A Brief Explanation of Advent Christian Doctrine
By Rev. Mary E. Roller
Advent Christians believe that everyone who dies goes to the grave – not to heaven or to hell as in the traditional understanding. The dead are unconscious from the moment they die until the moment of the Resurrection. When Jesus comes, the dead will be raised, and that’s when judgment will take place. The unsaved will be thrown into the lake of fire, where they will be burned up and cease to exist. Satan and his angels and the false prophet will also go to this lake of fire. Some Advent Christians believe that these evil beings will burn forever, but others believe that God will eventually completely destroy them also.
Advent Christians believe that people are NOT naturally immortal. We are mortal by nature. God will give believers in Christ eternal life; we do not have it apart from Jesus. John 3:16 says, “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.” If you read the words that are there, this verse says that believers will have eternal life. It is clear that unbelievers will perish, and that only believers will have everlasting life. That’s what Advent Christians believe.
Now for a bit more explanation along with a few Bible verses to back it up:
The Hebrew word for the grave (the pit, the place of the dead) is “Sheol,” and the Greek word is “Hades.” Sometimes that word is mistranslated as “hell.” The word “Sheol” is used in Psalm 30:3, which says, “O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the GRAVE: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the PIT.” Hebrew poetry often repeats the same thought in different words. You can see there that the word “grave” and the word “pit” are referring to the same thing.
No one remembers anything in the grave – they don't even remember God. Psalm 6:5 says, “For in DEATH there is no remembrance of thee: in the GRAVE who shall give thee thanks?” As Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, “For the living know that they shall die: but the DEAD KNOW NOT ANYTHING, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.”
This unconscious state of the dead is referred to as “sleep” in the New Testament in verses such as 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, which reads, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all SLEEP, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed; for the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the MORTAL with immortality.” This verse is talking about believers – some who are alive and some who are “asleep” (dead). Notice that it says we have to put on immortality. We don’t have it apart from Christ.
Final judgment in the Lake of Fire (Gehenna) is referred to in Revelation 20:11-15, which says, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The word “Hades” means the grave. People are raised and then judged. Notice that this is a place of death and not eternal torment.
Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is DEATH [not eternal torment]; but the gift of God is eternal LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord.”