Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

"A Spirit of Life" (Leaving a State of the Dead)

Coming Out of a Soul-Sleep State of the Dead
And Into Seeing the Living Spirit

By Ramone Romero - May 9 & June 1, 2008

I came out of Adventism seven years ago, and officially left five years ago (see: Why I Left Adventism), but it was not until recently that a stronghold of Adventism came out of me. This is the story of how I was brought out of fear and misunderstanding and into beholding something greater and more awesome than I had ever imagined or hoped. I'm not getting into the particulars or verses here at this time, but I might do so in the future (or I might not). But for now, it's joyful enough with me to just share how He brought me out of this and into resting in Him once again. (UPDATE: What I wrote at this link is as close as I ever got to writing about 'the particulars or verses.')

A Contrived Hope

When a friend died in 2002, I went through a time of personal grieving. In dealing with the loss, I wrote a letter to my deceased friend. I believed the Lord had saved my friend, and so I tried to theraputically write that the next thing my friend would see would be Jesus coming. I tried to believe as I was taught that my friend's soul was "sleeping" and knew nothing right now. I tried. I knew the act of writing the letter was theraputic for me, and I had been going through the grieving process well and God had been helping me deal with the loss and healing my heart about it. But when this point came, when I wrote the words about the next thing my friend would see after "waking up", it began to feel fake. Contrived. Like I was pushing it, trying to believe. That internal witness of the Spirit wasn't there. The healing of the Lord was not fully in it. It was supposed to be "right", but the Life wasn't there in it. It was supposed to be something that we were excited about, a great hope, comfort and assurance. But it felt empty.

Years later I would peruse the online forum at the Former Adventist Fellowship, and would find many people who believed in the traditional Christian belief about the state of the dead -- that the saved go to heaven when they die. Some were very vehement about it, too! I gently (I hope) argued with them from time to time, but recognized I was in a minority opinion. We agreed about Sabbath and agreed about almost every other thing. Well, not everything, but the big BIG fundamentals that were distorted in Adventism. They and I knew how to read Scripture in context, how to let Scripture interpret itself, how the New Testament interprets the Old, and how everything points to Jesus Christ.

So it kind of bugged me a little that the "state of the dead" thing was an issue at all. Soul-sleep seemed to make the most sense to me, and it seemed like people were just jumping on the Christian bandwagon by abandoning soul-sleep. In discussing things with them, though, after awhile the Biblicalness of soul-sleep began to falter. I began to see smaller and smaller evidence for it in Scripture. It still made more sense to me, but was becoming increasingly difficult to defend.

A Brief Glimpse Into the Eternal

One day here at home I opened up as best as I could to believing the immortality of the soul, believing that our soul does not sleep but that we go to Jesus when we die. For a moment it seemed like my spiritual eyes were open, like I beheld an eternity, a continuity, a continuing-ness that was wonderful and that was beyond what I had known before. In sight of such an ever-present, continuing reality (the undying spirit), life as I know it would look a lot different! Imagine how we would live if we knew how continuing our life (our spirit) is! But this moment soon closed as thoughts returned about the 'illogicalness' of believing in the immortality of the soul. So I held onto soul-sleep by a thin thread (or it held onto me?) but recognized that it didn't have the most Biblical support. I shelved the issue.

The matter of the state of the dead (about "soul sleep") was not finally settled for me until a few months ago when God used a study by Cherry Brandstater to help me come to peace about these things. Prior to that, even though I knew about spirit, soul and body, there were two primary stumbling blocks that kept me from seeing the simple truth about these things.

My Logic Versus God's

The first stumbling block for me was that "the resurrection" just didn't seem to make sense... why "go to heaven" and then "come back" at the resurrection? In short, the "logic" I had developed after having started out based on a soul-sleep belief -- this logic blinded me. Part of it was pride, too.

Through the study I was reading, it was emphasized how we are created to be three-part beings, and that God made us to be whole. Death is an unnatural separation of what God created, something not meant to happen to what God created to be one. Even though our bodies die and our soul & spirit are saved, we are still short of the wholeness that God created us for until the "redemption of our bodies" (which is how Paul referred to the resurrection in Romans 8 -- notice he never refers to the resurrection as the redemption of our souls or spirits).

A Hidden Persuader - The Stronghold of Fear

The main stumbling block to seeing the truth about soul-sleep, however, was that there was a spirit of fear guarding the belief. I grew up being occasionally taught that soul-sleep was a defense against being deceived by spirits impersonating loved ones. And then later when I read the original version of Ellen White's The Great Controversy (found in Spiritual Gifts, Vol.1), the same thing was expressed in strong, uncompromising and fearful language. I.e., my soul held onto the belief because I believed the belief would guard me from being deceived.

I realized this while reading Cherry's study, as the Spirit brought the scriptures together. She put fun "quiz" questions at the end of each chapter, and as I answered one of them correctly, saw the evidence and considered just resting in the belief, I suddenly felt fearful of stepping into believing the Christian teaching. The fear inside said, "But if I believe this, how do I know I will not be fooled, tricked or deceived by spirits?"

And that's when I knew where the fear was coming from, because I had been through this before with the Sabbath issue! (See: Why I Left Adventism) When someone had told me the gospel truth that we are saved by faith in Christ in the end times, and not saved by Sabbath-keeping, I realized I had held onto Sabbath as a kind of insurance policy -- just in case "Christ alone" isn't enough, if you keep Sabbath then you can be sure you won't be deceived in the end times. (Ironically this "insurance" actually made you feel less sure!) I called this "taking the big step", and a friend did a physical illustration of it at the time which I ended up drawing recently...

The Big Step!
(click to read the story of this picture)

So I took another "big step" with believing in the state of the dead the way the Bible speaks of it. Just like I let God keep me safe in the end times (instead of "Sabbath" keeping me safe), I chose to let Him keep me safe from deception about the dead (instead of "soul sleep" keeping me safe). And as soon as I realized these things, I was quickly reminded that the New Testament gives us multiple safeguards and tells us to test the spirits and not believe just any spirit out there! The gospel is our safeguard against deception, not a sketchy belief about the state of the dead!

It occurs to me now that the SDA belief about the state of the dead has stunted many Adventists' spiritual discernment. The belief serves as a false safeguard against deception. Unfortunately, along with the SDA belief comes a fear of spirits -- including fear of the moving of the Holy Spirit. The false safeguard ends up shielding people from being deceived by spirits impersonating dead people, but also ends up shielding them from more intimate contact with the Holy Spirit -- and the Spirit is in fact our best protection against other spirits! Additionally, the belief does not shield us from being deceived by false teachings in other departments (for example, swallowing Ellen White's unbiblical revelations from the spirits she was in contact with).

Letting Go and Falling Into His Arms

So I chose to believe in what He was showing me and left soul-sleep behind, and left my logic behind (that is, my "This makes more sense!" beliefs I had constructed to defend soul-sleep). I felt Him calling and leading me, and so I held His hand and He led me out of my "theological building", so to speak. This picture ("Leaving My Building") was exactly how I felt and how I saw it!

"Leaving My Building (1)"
(click to read the story of this picture)

This second picture is what I knew was there behind me as I walked away, and is also what I felt happening to my old beliefs:

"Leaving My Building (2)"
(click to read the story of this picture)

Several pictures actually came out of letting go of soul-sleep. But the one that I love the most from that experience is this one - "Eternity":

(click to read the story of this picture)

It's a picture of me beholding with joy and wonder the eternal soul and spirit He has put in me. Really seeing that He has really really put an eternal soul and spirit in me! Oh my God! My Lord! What have You put in me!!! Thank You!!! I will live forever! Thank You!!!


See also: "Safe From Being Misled" (at Heart For Adventists)

And also read the story of this picture: "Glorified!"

'Glorified' - click to read the story!
Click to read the story of this picture


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