The “ shut door ” has been one of the most contentious subjects in Adventism for some time. Of all Adventist doctrines, probably none has been more attacked by those opposing Adventism than this doctrine. D. M. Canwright and Desmond Ford both challenged the concept.
Walter Ray, a Seventh-day Adventist minister who not only lost confidence and faith in the Spirit of Prophecy wrote the book, The White Lie (copyright 1982), in which he attacks Ellen White, not just of plagiarism, but accuses her of more serious wrongs.
This is not a book that I would advise anybody to read. I am not afraid of facts, but Ellen White warned about reading books written by infidel authors. She wrote,
“Suffer not yourselves to open the lids of a book that is questionable. There is a hellish fascination in the literature of Satan. It is the powerful battery by which he tears down a simple religious faith. Never feel that you are strong enough to read infidel books; for they contain a poison like that of asps.” The Faith I Live By, 241.
This book is full of sarcasm, sneering remarks, and criticism. It is the interpretation of the facts that are of great concern. Ellen White did not plagiarize. It was one of the subjects on which she was attacked in The White Lie. After it was published, John J. Robertson, an Adventist minister, wrote the book, The White Truth to refute Walter Ray’s arguments.
The doctrine of the shut door is not something that was invented by Seventh-day Adventists. It is taught throughout the Bible. Jesus also taught it. Genesis 7:16 reads: “So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him, and the LORD shut him in.” In Noah’s day clearly there was a shut door. Noah and his family, which comprised all who obeyed and entered the ark, were shut in and saved from the flood. The rest of the world were shut out and drowned in the flood waters—they were lost. When you start to understand it, the shut door is a very emotional doctrine because it refers to a time when some will be shut in and some will be shut out. Those who are shut in will be saved and those who are shut out will be lost.
Matthew 25:10–13 records the parable of ten virgins. Jesus said, “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with Him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” Again, some are shut in while others are shut out.
In Luke 13:23–30, it says, “Then one said to Him, ‘Lord, are there few who are saved?’ And He said to them. ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, “Lord, Lord, open for us,” and He will answer and say to you, “I do not know you, where you are from.” Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.” But He will say, “I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.” There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, and the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.’ ”
Seventh-day Adventists believe that after the great disappointment on October 22, 1844, the door was shut. The Bible records a number of times when the door has been shut: in Noah’s day, in Abraham’s day, in Christ’s day and again in 1844. Revelation 3:7, 8 reads: “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens. I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word and have not denied My name.” ’ ”
The angel goes on to say in verse 9, “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” When does this happen?
God’s people are going to be delivered from the death decree at midnight (see Revelation 13:15). This is elaborated on in the last chapters of The Great Controversy as well as many other places in Ellen White’s writings. “While the cloud was passing from the Holiest to the East, which took a number of days, the synagogue of Satan worshipped at the saints’ feet.” Maranatha, 287. This will happen for a number of days between the death decree and the time of Jesus’ coming.
Satan also has a church. It is called the synagogue of Satan. They say they are Jews but do not the works of Abraham. It is a very large church, much larger than God’s church in this world. We are told who those people are in A Word to the Little Flock, 12. It says, “You think, that those who worship before the saint’s feet (Revelation 3:9), will at last be saved. Here I must differ with you; for God shew me that this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and ‘crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame’ (Hebrews 6:6). And in the ‘hour of temptation’ (Revelation 3:10), which is yet to come, to show out every one’s true character, they will know that they are forever lost; and overwhelmed with anguish of spirit, they will bow at the saint’s feet.”
It is those who claim that they are Jews (spiritual Israel) who will come and worship at the saint’s feet. They are Adventists who give up the Sabbath in the time of the Sunday law crisis. Tragically, they may be people whom you now know and who do not “endure to the end” (Matthew 10:22).
Revelation 3:7, 8 tells about a door that was open and a door that was shut. Some who try to discredit Ellen White’s prophetic gift like to say that she believed that the door was shut in 1844 and that she was mistaken. She comments on this in Selected Messages, vol. 1, 63: “For a time after the disappointment in 1844, I did hold, in common with the advent body, that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world. This position was taken before my first vision was given me. It was the light given me of God that corrected our error, and enabled us to see the true position.
“I am still a believer in the shut-door theory, but not in the sense in which we at first employed the term or in which it is employed by my opponents.
“There was a shut door in Noah’s day. There was at that time a withdrawal of the Spirit of God from the sinful race that perished in the waters of the Flood. God Himself gave the shut-door message to Noah:
“My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years (Genesis 6:3).” [Emphasis added.]
It is the Holy Spirit that leads us to true repentance. Many people feel sorrow for the consequences of their sins, however, they do not repent. When the Holy Spirit is grieved away by numerous rejections to His promptings, that person will never be converted. The door of opportunity for them is shut. Shutting the door is removing the Holy Spirit.
“There was a shut door in the days of Abraham. Mercy ceased to plead with the inhabitants of Sodom, and all but Lot, with his wife and two daughters, were consumed by the fire sent down from heaven.
“There was a shut door in Christ’s day. The Son of God declared to the unbelieving Jews of that generation, ‘Your house is left unto you desolate’ (Matthew 23:38).” Ibid.
In 1844 the door was shut for multitudes of people, not only in America, but also in Europe and other countries. The Holy Spirit was behind the development of what we call, “The Second Advent Movement.” The Holy Spirit inspired many people in different churches around the world, including the Roman Catholic Church, that Jesus was coming soon. The Day of Judgment had arrived. The first angel’s message of Revelation 14:6 was preached by William Miller with ministers Himes, Litch and Fitch as well as others. Shortly after in the summer of 1844, the second angel’s message was preached.
The second angel’s message announced the fall of Babylon in 1844. Babylon consisted of the people and the churches that rejected, the first message. It is very serious at any time to reject the pleading of the Holy Spirit. When people rejected the message of the judgment hour and that Jesus was coming soon, they committed the unpardonable sin. There are some people today calling themselves Adventists who do not accept the doctrine of the investigative judgment. If those who refused to accept the present truth in 1844 became Babylon, would the same result happen again? Is God still the same?
Ellen White wrote, “I was shown in vision, and I still believe, that there was a shut door in 1844. All who saw the light of the first and second angels’ messages and rejected that light, were left in darkness. And those who accepted it and received the Holy Spirit which attended the proclamation of the message from heaven, and who afterward renounced their faith and pronounced their experience a delusion, thereby rejected the Spirit of God, and it no longer pleaded with them.” Ibid.
That same dangerous situation is still present today. Many people have renounced doctrines that they once held as truth and have been left in darkness because the Spirit of God no longer pleads with them. We need to pray that we’ll never get in that kind of situation. It happened to Lucifer in the courts of heaven. In the first chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets, 39, Ellen White wrote that he was convinced that what he thought about doing was wrong but continued believing that he had such a high position that it would be too humbling to admit that he had made a mistake.
Pride is very dangerous, causing people to defend an incorrect position instead of humbly admitting they have made a mistake. We need to willingly say, Lord, I made a mistake. What I understood and have been teaching is wrong and I want to get that corrected.
We cannot, without guilt, reject the warnings that God sends to us. When Noah preached to get into the ark, salvation depended on whether or not they accepted and acted on that message. Those who hear and understand the three angels’ messages and reject them turn away from the Lord and will eventually seal their doom. It is these messages that will determine the eternal destiny of all who live in this world in the last generation.
“Because they rejected the warning, the Spirit of God was withdrawn from the sinful race, and they perished in the waters of the flood. In the time of Abraham, mercy ceased to plead with the guilty inhabitants of Sodom, and all but Lot with his wife and two daughters were consumed by the fire sent down from heaven. So in the days of Christ. The Son of God declared to the unbelieving Jews of that generation, ‘Your house is left unto you desolate’ (Matthew 23:39). Looking down to the last days, the same infinite power declares, concerning those who ‘received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved,’ ‘For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (II Thessalonians 2:10, 11). As they reject the teachings of His Word, God withdraws His Spirit, and leaves them to the deceptions which they love.” Early Writings, 45.
It is evident today that God’s Spirit is being withdrawn. We are experiencing more natural disasters. Society is sinking to a moral low. We are told that the entire world will be devastated more than Jerusalem at the time of its destruction in A.D. 70. You can read a description of that in the first chapter of The Great Controversy.
When God sends a warning and it is rejected, His Spirit is withdrawn. This can happen, not just to nations or churches, but also in a family or to an individual. The Lord pleads, but so many refuse to listen and act on the information. However, He does not give up easily on people. The most common way that the unpardonable sin is committed is by persistently rejecting or neglecting the pleading of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit leaves you, you are shut out from salvation. Our only safety is to heed the promptings of the Spirit. Inquire of the Lord an understanding of His plans for you on a daily basis. He has many ways to make it evident what to do and what not to do.
Be aware that continual resistance to the message that the Lord sends to a person results in the door of mercy being shut, just as it happened in Noah’s day and to the Jews in Christ’s day. It happened in 1844 and it will happen again. The pen of Inspiration says,
“The Jews were left in total darkness, to continue their useless sacrifices and offerings. The ministration of types and shadows had ceased. That door by which men had formerly found access to God, was no longer open.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 269, 270.
Men had formerly found access to God through that door. When they came to worship in the sanctuary, the Lord accepted their animal sacrifice. It showed that they had faith in the coming Redeemer and their sins were forgiven. “That door by which men had formerly found access to God, was no longer open. The Jews had refused to seek Him in the only way whereby He could then be found, through the ministration in the sanctuary in Heaven. Therefore they found no communion with God. To them the door was shut.” Ibid., 270.
When God shuts the door to salvation it cannot be reopened however, there are still people trying to open the door today. The early Christians were also confused on this point; so Paul addressed it in the book of Hebrews and other places in the New Testament.
“The condition of the unbelieving Jews illustrates the condition of the careless and unbelieving among professed Christians, who are willingly ignorant of the work of our merciful High Priest. In the typical service, when the high priest entered the most holy place, all Israel were required to gather about the sanctuary, and in the most solemn manner humble their souls before God, that they might receive the pardon of their sins, and not be cut off from the congregation. How much more essential in this anti-typical day of atonement that we understand the work of our High Priest, and know what duties are required of us.” Ibid.
In 1844 the door into the Holy Place, the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, by which Christ had been approached since Pentecost, was shut. It was the way to salvation for a time until it was shut and another door was opened, the door into the most holy place. We read in Revelation 3 that when God shuts something, no man can open it.
“Because so many good Christians have fallen asleep in the triumphs of faith and have not kept the true Sabbath, they were doubting about its being a test for us now.
“The enemies of the present truth have been trying to open the door of the holy place, that Jesus has shut, and to close the door of the most holy place, which He opened in 1844, where the ark is, containing the two tables of stone on which are written the ten commandments by the finger of Jehovah.” Early Writings, 43.
While people continually try to pry open the door that God has shut, they keep closed the door He opened that clearly reveals the blessing of the Sabbath commandment.
In 1844, the Adventist people did not understand the truth about the heavenly sanctuary, but when they started to study they realized that everything in the earthly sanctuary was just a type of the sanctuary in heaven. They discovered that the contents in the heavenly sanctuary would be the same in the most holy place as were in the earthly sanctuary. Reading Revelation 11:19, they saw that the Ark of the Covenant was there and inside it were the Ten Commandments written on two tables of stone. Within the heavenly sanctuary is the great original. The one on earth was only a copy. These searchers after truth, being Sunday worshipers at that time, were shocked when reading the fourth commandment. They realized that this commandment, part of the Law of God, was in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary in heaven where Jesus was, and they were not keeping the true Sabbath. They realized then that they had some repenting to do, some confession to make, and some changing to do.
Ellen White was not the first one that understood this. Joseph Bates and some others understood it before she did and when they first told her about it, she couldn’t comprehend that it would be that important, much like many people today. Then the Lord gave her a vision in which she was taken inside the most holy place where Jesus opened the ark and showed her the Ten Commandments.
She said she saw a halo of light around the fourth commandment, the most important of all the ten. It gives authority to the rest of the law because it is the one that identifies the Lawgiver and His authority.
These faithful students of the Word studied the Sabbath in connection with the Sanctuary. Although they had preached the first angel’s message and the second in 1844, they realized when they read Revelation 14 that they had not been preaching the whole message. With the first and second messages there was the third message that did not end in Revelation 14:11, but included verse 12, which reads:
“Here is the patience of the holy people (or the steadfast endurance of the saints); here are those that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (literal translation).
Ellen White said after that, “We know that we have the truth.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 252.
During this time the devil was fighting to try to keep people from becoming convinced of these things, the three angels’ messages that today we call “present truth.” That term was not coined by Seventh-day Adventists; it was used by the apostle Peter in his writing when he said, “… being confirmed in the present truth.” II Peter 1:12 literal translation.
There has been a present truth in every age. In the apostle Paul’s day it was that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. The central focus of every message the apostles preached was that Jesus was the Messiah. People believed at the risk of being killed.
Present truth in Noah’s day was that a flood was coming. An ark was prepared to save the people who believed. To accept or reject the offer of mercy determined the destiny of the people.
When the Adventists began to preach the present truth of the three angels of Revelation, the first and second messages determined the destiny of those who rejected it in 1844 when the door shut. The eternal destiny of every single person in the world will be determined on his or her response to the third message. Ellen White wrote, “God has begun to draw this covering over His people, and it will soon be drawn over all who are to have a shelter in the day of slaughter.” Early Writings, 44.
This covering is protection from the seven last plagues to come. “Satan is now using every device in this sealing time to keep the minds of God’s people from the present truth and to cause them to waver. I saw a covering that God was drawing over His people to protect them in the time of trouble; and every soul that was decided on the truth and was pure in heart was to be covered with the covering of the Almighty. …
“I saw that Satan was working through agents in a number of ways. He was at work through ministers who have rejected the truth and are given over to strong delusions to believe a lie that they might be damned. While they were preaching or praying, some would fall prostrate and helpless, not by the power of the Holy Ghost, but by the power of Satan breathed upon these agents, and through them to the people. While preaching, praying, or conversing, some professed Adventists who had rejected present truth used mesmerism to gain adherents, and the people would rejoice in this influence, for they thought it was the Holy Ghost. Some even that used it were so far in the darkness and deception of the devil that they thought it was the power of God.” Early Writings, 43, 44.
The very same thing is happening again today. There are Adventist preachers in some of our largest churches that instead of preaching the present truth are using spiritualistic exercises on the people. “I saw some who were not standing stiffly for present truth. Their knees were trembling, and their feet sliding, because they were not firmly planted on the truth, and the covering of Almighty God could not be drawn over them while they were thus trembling.” Ibid., 44.
Many Adventists today are wavering and God cannot draw over them His covering of protection while they are undecided on what is right and what is wrong. If you have not been attacked yet, you will be by these forms of spiritualism designed to affect God’s people instead of preaching the present truth for today, the three angels’ messages.
The all-important thing at this time of earth’s history is to prepare for the second coming of Christ. Therefore worship with like believers, for the door of mercy is soon to be shut. Some will be shut inside like the wise virgins (Matthew 25) and safe in the ark like Noah’s family. All the others will be shut out.
When probation closes, all decisions will have been made and the door will be permanently shut. Those on the inside will be those who were established on present truth, not just intellectually but in their heart and in their life. All others will be shut out. We are living in “a most solemn period of earth’s history.” The Signs of the Times, February 23, 1882.
Concerning the three angels’ messages, Ellen White said that they are infallible. “We have received the light of the three angels’ messages; and we now need to come decidedly to the front and take our position on the side of truth.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, 21.
All who take their position on these messages and understand their significance and stand on that position will triumph with them.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.