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Jordan Putt

Pr. Mackintosh
Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White
5 December 2014
Ellen White and the State of the Dead, Its Relation to the
Health Message
The 26th fundamental belief of the Adventist church
deals with death and resurrection. It states that, until
Christ comes in the clouds at the resurrection, death is
an unconscious state for all people.i The Bible, understood
correctly, as well as all of Ellen Whites statements on
the subject, unequivocally affirms this doctrine. It is
connected to other Adventist doctrines, especially
annihilationism, but also the health message, though they
may seem unrelated at first look.
This understanding of the state of the dead has been
a hallmark of Adventism, and one that sets it apart from
most other denominations and sects of Christendom, which
started to embrace the immortality of the soul as early as
the second century. As the early church became Catholicism,
the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was perpetuated
throughout the Dark Ages. At the Reformation, Luther
espoused the doctrine of soul sleep though others, like
John Calvin, did not. Among the Jews in the time of the

Bible, it was nearly universally believed that the soul and


the body were connected, and the soul did not live on after
the body died. With the exception of the Sadducees, the
Jews believed in the souls sleep in the grave, waiting for
the resurrection. The Bible account corroborates this in
many places, such as Ecclesiastes 9:5-6:
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead
know not any thing, neither have they any more a
reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also
their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now
perished; neither have they any more a portion for
ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
What Solomon is saying here cannot harmonize with the idea
of dead people coming back as ghosts and haunting their
family or their enemies. They cannot interact with the
world, and do not know anything. It was for this reason
that David said, Put not your trust in princes, nor in the
son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth
forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his
thoughts perish.ii Ancestor worship and other false forms
of worship that were customary in the nations surrounding
Israel relied on the false teaching of life immediately
after death. God said that the soul that sinneth, it shall
dieiii. The soul that sinneth will not go to hell, the soul

that sinneth will not come back and haunt the place of its
death, but according to this text, shall die. The idea that
the soul is immortal is also refuted by Pauls statement to
Timothy: Which in His times He shall show, who is the
blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of
lords; who only hath immortalityiv (emphasis added). These
texts struck Ellen White, and led her to accept and
proclaim this doctrine, which would be one of many
essential links in the chain of the Adventist worldview.
Ellen White rejected the idea of body-soul duality in
her youth, before the formation of the Adventist church.
She overheard her mother and sister discussing a preacher
who talked about the souls unconscious state in death.
Life Sketches gives some insight into her first reaction to
this doctrine.
But, mother, said I, do you really believe that the
soul sleeps in the grave until the resurrection? Do
you think that the Christian, when he dies, does not
go immediately to heaven, nor the sinner to hell?
She answered: The Bible gives us no proof that there
is an eternally burning hell. If there is such a
place, it should be mentioned in the Sacred Book.
Why, mother! cried I, in astonishment, this is
strange talk for you! If you believe this strange

theory, do not let any one know of it; for I fear that
sinners would gather security from this belief, and
never desire to seek the Lord.v
For her, the idea that the soul sleeps in death was
something that would give those living in sin an excuse.
That somehow, avoiding the eternally burning hell should be
the reason for humans to follow God rather than love for
Him. This reflected her spiritual state at the time, which
was not yet converted and was serving God out of great
fear. Her mother understood this, and replied to her:
If this is sound Bible truth, she replied, instead
of preventing the salvation of sinners, it will be the
means of winning them to Christ. If the love of God
will not induce the rebel to yield, the terrors of an
eternal hell will not drive him to repentance.
Besides, it does not seem a proper way to win souls to
Jesus by appealing to one of the lowest attributes of
the mind,abject fear. The love of Jesus attracts; it
will subdue the hardest heartvi
This was a key point in Ellen coming to Bible truth on the
matter. Knowing this put the writings of the Bible into the
correct perspective. It gave her clarity on things that
were unfamiliar to her previously.

When I heard it preached, I believed it to be the


truth. From the time that light in regard to the sleep
of the dead dawned upon my mind, the mystery that had
enshrouded the resurrection vanished, and the great
event itself assumed a new and sublime importance...
But this new and beautiful faith taught me the reason
why inspired writers had dwelt so much upon the
resurrection of the body; it was because the entire
being was slumbering in the grave. I could now clearly
perceive the fallacy of our former position on this
question.vii
When the truth came to her, she was able to see the
falsehood of the belief in duality of the body and soul
that she could not before, and would go on to make many
statements proclaiming the true doctrine and exposing the
false.
This state of the dead truth is an essential piece of
Adventism, as it is interdependent with other truths, such
as annihilationism. For this reason, Ellen White was very
clear in articulating it.
A correct understanding of what saith the Scriptures
in regard to the state of the dead is essential for
this time. Gods word declares that the dead know not
anything; their hatred and love have alike perished.

We must come to the sure word of prophecy for our


authority. Unless we are intelligent in the
Scriptures, may we not, when this mighty miracleworking power of Satan is manifested in our world, be
deceived and call it the workings of God; for the word
of God declares that, if it were possible, the very
elect should be deceived. Unless we are rooted and
grounded in the truth, we shall be swept away by
Satans delusive snares. We must cling to our
Bibles.viii
Knowing and having confidence in the Scriptures is the only
way to be guarded against the lies that Satan continues to
propagate.
Heaven is a place of harmony and perfect peace and, to
those who believe in the immortality of the soul, it is
populated by God, angelic beings, and the souls of the
righteous dead. In The Great Controversy, serious questions
are raised about the righteous condition in heaven.
According to the popular belief, the redeemed in
heaven are acquainted with all that takes place on the
earth and especially with the lives of the friends
whom they have left behind. But how could it be a
source of happiness to the dead to know the troubles
of the living, to witness the sins committed by their

own loved ones, and to see them enduring all the


sorrows, disappointments, and anguish of life? How
much of heavens bliss would be enjoyed by those who
were hovering over their friends on earth?ix
She asserts that if the souls of the righteous were in
heaven, it would not be paradise for them. Witnessing the
goings-on of the whole world of sin would hardly be
paradise.
Even more contrary to the character of God is the fate
of the unrighteous. Upon death they immediately enter the
fires of torment, where they will be for all eternity.
How utterly revolting is the belief that as soon as
the breath leaves the body the soul of the impenitent
is consigned to the flames of hell! To what depths of
anguish must those be plunged who see their friends
passing to the grave unprepared, to enter upon an
eternity of woe and sin! Many have been driven to
insanity by this harrowing thought.x
The doctrine of an eternally burning hell is intertwined
with the immortality of the soul. If the soul cannot die,
then hell must be eternal. This portrays God as a cruel,
sadistic ruler, and accomplishes Satans goal in turning
people away from Him.

Satan uses belief in immortality of the soul to lead


people further into error. If people believe that the soul
lives on after the body dies, then he can have demons
appear as dead loved ones and tell them falsehoods that
they will believe on account of the fact that their loved
ones are supposedly in heaven.
The only safety for the people of God is to be
thoroughly conversant with their Bibles, and be
intelligent upon the reasons of our faith in regard to
the sleep of the dead. Satan is a cunning foe. And it
is not difficult for the evil angels to represent both
saints and sinners who have died, and make these
representations visible to human eyes. These
manifestations will be more frequent, and developments
of a more startling character will appear as we near
the close of time.xi
She is clear on the fact that being familiar with the
Bible, especially on what it has to say about the state of
the dead, is the only way we will be able to remain in the
truth as the end draws near.

The doctrine that the soul is

immortal opens the minds of those that believe it to


deception through spiritualism. Messages from demons
appearing as deceased loved ones will be readily received
as a message from heaven.

If men had been willing to receive the truth so


plainly stated in the Scriptures concerning the nature
of man and the state of the dead, they would see in
the claims and manifestations of spiritualism the
working of Satan with power and signs and lying
wonders.xii
But while many evangelical Christians are denouncing the
witchcraft present in the media and popular culture, they
would be deceived if the supposed ghost of a Christian
leader or loved one appeared one day, and would likely
accept whatever message was given. Their thoughts, their
love, their hatred, have perished. The dead do not hold
communion with the living. But true to his early cunning,
Satan employs this device in order to gain control of
minds.xiii The true safeguard against this is a correct
understanding of the Bibles teaching on this matter.
In her commentary on the Biblical accounts, Ellen
White plainly states the Bible writers position on the
matter as well. In her Sketches from the Life of Paul, she
says, Paul then endeavored to inform his Thessalonian
brethren concerning the true state of the dead. He speaks
of them as asleep,in a state of unconsciousnessxiv. She
deals with Pauls statements again in The Great

Controversy, using his powerful statements in Corinthians


to make a case for soul sleep.
And said Paul: "If the dead rise not, then is not
Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith
is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which
are fallen asleep in Christ are perished" (I
Corinthians 15:16-18). If for four thousand years the
righteous had gone directly to heaven at death, how
could Paul have said that if there is no resurrection,
"they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are
perished"? No resurrection would be necessary.xv
Ellen White understood the implications of body-soul
duality. Pauls statements make it clear, when understood
in this light, that the doctrine of the immortality of the
soul really makes the idea of a bodily resurrection less
important. William Tyndale understood this when he made
this statement that Ellen White quoted in The Great
Controversy:
I confess openly, that I am not persuaded that they be
already in the full glory that Christ is in, or the
elect angels of God are in. Neither is it any article
of my faith; for if it were so, I see not but then the
preaching of the resurrection of the flesh were a
thing in vain.xvi

If the righteous are already in heaven or the wicked


already in hell, what is the purpose of a resurrection?
Even the Methodist Bible scholar Adam Clarke had this
question, which he brought forth in his commentary.
The doctrine of the resurrection appears to have been
thought of much more consequence among the primitive
Christians than it is now! How is this? The apostles
were continually insisting on it, and exciting the
followers of God to diligence, obedience, and
cheerfulness through it. And their successors in the
present day seldom mention it! So apostles preached,
and so primitive Christians believed; so we preach,
and so our hearers believe. There is not a doctrine in
the gospel on which more stress is laid; and there is
not a doctrine in the present system of preaching
which is treated with more neglect!xvii
Ellen White summed up most of Christendoms state when she
said that The glorious truth of the resurrection has been
almost wholly obscured and lost sight of by the Christian
world.xviii She goes on to quote a leading religious writer
who said:
"For all practical purposes of comfort the doctrine of
the blessed immortality of the righteous takes the
place for us of any doubtful doctrine of the Lord's

second coming. At our death the Lord comes for us.


That is what we are to wait and watch for. The dead
are already passed into glory. They do not wait for
the trump for their judgment and blessedness."xix
The doctrine of the souls immortality has succeeded in
subverting the truth, as it has from the beginning. It was
Satans first lie ever told.
The great original lie which he told to Eve in Eden,
Thou shalt not surely die, was the first sermon ever
preached on the immortality of the soul. This sermon
was crowned with success, and terrible results
followed. He has brought minds to receive that sermon
as truth, and ministers preach it, sing it, and pray
it. No literal Devil, and probation after the coming
of Christ, are fast becoming popular fables.xx
Many other falsehoods were brought in due to this one, and
many truths were subverted.
Another area where Ellen Whites writings show that
the body and soul are one is her writings on health. Time
and time again, she makes it clear how important it is for
the body to be kept in health in order to prolong the life
and give service to God.
The sacred temple of the body must be kept pure and
uncontaminated, that Gods Holy Spirit may dwell

therein. We need to guard faithfully the Lords


property, for any abuse of our powers shortens the
time that our lives could be used for the glory of
God.xxi
Believing that the body and soul are separate can give rise
to the thought that the body isnt important to take care
of. If, upon death, the righteous man will immediately see
God in paradise, and still be able to influence and
interact with those whom he may not have had a chance to
during his life, he may indeed be more effective dead than
alive. But if the soul does not live on after death, it is
of utmost importance to take care of the body, for this
chance is all we have.
Soul, body, and spirit,all that constitutes the man,
is the rightful property of our Saviour; and when he
sees the body, the temple of the soul, defiled and
degraded by indulgence of appetite and lustful
passion, and the heart polluted and defiled by sin,
when he sees the soul which was the purchase of his
blood, proving a curse rather than a blessing to the
world, he dooms it as he did the fig-tree, and it
becomes a fearful monument of his righteousness and
avenging wrath.xxii

There is a connection made here between the soul and body


that suggests that they are one unit. The soul, body, and
spirit are all Gods, and abuse of one of them results in
adverse effects on the other, due to their
interconnectedness. Our impulses and passions have their
seat in the body, and therefore we must do nothing that
would defile this entrusted possession.xxiii The body is
destroyed by appetite and passion, which leads to sin,
destroying the soul. The curse that is pronounced on that
person echoes Pauls warning to the Corinthians: If any
man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for
the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.xxiv It is
made clear that defiling the body has an effect on more
than the body itself, and that is something that God takes
seriously.
Our bodies must be kept in the best possible condition
physically, and under the most spiritual influences,
in order that we may make the best use of our talents.
A misuse of the body shortens that period of time
which God designs shall be used in his service By
allowing ourselves to form wrong habits, by keeping
late hours, by gratifying appetite at the expense of
health, we lay the foundation for feebleness. By
neglecting to take physical exercise, by overworking

mind or body, we unbalance the nervous system. Those


who thus shorten their lives by disregarding natures
laws, are guilty of robbery toward God. We have no
right to neglect or misuse the body, the mind, or the
strength which should be used to offer God consecrated
service.xxv
God is robbed of time and usefulness when his people
neglect to keep their bodies in a healthful condition.
Not only is the lifespan and the duration of
usefulness in Gods work cut short by poor lifestyle
habits, but also the quality of life and the use of our
talents.

Ellen White wrote of the mind and body: When one

is affected, the other sympathizesxxvi. This means that the


things that are brought into the body affect the mind,
making communing with God either easier or more difficult.
That which corrupts the body tends to corrupt the soul. It
unfits the user for communion with God, unfits him for high
and holy service.xxvii The behavior is affected by the type
of food eaten. If the system is deranged by improper food,
the brain and nerves are affected, and slight things annoy
those who are thus afflicted. Little difficulties are to
them troubles mountain high.xxviii This indelible link
between the health of the body and the health of the soul,

and its significance in light of the Adventist view of the


state of the dead, is often overlooked.
Since it is clear from the Bible and affirmed by the
writings of Ellen White that the soul and body are one unit
that is interconnected, it follows that when the physical
body dies, the soul does not go on living. A worldview that
is based on the immortality of the soul will have less
regard for the health of the physical body, because it is
merely a container or shell to house the spirit. This makes
the health message less effective than it could be if
looked at through the correct lens. This connection should
be clear in the minds of Adventists, so that by living a
lifestyle that promotes good health, we will be a living
testament of the things that we preach, affirming not only
the statements of Ellen White regarding health, but also
the urgency of using time on earth wisely and fully.
The uncertainty of life should teach us the necessity
of working to the utmost of our ability to serve God
and to be a blessing to our fellow men. No one is sure
of a day. Accident, sickness, or death may come to us
at any moment. None of us know how long our life will
last; and while we have it in our possession, it
should be most precious in our estimation. We are not
our own; this life is not ours; and as the property of

God, it is our duty, as far as possible, to keep our


bodies free from disease. We are Christs purchased
possession, and we read in Gods word, His servants
shall serve him. Then let us devote our lives to his
service.xxix
The Bible and Ellen Whites writings affirm that this
understanding of the state of the dead is correct. It gives
a beautiful picture of God, and is interdependent with the
other truths of the Bible, including Gods call for us to
live life abundantly by following His original health plan.

http://www.adventist.org/fileadmin/adventist.org/files/arti
cles/official-statements/28Beliefs-Web.pdf
ii
Ps. 146:3, 4
iii
Ezekiel 18:4
iv
1 Timothy 6:15-16
v
LS 49
vi
ibid.
vii
ibid.
viii
RH Dec 18, 1888
ix
GC 545
x
ibid.
xi
Ev. 604
xii
GC 549
xiii
AA 289
xiv
LP 111
xv
GC 546
xvi
GC 547
xvii
qtd. in GC 547
xviii
GC 547
xix
ibid.
xx
RH May 16, 1862
xxi
YI April 7 1898
xxii
RH Jan 11, 1881
xxiii
RH Dec 1, 1896

xxiv

1 Corinthians 3:17
RH Dec 1, 1896
xxvi
MH 241
xxvii
MH 280
xxviii
RH July 25, 1899
xxix
RH Dec 1, 1896
xxv

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