Bible Truth Versus SDA Truth: Special Resurrection
SDA "Truth" about the Special Resurrection
Seventh-day Adventists have devised a special resurrection that occurs prior the Second Coming and prior to the general resurrection of the righteous. Uriah Smith describes this special resurrection:
Here a partial resurrection is brought to view, a resurrection of a certain group of both righteous and wicked. This takes place before the general resurrection of either group. Many, not all, that sleep shall awake-- some of the righteous, not all of them, to everlasting life, and some of the wicked, not all of them, to shame and everlasting contempt. This resurrection takes place in connection with the great time of trouble such as never was, which precedes the coming of the Lord.1
Prophet Ellen White provides even more details:
"All who have died in faith under the third angel's message come forth from the tomb glorified, to hear God's covenant of peace with those who have kept his law. 'They also which pierced Him,' those that mocked and derided Christ's dying agonies, and the most violent opposers of his truth and his people, are raised to behold him in his glory, and to see the honor placed upon the loyal and obedient."2
From this we may identify four groups of people who are resurrected prior to the general resurrection:
- Seventh-day Adventists who died believing in the third angel's message.
- Those responsible for Christ's death
- Those who mocked Christ as he died (there may be some overlap between this group and the second group)
- Other violent opposers of Christ throughout the ages
Problems with SDA "Truth" about the Special Resurrection
1. Does the Bible teach a special resurrection of believers in the third angel's message?
Nowhere in the Bible do we find a special resurrection of believers that occurs prior to the general resurrection. It is a complete fiction! Seventh-day Adventists were forced into concocting a special resurrection of the righteous because of their teaching on the 144,000 and the Seal of God. According to SDAs, whoever accepts the SDA teaching about the Sabbath becomes a part of the "144,000". So what happens when one of the 144,000 passes away? The son of prophet Ellen White explains:
Did Sister White teach that those who died in the message since 1844 and of whom it is said, 'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth,' that they shall be members of the 144,000? I can assure you, my brother, that this was the belief and the teaching of Ellen G. White. Many times I have heard her make statements to this effect, and I am in possession of a letter to Brother Hastings who is mentioned on page 237 of Life Sketches in which she says plainly that his wife who had recently died would be a member of the 144,000.
In a letter recently received from a brother in Reno, Nevada, reference is made to a statement in Elder Loughborough's book found on page 29 in which it is reported that Sister White said: 'Those who died in the faith will be among the 144,000. I am clear on that matter.'3
The SDA dilemma is that Revelation plainly states the 144,000 are "redeemed from the earth," indicating they are to be translated. Uriah Smith acknowledges the same:
They are "redeemed from among men" (verse 4), an expression which can be applicable only to those who are translated from among the living. Paul labored, if by any means he might attain to the resurrection from among the dead. (Philippians 3: 11.) This is the hope of those who sleep in Jesus--a resurrection from the dead. A redemption from among men, from among the living, must mean a different thing, and can mean only one thing, and that is translation. Hence the 144,000 are living saints, who will be translated at the second coming of Christ.4
So here we have a serious problem. Ellen White said anyone who died believing in the SDA message was a part of the 144,000. But Revelation says the 144,000 are translated, and the translation occurs prior to the resurrection. So how does a dead person get translated? Adventists had to concoct a way to make the deceased SDA "saints" come alive. So, they devised the idea of a special resurrection, where the SDA "saints" would be raised prior to the general resurrection.
In order to support their theory, Adventists claim Daniel 12:2 is talking about a partial resurrection because it says "many" (instead of "all") of the righteous and wicked shall be resurrected. However, that is based upon a KJV English rendering of the Hebrew word rab. According to Gesenius's Lexicon rab, when referring to people, can be understood as "much", "many", or "numerous." The NIV more accurately renders the verse: "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake..." Likewise Young's translates it: "And the multitude of those sleeping in the dust of the ground do awake..." The fact is, the resurrection is only mentioned once by Daniel in his entire book. Are we to believe that this single mention of the resurrection is a reference to a partial resurrection that is different from all the other mentions of the resurrection in the Bible?
2. Does the Bible teach a special resurrection of the wicked?
Adventists teach a resurrection of the wicked based upon Revelation 1:7:
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they [also] which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.
Adventists reason that since those who pierce Jesus are alive to witness His Second Coming, then they must have been resurrected prior to the Second Coming. However, this is based upon a flawed understanding of Revelation 1:7.David Chilton explains:
Rev. 1:7 announces the theme of the book, which is not the Second Coming of Christ, but rather the Coming of Christ in judgment upon Israel, in order to establish the Church as the new Kingdom. John proclaims "He is coming with the clouds," using one of the most familiar Biblical images for judgment (cf. Gen. 15:17; Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19-20, 24; 19:9, 16-19; Ps. 18:8-14; 104:3; Isa. 19:1; Ezek. 32:7-8; Matt. 24:30; Mark 14:62; Acts 2:19). Over and over, through-out the Bible, "coming on the clouds" refers to God's act of judgment and vengeance. This is the Glory-Cloud, God?s heavenly chariot by which He makes His glorious presence known. The Cloud is a revelation of His Throne, as He comes to protect His people and destroy the wicked. One of the most striking descriptions of God?s ?coming in the clouds? is in Nahum?s prophecy against Nineveh (Nah. 1:2-8):
The LORD is a jealous and avenging God. The LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on His foes... His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, And clouds are the dust of His feet.... The mountains quake before Him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at His presence, the world and all who live in it.
His coming in the clouds thus brings judgment and deliverance in history. There is no reason, in either the overall Biblical usage of this term or its immediate context here, to suppose that the literal end of the physical world is meant. John is speaking of the fact, stressed throughout the ?last days? period by the apostles, that a crisis was quickly approaching: As He had promised, Christ would come against the present generation ?in the clouds,? in wrathful judgment against apostate Israel (Matt. 23-25). And every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him (the Gentiles, John 19:34, 37). The crucifiers would see Him coming in judgment ? that is, they would experience and understand that His Coming would mean wrath on the Land (cf. the use of the word see in Mark 1:44; Luke 17:22; John 3:36; Rom. 15:21). The Lord had used the same terminology of His Coming against Jerusalem at the end of that generation (Matt. 24:30), and He even warned the high priest: ?You shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven? (Matt. 26:64). In other words, the apostates of that evil generation would understand the meaning of Christ?s Ascension, the definitive Coming of the Son of Man, the Second Adam (Dan. 7:13). In the destruction of their city, their civilization, their Temple, their entire world-order, they would understand that Christ had ascended to His Throne as Lord of heaven and earth. They would see that the Son of Man had come to the Father.
Jesus had said also that ?all the tribes of the Land will mourn? on the day of His Coming (Matt. 24:30), that ?weeping shall be there and the gnashing of teeth? (Matt. 24:51). John repeats this as part of the theme of his prophecy: "all the tribes of the Land [the Jews] will mourn over Him." Both Jesus and John thus reinterpreted this expression, borrowed from Zechariah 12:10-14, where it occurs in an original context of Israel?s mourning in repentance. But Israel had gone beyond the point of no return; their mourning would not be that of repentance, but sheer agony and terror. Yet this does not negate the promises in Zechariah. Indeed, through Christ?s judgment on Israel, by means of her excommunication, the world will be saved; and, through the salvation of the world, Israel herself will turn again to the Lord and be saved (Rom. 11:11-12, 15, 23-24).6
Bible Truth about the Special Resurrection
"Coming on the Clouds" is Judgment, not Resurrection6
In Revelation 1:7, the language of the text shows that literally, those that would see him were even those who had "pierced him", namely the Jews (Acts 2:23,36; 5:30). In His return in judgment on the Jewish theocracy, those that had rejected Him would now "see" the truth of Jesus' claims and their error, i.e. a nationalistic expectation of the Kingdom (Matthew 26:64).
In the first century 70 A.D., the Jewish world was destroyed during the "day of the Lord" because of their inability to accept the prophets of God and the Son (Matt. 23:34-36). The destruction of the Temple, City, Priesthood, Genealogy, and Sacrifices, put an end to the Old Covenant and that world for ever. In its place, is the New Covenant. The...coming of Christ occurred in 70 A.D. as Jesus invisibly and spiritually came on the clouds of heaven to judge His enemies and establish His everlasting kingdom.
We know that Nineveh was destroyed (Nahum 1:1-5), not by a literal coming of God out of heaven on the clouds, but by the invading armies of the Chaldeans and Medes in 612 BC. When Jesus said he would come on the clouds, He was using the apocalyptic language of the prophets to identify himself as the Messiah, the Judge.
The word for "see" is often used not of sight, but of perception. For example, in John 14:9, Jesus says, "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Jesus also said, "every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life" (John 6:40). Now, if you use the same interpretation here as most do in Mat. 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27, Acts 1:9-10, and Rev.1:7, only those who saw Jesus with their literal eyes could be saved! We use the word "see" in the same manner, with a figurative intent, when we say, "I see!". As Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:18, "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened."
Matthew 24:30 (NKJV) "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
When is "then?" "Then" refers to "immediately after the tribulation of those days" of verse 29. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which was the great tribulation, this sign will be seen. What is the sign? A word-for-word rendering from the Greek reads:
"And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven."
Notice carefully that the location is heaven, not the sky; and it is not the sign that is in heaven, but the Son of Man who is in heaven. The point is this: The destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple was the sign that the Son of Man was in heaven.
J. Marcellus Kik said, "A sign was not to appear in the heavens, but the destruction of Jerusalem was to indicate the rule of the Son of man in heaven."
The wording of this passage refers us back to the expression, "The Son of Man," found in Daniel 7:13, which Jesus used concerning Himself when referring to His coming (Matthew 24:27). The judgment of Jerusalem was a sign that the Son of Man was in heaven in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14. Here we see Jesus, the Son of Man, coming to the Ancient of days and receiving His everlasting kingdom. This prophecy was fulfilled at the Ascension (Acts 2:30-36). The kingdom received from the Ancient of days is no other than the kingdom symbolized by the stone cut out of the mountain (Daniel 2:34-35): The kingdom was given to Christ at His ascension, and this was made manifest to all Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Jerusalem's destruction was a sign that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of God.
In Matthew 26:63-64, Caiaphas, the high priest, asks Jesus if he is the Son of God, the Messiah. Notice the similarities between Jesus' answer to Caiaphas and what he said in our text.
Matthew 24:30 (NKJV) "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
Jesus told Caiaphas, "You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power."
He said to His disciples, "They would see the sign that the son of man was in heaven."
He told Caiaphas, "You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven."
He told His disciples, "They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
It is obviously the same event in both passages. Notice Caiaphas' response to Jesus' statement (Matthew 26:65). What did Jesus say that was blasphemy? Caiaphas understood that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. In order to understand what Jesus is saying, we need to understand the idea that is behind "coming in the clouds."
God's "coming on the clouds of heaven" is a symbolic way of speaking of His presence, judgment and salvation. All through the Old Testament God was coming "on clouds," in salvation of His people and judgment of His enemies. Coming on the clouds indicates His Presence: Exodus 16:10; 19:9; 34:5, Leviticus 16:2, Numbers 11:25. Salvation: In Psalms 18:9-12, David speaks of his deliverance from Saul using apocalyptic language. Judgment: The idea of God's coming in the clouds is also associated with His judgment of his enemies (Isaiah 19:1). We know from chapter 20 that God used the Assyrians as instruments of His wrath on Egypt, yet it says, "The LORD rides on a swift cloud..., Egypt will totter at His presence." God came to Egypt in judgment in 480 BC. His presence was made known in judgment. But it was the Assyrians who were literally present. Similar language is used of Nineveh's fall (Nahum 1:3, 5-6): We know that Nineveh was destroyed, not by a literal coming of God out of heaven on the clouds, but by the invading armies of the Chaldeans and Medes in 612 BC.
When Jesus said he would come on the clouds, He was using the apocalyptic language of the prophets to identify himself as the Messiah, the Judge. Caiaphas reacted the way he did because he knew that only God came on clouds, that was a claim to deity. He knew that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah of Daniel 7. Notice what Jesus says to Caiaphas in Mark 14:62: It says that they will see Him "coming with the clouds of heaven" while He is "sitting at the right hand of the Power." If this is literal and bodily, how could He do both at the same time? This is clearly apocalyptic language. His coming with the clouds is proof of His sitting on the right hand of power.
John Lightfoot says this,
"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man. Then shall the Son of man give a proof of himself, who they would not before acknowledge: a proof, indeed, not in any visible figure, but in vengeance and judgment so visible, that all the tribes of the earth shall be forced to acknowledge him the avenger. The Jews would not know him: now they shall know him, whether they will or no, Isa. xxvi. II. Many times they asked of him a sign: now a sign shall appear, that he is the true Messiah, whom they despised, derided, and crucified, namely, his signal vengeance and fury, such as never any nation felt from the first foundations of the world."
Our text says that at the time of His coming, "and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn." The word "tribes" is a reference to Israel. Gentiles are not referred to as "tribes" in the Bible. There were tribes in Israel at that time, but since its destruction in AD 70, there have been no "tribes" in Israel. This reminds us of Revelation 1:7: John said that Jesus was coming "soon" and "quickly" and that the "Jews," those who pierced him, would mourn at his coming.
We must see that this is not a physical, bodily coming of Christ, but a coming in judgment. The idea of "seeing" here is not physically seeing but "to recognize, to be aware, to perceive." The destruction of Jerusalem would cause the tribes of Israel to recognize that Jesus was indeed the Son of man and the Messiah.
Thomas Newton (1754) said,
"Our Saviour proceedeth in the same figurative style, ver. 30 - "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.' The plain meaning of it is, that the destruction of Jerusalem will be such a remarkable instance of divine vengeance, such a signal manifestation of Christ's power and glory, that all the Jewish tribes shall mourn, and many will be led from thence to acknowledge Christ and the Christian religion. In the ancient prophets, God is frequently described as coming in the 'clouds' upon any remarkable interposition and manifestation of his power; and the same description is here applied to Christ. The destruction of Jerusalem will be as ample a manifestation of Christ's power and glory as if he was himself to come visibly in the clouds of heaven."
The prophetic language of the Old Testament clearly shows that the Lord coming on a cloud speaks of his coming in judgment. And that is exactly what it means in the New Testament when it speaks of Christ coming on clouds. People saw him come in judgment, but it was not a visible appearance of Christ in person. Since Jerusalem was destroyed, just as He said it would be, why would it be hard to believe that He came, just as he said he would? The destruction of Jerusalem was as substantial a manifestation of Christ's power and glory, as if he was himself to come visibly in the clouds of heaven.
Jesus Receives His Kingdom - At His Ascension7
...and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matt. 24:30
Why did Jesus' pronouncement of judgment upon the Temple prompt the disciples to ask of His "coming"? Because they understood such an event to be the definitive establishment of the Messianic Kingdom and Christ's acting as Messianic judge. Jesus words to them in response were a direct allusion to Daniel 7:13-14:
I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.
Notice the direction of this "coming" is not down but UP!! This is not speaking of the Final Advent, but of Christ's coming up to the Father to receive His Kingdom and rule from heaven. This is a painfully obvious fact that many miss.
This then makes perfect sense of Jesus' words to the then-living High Priest that he would from that point on see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven:
Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matt. 26:64)
Notice the "sitting" (in heaven) and the "coming" are intimately connected. The "coming" is a coming to the throne, to assume His kingdom and dominion, [and] this definitively happened at the Resurrection/Ascension, and was vindicated and proven by the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem to those who murdered Him.
Again, remember that the disciples would have interpreted Jesus' words in light of their OT imagery and context. Jesus had just used typical cosmic imagery used to describe severe judgment, and then used coming language from a passage speaking of His receiving the Messianic Kingdom. The OT is replete with language of YHWH "coming" in judgment, and not once did it mean that He literally set foot on earth or arrived in any bodily form. For example:
The burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst. (Isaiah 19:1)
If we were to interpret this passage [literally], we would be forced to believe that YHWH actually sat atop a cloud, rode on into Egypt, dismounted, and then started kicking over idols.
For some other passages connecting clouds and judgment, see 2 Samuel 22:12; Jeremiah 4:13; Ezekiel 30:3; Nahum 1:3; Zephaniah 1:14?15.
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1. Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation, p. 350.
2. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (1911), p. 454.
3. W. C. White letter, April 18, 1929.
4. Smith, p. 626.
5. David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance, pp. 64-66.
6. David B. Curtis, "The Sign of His Coming (Matthew 24:30-31)", http://ecclesia.org/truth/mat07.html, extracted Aug. 31, 2009, edited for space.
7. Dee Dee Warren, "It's not the End of the World!", http://www.preteristsite.com/plain/warrenend.html, extracted Aug. 31, 2009, edited for space.