Some time ago, when we had some visitors from Europe, we had a special weekend. We visited and studied God’s word together and we studied some of the pillars of our faith. After that weekend, I received many questions; the one most frequently asked was, Are there other pillars of the Adventist faith that we need to know?
There are many people going to Seventh-day Adventist churches who do not know the pillars, the foundations of our message.
Rooted and Grounded
If you really want to get rooted and grounded in the Adventist message, ask the Lord to help you find somebody with whom you can study the Bible. I personally believe that my own ministry would not amount to very much if I were not out studying the Bible with people. It keeps you in contact with reality.
What are the questions on people’s minds? If you are studying the Bible with people, it is easy for you to think that the pillars of the Seventh-day Adventist faith are fundamental things. We have studied these doctrines, and we have studied them over and over with other people, so we do not study them in the church. We assume that people in the church know them, but Ellen White has told us that many people in our churches want to understand the way of salvation (see Evangelism, 350), but they do not. They need to know the fundamental doctrines.
Facing the Hard Texts
We need to know the objections that people have to our faith, so we are going to look at some hard texts that, if you live until Jesus comes, I can guarantee people are going to use to try to overthrow your faith.
We will start with the sixth commandment. In John 8:44, Jesus is talking to the Jewish people. It is one of the strongest rebukes that He gave to them. Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it."
I do not believe the devil understood that he was a murderer. When he began walking down this path, he did not see where it was going to lead him. Thousands of years ago if you had said to the devil, You are getting ready to break the sixth commandment, he would have said, Oh, no, I am not; I am just trying to make things better. But he was starting down a path that was going to lead him to attempt to destroy God.
If you were told straight out, You can be part of the kingdom of light and life, or you can be part of the kingdom of death and darkness, which would you choose? That would not be a hard choice to make, would it? Everybody would choose life. Well, if that is the case, how did the devil get any followers? The answer is found in John 8:44. He is the father of lies. In order to get people to follow him, he had to tell a lie, because no one would intentionally choose death over life.
His kingdom is literally the kingdom of death and darkness, and it is filled with murderers. He is called the Prince of Darkness. To get any followers he had to use deceit, and he used deceit first of all on the angels. Then he used deceit on Eve. What was the first lie that the devil told Eve in the Garden of Eden? You will not die. (See Genesis 3:4.)
The Father of Lies
God said, If you eat of this fruit, you are going to die. The devil said, No, you will not. He was trying to get Eve to do something that would cause her death. He was trying to do something that would bring death to every single descendant that she had. He was breaking the sixth commandment. I have come to the conclusion that all murderers are liars. Jesus linked murdering and lying in John 8:44.
The devil, in the Garden of Eden, murdered Adam and Eve. He caused their death. In order to get them to take the hook, he had to put some bait on it, and that was a lie. The lie was that they would not really die. After Adam and Eve sinned, the devil had murdered them. He had brought about their death and the death of every living thing. Trees died; plants died; animals died, and all men and women died.
So the devil was proved to be a liar. God told the truth. But the devil has told this same lie over and over again, right up to the present time, and has gained repeated victories. Ellen White says the lie that you will not really die is one of the two lies by which the devil will gain control over the whole world in the last days. (See The Great Controversy, 588.)
Obviously the devil is a liar, because everybody does die. So what the devil did then, was to create this fiction that there is something in you that does not die. Now in the English language it is called the soul or the spirit. This apparently is a belief of almost all heathen religions also.
I have a book at home on Tutankhamun. Some time ago, when my wife and I were in Cairo, we went to the Cairo Museum, and we actually saw some of the things that are pictured in this book. We saw a gold plated box with four women on each of the four sides. They were goddesses in the Egyptian religion.
At the top there were the hooded heads of cobras, probably 25 or 30 on each side. On the top of each one of these hooded heads of the cobras, was a sun disc. We saw carved snakes everywhere in the Museum. The snake is a symbol of Satan worship as far back as we can go. It is interesting that Satan worship and sun worship are that closely related. There must have been 100 snakes around the box.
We read that when Tutankhamun died, they made a mummy of him, but they cut out his internal organs—heart, liver, kidneys and those kinds of things, and they put them in this box. The carved goddesses were placed around the box to guard these organs.
When these people were buried, a food supply and a chariot with lots of clothes and money were buried with them. They still do this today in heathen countries. That is why, over the centuries, the graves have been robbed.
Why did they bury all of these things with these Egyptian kings? They did it because the devil had convinced them that there was an afterlife.
The Spirit of "Ka"
They had been taught, and they believed, that there was what they call the "ka." They had different words for it in the Egyptian language. It was something within you that went on living when you died. They thought that, as long as you could keep the body intact, then, at some future time, this spirit "Ka," whatever it is, could come back and enter the body again.
You find this, incidentally, in all the heathen religions. You find it in the Greeks. Where did the church in the Middle Ages develop that idea of the immortality of the soul? Did they get it from the Bible? No, they did not. They got it from Plato, who was a Greek philosopher, who got it from the Egyptians, who got it from the high priests of their heathen religion, which was actually demon or devil worship.
This is the lie that the devil started telling at the beginning of time. He told it to Eve, he convinced the ancient nations, and this lie has come into the Christian Church. It has come clear up to our time.
If you believe this deception, what further deception are you ready to accept? Let us put it a different way. Suppose you have a relative who dies. Suppose the form of one of these dead relatives should appear to you at some time.
I have gone through this scenario in my mind many times. What would I do? Well, I would immediately have to ask the Lord to deliver me from this demon. I understand what happens to a person when they die, and therefore if a form of one of my dead loved ones or relatives comes to me, I know immediately that somebody is trying to trick me. I am not going to go and put my arms around them, because it is not who it looks like. Are you clear on that point?
Misunderstanding the State of the Dead
Interestingly enough, most of the people who translated the Bible, and this includes the Old King James Bible from 1611, did not understand the truth about the state of the dead. They were coming out of the Dark Ages. Martin Luther, in the beginning of his career, was trained to be a priest, and he studied Aristotle and Greek philosophy. If you are mixed up on the state of the dead, is there a possibility that your own thinking could color your translation of the Bible? There most certainly is. That is exactly what happened. In fact, the most serious errors in the Old King James Bible have to do with the state of the dead.
We need to know what these errors are. They remain uncorrected in most of the English translations, so we need to understand these things. We will go over some of the "hard" texts. I believe that this is so serious, and the devil is deceiving so many millions of people today, that we should know every text in the Bible that can be thrown at us on this subject, and we should know how to answer.
Some of the texts say, unequivocally, what happens to a person when they die. In the book of Genesis there is a hard text. Let us see if we can understand this.
When a person becomes a professional salesman, the professional salesman collects objections. He knows what all the objections are to his product. Not only does he know what all the objections are, the professional salesman has written down the best answers to every objection. When you are talking to him, and you bring up an objection, he will casually give you the answer word for word—the very best answer there is to your objection. If you still object, he will give you, word for word, the second-best answer to your objection. And if you still object, he can just as casually give you the third-best answer to your objection.
Do you think that the children of light should be as wise and as intelligent as the people of this world? I believe we should. As Christians who expect that Jesus is coming soon, who want to help others get ready, we should know what the objections are to what we believe, and we should be able to look in the Bible and explain them. Let us see if we can.
Genesis 35 talks about the death of Rachel. "And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin." Genesis 35:18. What do you do with that text? Someone says, Well, a person has a soul, and when they die their soul departs. It says so right here in this text. What is your answer?
The word soul comes from a very common Hebrew word. It is translated as soul over 400 times in the Bible, but it has another translation. It is translated as the English word life over 100 times in the Bible. If you put the other translation in this text, it would read, "And so it was, as her life was leaving (or departing) for she died, that she called his name Ben-Oni, but his father called him Benjamin."
If you have ever talked with somebody who is dying, or who has come very close to death and has been revived, they will tell you that life departs from the feet first, and they can feel the life leaving their body. The feeling comes right up, and when it gets up to the heart, that is the end, life departs. But that does not mean that there is some conscious entity that goes up in the clouds somewhere. Life just departed.
What Really Happens When We Die?
Let us consider some texts in the book of Job that prove exactly what happens to a person when they die. We will also look at some hard texts that people think we cannot answer. You might think the book of Job would be a depressing book to read, yet this book has been one of the favorites for people who are in trouble, for thousands of years.
The book of Job was one of the favorite books among the Waldenses, those who were being persecuted and martyred for their faith. There were Waldenses who could quote the entire book of Job, word for word. In Job 3, he is bemoaning the day of his birth and then in verses 11–19 he says, "‘Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not perish when I came from the womb? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse? For now I would have lain still and been quiet, I would have been asleep; Then I would have been at rest With kings and counselors of the earth, Who built ruins for themselves, Or with princes who had gold, Who filled their houses with silver; Or why was I not hidden like a stillborn child, Like infants who never saw light? There the wicked cease from troubling, And there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners rest together; They do not hear the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there, And the servant is free from his master.’"
So the dead do not hear anything; they are not doing anything; they are resting. They are asleep. "As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, So he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his house, nor shall his place know him anymore." Job 7:9, 10.
Visited by Demons
The dead are not going to come back home. If somebody comes to your house in the form of your dead loved one, it is a fraud. The devil is trying to deceive you by impersonating your loved one. Ellen White says that the devil can impersonate, and that the impersonation is perfect. (See Signs of the Times, September 3, 1894.) That is quite a statement. The form, the features of the face, the sound of the voice, are a perfect impersonation.
That spirit might tell you something that only you and the dead person knew, but it is still a fraud. It is more deceptive; that is all, because Job says that the real person who dies is never going to come to his house again.
Now let us look at a hard text and see if we can figure it out. "‘But man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last And where is he? As water disappears from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dries up, So man lies down and does not rise, Till the heavens are no more.’" Job 14:10–12.
He tells us how long he is going to lie down. When will he rise again? When the heavens are no more. Now you can find out when that is if you look in the last chapters in the book of Revelation. They will not awake nor be roused from their sleep until the heavens are no more. (See Job 14:12.)
Let us look at a few texts that will give us Job’s understanding of death.
"If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, ‘Til my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands.’ " Job 14:14, 15.
A Proof Text?
I was taught to use Job 14:21 as a proof text to explain the state of the dead. I never use it however, and you will see why if you read verse 22.
When a person dies, "His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; They are brought low, and he does not perceive it. But his flesh will be in pain over it, and his soul will mourn over it." Now what are you going to do with that? I do not need to bring up all the objections that a person might have.
Job 14:21 is very clear, but what are you going to do with verse 22? Let us investigate verse 22 a little bit. Look, first of all, at Isaiah 58:7. "Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and hide not yourself from your own flesh?" Whose flesh is it talking about?
This is a Biblical expression, and it is talking about your family, your loved ones. We still use that terminology today concerning our family—we say they are our own flesh and blood.
In Job 14:22 he says, "His flesh will be in pain over it." He is talking about his relatives. His loved ones are in pain. Are you in pain if you have a loved one die? Yes, you are in a lot of pain. His flesh, his kinfolks, his relatives, are going to be in pain. That makes sense, does it not?
However, we are only half way through. What do you do with the last part of the verse? "His soul will mourn over it." That is just about as much trouble as the first part of verse 22.
Next month we will look at the word mourn, and see what the Bible is trying to tell us.
To be continued. . . .