The Trinity – Where is the vision to back it up?
Very prominent within the institutions of professed Christianity is the concept of the Trinity which declares that God is One, yet three Persons. Belief in the Trinity is a pre-requisite for membership in the World Council of Churches (WCC), as stated on their official website as the Basis of the WCC. The Basis of the WCC, adopted by the Third Assembly (New Delhi 1961), states that the WCC is: “a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
(https://www.oikoumene.org/en/about-us/self-understanding-vision/basis” retrieved July 21, 2019 – the official website of the World Council of Churches).
The concept of the Trinity is not merely that there is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but that the three make up the one God of Scripture. So, the question arises, is there a clear statement of this concept of God in Scripture? Is this concept backed by clear Divine revelation?
Revelation through visions and dreams
The Bible indicates that God uses direct revelation through visions and dreams to His chosen servants, the prophets, as a primary means of revealing truth – “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.” (Numbers 12:6).
True Christianity boils down to a choice between Roman Catholicism which gives primacy to tradition and historic Seventh-day Adventism which gives primacy to prophecy. It’s one or the other. No Sunday-keeping church, for example, has any credibility outside of Roman Catholicism because there is no basis for Sunday observance except the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. There are only eight references to the first day of the week in the New Testament and none of those references even suggest a change of the Sabbath from the Seventh day of the week to the first; neither is there any indication that the first day of the week (Sunday) has any special regard from the Divine perspective. The Roman Catholic Church was responsible for replacing the Bible Sabbath with Sunday and Rome has openly declared Sunday Observance to be the mark of her authority:
“Sunday is our mark of authority. . . The church is above the Bible, and this transference of Sabbath observance is proof of that fact” (The Catholic Record, London, Ontario, Sept. 1, 1923).
Rome has even challenged Protestants as to their basis for keeping Sunday and they have not been able to give any rational response (Catholic Mirror, Sept. 2-23, 1893, – series of four editorials published Sept. 2, 9,16,23).
Historic Seventh-day Adventism, however, regards prophecy as the primary identifier of truth and the true God. The movement was founded on an interpretation of Dan. 8:14, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”, which, based on other supporting specifications, is understood to mean that God would raise up a movement in 1844 to restore truth (See article “If Jesus, Why not Sanctuary Cleansing?”). This movement is understood to be the Seventh-day Adventist movement. It is their understanding that God has cited the certainty of His prophetic utterances as proof that He, Yahweh, is the true God:
“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand” (Isa. 46:9-10).
See also Num. 12:6; Isa. 41:21-23; 42:8,9.
They keep the Sabbath as a sign of their submission to the true God who created the world in six days and set aside the seventh day of the week as a sign and reminder that He is the Creator:
“And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” (Eze. 20:20).
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Ex. 20:8, 11.
Roman Catholic tradition versus Divine revelation
Roman Catholics, in keeping with the primacy that they give to tradition, have also formulated the doctrine of the Trinity. This they regard as the central doctrine of Catholic faith even although they acknowledge that it is not precisely taught in the Bible. They say:
“The mystery of the trinity is the central doctrine of Catholic faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the church” (Handbook for Today’s Catholic, p. 12).
“Our opponents sometimes claim that no belief should be held dogmatically which is not explicitly stated in the Scripture . . . . . But the Protestant Churches have themselves accepted such dogmas as the Trinity for which there is no such precise authority in the Gospels.” (Life Magazine, Oct. 30, 1950).
They identify the doctrine as a mystery and one that they have developed and embraced based on their reliance on tradition. This doctrine along with the change of the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first, are cited as evidence of their claim that they have the authority to make prescriptions beyond what is contained in the Bible.
Historic Seventh-day Adventism, however, rejected the Trinity as being unscriptural and pagan in origin. A sample of the view that was taken by the historic Seventh-day Adventists is seen in the following answer that was given in a Review article by J. N. Loughborough to the question, “What serious objection is there to the doctrine of the Trinity?” The answer was:
“There are many objections which we might urge, but on account of our limited space we shall reduce them to the three following: 1. It is contrary to common sense. 2. It is contrary to scripture. 3. Its origin is pagan and fabulous.” (J. N. Loughborough, Review and Herald, Nov. 5, 1861).
Formal definition of the Trinity contrasted with Scripture
The Trinity doctrine asserts that there is one God who is made up of three persons. Some persons prefer to use the term Godhead, but in essence hold to the same concept as is held by those who use the term Trinity. Standard definitions of Trinity are as follows:
“Trinity n Christianity the union of three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one God”. (Collins Student’s Dictionary).
“(the Trinity) (in Christian belief) the three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) that make up God.” (Little Oxford Dictionary).
“Trinity noun in Christianity, the union of Father, Son and Holy Ghost in one God.” (Chambers English Dictionary).
In contrast, the Bible clearly teaches that there is one Supreme Being, God, the Father and that His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, is the “express image” of Him, is of the same God-nature and is similarly worshipped, though subject to Him. There is no other Being who is of God-status. A few scripture references below illustrate the consistent Biblical position:
“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Cor. 8:6).
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3).
“One God and Father of all, who is above all” (Eph. 4:6).
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” ( Heb. 1: 1-3).
“Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
It is clear that the Son has been given all authority and power by the Father, so that the Son’s authority should be regarded as the authority of the Father Himself, notwithstanding the Father being the ultimate and supreme authority. It is very similar to what happened in Egypt when Pharaoh exalted Joseph. Describing it, the Bible says that Pharaoh said to Joseph:
“Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt” (Gen. 41:40-44).
Position revealed in Great Controversy vision
This Biblical position was held by the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist movement and confirmed by the Great Controversy vision that Ellen G. White received more than once and was specifically instructed to write it out. This she did in 1858 under the most forbidding circumstances of partial paralysis after Satan tried to kill her specifically to prevent her writing it.
The Great Controversy vision is undoubtedly one of the pivotal revelations given to the Seventh-day Adventist Movement, in accordance with Scripture, that provides a glimpse of heaven and the origin of sin before sin even started on earth with Adam and Eve. A background to the Great Controversy vision, and consideration of its contents, reveal that it is one of the most significant revelations that helps to provide context for us to understand God, Christ, Satan, sin and the plan of salvation.
In relating the vision, Ellen G. White said:
“The Lord has shown me that Satan was an honored angel in heaven, next to JESUS CHRIST. His countenance was mild, expressive of happiness like the other angels. His forehead was high and broad, and showed great intelligence. His form was perfect. He had a noble, majestic bearing. And I saw that when God said to his SON, Let us make man in our image, Satan was jealous of JESUS. He wished to be consulted concerning the formation of man. He was filled with envy, jealousy and hatred. He wished to be the highest in heaven, next to GOD, and receive the highest honors. Until this time all heaven was in order, harmony and perfect subjection to the government of God.
It was the highest sin to rebel against the order and will of God. All heaven seemed in commotion. The angels were marshaled in companies with a commanding angel at their head. All the angels were astir. Satan was insinuating against the government of God, ambitious to exalt himself, and unwilling to submit to the authority of JESUS. Some of the angels sympathized with Satan in his rebellion, and others strongly contended for the honor and wisdom of God in giving authority to his Son. And there was contention with the angels. Satan and his affected ones, who were striving to reform the government of God, wished to look into his unsearchable wisdom to ascertain his purpose in exalting JESUS, and endowing him with such unlimited power and command. They rebelled against the authority of the SON of GOD, and all the angels were summoned to appear before the FATHER, to have their cases decided. And it was decided that Satan should be expelled from heaven, and that the angels, all who joined with Satan in the rebellion, should be turned out with him. Then there was war in heaven. Angels were engaged in the battle; Satan wished to conquer the SON of GOD, and those who were submissive to his will. But the good and true angels prevailed, and Satan, with his followers, was driven from heaven.” (E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1, pp. 17, 18.
She also said:
“The Sovereign of the universe was not alone in His work of beneficence. He had an associate – a co-worker who could appreciate His purposes”.
“Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God , was one with the eternal Father – one in nature , in character, in purpose – the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God.”(E. G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 34).
Speaking of the creation, she said:
“His Son would carry out His will and His purposes, but would do nothing of Himself alone. The Father’s will would be fulfilled in Him.” (E. G. White, Signs of the Times, Jan. 9, 1879, pr. 2).
One of the Most Pivotal Revelations Ever
The Great Controversy vision could be likened, in terms of its impact on spiritual understanding, to Einstein’s Mass-Energy equation and the impact it has had on scientific understanding and development.
The year 1905 has been labelled the “Miracle Year” on account of four publications that were put out by Albert Einstein during that year that changed the world forever. One of those papers presented to the world the famous equation E=mc2 that showed for the first time how mass could be converted to enormous amounts of nuclear energy. Since then, on account of the use of that discovery, the balance of power in the world has been changed, with those countries that were first in utilizing the knowledge becoming nuclear powers and becoming the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, having veto power over all security matters in the world that come to the United Nations. Of course, the economic benefits are also enormous, affecting access to nuclear power as a source of alternative energy and the understanding of the source of the sun’s energy among other things. Like the truth contained in E=mc2, some truths always existed but was not generally known until it was revealed; and when revealed, it opens a whole new world of understanding. A truth like that was the Great Controversy vision that was first written out in 1858.
The circumstances surrounding the revelation of the Great Controversy vision shows that heaven itself regards it as most significant – a major game changer, and that Satan himself and the powers of darkness sought relentlessly to prevent it from being revealed because it is one of the greatest bulwarks against the last-days deceptions of the devil. It will be seen that a whole new world of understanding of truth is opened to the world and some of the satanic confusion and deception that it exposes will also be seen. This revelation of truth has stood like a bulwark to protect us from delusion. To appreciate the significance of what we are speaking about here, we should be reminded of 2 Thess. 2:9-12 that warns us of Satan’s last-days efforts to deceive people so that they might be damned. Jesus also warned that Satan’s delusions in the last days will be so overpowering that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the very elect (Matt. 24:24).
How the revelation was given
Before one even starts to contemplate the enormous significance of what was revealed, here’s a little background, in the words of the prophet to whom this revelation was given, explaining that this vision was given ten years earlier, now repeated with specific instructions given to write it out and a warning given that Satan would try to prevent it being written out. And she further related how Satan tried to kill her in order to prevent her from writing it. Here’s the account:
“In the spring of 1858, we visited Ohio, and attended conferences at Green Springs, Gilboa and Lovett’s Grove. Bro. Tillotson took us from Green Springs in his carriage to the places of meeting. At Lovett’s Grove the Lord met with us, and his blessing rested upon us. First-day afternoon there was to be a funeral at the school-house where our meetings were held. My husband was invited to give a discourse on the occasion. The people could not all get into the house. My husband was blessed with freedom, and the power of truth seemed to affect the hearers.
When he closed his remarks, I felt urged by the Spirit of the Lord to bear my testimony. As I was led to speak upon the coming of Christ and the resurrection and the cheering hope of the Christian, my soul triumphed in God. I drank in rich draughts of salvation. Heaven, sweet heaven, was the magnet to draw my soul upward, and I was wrapt in a vision of God’s glory. Many important things were there revealed to me for the church.” (E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, p. 265).
“In this vision at Lovett’s Grove, most of the matter of the Great Controversy which I had seen ten years before, was repeated, and I was shown that I must write it out. That I should have to contend with the powers of darkness, for Satan would make strong efforts to hinder me, but angels of God would not leave me in the conflict, that in God must I put my trust.
Monday we commenced our journey homeward with Bro. and Sr. Tillotson. The next day we took the cars at Freemont for Jackson, Mich. While riding in the cars we arranged our plans for writing and publishing the book called the Great Controversy, immediately on our return home. I was then as well as usual. On the arrival of the train at Jackson, we went to Bro. Palmer’s. We had been in the house but a short time, when, as I was conversing with Sr. P., my tongue refused to utter what I wished to say, and seemed large and numb. A strange, cold sensation struck my heart, passed over my head, and down my right side. For a while I was insensible; but was aroused by the voice of earnest prayer. I tried to use my left arm and limb, but they were perfectly useless. For a short time I did not expect to live. It was the third shock I had received of paralysis, and although within fifty miles of home, I did not expect to see my children again. I called to mind the triumphant season I had enjoyed at Lovett’s Grove, and thought it was my last testimony, and felt reconciled to die.
Still the earnest prayers of my friends were ascending to heaven for me, and soon a prickling sensation was felt in my arm and limb, and I praised the Lord that I could use them a little. The Lord heard and answered the faithful prayers of his children, and the power of Satan was broken. That night I suffered much, yet the next day was strengthened to return home. For several weeks I could not feel the pressure of the hand, nor the coldest water poured upon my head. In rising to walk, I often staggered, and sometimes fell to the floor. In this condition I commenced to write the Great Controversy. I could write at first but one page a day, then rest three; but as I progressed, my strength increased. The numbness in my head did not seem to becloud my mind, and before I closed that work, the effect of the shock had entirely left me.
At the time of the conference at Battle Creek, June, 1858, Sr. Hutchins, who now sleeps in Jesus, was greatly afflicted with sickness, and we all felt that she would then go down into the grave unless the Lord raised her up. While praying for her the power of God rested upon us all, and as it came upon me, I was taken off in vision. In that vision I was shown that in the sudden attack at Jackson, Satan designed to take my life to hinder the work I was about to write; but angels of God were sent to my rescue, to raise me above the effects of Satan’s attack. I saw, among other things, that I should be blest with better health than before the attack at Jackson.”
(E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, p. 270-272).
The Great Controversy
In the account given above, references to the Great Controversy being published are not references to the popular book that now carries that name. The book that she started to write, which she was only able to write one page a day then rest three, is a little book that she published later that year, 1858, entitled: “SPIRITUAL GIFTS – The Controversy Between Christ and His Angels, and Satan and His Angels”.
This book, that Satan tried to kill her to prevent her from writing, which she endured much suffering to write, being able to write hardly more than one page every four days, she began with the words quoted above, the first part of which is repeated below:
“The Lord has shown me that Satan was an honored angel in heaven, next to JESUS CHRIST. His countenance was mild, expressive of happiness like the other angels. His forehead was high and broad, and showed great intelligence. His form was perfect. He had a noble, majestic bearing. And I saw that when God said to his SON, Let us make man in our image, Satan was jealous of JESUS. He wished to be consulted concerning the formation of man. He was filled with envy, jealousy and hatred. He wished to be the highest in heaven, next to GOD, and receive the highest honors.” (E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1, pp. 17).
You’ll notice, in her account of her experience while writing the vision, that after the first few pages were written, the affliction gradually diminished. The damage to Satan’s disguise and the true framework for understanding everything else would have already been laid out. Among the things revealed in that framework were the following: (i) the position of the Father as the One Supreme Being who was called God; (ii) that Jesus was the genuine Son of God, having the same God-nature; (iii) that it was the Father who exalted Jesus and that that was the root of Satan’s rebellion; (iv) that Satan was next in honour to God’s Son, Jesus; (v) that there was no third God-being but that Satan wanted to be the third worshipful being; (vi) that when God said “Let us make man in our image”, it was God, the Father speaking and it was Jesus He was speaking to and to nobody else; (vii) that God and Christ were individual persons with shape and form and not ethereal entities that were diffused inside of the angels. If one understands the significance of this revelation and the fact that it is the distortions of these very facts that form the basis of Satan’s last-days ammunition to deceive the world, one will understand why Satan tried to prevent that information getting out.
Hierarchy in heaven – a direct revelation
It is clear, from the report of the vision, as given by Ellen G. White that there was a hierarchy in heaven in which God, the Father was supreme and regarded as the Sovereign, His Son, Jesus Christ was next and then Lucifer was third. Lucifer was a created being while Jesus Christ was Divine, being of the same nature as God, the Father. One might query whether the omission of any mention of a third divine being necessarily precludes the existence of such a person. In this case, it is more than mere omission that is evident in the report, it is a definite exclusion. When Christ, for example is referred to as the “only being” that could enter into the counsels and purposes of God, there is a definite exclusion of any other being.
In other places where the same vision was reported, the idea is the same, for example, in the Story of Redemption it is reported as follows:
“Lucifer in heaven, before his rebellion, was a high and exalted angel, next in honor to God’s dear Son…. Christ, God’s dear Son, had the preeminence over all the angelic host. He was one with the Father before the angels were created. Lucifer was envious of Christ, and gradually assumed command which devolved on Christ alone.
The great Creator assembled the heavenly host, that He might in the presence of all the angels confer special honor upon His Son…. The Father then made known that it was ordained by Himself that Christ His Son, should be equal with Himself; so that wherever was the presence of His Son, it was as His own presence. The word of the Son was to be obeyed as readily as the word of the Father. His Son He had invested with authority to command the heavenly host.” (Ellen G. White, the Story of Redemption, p.13.)
New belief in the Trinity rejects the most notable pioneers
The SDA church has since embraced the Trinity, citing statements by Ellen G. White concerning a three-person Godhead as a primary basis for doing so. In that view, the Father is not inherently the Supreme Being; He is simply a co-equal among three Persons. The representation of the Father as Supreme, by that view, should only be understood as an arrangement based on assumed roles. Jesus is represented as Sovereign who obeys no one. And the Holy Spirit is represented as a co-equal Divine Being who is as much entitled to be worshipped as the Father Himself. That perspective is contrary to Scripture and contrary to direct revelations in the Spirit of Prophecy. The question is now being asked, where is the vision to back up the change? Further, by what authority has a view of God, that was backed up by vision given more than once, been changed to a concept that was once labelled as pagan and unscriptural by the founders of a movement that God raised up, as attested to by prophecy (Dan. 8:14)?
There is nowhere in the Bible that says God is three-in-one or triune. This concept is at best an assumption, yet it is stated in most church creeds as a required belief, even while many of the churches claim sola scriptura – the Bible, and the Bible alone. Where did that belief come from? – From Paganism, and brought into Christianity by Rome through a series of deliberations starting at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The Jews had no such concept of God but the pagans around them did. The early Apostles had no such concept, but the pagans around them did. The early Adventist pioneers had no such concept but the churches around them did. I have already quoted J. N. Loughborough, a notable pioneer, expressing the rejection of the Trinity that was common to the other early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers. Two other notable Adventist pioneers expressed similar views as follows:
“The greatest fault we find in the Reformation is, the Reformers stopped reforming. Had they gone on, and onward, till they had left the last vestige of Papacy behind, such as natural immortality, sprinkling, the trinity, and Sunday-keeping, the church would now be free from her unscriptural errors.” (James White, Review & Herald, Feb. 7, 1856).
“The doctrine of the Trinity was established in the church by the Council of Nicea, A.D. 325. This doctrine destroys the personality of God, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (J. N. Andrews, Review & Herald, March 6, 1855).
Some scholars today question the scholastic acumen of the early pioneers. But I would challenge them to show me a scholar today who was as gifted as J. N. Andrews, who also clearly rejected the Trinity. James White was not only the husband of the prophet Ellen G. White, but the one who above all others could have been viewed as “the Apostle Paul” of early Seventh-day Adventism. Ellen G. White herself never once used that expression to describe God; and she remained a faithful member of the church during her entire lifetime during which the SDA Church held a non-trinitarian view of God, as was upheld by the other SDA Pioneers and as was reflected in “The Fundamental Principles of Seventh Day Adventists”, published in the 1889 Year Book of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Roman Edict to persecute those who reject the Trinity
In contrast to the Jews, the early Apostles and the Seventh-day Adventist Pioneers who did not hold a Trinity concept of God, the Roman emperors, who had a tradition of persecuting Christians, made the Trinity their basis for continuing to persecute God’s people. These pagan emperors, who claimed to have accepted Christianity, showed their lack of conversion by continuing to persecute those who did not accept the form of Christianity that they claimed to have embraced. The form of Christianity that they embraced was identified by belief in the Trinity – and this they made a standard requirement for all who fell within their dominion. As declared in the Edict of Thessalonica, all who rejected the Trinity were to be persecuted; and history bears record of the fact that faithful Christians were driven into the wilderness and into the desolate parts of the world, fleeing from persecution, because they refused to accept the Trinity.
The Edict of Thessalonica was issued in 380 AD by the three reigning emperors of Rome, and gave the formal declaration that belief in the Trinity defines who is Catholic and authorized persecution of all those who did not believe in the Trinity. The Edict was as follows:
“EMPERORS GRATIAN, VALENTINIAN AND THEODOSIUS AUGUSTI. EDICT TO THE PEOPLE OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict.
GIVEN IN THESSALONICA ON THE THIRD DAY FROM THE CALENDS OF MARCH, DURING THE FIFTH CONSULATE OF GRATIAN AUGUSTUS AND FIRST OF THEODOSIUS AUGUSTUS
CODEX THEODOSIANUS, XVI.1.2”
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Thessalonica, retrieved July 21, 2019).
If for no other reason, certainly the history of the Trinity doctrine, as an instrument of persecution of God’s faithful people who had to flee into the wilderness and remain there for 1260 years, as was prophesied (Rev. 12:6, 14), should be enough reason to cause any sincere Christian to reconsider whether the Trinity concept is of God. Instead, we are hearing such superficial queries as to whether everything that is practiced or believed by Rome is wrong; and whether the pioneers were beyond being in error. At the very minimum, it is hardly likely that the persecutors of God’s people would have been more enlightened to the truth about God than the people that God Himself had raised up.
This leads to the matter of a present question that has agitated many persons. How does one treat with a situation where a direct revelation like the Great Controversy vision of a hierarchy in heaven, appears to be conflicting with some later utterances of the prophet regarding a three-person Godhead? To answer this question, one might start by referring to the Biblical statement that explains how Divine revelations are given – “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.” (Numbers 12:6).
Though we, or an angel say otherwise . . . .
Seventh-day Adventists must ask themselves whether they give primacy to prophecy and direct revelation from God or whether they have been converted to the Roman Catholic position of giving heavier weight to tradition. This question is raised against the background that Seventh-day Adventists claim, as a strong reason for belief in the Trinity, the fact that Ellen G. White has made statements regarding the Godhead comprising Three Persons – even though she did not say that the Three Persons are co-equal, or that they make up the one God of scripture, as the Trinity asserts; neither did she describe God as a Trinity. Have the utterances of Ellen White, when not substantiated by direct revelation in visions and dreams, now become the standard measurement of truth? The Bible clearly places direct revelation through visions and dreams on a different plain from ordinary human utterances, even if such utterances are from persons who have themselves received visions and dreams otherwise. In relation to direct revelations that were given to him, the apostle Paul said:
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed”.
“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ”
Gal. 1:8, 12.
The apostle Paul said: “though we, or an angel from heaven . . .”, thus including even himself. Not even the apostle Paul himself had the authority to speak anything contrary to what was directly revealed to him. Ellen G. White has openly declared that at one point, when not in vision, she could not even understand basic Bible discussions that her brethren were having, and they fully saw a difference between her personal views and the things that were specifically revealed to her in visions. She said:
“My mind was locked, as it were, and I could not comprehend the meaning of the scriptures we were studying. This was one of the greatest sorrows of my life. I was in this condition of mind until all the principal points of our faith were made clear to our minds, in harmony with the Word of God. The brethren knew that when not in vision, I could not understand these matters, and they accepted as light direct from heaven the revelations given.” (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages Book 1, p. 207).
The thoughts expressed by both the apostle Paul and Ellen G. White accord fully with a pronouncement that was made by God Himself. God said:
“If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.” (Num. 12:6).
The big question
So, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has now embraced the Trinity (some persons say, three-person Godhead – semantics aside, it’s the same thing, based on the way they define it), which was once rejected by the founders of the movement as pagan and unscriptural. They have now embraced a position that is at variance with the great controversy vision given to Ellen G. White that excludes all possibility of a third God-being. So, the big question is: where is the vision to back up the change? Where is the vision to back it up?
We continue to hear that the Godhead is a mystery, contrary to the Apostle Paul’s words that the Godhead is one of the invisible things of God that is clearly seen by the things that are made – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). The mystery argument is used to evade answering questions about certain clearly unscriptural assumptions and suppositions concerning the Trinity concept.
Like the Sunday issue that has only eight references to it in the New Testament, none of which justify ascribing holiness to Sunday, the Godhead concept is referred to in the New Testament only three times, of which none of the three references justify attaching to it a three-in-one concept of God. Quite to the contrary, two of those references speak of the Godhead as being clearly revealed in creation. One of those references is the one quoted above (Rom. 1:20).
Another of the three references says that the Godhead should not be thought of as gold, silver or anything graven by man, since we are the offspring of God – “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” (Acts 17:29). In this reference, yet again, it is evident that the Godhead is clearly seen, being revealed in the make-up of humans, who are God’s offspring, made in the image of God, after His likeness, in much the same way that Seth was in the likeness of Adam, his father – “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth” (Gen. 5:1-3).
The third reference to Godhead says that Jesus had the fullness of the Godhead (the divine nature) dwelling in Him – “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). There is no mystery in understanding that Jesus had the nature of His Father, being the only begotten Son of God – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16); Jesus is the “brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3).
So, where is the mystery? Where did that idea come from, that the Godhead (the divine nature) is three persons in one? That is indeed a mystery – a man-made mystery, however, and certainly not a divine mystery! The Bible teaches no such thing. Therefore, the question is being asked again, where is the vision or divine revelation to back up the change from the view of God that the Israelites, the Apostles and later the early Adventist pioneers had, to the present view that God is three-in-one?
Heavenly hierarchy backed up again by direct revelation
Another vision that also excludes all possibility of a third God-being was given to John the Revelator. The vision is given in Revelation chapters 4 and 5. In describing what he saw, John said that “one sat on the throne” (Rev. 4:2). Of this Person seated on the throne, John said that the living creatures in heaven “rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev. 4:8). And “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. 4:11). Clearly, this Person is the Supreme Being – the Creator. Further, John said that He had a book in His hand that no one in heaven or earth was found worthy to open or look upon except Christ, the Lamb. He said:
“And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever”. (Rev. 5:2-14).
Apart from the one Supreme Being who sat on the throne who is called the Almighty and is clearly described as the one that “liveth for ever and ever” and who “created all things”, no other being “in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon” except Christ, the Lamb of whom it was said: “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” Who else in the entire universe is worthy? The angel said that there was nobody else. So, the heavenly host ascribe blessing and honour and glory and power “unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:13) and to nobody else, because they only are worthy. Who else in the entire universe is worthy and what is their claim to such ‘worth-ship’? Let anyone who has the answer speak.
Where is the vision?
Ellen G. White saw in vision that there was an angel in heaven who was “next in honor to God’s dear Son” (Ellen G.White, The Story of Redemption, p. 13). This angel envied Christ’s position and wanted to be worshipped. Isaiah, speaking of this angel said that he wanted to be “like the most high” (Isa. 14:14). John, the Revelator saw in vision that he will get the entire world to worship him except for those whose names are “written in the book of life of the Lamb slain” (Rev. 13:4, 8). Through visions and dreams, God has made himself known, so that none should be deceived. So, the question remains, for those who want to include someone else as being worthy of worship apart from “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22): Where is the vision to back it up?
Persons might try to make an argument that, because the Holy Spirit is a person, that person must be of worshipful status and use that as a basis for denying the obvious implications of what was directly revealed. However, in keeping with the direct revelations from Jesus Himself, the Comforter is a messenger – someone who was sent to do God’s will, on Jesus’s request of the Father – “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16,17); “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13). It could be that the Comforter is one of God’s holy spirits or angels – a personal being who represents God but is not of worshipful status. The word ‘pneuma’ translated ‘Spirit’ or ‘Ghost’ is just as properly translated ‘spirits’, of which angels are “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:7, 14). The Holy Spirit or Comforter is sent by Jesus, of whom Jesus said: “he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak” (John 16:13). This does not suggest that the person being referred to is a God-being who carries out His own will. The historic Seventh-day Adventist pioneers referred to the Holy Spirit, in their Statements of Faith as God’s “Representative” – not as God (Signs of the Times, June 4, 1874).
Now, let me make it clear that regardless of whether one accepts the suggestion that the third person may be an angel, that should in no way affect one’s acceptance of the clear revelation that the Father was first, Christ was next, and Lucifer was third in the line of heavenly authority. This framework allows for an understanding of all aspects of the story of redemption and the controversy between good and evil. It also safeguards against persons giving worship to the devil unwittingly and opening themselves to be possessed by the spirits of devils. For those who insist that there is a third God-being, the question still stands, where is the vision to back it up?
“If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.” (Numbers 12:6).
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (2 Pet. 1:16-19).
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:15)
For further information, please visit Patience of the Saints at http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/
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