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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

Discern Fact from Fiction

The Investigative Judgment and Shut Door, and Their Ramifications

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#53 & #54: "After 1851 the other shut door passages were either dropped or reinterpreted."—Dale Ratzlaff.

#53: There were other shut door passages. What other passages? The documentation package does not mention any other alleged shut-door passages in Mrs. White's writings. Indeed, there really aren't any that speak of a shut door of mercy, that say that no more sinners will ever be converted.

Not that some don't try to manufacture others. Take for example the place where she speaks of apostate ministers who no longer had a burden for souls (Early Writings, pp. 42-45). Immediately after writing this out in March of 1849, she penned the following: "We know we have the truth, the midnight cry is behind us, the door was shut in 1844 and Jesus is soon to step out from between God and man."—Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, p. 200. Now if Jesus is soon to step out from between God and man, He must still be there now, and thus there must still be mercy for sinners!

#54: They were reinterpreted after 1851. The "reinterpretations" referred to surfaced long before 1851, for it is a simple fact that the term "shut door" amongst Millerites meant a number of different things:

  1. A shut door of mercy for all sinners.
  2. A shut door of mercy for those who have persistently rejected truth.
  3. A shut door of access to the people to present God's message.
  4. A shut door to the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, since Christ's ministry is now in the Most Holy Place.

When one reads the term "shut door" in a Millerite publication, one has to be careful to choose the correct definition of the term. If the context does not indicate which meaning is intended, it may not be possible to know for sure what the speaker or writer meant.

Further explanations of these four usages follow, taken in part from P. Gerard Damsteegt's Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission, pages 106 ff.

1. Shut "door of mercy" for all sinners. While this was the initial view of the subject, "it was soon abandoned" (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 271). Enoch Jacobs opposed it in November of 1844, claiming it was unbiblical (Western Midnight Cry, Nov. 29, 1844, p. 20). Himes similarly advocated preaching to "lost and perishing sinners" in late December 1844 (Advent Herald, Jan. 15, 1845, p. 182). This gives us an idea of what "soon abandoned" means.

But there were some who adopted strange positions, and incorporated an ongoing version of this view into their theology. According to John Loughborough, Joseph Turner was the originator of this (Great Second Advent Movement, pp. 220 ff.). Loughborough cites Himes's eye-witness account of Turner's views as of the spring of 1845. Turner taught that Christ really had come after all, that now it was a sin to work, and that the door of mercy was shut.

Ellen White was directed by God to oppose Turner's views. Someone had to, for as she described the situation, "honest, precious souls had been rejected by these fanatics, and by them told that they were rejected of God."—Arthur White, vol. 1, p. 83; Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, pp. 49-51. Turner's retaliation for the rebuke was most unkind.

2. Shut "door of mercy" for only those who have rejected truth. In contrast to number 1, this view related only to those who had had opportunity to hear the message of a soon-coming Savior, and had rejected it.

J. B. Cook came out strongly for this view in the January 30, 1845, issue of Western Midnight Cry. This was the position that Mrs. White took, and it is biblical. The Bible contains a number of examples of people who rejected truth to the point that they could no longer be reached with the gospel. Even Paul said, "It is impossible . . . to renew them again unto repentance" (Heb. 6:4-6).

3. Shut "door of access" to preach the gospel. This view was often espoused along with number 2, and sometimes with number 1. No longer were there the opportunities to preach the gospel that there once [p. 47] had been, for the Lord had shut the "door of access." Scriptures from the New Testament supporting this meaning of "shut door" are found under #58.

Enoch Jacobs, J. B. Cook, and J. D. Pickands were all using the term "door of access" in 1845. Joseph Bates in his 1847 Second Advent Way Marks and High Heaps says the same while using different words (pp. 109, 110).

4. Shut door to the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, God's temple in heaven. Mrs. White described her vision of March 24, 1849, using language like this (Early Writings, pp. 42, 86; Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, p. 200). The previous January Joseph Bates was also using such language (A Seal of the Living God, p. 20), language derived from Jesus's message to Philadelphia:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he . . . that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth . . . . I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it . . . . Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God. (Rev. 3:7-12)

The door to the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary was shut in 1844, but the door to the Most Holy Place was then opened, and Christ's intercession continued there.

Chapter 3 isn't the only place where Revelation alludes to these two doors.

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven. (Rev. 4:1)

And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. (Rev. 4:5)

And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. (Rev. 8:3)

And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament. (Rev. 11:19)

In Revelation 4:1, John sees "a door" "opened in heaven." After going up to heaven he sees seven lamps of fire in 4:5 and a golden altar of incense in 8:3, 4. Since the seven lamps and the golden altar were pieces of furniture in the Holy Place (Ex. 40:24, 26), the first door opened must have been the door to the Holy Place of the heavenly temple. When the temple is "opened" in Revelation 11:19, John sees the ark, a piece of furniture from the Most Holy Place (Ex. 40:21). This opening would therefore be of the second door, the door to the Most Holy Place.

The strong possibility also exists that a Millerite's use of the term "shut door" might refer to the validity of the date October 22, 1844, and nothing more. In other words, some Millerites undoubtedly had a conviction that something was shut on that date, but were not sure what exactly was shut.

It is a fact that not believing in a shut door of some sort was a repudiation of the idea that October 22 was a fulfillment of prophecy. Therefore, belief in a shut door was synonymous with belief in the 2300 days ending in 1844, but not necessarily synonymous with a shut door of mercy.

Let's conclude by returning to the idea of post-1851 "reinterpretations" of non-existent shut-door passages in Mrs. White's writings. As we have seen, definitions 2 and 3 surfaced by 1845, and definition 4 by 1849. So having "reinterpretations" after 1851 is a bit late.

A Response to the Video

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