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A Response to the Video:
Seventh-day Adventism, the Spirit Behind the Church

by Bob Pickle

Answers to Questions Raised by:
Mark Martin, Sydney Cleveland
Dale Ratzlaff, The White Lie
. . . and
Others

Discern Fact from Fiction


The Investigative Judgment and Shut Door, and Their Ramifications

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#57: "All doctrines were soon adjusted to fit 1844 as the cleansing of the sanctuary and the beginning of the investigative judgment. [#58:] The shut door had to be opened to allow salvation for their own children who had been born after 1844 and to evangelize others into Adventism. [#59:] Salvation for everyone, even those who lived in Bible times, had to be conditional on this judgment, and so soul sleep was introduced. [#60:] The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation had to be reinterpreted to fit the investigative judgment. [#61:] It was a time of turmoil and doctrinal reversal, but the investigative judgment doctrine survived with Ellen White's stamp of approval."—Dale Ratzlaff.

#57: All doctrines were soon adjusted. And what doctrines were these? The documentation package doesn't explain this statement or list any "adjusted" doctrines. What follows in Mr. Ratzlaff's list doesn't include any doctrines "adjusted" to fit the cleansing of the sanctuary or the investigative judgment.

#58: That shut door of mercy had to be opened. The shut door was dealt with under #48-#54. We'll add another point here.

What made it so obvious to at least some of the apostolic Christians that the door of mercy was not shut to Gentiles was the fact that the door of access to reach them was now open. After Stephen's stoning in Acts 7, they could preach to Samaritans, Ethiopian eunuchs, and Roman centurions, something they had not been able to do before. So if Peter's vision of Acts 10 wasn't enough to correct their theology, the early church also had the simple fact that now the "door" of access was "opened":

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed . . . how [God] had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. (Acts 14:27)

But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me. (1 Cor. 16:8, 9)

Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord. (2 Cor. 2:12)

Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ. (Col. 4:3)

If Adventists holding shut-door-of-mercy beliefs allowed it to, Mrs. White's vision of February 1845 corrected their theological misunderstanding. Also, the sanctuary doctrine explained what doors were opened and shut in 1844, and how there was still an open door of mercy into the Most Holy Place. But even though the "door of mercy" was still open, the "door of access" definitely was not. [p. 49]

At first the vast majority of non-Millerites, like the Gentiles in the days of the apostles, had no interest in hearing Adventists preach. The door indeed was shut. But at some point, like in the early church, a change came. The door was opened, and people wanted to listen.

Such an opening of the door would not be an adjustment because of the cleansing of the sanctuary and investigative judgment doctrines, but rather the result of the providence of God and the workings of His Spirit. It was the result of a change in the climate for evangelism, not an "adjustment" of doctrine.

#59: Soul sleep was introduced because of the investigative judgment. This is not true, and the context of a statement found in the documentation package proves it.

Under "Point 33" is a selection from page 49 of Life Sketches describing Mrs. White's hearing of a sermon on soul sleep some months after a conversation between her and her mother on the same subject. Both the conversation and the sermon took place before October 22, 1844, as the context clearly shows.

Yet the doctrine of the investigative judgment, as understood today, did not come along until after October 22. Thus soul sleep could not have been introduced because of the investigative judgment doctrine.

The phrase "investigative judgment" was coined by Elon Everts in a letter dated December 1856, which was published in the January 1, 1857, issue of Review and Herald (p. 72). It was at this time that the doctrine of the investigative judgment was crystallized, though hints of some of its fundamental concepts had surfaced previously.

Prominent Millerite leader, Josiah Litch, suggested as early as 1840 that there had to be a trial phase of judgment before an executive phase. Occasionally, Sabbatarian Adventists would refer to Christ's wearing the "breastplate of judgment" on the Day of Atonement or to judgment beginning at the end of the 2300 years, but at other times they would declare that the Day of Judgment could not begin before the second advent. Not until 1857 was a solid understanding of the subject arrived at by Sabbatarian Adventists (C. Mervyn Maxwell, "The Investigative Judgment: Its Early Development," in The Sanctuary and the Atonement, pp. 545-581).

So while soul sleep was introduced before October 22, 1844, the doctrine of the investigative judgment was not crystallized and fully formulated until over twelve years after.

Who introduced the concept of soul sleep or, as it is also known, conditional immortality among the pre-1844 Millerites?

Deacon Henry Grew of Philadelphia became a believer in conditional immortality while serving as a Baptist preacher. He later wrote a tract on the subject which was read by George Storrs, a Methodist preacher, in 1837. Storrs then wrote his own tract in 1841, and published six sermons on the subject in 1842. Copies of his six sermons eventually amounted to 200,000, and even reached England.

Just after their publication he heard of Miller's teachings and became a Millerite preacher himself. He preached to thousands in New York, Indiana, and Ohio. A number of Millerite ministers joined with him in his belief on conditional immortality.

Miller, Josiah Litch, I. E. Jones, and the Signs of the Times all came out against his views on conditional immortality, so his views were anything but unanimously held. But the point is that the idea of conditional immortality was definitely introduced before a consensus was reached among Sabbatarian Adventists regarding the investigative judgment (Froom, vol. 4, pp. 805-807; Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2, pp. 300-315).

As earlier mentioned, Joseph Bates, James White, and Ellen White are viewed as being founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Both Bates and James White were members of the Christian Connection, which "as a body rejected the inherent-immortality-of-the-soul-position" (Ibid., pp. 283, 672, 675). Bates and James were therefore acquainted with the idea long before Storrs introduced the subject among Millerites.

The Bible says:

  1. We are to seek immortality (Rom. 2:7).
  2. We put on immortality at the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:53, 54).
  3. Only God has immortality (1 Tim. 6:16).

If we must seek it, it must be something we do not yet have. And obviously we don't yet have it. Immortality means "unable to die," and we presently can and do die.

Only upon condition that we accept Jesus as our Savior do we receive immortality at the resurrection. For this reason, "soul sleep" is called "conditional immortality."

#60: The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation were reinterpreted to fit the investigative judgment. This accusation doesn't really make sense. Once the doctrines of the cleansing of sanctuary and the investigative judgment were formulated, what prophecies needed to be reinterpreted to fit them?

The basic interpretations of Daniel and Revelation were already worked out before October 22, 1844. This was before Edson and Crosier published their [p. 50] study on the cleansing of the sanctuary in 1845 or 1846. It was definitely before Elon Everts helped crystallize the subject of an investigative judgment in 1857.

The documentation package lists this as "Point 34." Under "Point 34" are two pages out of The Great Controversy, but nothing on these two pages refers to a reinterpretation of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation to fit the investigative judgment.

#61: It was a time of doctrinal reversal. What doctrines were reversed? The shut door? But Adventists were definitely actively preaching to non-Millerites long before 1857, the "door of access" having opened a number of years earlier. A change in the time to keep the Sabbath (see #164-#174)? Changing by minutes or an hour when to commence the Sabbath wouldn't constitute a doctrinal reversal.

A Response to the Video

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