Unpacking the Adventist Confusion about Death | thebereancall.org

TBC Staff

After an Adventist discovers the gospel and realizes that Jesus completed the atonement at the cross and we are saved by trusting Him alone, no Sabbath required, the next paradigm shift we usually face is that of our true nature: are we merely bodies, or do we have an immaterial component called spirit?

This question of whether we are merely bodies that breathe or whether we have spirits that are separate from our bodies identifies what may be our biggest adjustment as we learn a biblical reality: what happens when we die?

The Adventist “soul sleep” is one of the organization’s most powerful means of control. This idea negates the fact that we are born with spirits that must be born again, and without a spirit that is born dead, person has no way to understand that we are born truly sinners. The true nature of our spiritual condemnation and the need for the Lord Jesus to make us alive through His gospel is something that Adventists actually deny.

Before we can understand our condition in death, it is necessary first to understand that Adventism misdefined our spirits. Adventism taught us that we are “body + breath = living soul.” Their use of “breath” is used unbiblically; the Hebrew word “ruah” can be translated in various ways including “breath”, but when the Bible uses it of “spirit”, whether the spirit of man, of angels, or of God, it does not mean “breath”. It means a literal immaterial identity.

For example, in John:4:24 Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is spirit, and true worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth”. In that sentence Jesus clearly identifies God as “spirit”.That does not mean breath; it means non-physical. It is immaterial, but not non-existent. It is not merely a puff of air, either, as in a breath or as wind. 

Angels are “ministering spirits” (Heb:1:14). God is spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not “holy breath”. Moreover, Paul explains in 2Corinthians 5:1–9 that “we” dwell in mortal tents, and when the tent dies, “we” go to God; “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. 

Ephesians:2:1-3 tells us that we are born dead in sins.Now, we are born breathing and moving, yet Paul tells us that we are by nature “children of wrath” (Eph:2:3), and John:3:18 records Jesus saying that when people believe in Him, they do not come into judgment, but those who have not believed are condemned already. In other words, we are born spiritually dead even though our bodies are alive. When we believe, we pass from death to life (Jn:5:24), and this new life is not a metaphor. It is our literal spirit that comes to life. In fact, God Himself transfers us out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Beloved Son when we believe (Col:1:13). This transfer is a spiritual REALITY, not a metaphor. We literally are born again and become alive in our spirits. 

Ellen White said Jesus resurrected Moses and uses Jude 9 as her proof. But Jude 9 only says Michael the archangel contended with Satan for the body of Moses. We are not told WHY he contended,but we are told that Michael did not dare to rebuke Satan but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” This verse actually says the OPPOSITE of what EGW taught.

First, she said that Michael the archangel was another name for Jesus. She is wrong. Jesus is never called any sort of angel. He is God the Son, the creator of all angels—and the angels know He is their creator. Second, Michael did not have the authority to rebuke Satan; they were of the same essential order of creation: they were both angels. Instead, Michael said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 

Jesus, in contrast, directly rebuked Satan many times during His time on earth. He went head to head with him and rebuked him in the wilderness temptation right after His baptism. He rebuked him when He drove the demons out of the Gadarene demoniac and sent them into the pigs. And so forth. Jesus repeatedly rebuked Satan directly. HE IS LORD!

Philippians:1:22, 23 and 2 Corinthians:5:1-9 both are clear that when people die, their spirits go to God. In other words, we are spirit beings, as are the angels, but we also have bodies. That makes us different from other spirit beings. Yet being made spirit beings is what makes us in the image of God. God is spirit!