Sin is Sin is Sin is Sin

Who Told Us That We Could Assign Degrees to Infractions of God’s Law?

Society assigns gradations to criminal behavior, and that is probably the source of feelings and beliefs of many in the “household of faith” which likewise assign degrees of seriousness to sin. explains that many states subdivide felony and misdemeanor criminal violations into one of four degrees: first degree through fourth degree. Some in the church also think that they can prioritize violations of God’s laws.

Taking the Lord’s name in vain seems far less serious than bearing false witness. While, for another believer, a moderate case of coveting their neighbor’s stuff is certainly more of a “cupcake” sin than committing adultery. And, violation of the “Remember the Sabbath day…” commandment is not something to lose sleep over like committing murder would be. In other words, it’s not unusual to hear God’s people downplay their commission of “minor violations” of God’s law. They think they are minor. And, they do this even as they rail against the perceived, or exposed, sinful behavior of others.

Calling People Out

For example, when did same sex relationships become heaven’s “public sin number one?” No, this is not a back-door attempt to justify a lifestyle that some find a viable alternative, and others view as abhorrent. Nor, is it a diatribe against the LGBTQ community. What it is, is an effort to understand by whose authority we apply degrees of seriousness to violations of God’s revealed will and His holy law. Furthermore, just how do we discern heaven’s acceptability of one sin over another, when both are sins?

Nothing in Scripture places those involved in gay/lesbian/bi relationships at the apex in our world of sin. Now, the Bible does reference the enemies of God’s Kingdom in several places. For example, Matthew 13’s parable of the sower, tells of tares being sown among the wheat. Verse 39 tells us, “the enemy who has sowed them (the tares) is the devil.” Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:26 “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” And, James 4:4 admonishes that “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Curiously, even if we wanted to proclaim members of the gay community enemies of the church, that pesky Matthew 5:43 reminds us that we are to love our enemies. So, we’re still not safe. God calls for us to love, even as we love our neighbors and ourselves.

Each Will Account for Their Sins

Let’s be clear on this fact, with God, sin is sin. Romans 14:12 says, each of us will have to give a personal account for our actions—good and bad—to God. One reminder, in 2 Corinthians 5:10, is that we must all come before the throne of Christ to account for what we’ve done, to reap what we’ve sown. And, the counsel of Ecclesiastes 12:14 keeps it real: even the “secret” things will be brought into judgment. To ensure that we understand for whom these passages apply, Paul wrote in Romans 2:11, 12: “For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law…”

Yes, there are revisionists, who attempt to assuage any guilt felt by those in same-sex relationships by declaring the Bible is empty of any condemnation for homosexual deeds. However, that is wishful thinking. Does the Bible declare homosexuality a sin? Yes. But, it also declares fornication a sin. Not surprisingly, adultery is also a sin. In fact, the Bible declares that any sexual intimacy outside of the sacredness of marriage (based on God’s original design: one man, one woman) is a sin.

This begs the question, why are we not so quick to condemn our family members, friends, and co-workers who we suspect, or know, to be engaged in relationships of intimacy outside of marriage? Victory over all forms of sexual improprieties is available through Jesus.

God’s Word contains abundant evidence. The Old Testament offers Genesis chapter 19, along with Leviticus chapters 18 and 20. While, in the New Testament, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and 1 Timothy 1:9, 10 all provide clarity on where God stands with sexual sins. However, please note, at no time does God suggest that He has no love for those engaged in sexual sins. His love for us is evident in that “…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Called to Befriend, Not Condemn

So, what is our obligation? God declares in Ezekiel chapter three that He has placed us as watchmen, and watchwomen, upon the walls to warn those in sin. The Great Commission contains our marching orders, “Go, therefore, and teach…” In Luke chapter 14, Jesus instructs that we are to go into the highways and byways, compelling them to join us at Prince Immanuel’s table. Lastly, Paul’s admonition of Galatians 5:6 is that nothing else matters except faith that works by love. We are called, not to condemn, but to befriend for Jesus, in love.



This article is part of our 2019 May / June Issue
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Very Superstitious? Consider yourself enlightened?

Ten Modern Day Religious Superstitions that Stump the True Bible Scholar

In our hi-tech age, one might believe that there is no room in our thinking to support superstitions. However, such a belief would be stone cold wrong. Although, beneficiaries of the Age of Reason philosophies that flourished in Europe, then America, following the Middle Ages, 21st century citizens are nonetheless, subscribers to superstitions. Think not? Let’s see.

Superstition is defined by Merrian-Websters Dictionary as: “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.” Writing in Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke called superstition, “the religion of feeble minds.” According to Burke, medieval inhabitants of the earth trying to find ways to explain perplexing natural phenomenon, developed pre-scientific rationales that basically became superstitions.

Perhaps, it’s not surprising to learn that superstitions made their way into the thinking of Christians. No? Here are ten superstitions that have found lodging in the hearts of believers.

How many of them are familiar to you?

1. “The Lord helps those who help themselves”

This often-repeated adage suggests that we are capable of meeting our own needs. Never mind that this superstition rejects the sovereignty of God. In truth, if we could help ourselves, we would have no need for God. Never, are we called to be self-dependent. Heaven calls for us to be God-dependent. The Psalmist reminds us in the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” Paul adds his testimony in Philippians 4:19 “… my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

2. “We’re all God’s Children”

If only that were so. We are all God’s creation. However, the Bible is clear on this point; the children of God have distinctive traits of character:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13) and 2.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons (children) of God” (Romans 8:14).

3. “To be absent from the body is to be with the Lord”

Paul’s statements in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 have been the source of countless misrepresentations of Scripture. We often hear this saying at funerals, the intention being to convey the idea that at death a believer goes straight to heaven. However, Paul’s words asserted no fact, nor the expression of a Biblical doctrine.

He did say, in 2 Corinthians 5:6 and 8: “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord,” and “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Paul’s meaning is readily apparent. Verse six simply states that as long as we are alive, in these earthly bodies, we are not present with the Lord in heaven. Paul uses verse eight to emphasize his preference. He would much rather be absent from his physical body, and be present with the Lord.

4. The rich man and Lazarus

The parable of the rich man some call Dives (maybe Latin for “rich”) and Lazarus has been spun into a very interesting superstition. Christian communities around the globe teach this story as if it is evidence that upon death, Christians and non-Christians alike go directly to their reward.

However, this parable has nothing to do with the wheareabouts of the dead or their general state. For starters, Lazarus dies, but doesn’t go to heaven. Instead, he goes to Abraham’s bosom. That is the first clue that this is not a factual story, but a figurative story.

The key to the passage is found in the words of Jesus in Luke 16:31. “Dives” begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn Dives’ brothers of the perils of being lost.

Jesus, finishing the story for the listeners gives Abraham’s response, and the parable’s dramatic point: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

Jesus was not talking about the death of the rich man or Lazarus. His parable foretold of the Jewish unbelief that would greet His resurrection.

5. The Bible guarantees that children raised in a Christian home will keep the faith.

The primary text to support this is Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child…” Maybe superstition is a little strong here, however, this passage should not be taken as a blanket promise regarding the salvation of our children. What the Bible offers is this truth: train the child in the ways of the Lord, and as they grow up they will not depart from the knowledge that has been instilled in them through the training they received.

6. “Once saved, always saved”

Perhaps no superstition is as deadly to our salvation than one that promises once saved, always saved. This superstition promises the salvation even of those who don’t want to be saved. This teaching is contrary to the Bible. Matthew 24:13 admonishes us to “endure to the end.” Hebrews 10:23 counsels us to “hold fast the confession of our hope.” And, Revelations 3:16 cautions that if we should become lukewarm, Jesus will spit us out of His mouth.

7. We have never-dying souls to save

This superstition mis-educates the living about the state of the dead. The Bible explains that we don’t have souls, we are living souls (Genesis 2:7). Furthermore, we’re informed by Ezekiel 18:20 that “the soul that sins shall die.” And, how many have sinned? Romans 3:23, “…All have sinned…”

8. “Moderation in all things”

Imagine moderation in drug use, alcohol intake, and promiscuous intimacy. Moderation in all things is a concept borrowed from the Greek philosopher Aristotle. While it is true that Philippians 4:5 says “Let your moderation be known…,” the actual meaning of the Greek word translated moderation is gentleness or mildness. The believer’s rule of faith for living is better expressed by 1 Corinthians 10:31, “…whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

9. “To thine own self be true”

Some mistakenly believe these words are from Scripture. They are in fact, taken from Shakespeare. We are not called to be true to ourselves. The redeemed answer to a higher authority. We have been made for God’s glory (Isaiah 43:7). In Malachi 2:6, God proclaims that Levi had truth in his mouth and no iniquity on his lips.

10. Dead ancestors speaking to the living

This superstition is significant, if only because it leaves the hearts of God’s people open to the false narrative that psychics, tarot card readers, and practitioners of the occult are able to carry messages between the dead and the living. Absolutely false. There is no dialogue between the living and the dead. Ecclesiastes 9:5 teaches that the “dead know nothing.” Then, Psalm 115:17 instructs us that “the dead praise not the Lord.”

Ten superstitions that 21st century believers have been deceived into accepting as “thus says the Lord.” Have we no protection from these superstitions infecting our faith? We do indeed. The answer is simple. We must study to show ourselves approved. Our only safety is found in God’s Word.

This article is part of our 2019 March / April Issue
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Heaven’s court docket

One of the cornerstones of the American legal system is the promise of “due process.” Due process guarantees citizens that government will conduct the people’s business with procedures that are legal and fair.

One can find this constitutional protection of due process in the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendments. It says: “No one shall be … deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” In a world teeming with injustice, for citizens of the United States, how comforting to know that justice is promised through due process.

That observation made, here’s a question for believers: are the redeemed correct in our expectation that Heaven’s government would afford its citizens protections comparable to those offered by the Constitution’s due process?

What You May Have Missed

I believe the answer is yes. And, it is based on the doctrine of the investigative judgment, a doctrine viewed by many as erroneous, and is uniquely Adventist. Conflicting views notwithstanding, careful review of scripture reveals an implicit guarantee of due process for every child of God.

Due process comes into play whenever the government takes any action that can potentially affect a citizen. The government must first give notice, and provide an opportunity for the citizen to respond to the proposal, or an “opportunity to be heard.”1 Properly understood, the investigative judgment can rightly be recognized as God’s promise of due process. 

Most Christians agree that eternal life awaits all who choose to be saved by Jesus. Conversely, many Christians accept the teaching that hellfire awaits those who’ve rejected Jesus. What many Christians overlook, however, is this factor that determines the final disposition of each child of God. The doctrine of the investigative judgment provides clarity on this topic.

Answers in Exodus

May I suggest that the primary reason most Christians have difficulty understanding and accepting the investigative judgment is a lack of understanding regarding the Sanctuary Service God gave Moses. “…[L]et them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle…” Exodus 25:8.

The Sanctuary Service served as God’s kindergarten lesson of salvation. Repentant sinners learned the reality of the words: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). Likewise, the Sanctuary was a primer for learning the reality that “… without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

The Blood Applied

Through the Sanctuary, sinners became intimately acquainted with the deadly consequences of sin. Sinners took their sacrifices—usually a lamb, without blemish to represent Jesus, the Lamb of God—to the sanctuary.

With the help of the priests at the Sanctuary, the sinner would place his hands upon the head of the animal, and then confess his sins against God. Symbolically, the sins then transferred to the animal, which the sinner slayed by his own hand. The blood of that sacrifice was collected, then sprinkled by the priests before the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place housed the Ark of the Covenant with the Mercy Seat.

My reward is with me to give everyone according to his work.

Yearly Cleansing

Shedding and sprinkling of blood was a daily function of the Sanctuary. However, one day each year, on the day of Atonement, the High Priest would go beyond the veil and enter the Most Holy Place. His role on that day was to cleanse the sanctuary of the sins, represented by the sprinkled blood, that had accumulated over the course of a year.

As God told Moses, the earthly Sanctuary was patterned after the heavenly. The services of the earthly Sanctuary were likewise symbolic of the ministry taking place on our behalf in the heavenly.

With Daniel 7:9-10 as our backdrop, we’re granted a glimpse of what most Biblical scholars agree is a snapshot of a heavenly judgment scene. Daniel sees the Ancient of Days (God the Father) seated on His throne, as the court was seated and the books were opened. Then in Daniel 8:14 the prophetic word declares emphatically that the Sanctuary would be cleansed by our High Priest, Jesus. Biblical reckoning placed the time of that cleansing in the year 1844, marking the beginning of the investigative judgment period. Remember, the Sanctuary on earth like the Sanctuary in heaven, was about judgment and redemption.

Judicial Review of Your Probation

Many reject the investigative judgment as simply unbelievable. Which prompts this question, why would belief in the mediatorial work of the Lamb of God on behalf of fallen man in the Holy of Holies in the heavenly Sanctuary, be any less believable than the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb on the altar of the Cross.

Some reject the investigative judgment because those words are not found in Scripture. A true point, indeed. However, equally undeniable is that we do find in the mercy of God due process.

Shakespeare reminds us that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”2 So, call it a judicial review. The Sanctuary motif provides that prior to God granting each of His children their reward, there shall be a judicial review of each life.


Since 1844 this review has been underway. The time frame—or the long probation—is long, not for God’s sake, but ours. Evidence of this Divine due process is found in John 5:28, 29 which speaks of rewards for those who’ve done good and for those who’ve done evil. We find due process in Revelation 22:12 reminding us that He comes quickly and, “… my reward is with me to give every one according to his work.”

There must have been a review of each case. In the absence of a judicial review, there would be no justification for the saints declaration of Revelation 15:3 “… just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints.”


DONALD L. McPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.


1, Sociology and Criminal Justice Department, Lincoln University,

2 Shakespeare, William, Romeo and Juliet

This article is part of our 2019 January / February Issue
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The Best Book You’ve Never Read

Curious, this book called The Bible. Curious, because while believers claim it as God’s Word, most of us don’t actually read it. Jennifer Polland, writing in Business Insider1, has pointed out that during the last half century, sales figures for the Bible are a massive 3.9 billion copies sold.

Still, although the Bible remains the most published book, as time goes by, fewer of us are reading it. A Pew Research Study has found that among American adults, only 35% report reading the Bible at least once per week. Remarkably, those who claim to read the Bible once a week are outnumbered by those say they seldom, or never, read the Word. That number stands at 45%.3

One explanation as to why we don’t read the Bible is offered by Jeff Anderson in Among the reasons, he offered were: It’s an optional book; church leaders don’t expect us to read it; or our parents didn’t read it. However, it is Anderson’s reason number seven that stands out for me: “Bible Bullies.”4 According to Anderson, Bible Bullies are those who repeatedly tell believers, in both direct, and subtle ways, that we possess neither the intelligence nor the educational training to understand the Bible. In other words, we’re not smart enough.

For some of us, this is all the motivation needed for avoiding the reading of God’s Word. You can imagine how much traction this excuse would gain if students told their teachers that the reason the class reading assignment was not completed, was because they had been told they were not smart enough to read Moby Dick, To Kill A Mockingbird, or Of Mice and Men.

To be in the know

The prospects of becoming a Christian, or continuing to live as one, are very remote if we read God’s Word sparingly. We can know no more about God and His plan of redemption than He reveals in His Word. Revelation 1:1 declares that God the Father gave the revelation of the Messiah to His Son, Jesus, who presented the revelation of the plan of redemption to the angels, who gave it to John the Revelator on Patmos. And, John passed this revelation of hope, through the Lamb of God, to us. If we’re not reading the Word, how might we, in Paul’s words of 2 Tim 2:15 show ourselves approved unto God?

To Know Jesus

Our only true source of information on the living and dying and living again of the Jesus, our Savior, is the Bible. Jesus, Himself, said in John 5:39 that we are to “Search the Scriptures … they are they which testify of me.” We learn in Acts 17:11 that the believers in Berea were more receptive to the gospel preached by Paul, because they searched the Scriptures for themselves on a daily basis.

To Make it Today

As to the question, is reading the Bible essential to the development of our Christian character, we’re best advised to allow the Bible to speak to our need of a daily portion of God’s Word. If we had but one passage of Scripture to offer clarity on the essential nature of the Bible to our growth in Christian faith, Psalm 119 is replete with insights.

• Psalm 119:9 tells us that a young man cleanses his way, by heeding God’s word.

• In verse eleven, we’re reminded that the word of God in our hearts will aid against sinning.

• Verse twenty-eight notes that God’s word will strengthen us.

  According to verse fifty, the word of God provides us with life.

  Those in need of a lamp to guide the way in a world of darkness can easily find their light in God’s word, we are told by Psalm 119:105.

  God’s word can direct our victorious steps, says verse one hundred, thirty-three.

  And, we have the assurance from Psalm 119:160 that the whole of God’s word is truth.

As He taught the disciples how to pray, Jesus said in “the Lord’s prayer,” “…give us this day our daily bread.” We know, based on our study of the word, that Jesus is the Word of God (See John 1:1). We are further aware, from John 6:35, that Jesus is the “Bread of life.” Since Jesus is the Word, and He is the Bread, it is a fact of life eternal that our daily bread is the word of God. Therefore, we must eat the bread from heaven, God’s Word, on a daily basis.

The nourishment needed to fuel our transformation from what we once were, to what we are becoming in Christ Jesus is found in the Bible.


DONALD L. McPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.


1 Polland, J. (2012). The ten most read books in the world, infographic. 

2 ibid

3 Geiger, A. (2017). 5 facts on how Americans view the bible and other religious texts.

4 Anderson, J. (2017). 8 reasons we don’t read the bible.

5 Geiger, A. (2017). 5 facts on how americans view the bible and other religious texts.

This article is part of our 2018 November / December Issue
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DONALD L. McPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.

When We Know Better, We Do Better

What You Need to Know (and Share) About Revelation 14’s Second Angel

His zeal was undeniable. Standing at a major Los Angeles intersection, he was screaming at passersby, “Better give your heart to Jesus, or you’re going to burn in hell.” Yes, his zeal was readily apparent. Nonetheless, his unprofitable enterprise presented a prime example of the Bible’s “zeal without knowledge.”

Although, sincere, the young believer proved himself to be less of a danger to Satan’s plans, than he was to his own. Uninformed Christians, face very real and possibly fatal consequences. God says so in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

To remove any excuse for our being lost, the Lord expanded our knowledge base regarding “last day” events through the messages of the three angels in Revelation, chapter 14. Having previously explored the first angel’s message, we now turn our attention to the message of the second angel in Revelation 14:8: “And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen … because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”


Since literal Babylon was destroyed long ago, which Babylon would command our attention on the stage of prophecy? Among commentators and scholars, many have wrongly labeled the Church of Rome as Babylon. However, a careful study of the text helps us to know that this prophetic Babylon could not possibly represent either pagan Rome, or, papal Rome. We can be sure of this, because we’re told by John that Babylon is now in a fallen state. This suggests that at some point this Babylon had been in good standing with God. However, that has never been the case for Rome in either of its forms.

Uriah Smith in his book, Daniel and the Revelation, pp 664, offered this insight: “From the beginning of their history, Paganism has been a false religion, and the Papacy an apostate one.” Therefore, the second angel’s warning of Babylon being fallen could not apply to Rome. Then, to whom?

Revelation 14:8’s pronouncement must appropriately point to a religious body that at some point in time had been pure, but whose doctrines over time had become corrupted. Furthermore, understanding that this second angel’s message follows the “judgment hour” message of the first angel, helps us to know that these are “last days” messages. As such, these messages are intended for the sons and daughters of God. They are not divine instructions for those who blindly follow false religions.

The gospel message ringing out from Calvary has long been the call to leave the false teachings of men and to become invested in the true religion of Christ. Therefore, we are left with the shocking, but true, understanding from Scripture that apostate Protestantism is the Babylon of prophecy. In the “last days,” we may equate Babylon with Christian churches that profess Jesus, but according to Him in Matthew 15:8,9 “… draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Such faith communities are fatally flawed.


What is the cause of their deviation from the Truth? The Bible says they have engaged in spiritual fornication with the world. This has occurred as Protestant churches began allowing the world to influence the people of God in their worship of God. While, indeed, offering familial love, warm fellowship, and vibrant worship experiences, these communities of professed faith, have seen fit to reject God’s Word as the final arbiter of faith. Thus, they have committed spiritual fornication with the world by drinking the wines of paganism and error.

In these last-days, fallen communities of faith have become guilty of permitting the world to influence what believers believe. We see clear evidence of this as Christian churches teach contrary to “thus says the Lord.” Among the examples we find are churches teaching: renunciation of the reality of hellfire for the unrighteous, belief in once saved-always saved, claims of the immortality of the soul, and rejection of the validity of the entirety of God’s Ten Commandment Law.

And this is just a partial listing of how Protestant churches have veered from God’s path of righteousness. More than zeal, the redeemed need God-ordained knowledge of truth versus falsity that is being taught in many Christian communities, today. Knowledge is ours, if we but ask (James 1:5).


Sadly, we’re also seeing the embrace of ecumenism by Protestant churches. This crafting of a false sense of unity has been nurtured by the Bishop of Rome. And, it finds the people of God forming alliances with Rome, while following the directives of men, rather than the Word of God.

Since the time of Nimrod, Babylon has represented confusion. Throughout Scripture, false and apostate religions have worn the label, Babylon. Just as Belshazzar demonstrated his contempt for the God of heaven by drinking wine from the Temple’s sacred vessels, apostate Christian communities show their contempt for God by defiling His law, His name, and His Holy day through the substitution of man-made teachings for the pure Word of God. The institution, which is responsible for leading humanity into obeying erroneous doctrines and becoming allies with the church of Rome, is apostate Protestantism, which wears the label, Babylon.


The importance of knowledge is underscored by the fact that the fallen condition of Babylon is repeated in Revelation 18:2-4. And, this time, the Lord declares grave consequences for those who persist in embracing Babylon: “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen … And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and … receive of her plagues.”

The Father extends His invitation of grace to each of His children. Come out of Babylon and come into the Kingdom of glory. That’s knowledge worth sharing.

This article is part of our 2018 July / AAUgust Issue
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DONALD L. McPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.

Ongoing Investigation

What Makes the Saved Saved, and the Lost, Not?

News headlines and lifestyle choices notwithstanding, nearly 80% of America’s adults believe that “we will all be called before God at the Judgment Day to answer for our sins.” So, says research conducted by the Pew Research Center1.

Such a strong consensus regarding Judgment Day should mean Christians have a universal understanding of the Last Judgment. Surprisingly, it doesn’t. Disagreements abound. Perhaps, none more contentious than the teaching of the Investigative Judgment, or what is known as the Pre-Advent Judgment. Widely rejected by most of Christianity, it is nonetheless one of the more significant components of the Bible’s judgment motif.

Need-to-Know Basis

The Investigative Judgment posits that prior to the fulfillment of Jesus’ Revelation 22:12 promise that He “comes quickly” to reward everyone according to their works, there is a review of the lives of all who have claimed His name. Underway since 1844, this judgment includes professed Christians who have already died, as well as those who live today.

Contrary to some claims, this investigation and judgment doesn’t reveal to God who is worthy of life eternal. In His omniscience, He already knows that. What this pre-advent investigation does do is assist the inhabitants of unfallen worlds and unfallen angels in reconciling in their hearts why the saved were saved. And, the lost were not.

Before Jesus can reward, those to be rewarded are to be identified to the other children of God, those who never rebelled. Thus, by faith one can see why this judgment precedes the Second Coming; and why, as 1 Peter 4:17 informs us, it begins with those who claim to be Christians, the “household of faith.”

Understanding the Sanctuary Gives Context and Timing

Sarah Peck2 reminds us that through the Sanctuary Service God “makes the entire plan of salvation visible in one magnificent view.” The Sanctuary Service was heaven’s primer on salvation. It reminded God’s people that “the wages of sin is death.” And, that “without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness.”

We know from Hebrews 8:5 that the earthly sanctuary was a copy of the heavenly. Therefore, the worship protocols on earth matched those in heaven. The blood shed in the outer court and then sprinkled in the Holy place on earth, is symbolism that reflects heavenly practices.

And, just as on the day of Atonement on earth, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place on behalf of God’s people; in heaven, our Great High Priest, Jesus did likewise. The Day of Atonement on earth was symbolic of confession, repentance, and judgment.

This act of judgment was both ordained, and ratified, by God. Some would protest that there is no sin in heaven. True. Nonetheless, the prophecy of Daniel 8:14 had to be fulfilled. For the redeemed, this cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary was the final act of Judgment. Then as the price of humanity’s sins in the earthly was laid upon the scapegoat, so too in the heavenly, the confessed sins of humanity were laid upon Satan.

Understanding Where the Dead Are Brings Clarity to the Process

The Bible says the righteous dead are not yet in heaven. John 5:28 tells us, there is an hour, coming, when the dead shall come forth. That day is not yet. Four times in John’s sixth chapter, Jesus says that the righteous dead shall be rewarded “at the last day.” Have we reached the last day? Certainly not. Besides, if the dead are already in heaven, why does Jesus need to come to the earth to give them their reward?

The Second Coming will herald the start of the one-thousand years during which the righteous will spend some time reviewing the books in heaven. Reviewing the Book of Life will explain why those who are absent from the kingdom are not present. For now, though, they are not yet in glory. Jesus said in John 11, the righteous dead are sleeping, awaiting His return.

Understanding What Happens to Sin and Sinners Reveals the Urgency

Lastly, the Investigative Judgment is anchored in the final disposition of sin. The Pre-Advent Judgment shares how by grace the redeemed satisfied the judicial requirements for salvation. Having hidden their lives in Christ, the review of their lives is all Jesus. The unrighteous will sleep through the thousand years in the sleep of death. They won’t live again until the second resurrection. However, even they shall be heard joining humanity’s chorus, rehearsing Revelation 15:3, “Just and true are your ways, O King of saints.”   

This article is part of our 2018 March / April Issue
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Donald L. McPhaull, MSW, is enjoying more than 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, CA


1  Pew Research Center, October 23, 2007, Awaiting The Judgment Day.

2  Sarah Elizabeth Peck, The Sanctuary: The Path To The Throne of God

Native Tongue

Speaking in tongues, and how God reaches around language barriers.

by D. L. Mcphaull

“Unless you speak in tongues, you have not been baptized in the Holy Ghost, because speaking in tongues is evidence you are saved.” This often-expressed teaching is a commonly held belief among some Christians who believe that the redeemed will speak in unknown tongues. But, is there biblical support for this teaching?

Speaking in tongues is well known among believers. A 2010 study by the Barna Group indicated that among self-identified Christians, 76% have knowledge of the gift of tongues. However, surprisingly, only 10% of them have ever spoken in tongues. Nonetheless, ever since William J. Seymour’s 1906 Azuza Street Revival, a very heavy emphasis has been placed upon believers speaking in tongues, particularly in the Pentecostal and Charismatic faiths. Furthermore, many have embraced the idea that to speak in tongues is to speak in unintelligible words that are directed heavenward.


What did you say?

Perhaps, we should first clear up the idea that the Bible suggests believers will speak in an unintelligible, unknown tongue. In Scripture, the word, “tongues” is translated from the Greek word, “glossa,” which means a language. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry ( offers that speaking in tongues is a New Testament phenomenon, wherein individuals speak a language unknown to him or her. The language might be either another earthly language, (French, Spanish, German, or others) or, it might be the language of angels. The latter belief, no doubt, based on Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13: 1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…”

The Bible never identifies an angelic language. In fact, in the Bible, each time an angel spoke to a child of God, they communicated in a language understood by the hearer: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30); “… behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…” (Luke 2:11); and “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus…” (Acts 1:11).

The purpose of speaking in tongues today

What purpose is served by the gift of tongues? The publication, Christianity Today (March, 2000) reported that among Pentecostal Christians, heavy emphasis has been laid on speaking in tongues as “initial evidence” of baptism in the Spirit. Still, other Christian communities view tongues as a heavenly language, or prayer language, good for preventing the devil from overhearing the prayers of the saints, and counterfeiting answers to prayer. Such thinking suggests that Satan is powerful enough to disrupt God’s plans, which is not true.

Are tongues valid, today? Absolutely.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 that spiritual gifts are provided by the Holy Spirit. He observed that there is a diversity of spiritual gifts, each selected and given by the Spirit of God, for the profit of all. As you read 1 Corinthians 12, you’ll notice that the gift of tongues is not the premier gift. It’s not even second or third. As the Apostle lists some of the spiritual gifts, the gift of tongues is ranked number 8. Closing out the chapter, once more Paul listed spiritual gifts, and still, the gift of tongues is not found near the top of the list. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul declares that the greatest of the spiritual gifts is love.

Gifting at Pentecost and now

So, why the need for spiritual gifts? It is certainly not to provide evidence of the new birth through baptism of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that evidence of the new birth is demonstrated through a changed heart reflecting the fruit of the Spirit articulated in Galatians 5:22, 23. The reason the Holy Spirit provides spiritual gifts is explained in Ephesians 4:12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” Spiritual gifts are provided for two reasons: To equip believers for our work of ministry, and to build up the body of Christ. Notice, no reference is made to heavenly language, prayer language, even secret language.

Paul sheds more light in 1 Corinthians 14:22 where he wrote, “tongues are a sign not for those who believe, but to unbelievers.” That’s what Jesus meant when He said in Mark 16:17, that those who believe would, “speak with new tongues.” Do we have any Scriptural evidence of believers speaking new languages? We certainly do! Matthew 24:14 sets our pace, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” In Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, that prophecy was fully manifested. And, as we read Acts 2, each time we see the word tongues, we may rightly replace it with languages. Acts 2:4 tells us, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Was this Spirit-given gift of languages one of unintelligible utterances? Not at all. Let’s allow the Bible to instruct us, Acts 2:5, 6, “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation… confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” Verse eight raised the question, “And how hear we every man in our own language, wherein we were born?” Then verse 11 ties off the Bible’s explanation for the spiritual gift of speaking in other languages, “we do hear them speak in our languages the wonderful works of God.”

So much to do, so little time

On Pentecost, the gift of tongues (languages) was provided for the sharing of the Gospel. And, it is for the same purpose that the gift of tongues is provided today. Not for communication with God, but rather for communicating about God with those who may speak another language.

The Linguistic Society of America reports that on this earth, 6,909 distinct languages are spoken. Meanwhile, so far, the Bible has been translated into 2,508 different languages, only. In order for this gospel of the kingdom to reach the entire world, the gift of speaking in other languages, while not the number one gift, is certainly needed for the sharing of the “good news” of our soon-coming King. So, even as we yearn for our Lord’s return, we long for the gift of tongues (languages) that we might tell the world about Jesus.

This article is part of our January/February 2018 Issue
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DONALD L. MCPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.

Baptized In The Name of…

“Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins….” (Acts 2:38). Within the Christian community, it is well understood that Jesus is Lord. And, generally, believers agree that God calls for the redeemed to be baptized. However, one question regarding baptism has produced a split in the practices of the faithful: in whose name should believers be baptized?
Do the words of the apostle Peter suggest a mandate from God that the sole, valid form of baptism is one in Jesus name, only?
Based on what we know from Scripture, it is understandable how some might believe that “Jesus only” baptism would be the only method of baptism validated by heaven.

Baptism in the name of Jesus, alone. What’s wrong with that?
Scripture declares “…for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And, Paul writes: “Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…” (Philippians 2:9,10). But, does this suggest that baptism should occur in the name of Jesus, only? Furthermore, apart from Peter’s Acts 2:38 counsel, does the Bible offer other passages that support “Jesus only” baptism? We indeed hear it from Peter again in Acts 10:48, chapter 19, and Acts 22:16.
Taken as a whole, each of these passages would seem to establish Biblical authority for “Jesus only” baptism. Except Jesus’ own words in Matthew 28:19 say “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
For Christians, this is a simple process of deciding whether to obey the apostles or Jesus. The commands of God will ever outweigh the commandments of men. Because Jesus is God, His imperatives are to be obeyed. And, that’s how we can know that baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit remains the valid approach to baptism. The words of Jesus are never nullified by His servants.

Early tension in the practice of baptism rise again.

Controversial Name of Jesus
So, what was taking place as Peter offered words of admonition in the Book of Acts?
Throughout Acts, we find great tension surrounding the name of Jesus. Acts 4:7 tells of Peter and John being challenged with the words, “…By what name have you done this?” In Acts 4:17,18 the disciples were commanded not to “speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” Peter and John were rebuked by the high priest in Acts 5:28, who demanded, “…did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?” Then, in Acts 5:40, the disciples are beaten and released with orders “that they should not speak in the name of Jesus…”
For the religious leaders in Jerusalem, the name of Jesus was a disturbing, disruptive name. Yet, as Peter preached the gospel he rehearsed the events of Calvary, all while establishing the identity of the One who had been nailed to the cross. He removed all doubt in Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Don’t miss the prophetic irony in the exchanges between Peter and the former spiritual leaders in Israel. He preached that Jesus, whom they had crucified was the Lord, and Messiah promised by God. Coming under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the Jews cried out for instructions. Peter’s response in Acts 2:38 is the key to the “Jesus only” baptism misunderstanding. He admonished the Jews to repent, and to be baptized. Then came the shocking news that they must be baptized in the name of the very Jesus they had rejected and murdered.

Writing in the book, Growing in Christ, J.I. Packer observed that Peter’s words represented a “…total renunciation of independence as a way of living and total submission to the rule of the risen Lord.”
Peter reminded the Jews that restoration to the Kingdom of God came at the cost of the life of the Son of God. However, the validation of baptism remained in the words of the great commission, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Salvation through the Son, but, baptism in the fullness of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

DONALD L. MCPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.

To Love Jesus Is To Live Jesus

Is there any value in professing love for Jesus when we choose not to live for Jesus? One might be forgiven for thinking so, especially in our present age where a rare goal among Christians seems to be the reconciliation of the lips and the lives of Christians. Perhaps, it’s a trend you recognize: professed Christians openly declaring their love for Jesus, but nonetheless living a life that is disconnected from the character of Jesus. While claiming to belong to Jesus, they engage in a laundry list of iniquitous behaviors: lying, cheating, stealing, drugging, fornicating, and more.
So, how valid is a claim of love for Jesus, in a consistently un-Christ-like life?

To take on the character of Jesus is to walk as He walked.

The ease with which we utter the words to Jesus, “I love you, Lord” may contribute to our feeling good about our religious experience. But, the true value of any such pronouncement is found in living a life that expresses love for Jesus through righteous living, a life of sanctified action. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Notice that expression of love is accompanied by an action of love—keeping His commandments.

More than an emotional response to His love, grace and sacrifice, our love for Jesus should be reflected in our lives of obedience. According to the Word of God, there is a direct correlation between our love for Christ and our obedience to His will as revealed in His Word. So, the Bible explains that our love for Jesus is not measured merely in audible expressions of our feelings. No, there is much more to our love for Him than the sound of words. The measurability of our love for Jesus is found in our actions.
John 14:23 is where Jesus declares, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word …” The action is that of keeping the word of Christ. Simply put, this means that believers will be more than talkers of the talk. We will also be walkers of the walk. Our goal is to walk as Jesus walked.

To take on the character of Jesus is to walk as He walked. And, there is no secret as to the nature of His walk. His was the walk of obedience. Paul shares in Philippians 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Obedience was an important character trait of Christ. Anyone who claims to love Him will live as He lived. The net result for a child of God is that we strive to live the life modeled by Jesus. The very nature of our life in Christ is exemplified by change. Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks of this change, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

In giving our lives over to Jesus, not only are we declaring that we love Him, but that our love comes as a result of knowing Him. Therefore, when we say that we love Jesus, implicit in that declaration is our knowledge of who He is and an understanding of His character that we are to emulate. To make life choices to the contrary of His character is to repudiate knowledge of who He is. Indeed, the counsel of 1 John 2:3 is very plain, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
Hebrews 5:8, 9 shares with us both how He lived, and how He expects His people to live, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…”

There are those who teach that as New Covenant believers, you and I have no reason to give thought to any Divine requirement of obedience. However, the Bible repeatedly highlights the Divine expectation of obedience by the sons and daughters of God to His will and way. So, there is no validity in our claim of loving Jesus, if we are committed to a life empty of His character. At the end of it all, to love Jesus is to live Jesus.

DONALD L. MCPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.

A Choice of Three Heavens?

Has heaven been divided into three levels of ascending glory? If we are to believe Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it has been. Smith wrote, “depending upon the level of righteousness achieved, each life’s journey will earn one of three heavens” (Doctrines and Covenant, Section 76).
Joseph Smith’s vision of eternity is all the more astounding because it was his belief that everyone, who has ever lived, is bound for heaven. Whether their life was righteous or wicked, no matter. Eternity would find them in heaven. The only question for each one was which of the three heavens would be their eternal home. There are some more pertinent questions for us, however. Does the Bible support the concept of three distinct heavens, and will every person ever born receive the blessing of spending eternity in one of Smith’s three heavens?

The Third Heaven
In truth, there are three heavens. Paul established that reality for us in 2 Corinthians 12:2, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago…was caught up to the third heaven.” Since the Apostle speaks of a third heaven, there must of necessity be a first and second. But, what are these three heavens, and how should they be viewed?

Whenever your Bible speaks of heaven it is referring to one of three locations:
1 The first heaven is the immediate atmosphere over our heads, which contains the oxygen we breathe and where the birds soar. In Matthew 6:26 Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air…” The Greek word translated “air” is also translated as “heaven.” James writing in James 5:18 testifies, “And he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain…” Prayer led to the rain being poured out from heaven that is the sky. So, this first heaven is the canopy of sky over our heads.

2 The second heaven is considered to be the celestial heaven. We commonly refer to this heaven as outer space, or the stellar heaven because the sun, moon, and stars are found there. Jesus, in His prophetic overview of the end times declared in Matthew 24:29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Your Bible informs our understanding that the stellar heaven is in fact the second heaven.

3 Lastly, we find in Scripture, heaven and the home of God. Although, we know that the omnipresent God cannot be contained in one geographical location, we understand from His Word that His presence does abide in a unique way in the third heaven. Here’s how John described it in Revelation 4:2, “… and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.” 1 Peter 3:21, 22 offers this insight, “… through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God…” So, the third heaven is where the throne of God is found.
We learn from the Bible of the existence of three heavens, but not three levels of everlasting life. And, not three levels of eternal residency for the righteous and the wicked. Indeed, the reality of God’s heaven is that the redeemed will not spend eternity there at all.
John the Revelator was shown that our forever time with God shall be on the earth made new, but not because we earned it. It is a free gift of grace from God. “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” (Revelation 21:2). None but the righteous shall see God and live forever. As for the wicked, because John also says “. . . there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles…” (Revelation 21:27), we understand there will be no wicked there.

Three heavens to be sure, but only one serves as God’s official residence. The redeemed shall spend eternity on this earth made new, without sin or sinners to disturb our joy.