as evidence against the professor? Amy wouldn't have to worry about the information being there. She is already forgiven. But now the professor has to face the fact that it was he that took advantage of her and led her into sin. He know bears the ultimate responsibility for his actions and is fired from the university.
This is the only reason why our sins are not blotted out when we are forgiven. They are not kept to bear witness against us because we are already forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus. But they are there to bear witness against Satan who is ultimately responsible for all of sin. This in no way means that Satan is a sin bearer or a sacrifice for our sins. No way! Christ alone is our sacrifice. What this means is that God will bring closure to the sin problem by holding Satan ultimately responsible for the sin and misery he has caused on this earth. Our sins are not blotted out until that final day, not to testify against us, but to be placed on Satan as the one ultimately responsible for the rebellion. 

At the time appointed for the judgment—the close of the 2300 days, in 1844—began the work of investigation and blotting out of sins. All who have ever taken upon themselves the name of Christ must pass its searching scrutiny. Both the living and the dead are to be judged “out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”


Ellen White now repeats the introduction to the work of judgment that has been taking place since 1844. There is nothing in this paragraph she has not already stated before. This paragraph and the next are in direct opposition to the heresy of "once saved always saved." This is why Ellen White says that "[a]ll who have ever taken upon themselves the name of Christ must pass its searching scrutiny..." 


Why do believers pass through a "searching scrutiny"? Its really quite simple. I already explained why in the section dealing with the accusations of Satan before God and the angels, but allow me to illustrate it differently. Take for example this paragraph by paragraph analysis of this chapter. Why am I doing it? Why am I "scrutinizing" this chapter so carefully? It is because many have "accused" it of being anti-gospel. That accusation leads me to engage in a judgment of this chapter. In the end, my "searching scrutiny" will allow me to know for sure whether or not this chapter is legalistic or gospel centered. If it fails the test then I know that it is a false teaching. However, if it is covered by the message of the cross then it passes the test. This is exactly why believers undergo a "searching scrutiny". Satan has accused us relentlessly before God. He sinned and got kicked out of heaven. We sinned and get welcomed in. How come? I can already hear Satan crying out "unjust!" God therefore performs a work of judgment on us, not to find excuses to kick us out of heaven, but to see whether or not we are covered by the blood of Jesus (remember this is for the benefit of the angels for God already knows). If we are the accusations of Satan are worthless. But if we have been hypocrites from the beginning, or if we have apostatized (turned away from Christ) then our names are removed from the records of heaven. 


So, how do we pass this "searching scrutiny"? We have already discovered that it is through faith in the righteousness of Christ. In the judgment we are not judged based on our performance, but based on whether or not we were "faithful to the end." How are we faithful to the end? It is only by placing all of our trust in Jesus and never turning back. How do we know if we have placed all of our trust in Jesus? The answer of scripture is that we have accepted Christ and our lives are now in harmony with Gods revealed will. Is your life in harmony with Gods will? Or are you still living in rebellion while claiming to be a Christian? This is the question we all must answer and its answer is the determining factor in the judgment. Again, this is not saying that we must be absolutely perfect. It is a call to sincerity.
 


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. He may have committed his evil deeds in the light of day or in the darkness of night; but they were open and manifest before Him with whom we have to do. Angels of God witnessed each sin and registered it in the unerring records. Sin may be concealed, denied, covered up from father, mother, wife, children, and associates; no one but the guilty actors may cherish the least suspicion of the wrong; but it is laid bare before the intelligences of heaven. The darkness of the darkest night, the secrecy of all deceptive arts, is not sufficient to veil one thought from the knowledge of the Eternal. God has an exact record of every unjust account and every unfair dealing. He is not deceived by appearances of piety. He makes no mistakes in His estimation of character. Men may be deceived by those who are corrupt in heart, but God pierces all disguises and reads the inner life.


Once again, do not remove this paragraph from its context and thus place an undue yoke of bondage on yourself or other faithful Christians. The message here is not that we should be paranoid about whether or not we have repented and confessed every little sin. God is not going to kick you out of heaven for not having repented of the bubble gum you stole when you were twelve. To properly understand Ellen Whites statement we must understand what sin is. It is not merely a wrong act but a way of being. I can repent of my love of lying and forsake it without ever having repented of every little lie I have ever told. Likewise, I can repent of my love of lust without having to call to mind every instance in which I have lusted. God is not interested in plucking the fruit (individual sins) from the tree of sin, he wants to uproot the tree (sin as a way of being).


Ellen Whites message in this passage is clear. We cannot go to heaven where there is no sin if we love to sin and refuse to let it go. Do not confuse this with absolute perfection. This is not referring to adding to what Jesus did by overcoming all of your sins and then becoming worthy on account of that victory. Our victories add nothing to the already finished work of Christ. This is referring, once again, to sincerity. Are you truly a follower of Jesus? Or are you self-deceived into thinking you are? The answer is found in where your heart lies. Only those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus are saved. Saying a prayer, going through the church motions, being raised in a Christian family, or having a doctorate in theology does not mean you are saved. It is a personal experience with Jesus, a falling at the foot of the cross in complete dependence upon his grace, a grasping by faith the only merits by which we can be saved that can secure us salvation. So long as we depend on self, on our accomplishments, or on anything else but Jesus we cannot be saved. And we cannot claim his forgiveness while refusing his power to cleanse us from sin. This is like marrying a woman while refusing to be faithful to her. Its silly isn't it? And that is all Ellen White is referring to in this paragraph. Sincerity is the key, not absolute perfection. 


How solemn is the thought! Day after day, passing into eternity, bears its burden of records for the books of heaven. Words once spoken, deeds once done, can never be recalled. Angels have registered both the good and the evil. The mightiest conqueror upon the earth cannot call back the record of even a single day. Our acts, our words, even our most secret motives, all have their weight in deciding our destiny for weal or woe. Though they may be forgotten by us, they will bear their testimony to justify or condemn.


Once again, Ellen White is repeating the condition, or the problem we all face in judgment. In case you have not noticed, the last 3 paragraphs have been a repetition of the entire chapter so far. Ellen White has gone back to the introduction and the problem. This last paragraph is a repetition and expansion on the problem we face in the judgment as human beings. It is not meant to cause us to look within for our salvation, but to realize how utterly hopeless we are and how much we need Christ.


As the features of the countenance are reproduced with unerring accuracy on the polished plate of the artist, so the character is faithfully delineated in the books above. Yet how little solicitude is felt concerning that record which is to meet the gaze of heavenly beings. Could the veil which separates the visible from the invisible world be swept back, and the children of men behold an angel recording every word and deed, which they must meet again in the judgment, how many words that are daily uttered would remain unspoken, how many deeds would remain undone.


Once again we see repetition and expansion of the problem and a strong Lutheran/Wesleyan (Ellen White was a Methodist) rejection of once saved always saved. The next paragraph explains it more. 


In the judgment the use made of every talent will be scrutinized. How have we employed the capital lent us of Heaven? Will the Lord at His coming receive His own with usury? Have we improved the powers entrusted us, in hand and heart and brain, to the glory of God and the blessing of the world? How have we used our time, our pen, our voice, our money, our influence? What have we done for Christ, in the person of the poor, the afflicted, the orphan, or the widow? God has made us the depositaries of His holy word; what have we done with the light and truth given us to make men wise unto salvation? No value is attached to a mere profession of faith in Christ; only the love which is shown by works is counted genuine. Yet it is love alone which in the sight of Heaven makes any act of value. Whatever is done from love, however small it may appear in the estimation of men, is accepted and rewarded of God.


The interpretation of this paragraph hinges on this statement: "No value is attached to a mere profession of faith in Christ; only the love which is shown by works is counted genuine." If this is legalistic, then I suppose James was the biggest legalist of all because this sentence is simply repeating the message of the epistle of James. Likewise, men like Luther, Wesley, Moody, Graham, and Chan would also be considered legalists because they all taught(and teach) the same truths. There are myriads of Christians who live with a false sense of security. They think because they go to church they are saved, but they are deluded because their faith is nothing more than an intellectual or cultural ascent to a set of Bible facts. How do I know if I am saved? Not by how perfect we are but by what kind of life we live. Is your life one of love to God and man or one of love to self? Do we feed the poor? Clothe the naked? Visit the lonely? Do we defend the widows and the orphans? Or do we exploit the poor, ignore the naked, avoid the lonely and  despise the widows and orphans? Are we indifferent to the pain of others? Are we unmoved by the sufferings of the raped, the abused, the starving, the bullied? Doing these things (or others) will never save us, but works of love show that we are saved. The message of both James and Ellen White is simple: Don't think you are eternally secure just because you "believe" in God when you live like a devil for as James said, "even the demons believe and they tremble" (James 2:19). You may not be perfect, but are you sincere? Are you a lover of God? Or are you a selfish, self-centered, indifferent human being who is deluded into thinking you are actually saved? If I could summarize this entire chapter it would be in the form of this question: Are you sincere?


The hidden selfishness of men stands revealed in the books of heaven. There is the record of unfulfilled duties to their fellow men, of forgetfulness of the Saviour’s claims. There they will see how often were given to Satan the time, thought, and strength that belonged to Christ. Sad is the record which angels bear to heaven. Intelligent beings, professed followers of Christ, are absorbed in the acquirement of worldly possessions or the enjoyment of earthly pleasures. Money, time, and strength are sacrificed for display and self-indulgence; but few are the moments devoted to prayer, to the searching of the Scriptures, to humiliation of soul and confession of sin.


Once again, Ellen White paints a picture of the problem. While every Christian can learn from the words of this paragraph and apply them to their life, do not over-apply them to the sincere. These words are meant to arouse the minds of licentious Christians who claim Jesus with their lips but are 1) "absorbed in the acquirement of worldly possessions or the enjoyment of earthly pleasures," 2) sacrificing "[m]oney, time, and strength... for display and self-indulgence," and 3) all but neglecting Bible study, prayer, and the "humiliation of soul and confession of sin (another way of saying 'learning to depend entirely on the merits of Christ')." 


The key word in this passage is "absorbed." Its OK to have worldly possessions (nice car, house, clothes) and enjoy earthly pleasures (weddings, theme parks, innocent parties) but it is not OK for the Christian to be "absorbed" with these things. Likewise, we should not be "absorbed" with church, religion, theology, or ministry for the result would be the same. We need Christ to be the center of our lives and that is all this paragraph is saying.


Satan invents unnumbered schemes to occupy our minds, that they may not dwell upon the very work with which we ought to be best acquainted. The archdeceiver hates the great truths that bring to view an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful mediator. He knows that with him everything depends on his diverting minds from Jesus and His truth.

There it is! The last few paragraphs culminate in the unveiling of Satan's masterful plan. And what is it? It is in "diverting minds from Jesus and His truth." The judgment is meant to arouse Christians to the reality that while they can enjoy assurance of salvation they must never entertain carnal security, or better said, self-confidence. Those who, like Peter, are self confident have no idea that Satan is plotting for their downfall. Peter learned that he was not as spiritual as he thought when he betrayed Christ. Even though he swore he never would (self-confidence) he discovered he was wrong. However, had Peter admitted his weaknesses and asked Christ for grace he would never have betrayed him. It was his self-confidence that led him to betray Christ. Likewise, false doctrines like "once saved always saved" have millions living in self-confidence. They do not pray, study, or grow in their relationship with Christ. They could care less about human trafficking,  the murder of unborn and born children alike, the needs of the hungry and the addicted, and even the needs of their own family and friends and yet, they call themselves Christians. I once met a young man who smoked, drank, did drugs, and slept with different women all the time. He spent money on himself and cared little for others and yet he thought he was saved because he prayed a prayer at a youth rally 4 years before. This is self-confidence masquerading as faith in the atonement. The investigative judgment demolishes this false security by showing us two things: number one, Christ is our only hope before conversion and, number two, he remains our only hope after conversion. This truth alone protects us from legalism and licentiousness at the same time.


Those who would share the benefits of the Saviour’s mediation should permit nothing to interfere with their duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God. The precious hours, instead of being given to pleasure, to display, or to gain seeking, should be devoted to an earnest, prayerful study of the word of truth. The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill. Every individual has a soul to save or to lose. Each has a case pending at the bar of God. Each must meet the great Judge face to face. How important, then, that every mind contemplate often the solemn scene when the judgment shall sit and the books shall be opened, when, with Daniel, every individual must stand in his lot, at the end of the days.


We are now entering the close of this chapter. At this close Ellen White once again presents the solution to the problem she has delineated above. Once again she declares that our only hope is in "the benefits of the Saviour’s mediation" and not in ourselves. However, what about the scary phrase that we should "permit nothing to interfere with [our] duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God"? Is Ellen White saying that we are saved by our faith and our works? Again, allow me to remind you that Ellen White has already made it amply clear that we can only be saved by the blood of Jesus. No extra ingredients. Period. So do not commit the fallacy of interpreting this paragraph (and the remaining paragraphs) outside of their gospel context. To do so would be doing violence to the text. Since Ellen White has been consistently challenging the heresy of "once saved always saved" while simultaneously affirming our desperate need of Jesus only we must, out of intellectual honesty, continue to interpret her statements in that light.


First of all, while Ellen White believed in perfection (as do the Bible authors and as did John Wesley) she never teaches that a certain level of absolute sinless perfectionism must be reached in order to be saved at last. Many Adventists stumble over this point. There is a huge difference between a professed Christian who cherishes hidden sin and an honest Christian who, by looking to Jesus is daily gaining victories, yet always struggling with sin. Every honest and sincere Christian finds themselves in the latter category. I don't know of any sincere Christian that loves to sin and wants it to stay that way. But all of us will, until the return of Christ, have sins to overcome. Ellen White herself said,


So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, I have fully attained. Sanctification is the result of lifelong obedience {AA 560.3}.
Therefore, it would be disingenuous to say that Ellen White is teaching perfectionism in this paragraph. All Ellen White is doing is repeating and expanding what she said before: You cannot claim Christs righteousness if you are a hypocrite. That's what this entire chapter is about! And yet people who are not hypocrites read it on the surface and walk away thinking they are never going to be good enough to pass the judgment. Away with such a thought! It is not the intent of this chapter at all! So when Ellen White says that, "Those who would share the benefits of the Saviour’s mediation should permit nothing to interfere with their duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God" she is not saying that you need to reach a level of perfection before God can finally accept you into his family. All she is saying is that we should be committed and faithful Christians who have Jesus at the center of our lives and not self, the world, or anything else. Those who take their eyes off of Jesus because he seems to be taking long (the foolish virgins Matt. 25) and begin to settle down in this world are playing a dangerous game. We should never take our eyes off of Jesus. And what about, "The precious hours, instead of being given to pleasure, to display, or to gain seeking, should be devoted to an earnest, prayerful study of the word of truth"? Does this mean we should be like the desert fathers and go live in a monastery somewhere? Of course not. Ellen Whites own life testifies to a woman who enjoyed pleasure, laughter, and success. The key is in her phrase "instead of being given to" which is another way of saying "absorbed" or "obsessed". Ellen White is simply repeating the same thing she said before in different ways.

The paragraph then challenges us with an admonition to understand the work of investigative judgment happening now. This is imperative in a time when people are losing faith because Jesus seems to be taking forever to come back. Its also important because we are so close to the second coming that Satan is doubling his efforts to distract us from what really matters - a relationship with God. Just look at the world around you. We are faced with myriads of distractions. The investigative judgment is a wonderful teaching that reminds us that while we can enjoy the innocent pleasures of this world we must not become consumed with any of those things. Jesus is coming soon. Its all going to be burned up. And in a time when Satan is trying harder than ever to deceive and destroy (Matt. 24) the truth of the investigative judgment keeps us focused on our relationship with Jesus. In other words: Enjoy Facebook, iPads, and good times but don't forget about Jesus. Don't make him a second class citizen in your life. Its Jesus that is going to get you through the final crisis, not Facebook. So stay connected to him. Is that legalistic? Is that scary? Is that "bad news"? I don't think so.


How about: "How important, then, that every mind contemplate often the solemn scene when the judgment shall sit and the books shall be opened, when, with Daniel, every individual must stand in his lot, at the end of the days"? That's a scary statement isn't it? Remember the context. If there is anything I can ever stress to anyone is that "context is everything." This context is soon going to be repeated very forcefully -  we are not "once saved always saved". Many Adventists join the church with a good grasp on the gospel, and then like the Galatians, they are swept away by some offshoot ministry that claims they have to be absolutely perfect to be saved. They become legalistic and loose sight of Jesus. Like the Galatians, when they take their eyes off of Jesus and place them on themselves, their commandment keeping, their diet, and their performance they have "fallen away from grace." It is only by total dependence on Jesus that we can be safe. Contemplating the "solemn scene" of the judgment reminds us that we can never take our eyes off of Jesus. Sabbath keeping, health reform, etc. all have their proper place, but none should replace Christ. The solemn judgment reminds us that "not eating pork" will not save us in a judgment where all of our sins are laid bare. Only one thing can save us - the blood of Jesus - and the judgment reminds us, as we are bombarded by legalism from the conservatives and licentiousness from the liberals, to keep our eyes fixed on him. Nothing else! 


All who have received the light upon these subjects are to bear testimony of the great truths which God has committed to them. The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects and be able to give an answer to everyone that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them.


This paragraph simply applies to those who believe the teaching of the investigative judgment. We should not just know it, but be able to share it. How sad that the majority of Adventists can't even begin to explain the investigative judgment.


The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven. We must by faith enter within the veil, “whither the forerunner is for us entered.” Hebrews 6:20. There the light from the cross of Calvary is reflected. There we may gain a clearer insight into the mysteries of redemption. The salvation of man is accomplished at an infinite expense to heaven; the sacrifice made is equal to the broadest demands of the broken law of God. Jesus has opened the way to the Father’s throne, and through His mediation the sincere desire of all who come to Him in faith may be presented before God.


Many people misunderstand this statement to say that the atonement was not completed on the cross. However, that is not what this statement is saying at all. What it is saying is that his work on our behalf has not yet been completed. So while the atonement on the cross is finished, his ministry is not. This is not only clear in scripture but even the great evangelist Billy Graham wrote, 
"Quite clearly Jesus did not say that His death on the cross would mark the cessation of His ministry. The night before His death He repeatedly told the disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit."*
It is obvious to anyone who reads scripture that while the death of Jesus is complete and perfect and provides everything needed for the salvation of man his ministry was not completed at the cross. The day of Pentecost  the mediation and intercession in the sanctuary, the building of our mansions in heaven, the day of judgment, the second coming, and the eradication of sin and recreation of the earth are all part of the ministry of Christ on behalf of man. Thus Ellen White could say,
[Christ] planted the cross between heaven and earth, and when the Father beheld the sacrifice of His Son, He bowed before it in recognition of its perfection. “It is enough,” He said. “The atonement is complete” {RH September 24, 1901, par. 11}.
And yet say, "By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven." The atonement that guarantees our salvation is complete, but in the heavenly sanctuary Christ appropriates the benefits of his death to our individual lives in "real time."** Do you realize what this means? Christianity is not only about what happened 2,000 years ago (death of Christ) or about what will happen some day in the future (second coming) but it is about what is happening in the here and now! What a beautiful message this is that right now, at this moment in "real time," God is working on behalf of man. The final phase of his ministry began in 1844 and in the sanctuary service this phase of judgment is known as the "Day of Atonement" and is the final phase of ministry before the year ended. The implications are awesome! Many people ask, "Why hasn't Jesus come yet? You Christians have been saying he would return since the first century A.D. and its 2014! Where is he? Our answer is straight forward, "since 1844 he began his final phase of ministry on behalf of man. No one knows when it will end, but it is the last thing he will do before the movie ends. How awesome is the thought that prophetically speaking Jesus is now engaged in the final work and when it is over he will come! We are totally living in the last days.

Notice how Ellen White closes this paragraph: "Jesus has opened the way to the Father’s throne..." While Ellen White spent the last few paragraphs repeating and expanding "the problem" she now, once again, presents the "solution" and it is not our works, our performance, or our obedience. It is Jesus!


“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13. If those who hide and excuse their faults could see how Satan exults over them, how he taunts Christ and holy angels with their course, they would make haste to confess their sins and to put them away. Through defects in the character, Satan works to gain control of the whole mind, and he knows that if these defects are cherished, he will succeed. Therefore he is constantly seeking to deceive the followers of Christ with his fatal sophistry that it is impossible for them to overcome. But Jesus pleads in their behalf His wounded hands, His bruised body; and He declares to all who would follow Him: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29, 30. Let none, then, regard their defects as incurable. God will give faith and grace to overcome them.


Again, Ellen White is dealing with sincerity here. What Christian wants to live in rebellion to God? If you want Jesus and want your sin as well then there is a problem with your relationship with God. You are still in rebellion to him. Ellen White is once again appealing to sincerity. She is not teaching absolute perfection here. Notice she does not say that defects in the character will prove our ruin. She says that "if these defects are cherished, [Satan] will succeed." The key word is "cherished." Do you love your sin? Then you cannot go to heaven. You cannot love both God and sin. As one of my professors once said, "You cannot love someone and hurt them at the same time. Eventually, you will either stop hurting them or you will stop loving them." Jesus also taught this when he said "you cannot love both God and money." This does not mean you will be absolutely perfect and that you have to constantly live in fear of not going to heaven because you have defects of character. Remember, Ellen White said that said, "So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, I have fully attained." Satan will reign until the second coming, and therefore, we will have defects of character to overcome and when Jesus comes we will still be sinful! But Jesus is with us every step of the way. He is holding onto us. He is giving us his love, and his grace, and his power to live for him. As we fall deeper in love with him we learn to hate sin. While we may still fall, we are no longer slaves to sin. We are free to love as God created us to love. However, we must never assume that overcoming is the ground of our acceptance with God, for Ellen White was clear that, 
We may enjoy the favor of God. We are not to be anxious about what Christ and God think of us, but about what God thinks of Christ, our Substitute. Ye are accepted in the Beloved {2SM 32}. 
We are now living in the great day of atonement. In the typical service, while the high priest was making the atonement for Israel, all were required to afflict their souls by repentance of sin and humiliation before the Lord, lest they be cut off from among the people. In like manner, all who would have their names retained in the book of life should now, in the few remaining days of their probation, afflict their souls before God by sorrow for sin and true repentance. There must be deep, faithful searching of heart. The light, frivolous spirit indulged by so many professed Christians must be put away. There is earnest warfare before all who would subdue the evil tendencies that strive for the mastery. The work of preparation is an individual work. We are not saved in groups. The purity and devotion of one will not offset the want of these qualities in another. Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet He will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Everyone must be tested and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

Here we have yet another paragraph which, if torn out of its context, will breed insecurity and legalism. But kept within its context this paragraph poses no problem to our assurance of salvation. Here Ellen White appeals to all of us for we are all prone to take our eyes off of Jesus, but especially to those who live in carnal security. So lets follow her line of thought. In the day of atonement those who did not want to repent and search their hearts were cut off from Israel. In other words, those who wanted nothing to do with God, or who wanted both the benefits of God plus their sins, were given what they wanted - separation from Gods people. Our churches are filled with people who are living in carnal security. They think they are saved because they go to church but they live like the world. What do I mean by world? Uncaring, unloving, proud, boasters, money hungry, selfish etc. Ellen White is once again appealing to us that we should be sincere. Therefore, if you gave your life to Christ but have 
been swept away by legalistic doctrines or by the temptations of this world and yet you still think you are in Gods grace you are deceiving yourself. Thus, even Calvinist website gotquestions.org (which supports once saved always saved) could write,
For the truly converted, then, continuing to live sinfully is not an option. Because our conversion resulted in a completely new nature, our desire is to no longer live in sin. Yes, we still sin, but instead of wallowing in it as we once did, we now hate it and wish to be delivered from it. The idea of “taking advantage” of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf by continuing to live sinfully is unthinkable. If a person believes himself to be a Christian and still desires to live the old, sinful life, he has reason to doubt his salvation. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
This paragraph, and the quoted text, are exactly what Ellen White is saying. When she says that "[t]he light, frivolous spirit indulged by so many professed Christians must be put away" she is not saying that Christians should be gloomy, unhappy, naval gazing people who are always fretting about how sinful they are. She is appealing to those who are self-deceived into thinking that they can spend hours on the internet watching pornography, waste money on fancy cars and clothes while ignoring the poor and afflicted, mistreat illegal immigrants by exploiting them, and cheat on their spouses and still think that they are saved and going to heaven. Such people live with a "light and frivolous" spirit. They don't take their selfishness and lovelessness seriously. They laugh it off as unimportant. They shrug their shoulders and say "if I believe I am saved" while they cheat on their taxes and underpay their employees. So do not rip this paragraph out of its context to say that Christians should always be anxious and worried and unhappy. Ellen White herself was a happy, light-hearted woman who named her pet dog Tiglath Peleser (after the evil Assyrian king in 2 Kings - humor anyone?) and once fell off a rock because she was laughing so hard. She also wrote that,
We should never give to the world the false impression that Christians are a gloomy, unhappy people. If our eyes are fixed on Jesus, we shall see a compassionate Redeemer, and shall catch light from His countenance. Wherever His Spirit reigns, there peace abides. And there will be joy also, for there is a calm, holy trust in God. {DA 152.5}
What about that scary closing thought in which Ellen White says, "Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet He will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Everyone must be tested and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing"? Well, the question is, How are we to be "found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing"? She already answered it a few paragraphs above when she said, "Christ will clothe His faithful ones with His own righteousness, that He may present them to His Father “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” So the real question is, are you trusting in Jesus and clinging to him by faith or 1) are you trusting in your own works or 2) turning your back on Jesus by living for the things of this world? Our only hope is in placing our entire trust on Jesus and allowing his love to keep us there.

Solemn are the scenes connected with the closing work of the atonement. Momentous are the interests involved therein. 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. At this time above all others it behooves every soul to heed the Saviour’s admonition: “Watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.” Mark 13:33. “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” Revelation 3:3.

Again, this is in the context of the reality that "[Satan] is constantly seeking to deceive the followers of Christ". He wants to deceive us with either licentiousness or legalism. Either way he can take us away from Christ and place us in his realm of influence. This is solemn (serious) stuff! So while we are invited to enjoy life, go to the beach, wear nice clothes, love friends and family, enjoy success and entertainment, have fun with our kids, and experience all that is good and joyful in this world we are never to allow anything to get in the way of our love for and connection to Jesus. As Jesus himself said,
"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.… (John 15:6-8)
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. Christ in the Revelation, looking forward to that time, declares: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Revelation 22:11, 12.

How is the destiny of all decided for life or death? The answer is simple: Are you covered by the blood of Jesus? Or are you not? 

The righteous and the wicked will still be living upon the earth in their mortal state—men will be planting and building, eating and drinking, all unconscious that the final, irrevocable decision has been pronounced in the sanctuary above. Before the Flood, after Noah entered the ark, God shut him in and shut the ungodly out; but for seven days the people, knowing not that their doom was fixed, continued their careless, pleasure-loving life and mocked the warnings of impending judgment. “So,” says the Saviour, “shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24:39. Silently, unnoticed as the midnight thief, will come the decisive hour which marks the fixing of every man’s destiny, the final withdrawal of mercy’s offer to guilty men.


This paragraph actually demonstrates just how beautiful the message of the investigative judgment is. Notice that Ellen White is here speaking of those who have rejected the message of Christs mercy. There are two groups. The righteous and the wicked. The righteous have passed through the investigative judgment and have been found worthy because they are covered in the blood of Jesus, while the wicked have not passed through this judgment at all (except for those who once were believers and turned away though legalism or licentiousness)! Now pay close attention. Probation closes and with it goes "the final withdrawal of mercy’s offer to guilty men." Notice: Gods offer is one of mercy. Those who accept this offer are written in the book of life and their life comes up for judgment. They are found covered by the blood and are thus worthy. When we heed Gods offer of mercy we come up in the investigative judgment. The wicked who reject this offer never come up in the investigative judgment because that judgment is for the righteous and the (pseudo-disciples). Remember how Ellen White said that "[t]he judgment of the wicked is a distinct and separate work, and takes place at a later period"? The Bible calls this the Great White Throne judgment. Just as in the investigative judgment only those who have professed Christ are judged, in the Great White Throne judgment, only those who have rejected Christ are judged. The investigative judgment is no fear for those who are covered by the blood of Jesus - but the Great White Throne judgment presents no promise of redemption, no offer of mercy, and no chance of acquittal  Those who pass through this judgment are there because they are lost. Do you catch the implications of this? If your name does not come up in the investigative judgment it will automatically come up in the Great White Throne judgment. This means, you want your name to come up in the investigative judgment! Because if it does it is because your name is written in the book of life! And you are judged and found innocent on the basis of the blood of Jesus.

“Watch ye therefore: ... lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping.” Mark 13:35, 36. Perilous is the condition of those who, growing weary of their watch, turn to the attractions of the world. While the man of business is absorbed in the pursuit of gain, while the pleasure lover is seeking indulgence, while the daughter of fashion is arranging her adornments—it may be in that hour the Judge of all the earth will pronounce the sentence: “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” Daniel 5:27.


 Is the investigative judgment scary? It is for the hypocrites. Those who take their eyes off of Jesus and place them on their own works and performance are in danger of being "found wanting." And those who take their eyes off of Jesus having "grown weary of their watch" and "turn to the attractions of this word" are also in danger of being "found wanting." Our only hope is to be hidden in Jesus Christ. 

None of us are perfect. None of us are righteous. We can never in one lifetime, or even a thousand, think to live in perfect obedience to all of Gods requirements. Some try. But while they focus all of their attention to obey every health law possible they fail to obey in a thousand other areas. While some do well in helping the poor they may fail in their prayer life and while some do well in all of these they may fail in their use of time. None of us can ever be good enough to pass through the judgment and be found "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." And the message of the investigative judgment is a powerful deterrent from legalism. It reminds me that no matter how much I may succeed in my obedience in one area, I will always fail in another. And even if I did not, there is a terrible record of every wrong deed I have ever done, every thought, every impulse - wasted time and opportunities - they are all there. What hope do I have then of being declared innocent just because I keep the Sabbath? Or follow the health message to utmost perfection? None, for it is written, "Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins." (Ecc. 7:20). There is no hope for me except in one thing and that is to "be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith" (Phil. 3:9). 


None of us are perfect. None of us are righteous. We can never in one lifetime, or even a thousand, think to live in perfect obedience to all of Gods requirements. Some give up. But while they wallow in their sins thinking it is impossible to overcome they take their eyes off of Christ and begin to live for pleasure. Sin is selfishness, and the life of such a Christian soon loses sight of the love of God and becomes a selfish life. Prayer, Bible study, worship - all are sacrificed for the sake of entertainment, wealth, and popularity. Life becomes all about me. I no longer see the savior. I no longer depend on him. And yet, I pretend everything is OK because I believe that Jesus died for me. But the judgment reminds me that I cannot afford to live without the blood of Jesus. There is a terrible record of every wrong deed I have ever done, every thought, every impulse - wasted time and opportunities - they are all there. What hope do I have then of being declared innocent just because I intellectually agree with Bible facts? None, for it is written, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luk. 9:62). There is no hope for me except in one thing and that is to "be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith" (Phil. 3:9)


In light of all of this, I conclude: The chapter "Facing Life's Record," which describes the implications of the investigative judgment, stands in complete harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The believer faces the judgment with joy and confidence for he/she knows that they are covered by the blood of Jesus and that it is through faith and not works. Ellen White summarized it well when she wrote:
Through the imputed righteousness of Christ, the sinner may feel that he is pardoned, and may know that the law no more condemns him, because he is in harmony with all its precepts. It is his privilege to count himself innocent when he reads and thinks of the retribution that will fall upon the unbelieving and sinful. By faith he lays hold of the righteousness of Christ. . . . Knowing himself to be a sinner, a transgressor of the holy law of God, he looks to the perfect obedience of Christ, to His death upon Calvary for the sins of the world; and he has the assurance that he is justified by faith in the merit and sacrifice of Christ. He realizes that the law was obeyed in his behalf by the Son of God, and that the penalty of transgression cannot fall upon the believing sinner. The active obedience of Christ clothes the believing sinner with the righteousness that meets the demands of the law {SD 240.4}.

Further Reading:

The Investigative Judgment - Is it Biblical?

REclaiming Adventism

The Urgent Implications of the Pre-Advent Judgment

Never Good Enough - The Close of Probation and Sinless Perfectionism

The SDA Gospel is Legalistic - Isn't It?

Is A Christian Once Saved Always Saved? (A Lutheran View)

Is A Christian Once Saved Always Saved? (A Methodist View)

Is A Christian Once Saved Always Saved? (An Adventist View)

Resources:

http://1844madesimple.org/


_______________

Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit: Activating God’s Power in Your Life [W Publishing Group, 1988], 71.

** To avoid confusion it is also important to realize that Adventists place a wider definition on the word "atonement" than do other Christians. We believe that the sacrificial atonement was full and complete on Calvary  but we also refer to the rest of Christs ministry (intercession, second coming, punishment of the wicked etc.) as atonement. Thus we can say that the atonement was completed and is not yet complete. The sacrificial atonement is 100% complete and nothing needs to be added to it, but the rest of the atonement (ministry of Christ on behalf of man) will not be completed until the new earth. 
Link Post: Never Good Enough (The Close of Probation and Sinless Perfectionism)
 photo credit: Toni Blay via photopin cc
The concept of sinless perfectionism is one that many Adventists are, at one time or another, exposed to. The right combination of selected Bible verses and Ellen White quotes can leave many wondering if they will ever be good enough to be saved.

I too struggled with this concept for many years and found it impossible to reconcile the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Adventist teaching of sinless perfectionism. Then one day I discovered that it wasn't an Adventist teaching at all. The more I have studied this within the context of Adventism the clearer the gospel and the all suffiency of the righteousness of Christ has become. To this, many sinless perfectionists would respond that I am just looking for an excuse to sin and still go to heaven. However, nothing could be further from the truth. I hate sinning. I long to be perfect in the love of Jesus and love as he loved and continues to love. This is my desire. Not for one moment do I want to, as Peter Gregory once quipped, take a souvenir (of sin) to heaven with me. However, with that said, I still reject the teaching of last generation sinless perfectionism. While I could share my own views on the matter, lack of time prompts me to share two wonderful articles that delineate my exact sentiments (and those of Seventh-day Adventism) on this topic. The articles were written by Seventh-day Adventist scholar and theologian Edward Heppenstall and can be found on adventistbiblicalresearch.org

1. How Perfect Is "Perfect" or Is Christian Perfection Possible?

2. Some Theological Considerations of Perfection
Ellen White's Clearest and Most Concise Explanation of the Gospel
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Courtesy of the Ellen G. White Estate, Inc
I have, in the past, shared a variety of Ellen White quotes regarding her understanding of the gospel. Because her writings are often misused by legalists and often misquoted by both supporters and critics many have come to view her as "the scary lady of Adventism" - a Victorian prude who had an unhealthy obsession with rules. However, when one reads her broadly instead of selectively it becomes rapidly clear that she was a balanced, Christ centered, average human being whose only desire was to lift Jesus up in her life and ministry. As a Seventh-day Adventist I find it heart breaking that many of my fellow believers have successfully managed to turn a fun-loving, kindhearted, Jesus lover into what many people today consider the most legalistic protestant religious thinker to have ever lived. I guess this is why I have, on older blog posts, attempted to paint an accurate picture of Ellen White by sharing her views on the gospel. I do this, not in order to defend her against her critics but in order to defend her, in many instances, from her most zealous supporters (of which I am among). I have found that it is us, not the critics, who have done the greatest harm in this respect. So as can be imagined, I am always excited to discover Ellen White statements that help form that balanced picture that many of us have so effectively maligned.

Which brings me to the reason why I am writing this blog post in the first place. I had the privilege today of listening to Seventh-day Adventist pastor Dwight Nelson do a series of presentations on Ellen White. Toward the end of one of his presentations, pastor Nelson read an unpublished letter that Ellen White wrote to her sister Elizabeth just before she died. The letter was so breath taking that I had to listen to it twice and then share it with my wife when I got home. Each time I heard it I had to hold back the tears that wanted to flow. This personal letter from Ellen to Elizabeth constitutes what I consider to be the clearest and most concise explanation of the Gospel I have come across in any of her writings. Knowing that time was short, Ellen White wrote this letter as an appeal for her sister to accept Christ into her life. It reads:
I love to speak of Jesus Lizzy, and His matchless love. My whole soul is in this work. I have not one doubt of the love of God and His care and His mercy and His ability to save to the utmost all who come to Him. Don't you believe in Jesus Lizzy? Do you not believe He is your savior? That He has evidenced His love for you in giving His own precious life that you might be saved? Oh, I pray most earnestly that the Lord Jesus shall reveal Himself to you and Reuben [her husband]. Dear sister, it's no wonderful thing that you have to do. There is one Lizzy, who died that you might live through eternal ages. Just believe that Jesus will hear your confession, receive your repentance, and He will forgive every sin and make you and Reuben children of God. Oh, I long to take you in my arms and lay you on the bosom of Jesus Christ. With Jesus as your blessed friend Lizzy, you need not fear to die, for it will be to you like closing your eyes here and opening them in heaven. Then we shall meet never more to part.*
Wow. That's all I can say as I read this amazing letter. She never brings up the Sabbath. She never brings up vegetarianism. She never mentions the Adventist church or even demands that Lizzy believe she is a prophet. She does none of it. Instead, Ellen White says, "it's no wonderful thing that you have to do..... Just believe." I don't know about you but that doesn't sound like a legalist to me. I truly, truly pray that those of us who value and embrace the prophetic ministry of Ellen White would be faithful to present her as she really was - a Christ centered, grace focused, God loving woman who ever lived to share Jesus with the world.

Further Reading:

Troubling Statements of Ellen White

The SDA Gospel Is Legalistic - Isn't It?


Ellen G. White on Legalism



* Since this letter is unpublished at the time of writing I cannot reference it. However, if you would like to hear the letter as I heard it in pastors Dwight's presentation click here and skip forward in the presentation to 36:20. If you would like to inquire as to the letter itself you can contact the Ellen White Estate here.
Troubling Statements of Ellen White



I have had some comments recently about contradictory statements that Ellen White makes concerning salvation. In order to shed more light on the issue I am re-posting an old blog-post that deals with that topic. This blog is really an excerpt from my paper on the Investigative Judgment doctrine taught by the SDA church. I am also adding some other quotes at the very bottom that help shed more light on the issue of salvation as Ellen White and SDA's understand it. Those same quotes along with official SDA statements concerning our understanding of salvation can be found in the post The SDA Gospel is Legalistic - Isn't It? Blessings!



Troubling Statements of Ellen White 

Even though Ellen White is not necessary for an understanding of the investigative judgment, a review of some of her statements is necessary. At first glance, it appears that many of Ellen Whites statements are inherently legalistic.

In her book, Christ Object Lessons, White says, “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”[1] Again she writes in Our High Calling, “Are we striving with all our power to attain to the stature of men and women in Christ? Are we seeking for His fullness, ever pressing toward the mark set before us—the perfection of His character? When the Lord’s people reach this mark, they will be sealed in their foreheads.”[2] In her highly esteemed book The Great Controversy, White once again deals a “devastating blow” to righteousness by faith when she says, “Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father’s commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble.”[3] A similar thought can be found in Early Writings when White writes, “I also saw that many do not realize what they must be in order to live in the sight of the Lord without a high priest in the sanctuary through the time of trouble. Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully.”[4] These statements appear to be the epitome of legalism, and rightly so. To summarize everything just quoted would be to say that in order to enter heaven we must be perfect. Teresa Beem points out the legalistic language in some of Whites statements with reference to the pre-Advent judgment when she says, “The time of Atonement is especially scary for the believer. It is a time to reach perfection.”[5] And indeed White says, “Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet he will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Every one must be tested, and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”[6] With this in mind, it appears that Ellen White has completely undone everything said in the above section on righteousness by faith. However, what critics and Adventists who point out these statements fail to see is that any statement taken out of its context can be made to say anything.

Before concluding on Ellen White and the pre-Advent judgment let us turn to the Bible. Matthew records a story in which Jesus was approached by a young man and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” It is interesting to note that Jesus did not tell him, “accept me as your personal savior and you will be saved” but instead told him, “‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”[7] Jesus also said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”[8] Later on He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”[9] The apostle James writes, “Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?”[10] And the apostle John wrote, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”[11] Each of these statements can be taken out of context to say that the Bible teaches righteousness by works. However, when we balance these statements with those on righteousness by faith we discover what these verses truly mean and that none of them advocate a performance based salvation.

The same is true of Ellen White. While the quoted statements may seem legalistic when viewed in light of other statements and her ministry as a whole it becomes apparent that Ellen White never promoted a works based salvation. In Selected Messages, White says, “We are not to be anxious about what Christ and God think of us, but about what God thinks of Christ, our Substitute. Ye are accepted in the Beloved.”[12] Again White wrote: “The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account.”[13] With quotes such as these in mind, it is clear that the same tension that exists in the Bible with regards to faith and works exist in Ellen Whites writings as well. The perfection that White says the sinner needs is not a self-fabricated perfection but the perfection of Christ’s sinless life covering our sinful lives. White spoke for herself when she said, “[W]hile we should realize our sinful condition, we are to rely upon Christ as our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption. We cannot answer the charges of Satan against us. Christ alone can make an effectual plea in our behalf. He is able to silence the accuser with arguments founded not upon our merits, but on His own.”[14]
Further Reading: Facing Life's Record: An Analysis of the Great Controversies Scariest Chapter




[1] Ellen G White, Christ Object Lessons, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 69.
[2] ibid., Our High Calling, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 150.
[3] ibid., The Great Controversy, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 623.
[4] ibid., Early Writings, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 71.
[5] Teresa and Arthur Beem. It’s Okay NOT To Be A Seventh-Day Adventist: The Untold History and the Doctrine that Attempts to Repair the Temple Veil [North Charleston: BookSurge Publishing, 2008], 112.
[6] Ellen G White, The Great Controversy, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 489.
[7] Matt. 19:16, 21.
[8] Matt. 5:29.
[9] Matt. 5:48.
[10] Jam. 2:21.
[11] Rev. 22:14.
[12] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2,  EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 32.
[13] ibid., Selected Messages, book 1,  EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 32
[14] Ellen G White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012], 472.



A Few More Quotes

A legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation.  {DA 280.2}


The fountain of the heart must be purified before the streams can become pure. He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. There is no safety for one who has merely a legal religion, a form of godliness. The Christian's life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.  {DA 172.1} 


A legal religion has been thought quite the correct religion for this time. But it is a mistake. The rebuke of Christ to the Pharisees is applicable to those who have lost from the heart their first love. A cold, legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion… Works will not buy for us an entrance into heaven. The one great Offering that has been made is ample for all who will believe. The love of Christ will animate the believer with new life. {1SM 388.1}


The spirit of bondage is engendered by seeking to live in accordance with legal religion, through striving to fulfill the claims of the law in our own strength. There is hope for us only as we come under the Abrahamic covenant, which is the covenant of grace by faith in Christ Jesus. The gospel preached to Abraham, through which he had hope, was the same gospel that is preached to us today, through which we have hope. Abraham looked unto Jesus, who is also the Author and the Finisher of our faith (YI Sept. 22, 1892).  {6BC 1077.7}


Legal religion will not answer for this age. We may perform all the outward acts of service and yet be as destitute of the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of dew and rain. We all need spiritual moisture, and we need also the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness to soften and subdue our hearts. {6T 417.3} 


If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason.{FW 24.1}


Christ for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. And any works that man can render to God will be far less than nothingness. My requests are made acceptable only because they are laid upon Christ’s righteousness. The idea of doing anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end. “Lord, in my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” {FW 24.2}


When men learn they cannot earn righteousness by their own merit of works, and they look with firm and entire reliance upon Jesus Christ as their only hope, there will not be so much of self and so little of Jesus. Souls and bodies are defiled and polluted by sin, the heart is estranged from God, yet many are struggling in their own finite strength to win salvation by good works. Jesus, they think, will do some of the saving; they must do the rest. They need to see by faith the righteousness of Christ as their only hope for time and for eternity. {FW 25.3}


The cross of Calvary is a pledge to us of everlasting life. {EV 186.3}


We stand in favor before God, not because of any merit in ourselves, but because of our faith in "the Lord our righteousness" {ST 2:497} 
Penances, mortifications of the flesh, constant confession of sin, without sincere repentance; fasts, festivals, and outward observances, unaccompanied by true devotion—all these are of no value whatever. The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient; He made a whole, efficacious offering to God; and human effort without the merit of Christ, is worthless.... {EV 192.1}
You will meet with those who will say, “You are too much excited over this matter. You are too much in earnest. You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law.” As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth. {1888M 560.5}


Perfection through our own good works we can never attain. The soul who sees Jesus by faith, repudiates his own righteousness. He sees himself as incomplete, his repentance insufficient, his strongest faith but feebleness, his most costly sacrifice as meager, and he sinks in humility at the foot of the cross. But a voice speaks to him from the oracles of God's word. In amazement he hears the message, "Ye are complete in him." Now all is at rest in the soul. No longer must he strive to find some worthiness in himself, some meritorious deed by which to gain the favor of God {ST, 2:497; 7/04/92}. 
The SDA Gospel Is Legalistic - Isn't it?
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
photo credit: dtcchc via photopin cc

I receive a lot of comments and personal messages about Adventism’s so called false gospel. I am not offended by these comments because I fully understand the reason why people would feel that way. I am the first to admit that for a long time Adventism has resided in the swamps of legalism. For many, Sabbath keeping has become salvific, health reform has become a test of fellowship, and petty arguments have been raged over wearing wedding bands. This was true even in Ellen Whites day, thus she could say,


As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. – 1888 Materials, p. 560 
The message of the gospel of His grace was to be given to the church in clear and distinct lines, that the world should no longer say that Seventh-day Adventists talk the law, the law, but do not teach or believe Christ. – Evangelism, p. 191
Many of our ministers have merely sermonized, presenting subjects in an argumentative way, and scarcely mentioning the saving power of the Redeemer. Their testimony was destitute of the saving blood of Christ. - Evangelism, p. 188 


However, when talking about what Adventism believes it is important to distinguish between what the church officially teaches and what members, ministers, and authors within the denomination believe. Because of this I have decided to share quotations about the doctrine of salvation from the book Seventh-Day Adventists Believe, put forth by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This book is basically an exposition of all of our fundamental doctrines. Afterward, I will share some quotes from co-founder and SDA pioneer/prophetess Ellen G. White.

Seventh-day Adventism and the Gospel


Jesus lived a pure, holy, and loving life, relying completely on God. This precious life He shares with repentant sinners as a gift. His perfect character is portrayed as a wedding garment (Matt. 22:11) or a robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10) that He gives to replace the filthy rags of human attempts to achieve righteousness (Isa. 64:6). – 129


“Those who accept by faith that God has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ and who submit to Him will receive from God the invaluable gift of justification with its immediate fruit of peace with God (Romans 5:1). No longer the objects of God’s wrath, justified believers have become the objects of God’s favor.” – 131


God’s ministry of reconciliation reveals the futility of human endeavors to obtain salvation through works of the law. Insight into divine grace leads to the acceptance of the justifying righteousness available through faith in Christ. The gratitude of those who have experienced forgiveness makes obedience a joy; works, then, are not the ground of salvation but its fruitage. – 131


The more we understands God’s grace in light of the cross, the less self-righteous we will feel, and the more we will realize how blessed we are. – 131


Trying, part from Christ, to develop the good in oneself is counterproductive. The experience of salvation that reaches deep into the soul comes from God alone. – 134


Only through Jesus Christ can one experience salvation, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – 134


Many wrongly believe that their standing before God depends on their good or bad deeds. – 136


Through justification by faith in Christ, His righteousness is imputed to us. We are right with God because of Christ our substitute…. As repentant sinners, we experience full and complete pardon. We are reconciled with God! – 137


Justification also brings the assurance of the believer’s acceptance. It brings the joy of being reunited with God now. – 138


How may we become perfect? The Holy Spirit brings us to the perfection of Christ. By faith, Christ’s perfect character becomes ours. People can never claim that perfection independently, as if it were their innate possession of theirs by right. Perfection is a gift of God. – 143


Apart from Christ human beings cannot obtain righteousness. – 143


In Christ these qualities constitute our perfection. He completed, once and for all, our sanctification and redemption. No one can add to what He has done. Our wedding garment, or robe of righteousness, was wrought out by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. – 143


Neither Christlike character traits nor faultless behavior is the ground of our acceptance with God. Saving righteousness comes from the one righteous Man, Jesus, and is conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit.  We can contribute nothing to Christ’s gift of righteousness – we can only receive it. No one other than Christ is righteous (Rom. 3:10); independent human righteousness is only filthy rags. – 146


Even what we do in response to Christ’s saving love cannot form the basis of our acceptance with God. That acceptance is identified with the work of Christ. In bringing Christ to us, the Holy Spirit brings that acceptance. – 146


Ellen G. White and the Gospel


A legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation.  {DA 280.2}


The fountain of the heart must be purified before the streams can become pure. He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. There is no safety for one who has merely a legal religion, a form of godliness. The Christian's life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.  {DA 172.1} 


A legal religion has been thought quite the correct religion for this time. But it is a mistake. The rebuke of Christ to the Pharisees is applicable to those who have lost from the heart their first love. A cold, legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion… Works will not buy for us an entrance into heaven. The one great Offering that has been made is ample for all who will believe. The love of Christ will animate the believer with new life. {1SM 388.1}


The spirit of bondage is engendered by seeking to live in accordance with legal religion, through striving to fulfill the claims of the law in our own strength. There is hope for us only as we come under the Abrahamic covenant, which is the covenant of grace by faith in Christ Jesus. The gospel preached to Abraham, through which he had hope, was the same gospel that is preached to us today, through which we have hope. Abraham looked unto Jesus, who is also the Author and the Finisher of our faith (YI Sept. 22, 1892).  {6BC 1077.7}


Legal religion will not answer for this age. We may perform all the outward acts of service and yet be as destitute of the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of dew and rain. We all need spiritual moisture, and we need also the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness to soften and subdue our hearts. {6T 417.3} 


Brother M, you have not taken a judicious course with your family. Your children do not love you. They have more hatred than love. Your wife does not love you. You do not take a course to be loved. You are an extremist. You are severe, exacting, arbitrary, to your children. You talk the truth to them, but do not carry its principles into your everyday life. You are not patient, forbearing, and forgiving. You have so long indulged your own spirit, you are so ready to fly into a passion if provoked, that it looks exceedingly doubtful whether you will make efforts sufficient to meet the mind of Christ. You do not possess the power of endurance, forbearance, gentleness, and love. These Christian graces must be possessed by you before you can be truly a Christian. You cannot in your own strength put away your errors and wrongs; they have been increasing upon you for years, because you have not seen them in their hideousness and in the strength of God resolutely put them away. By living faith you must lay hold on an arm that is mighty to save. Humble your poor, proud, self-righteous heart before God; get low, very low, all broken in your sinfulness at His feet. Devote yourself to the work of preparation. Rest not until you can truly say: My Redeemer liveth, and, because He lives, I shall live also. {2T 88.1}


If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason.{FW 24.1}


Christ for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. And any works that man can render to God will be far less than nothingness. My requests are made acceptable only because they are laid upon Christ’s righteousness. The idea of doing anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end. “Lord, in my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” {FW 24.2}


When men learn they cannot earn righteousness by their own merit of works, and they look with firm and entire reliance upon Jesus Christ as their only hope, there will not be so much of self and so little of Jesus. Souls and bodies are defiled and polluted by sin, the heart is estranged from God, yet many are struggling in their own finite strength to win salvation by good works. Jesus, they think, will do some of the saving; they must do the rest. They need to see by faith the righteousness of Christ as their only hope for time and for eternity. {FW 25.3}

The cross of Calvary is a pledge to us of everlasting life. {EV 186.3}


We stand in favor before God, not because of any merit in ourselves, but because of our faith in "the Lord our righteousness" {ST 2:497} 
Penances, mortifications of the flesh, constant confession of sin, without sincere repentance; fasts, festivals, and outward observances, unaccompanied by true devotion—all these are of no value whatever. The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient; He made a whole, efficacious offering to God; and human effort without the merit of Christ, is worthless.... {EV 192.1}
You will meet with those who will say, “You are too much excited over this matter. You are too much in earnest. You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law.” As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth. {1888M 560.5}


Perfection through our own good works we can never attain. The soul who sees Jesus by faith, repudiates his own righteousness. He sees himself as incomplete, his repentance insufficient, his strongest faith but feebleness, his most costly sacrifice as meager, and he sinks in humility at the foot of the cross. But a voice speaks to him from the oracles of God's word. In amazement he hears the message, "Ye are complete in him." Now all is at rest in the soul. No longer must he strive to find some worthiness in himself, some meritorious deed by which to gain the favor of God {ST, 2:497; 7/04/92}. 


Conclusion


One thing is clear. SDA soteriology is not some weird SDA invention. It is an Armenian-Wesleyan understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ. With this understanding in mind how is it possible that the SDA church could have ever become so legalistic? Once again, the message of the church has always been grace but somehow the people lost sight of that precious truth. Many factors can be blamed for this and it would take an entire book to trace the history of our errors as a denomination so I won’t do it here (though I do plan on writing an exhaustive book on the history of grace in the SDA church from its start until the current time). May it suffice to say that the SDA church is not perfect, we – like all Protestant churches – have much in our history to be ashamed of. However, Gods message of grace and salvation has made it through the fire and is now being proclaimed within Adventism with renewed enthusiasm. For those within the SDA church who understand the gospel and are often burdened with the legalism that still lurks our church corridors I make an appeal. Don’t walk away. The church is on solid ground and we need men and women like you to restore to so many Adventists what has been lost through error, deception, and false teachers. It’s easy to run away. But don’t do it. Stay in the boat and help us get rid of the filth. I have committed my life to doing so but I can’t do it alone. With Gods grace, the cross will reclaim its original place at the center of the lives of many Seventh-day Adventists who have been led astray and is in fact already so close.
The Pre-Advent Judgment 14: Conclusion on the Investigative Judment


In conclusion, it is clear from the Bible and the Bible only that the doctrine of the pre-Advent judgment is fully supported and that this doctrine does not contradict the foundational truth of righteousness by faith. An analysis of Ellen G. White shows that many of her statements, though seemingly legalistic, are no different from the many warnings in the Bible with regard to the day of judgment and when balanced with other statements are in fact not legalistic at all. Lastly, the pre-Advent judgment reveals to both men and angels that God is trustworthy, and it protects sinners from both careless Christianity and legalism. The message is clear, God is our judge and “If God is for us, who can be against us?”[1] “That’s investigative judgment.”[2]

Further Reading: 

Various Articles on the Investigative Judgment

Various Articles on the Gospel from an SDA Perspective





[1] Rom. 8:31.
[2] Marvin Moore, The Case For The Investigative Judgment: Its Biblical Foundation [Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010], 21.


Bibliography



Anderson, John T. Investigating the Judgment: A Revolutionary Look At God’s Total Fairness And Relentless Effort To Save Us. Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2003.

Arnold, Bill T. and Brian E. Beyer. Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2008.

Bear, James E. “Bible and Modern Religions, Part 1 :The Seventh-Day Adventists,” ATLA Religion Database [1956]: [accessed April 1, 2012].

Beem, Teresa and Arthur Beem. It’s Okay NOT To Be A Seventh-Day Adventist: The Untold History and the Doctrine that Attempts to Repair the Temple Veil. North Charleston: BookSurge Publishing, 2008.

Davidson, Jo Ann. Principal Contributor. Glimpses Of Our God: Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. Nampa: Pacific Press, 2012.

Doukhan, Jacques B. Secrets of Daniel: Wisdom and Dreams of a Jewish Prince in Exile. Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2000.

Goldstein, Clifford. 1844 Made Simple. Boise: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1988.

—. False Balances. Boise: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1992.

Graham, Billy. The Holy Spirit: Activating God’s Power in Your Life. W Publishing Group, 1988.

Hardinge, Leslie. With Jesus in His Sanctuary: A Walk Through the Tabernacle Along His Way. Harrisburg: American Cassette Ministries, 1991.

Knight, George R. I Used To Be Perfect: A Study of Sin and Salvation. Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 2001.

—. The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism: Are We Erasing Our Relevancy? Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2008.

Lake, Jud. e-mail to author, January 31, 2012.

Moore, Marvin. The Case For The Investigative Judgment: Its Biblical Foundation. Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010.

Pfandl, Gerhard. Daniel: The Seer of Babylon. Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2004.

Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 17th ed., 18; emphasis added. quoted in Marvin Moore, The Case for the Investigative Judgment, Its Biblical Foundation. Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010.

Shuler, John L. The Great Judgment Day: In the Light of the Sanctuary Service. Washington: Review and Herald, 1923.

Treiyer, Alberto R. The Day of Atonement and the Heavenly Judgment: From the Pentateuch to Revelation. Siloam Springs: Creation Enterprises International, 1992.

Weber, Martin. “Never Before Published Desmond Ford Dialogues About the 1844 Judgment, Ford And Weber Dialogue, Section II: Ford’s Critique Of Weber.” Scribd. http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/17458843 [accessed Feb 1 and Mar 31, 2012].

—. “Pre-Advent Judgment.” SDA For Me. http://www.sdaforme.com/issues/judgement/judgment.html [accessed January 31, 2012].

—. “What's the bottom line relevance of the judgment in my life for Christ today?” SDA for Me.  http://www.sdaforme.com/FAQRetrieve.aspx?ID=38272 [accessed March 29, 2012].

—. More Adventist Hot Potatoes. Boise: Pacific Press, 1992.

White, Ellen G. Christ Object Lessons. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Early Writings. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Our High Calling. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Selected Messages, book 1.  EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Selected Messages, book 2,  EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].


—. The Great Controversy. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].