At work I recently crossed paths with a Seventh-Day Adventist. He is a friendly guy in his 40s, and a lay pastor at his Adventist church. No matter what religion a person believes in, I always try to be respectful of their beliefs when I get into religious conversations. While I may respect them for believing what they believe, this does not mean that I accept what they believe. I let him tell me about his beliefs, but would politely interject whenever I respectfully disagreed with him on a point. And we cordially continued to talk about various things in a friendly manner, but were still conscious of the differences in our beliefs. Our conversation eventually ended, and off we went on our ways. By the way, I disagreed with all three of the following points of his faith…
1. Among the things that he was trying to persuade me about–in his view from the Bible–was Christian universalism. In other words, he believed that the Bible taught that those whom God sends to Hell will be tortured and burn for a very long time, but not really forever and ever. Hell is not everlasting in his eyes. Eventually everyone in Hell will be purified from sin through their punishments, and sanctified, and shown mercy from God. Either that or they will be completely annihilated from existence. Or they will go to Heaven and live with God and the saints forever. This clearly contradicts 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, NKJV: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
2. He was also trying to push the idea of keeping the Sabbath Day–which is Saturday. To him, the fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments is still in effect and was not abolished when the New Covenant was established by Christ. To him, it is a sin, and dare I say a matter of damnation, if Christians choose to work on Saturdays. But this clearly contradicts Colossians 2:16: “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.”
3. His third contention was that Ellen G. White, a major founder of the Adventists, was a prophetess. When I told him that I believe in prophets, he seemed to open up more about this. He said that Mrs. White was a petite woman that was in what we may call a “house church” meeting in the 19th century. During this meeting, she went into a spiritual trance, and for 6 hours went on prophesying in an ecstatic state. On top of this, she was holding a large heavy “family Bible” in one hand upraised the entire time. As she prophesied, holding the large Bible upraised over her head in one hand, she quoted Bible verses and blindly pointed to them in the Bible with the opposite hand. Mrs. White is the origin of most all Adventist beliefs; including the belief that in 1844, in Heaven, Christ moved into a special sanctuary where He began judging one by one all of the people that have lived from the beginning of time. That’s a lot of people to judge!
I’m not one to speak against a prophetess simply on the basis of having strange experiences. I believe that God gives trances (Acts 10:10) as well as other ecstatic utterances (Acts 19:6). I can’t condemn Mrs. White on the basis of experiencing ecstasies and visions. But to say that Jesus began judging the world in 1844 is a bit of a stretch. And her mystical Sabbatarianism makes me think of the Colossian heresy. But I will say that a 6 hour trance utterance sounds more like the operation of an evil spirit that you would find in occultism. Automatic utterances. Generally, in Christian prophecy, God gives dreams, visions, and voices–not 6 hour ecstatic utterances in trance possession. Mrs. White’s experience sounds more like the operation of an occult spirit.
After our discussion, work was over, and it was time to go home. As I was driving home, I had a headache. I felt that maybe some evil spirits had jumped onto me from him, because of the Adventist discussion we had. Recently I had compiled a list of Christian mystics–both orthodox and heretical. The Adventists so happened to be among those considered for a list. I was trying to find out–and still am–who the true prophets and false prophets in church history are. So, I think the Lord was trying to show me something about the Adventists by all of this.
My wife and I are dreamers, and the Lord in His grace, will often use dreams to speak to us. I got home with my headache really late that night, and Rebekah was already asleep. When I opened the door to our bedroom, she said in her sleep, “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus…” She does this whenever she encounters evil spirits in her dreams. It is a powerful method of resisting the devil. She woke up after I asked her to come out of the dream. She told me that in her dream, she saw four demons around me. Then she called on Jesus’ Name to get out of the dream. When she started to wake up, in our bedroom she saw the four evil spirits on me with her eyes open. And this is strange–because she saw them in a symbolic form–they were on my shoulders and chest in the form of little boxes with jailbird stripes.
I believe that the Holy Spirit was showing us that these were spirits of legalism that jumped onto me just as I had felt. In speaking against the heretical idea of obeying the Jewish law as a way to “earn” one’s salvation, Paul said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). That’s what those evil spirits on me symbolized–the yoke of slavery on my shoulders, the spirits of jail, of bondage, of entrapment to Jewish law-keeping, and “legal justification” before God. They were no doubt the cause of my headache which followed the discussion about Adventism. Rebekah prayed against them, and they left me. I went to bed and no longer felt a headache. Praise God for dreams, visions, and prayer! And not only that, but the gift of discerning of spirits through dreams and visions (1 Cor. 12:10).
You may have heard of some of the heresies in the first century that the early church had to fight against. There were mainly two powerful heretical movements in the early church–Gnosticism and Judaizerism. Gnosticism was a mystical New Age kind of a group that mixed all religions together–including Christianity, and had Greek pagan elements. Judaizerism was mainly found in Jerusalem, and was found among Christians with a Jewish faith background and heritage. It mixed the Jewish laws of the Old Testament with the faith of the New Testament, and declared that all of the Old Testament laws needed to be kept in order for Christians to be saved–especially circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and eating only kosher foods (Acts 15:1; Rom. 14:2, 5; Col. 2:16). This can be found today among such groups as the Adventists, the Messianic Jews, and various Evangelical churches.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians was written against what Bible scholars have come to call the Colossian heresy, which seems to have been a sort of Jewish Gnosticism. The apostles knew that these were not just make-believe religions. They were heresies with real demonic spirits operating behind them. I now believe that Adventism is a modern-day manifestation of the Colossian heresy, and probably Messianic Judaism also. Not only is Adventism mystical and “charismatic,” but is also Judaistic. The Galatians also fell under the spell of these legalistic demons, so that Paul cried, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Gal. 3:1). It was concerning these kinds of Gnostic spirits that John had in mind when he wrote, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The next day I saw my Adventist aquaintance, he gave me free copies of Mrs. White’s The Great Controversy and Steps to Christ. I didn’t even open them all the way until I felt restrained by the Holy Spirit. I threw them in the garbage when I got home. I am not going to let myself be burdened again by the yoke of slavery. God had given me a clear revelation about what that stuff was all about. I didn’t even want to read it and get more of those spirits on me. Christ has freed me from the curse of the law. I put my faith in His atoning blood to draw me near to God, and not in any Jewish law-keeping. I have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19), and that is good enough for me, once for all. A. R. G. Deasley said, “As holding out the hope of salvation on the basis of human effort, such works are the antithesis of God’s saving grace set forth in Christ crucified. Confidence in Him alone, who, by His death fulfilled the law, is the sole means of deliverance from the law’s demands, and so of avoiding legalism” (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, “Legalism”).