pitcherStephen Pitcher became a Christian at age 17 through the ministry of Young Life and was baptized in a Baptist church. He later converted to Adventism which he left after 18 years. He currently attends Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church in Riverside, California. He continues a 38-year study of cults, world religions, and the occult from his home in Yucaipa, California.







This article is excerpted from a forthcoming book by Stephen Pitcher on the Adventist “devotional paraphrase” of the Bible, The Clear Word (TCW). Written by Jack Blanco when he was chairman of the religion department at Southern Adventist University, TCW was first published as a whole work in 1994 with the title The Clear Word Bible. The Adventist organization denies that this work is “official”, yet the Adventist Review and Herald Publishing Association prints the book, and Adventist Book Centers sell several versions of this book as Bibles, both online and in their stores. In spite of statements denying its being an official Adventist Bible, inside the organization it is treated and marketed as a Bible.


Within Adventism death and the afterlife are explained in one way: the dead, both the saved and the unsaved, remain in an unconscious state from the moment of death until the second coming of Christ. Then, when He returns, Christ will raise all believers to eternal life.

In fact, their Fundamental Belief #26 describes death and resurrection as follows:


26: Death and Resurrection:

The wages of sin is death. But God, who alone is immortal, will grant eternal life to His redeemed. Until that day death is an unconscious state for all people. When Christ, who is our life, appears, the resurrected righteous and the living righteous will be glorified and caught up to meet their Lord. The second resurrection, the resurrection of the unrighteous, will take place a thousand years later. (Rom. 6:23; 1 Tim. 6:15, 16; Eccl. 9:5, 6; Ps. 146:3, 4; John 11:11-14; Col. 3:4; 1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:13-17; John 5:28, 29; Rev. 20:1-10.)

For Adventists, the belief in death as unconscious oblivion is terrifying. For most Christians, however, death is not terrifying. While we do not look forward to the process of dying, as believers we are sure that after death, we will not go into non-existence, even temporarily. Instead, based on God’s word and Jesus’ promises, we know that when we die, we will go home to be with the Lord. This certainty is a beautiful promise, but the Adventist devotional paraphrase of Scripture, The Clear Word (TCW) by Jack Blanco, rephrases the classic passages of Scripture that have comforted Christians for nearly 2,000 years.

In this article we will compare the ways The Clear Word and its companion paraphrases The Clear Word for Kids (TCWK) and The Easy English Clear Word (TEECW) (which contain identical text) render the biblical passages that describe death and the afterlife with the way the English Standard Version (ESV) articulates them.


2 Corinthians 5:1-5

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

Our body is like a tent that we live in. When we die, it’s taken down and folded up. But God has a new body for us, a house to live in. That body will be for heaven, where we will live forever. We’re tired of suffering and wish for that heavenly body. If we could move into it now without dying, we would. But since we have this earthly body, we do the best we can. Don’t get the idea that I want to die. It’s just that a heavenly body would give us so much more strength and energy, and we would live forever. God’s plan for us is still the same. He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that He will follow His original plan and give us bodies fit for heaven.

The Clear Word

We know that our earthly body is like a tent in which we now live, and when it is taken down and folded, a house waits for us in heaven, a new body, not one shaped in a womb, but an immortal body crafted by the hand of God. We’re tired of this body and long for the heavenly one. If we could put it on, then we would be fully clothed. But, since we’re still living in our earthly bodies, we suffer and groan through life. Don’t get the idea from this that we long to die. We groan because we wish our frail mortality could be exchanged for the vibrancy of immortality. God’s original intention for mankind is still the same. And he gave us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that His original plan to give us immortality has not changed.

English Standard Version

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.


2 Corinthians 5:1 clearly states that “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The Clear Word passages indicate that believers are waiting for a glorified physical body that will take the place of the mortal bodies we now inhabit. TCW, however, ignores verse 4 which indicates that we will be “further clothed” after leaving this mortal tent which burdens us. While it is unclear what this further clothing will look like, it is clear that our current mortal tents will be swallowed up by life. (Incidentally, the metaphor of life swallowing death is the opposite of the usual literary image of the great maw of death swallowing life. This life into which we pass at death is stronger than death and overpowers it.)

As we will see when we examine verses 6-8, when we die we will no longer be away from the Lord but with Him. TCW, however, rephrases the passages in verses 4-5 to suggest that prior to death, people long for the resurrection—immortality, as Blanco puts it. TCW, therefore, is not stating the text’s truth, that during death our mortal tents are swallowed up by life. In some unspecified but significant way, we are more alive after death than prior to death. TCW reduces this passage to a longing to avoid death and experience the resurrection. Paul, however, gave us assurance that the life we experience after death is more powerful than our mortal state. Moreover, the indwelling Holy Spirit is our guarantee that this overpowering life is a certainty.


Blanco reflects Ellen White

Also, notice again how TCW distorts verse 5, “And he gave us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that His original plan to give us immortality has not changed.” God’s original plan, according to Ellen White (EGW), was to give Adam and Eve immortality after passing a period of time in which they would be tested to see if they were worthy of immortality. If they had kept God’s Ten Commandment law and had honored His prohibition of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would have received immortality as a reward. Here are a couple of Ellen White’s statements explaining this supposed arrangement:

When Adam and Eve were placed in the beautiful garden, they had everything for their happiness which they could desire. But he [God] chose, in his all-wise arrangements, to test their loyalty before they could be rendered eternally secure.1

God will test all, even as he tested Adam and Eve, to see whether they will be obedient. Our loyalty or disloyalty will decide our destiny. Since the fall of Adam, men in every age have excused themselves for sinning, charging God with their sin, saying that they could not keep his commandments. This is the insinuation Satan cast at God in heaven. But the plea, “I cannot keep the commandments,” need never be presented to God; for before him stands the Savior, the marks of the crucifixion upon his body, a living witness that the law can be kept. It is not that men cannot keep the law, but that they will not.2

Notice that EGW’s comments clearly say our eternal destinies depend upon our loyalty to God or our disloyalty. Loyalty, however, is not determined by belief in the Lord Jesus or in God’s promises. Rather, according to EGW, it is our loyalty to the law that determines whether we are saved or lost. This claim eclipses the Lord Jesus with the law; in fact, she says that Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that man can keep the law. In other words, Jesus’ perfect law-keeping was what qualified Him to be raised from the dead. This same law-keeping is what qualifies us, therefore, to be resurrected.

Now we will compare Blanco’s paraphrases of 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 with the plain words of Scripture:


2 Corinthians 5:6-8

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

That’s why we can speak with such confidence, even though we are not yet in heaven. We live by what we believe and not just by what we see. This gives us courage to look ahead. We know that Jesus will come and that we will go home to live with Him forever.

The Clear Word

That’s why we can speak with such confidence, even though we’re still living in our mortal bodies and away from the Lord. Actually, we are not away from the Lord. He’s here with us, not by sight, but by faith. That’s what faith is all about. We long to lay aside our bodies, to leave this present world, and to be at home with the Lord.

English Standard Version

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.


The ESV is very clear that to be in the body is to be away from the Lord, while to be away from the body is to be with the Lord. This fact is why we live with such assurance: we know that regardless of what happens to us here, we will be with the Lord. Death, therefore, is a portal to a continued conscious existence with God in heaven before the first resurrection. The versions of TCW go to great lengths to make sure that the reader believes Paul is teaching that they are longing for their glorified bodies, rather than going home to be with the Lord. As it says in TCWK, “We know that Jesus will come and that we will go home to live with Him forever.” From an Adventist perspective, if we die before the second coming of Christ, we simply return to dust and the breath (spirit) returns to God, leaving us not only unconscious but essentially non-existent. Often referred to as “soul sleep”, this label is not fully correct for describing the real Adventist doctrine of death.

pullquoteAdventist teaching is that the breath in the lungs activates the body, thus causing a living soul. At death, therefore, the soul actually goes out of existence when the body ceases to breath. The Adventist doctrine of death, therefore, is utterly terrifying. It holds that the essence of a person’s identity and being ceases to exist at death, and the mortal body simply rots in the grave. Only a memory of the person exists in God’s mind—something like data being stored on a hard drive. That data, or memory, will be infused into the new body at the resurrection.

Significantly, both versions of TCW remove the seamless reality of being “away from the body and at home with the Lord” that the ESV articulates. In TCW, Blanco deliberately adds the phrase “to leave this present world” to underscore that one does not simply leave the body and go to the Lord. The TCWK is even more explicit with the Adventist belief and eliminates the transition from leaving our bodies to being with the Lord. It blatantly states, “We know that Jesus will come and that we will go home to live with Him forever.”


Altering another central passage

Along with the verses above from 2 Corinthians 5, Philippians 1:20-23 is one of the central passages explaining the certainty that believers go immediately to be with the Lord when they die. Blanco, of course, cannot allow TCW to proclaim this comforting reality because it opposes Adventist doctrine. Compare how TCW renders this passage with the way the ESV states it:


Philippians 1:20-23

The Clear Word

When I’m brought before Caesar for trial, I will not be ashamed of Jesus Christ, but I will exalt Him with courage and boldness as I’ve done in the past, whether Caesar releases me or not. If I’m released, it will be to the glory of Christ; if I receive the death sentence, it also will be to the glory of Christ and maybe even more so. If I could choose to live I would, and I would go right back to work for the Lord, but I don’t have that choice. So I’ve been wrestling with mixed emotions. On one hand, I would prefer to be sentenced to death and in the next moment of consciousness see Christ, which would be much better than staying here in this old world.

English Standard Version

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.


The Clear Word cannot allow Paul to “depart and be with Christ” as that would go against the doctrine of soul-sleep. To “clean up” the passage, Blanco changes it to state that “in the next moment of consciousness [Paul will] see Christ.” Moreover, he eliminates Paul’s statement that “to die is gain” and talks instead about his possible death being for God’s glory.

Adventists cannot think of death as “gain” or as being “far better” than to go on living. No matter how they try to comfort themselves with seeing Christ in their next conscious moment at the resurrection, they know it would not be “far better” to be unconscious in the ground for unknown numbers of years than to live out one’s life in “fruitful labor”. Blanco had to reverse the message of Scripture in order to accommodate the Adventist doctrine of death by eliminating the promise of being immediately with the Lord.


Watering down death in the gospels

In the next examples we will examine how Blanco reinterprets the meaning of “death” in several gospel passages. He eliminates the concept of spiritual death; he weakens God’s right to judge, and he blurs the fact that people will be killed for their loyalty to the Lord Jesus.


Matthew 4:16

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

They will see a great light, and that light will give them hope.

The Clear Word

The people who live in darkness will see great light, and for those who have no hope, the light will shine.

English Standard Version

the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.


From this verse in Matthew we can see that Blanco chooses to not use the word “death” in his paraphrases. Matthew quotes these words from Isaiah 60:1-3 along with Isaiah 9:2 after Jesus settled in Capernaum near the territory of Naphtali and Zebulun. The point was to emphasize that the people were living in the darkness of their natural spiritual death. Blanco eliminated this direct reference to depravity. Let’s look at a few more verses to see how Blanco has chosen to use the word “death.”


Matthew 21:41

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

The priests answered, “The owner will have the evil renters arrested and tried for murder. Then he’ll get other renters to look after his vineyard.”

The Clear Word

The priests answered, “He’ll have them arrested and tried for murder, then lease out his vineyard to other grape growers who will recognize the landowner’s right to a share of the harvest.”

English Standard Version

They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”


Here we see Blanco changing “put to a miserable death” to being “tried for murder”. This alteration is a serious problem. Here’s why: the parable is about the owner of the vineyard (God) and how the tenants treated His own Son (Jesus Christ.) Only God has the authority to give and to take life, and in this passage Matthew declares this right. Blanco, however, sends the offenders to trial for murder instead of having them receive a death sentence for a capital crime. By altering this judgment against the offenders, Blanco subtly inserts the investigative judgment into the verse. Rather than bringing swift justice to the situation, the landowner decides to let the case go to court (corresponding to the judgment in the most holy place of the sanctuary in heaven). According to the great controversy model, this judgment is done so the heavenly intelligences are allowed to view the righteousness of God’s judgment against the offenders instead of watching God mete out justice at the time he declares it. Moreover, taking the case to court diminishes the biblical truth of God’s own power to give or take life as he pleases, thus reinforcing the Adventist view that God does not kill people.

Now we will compare Blanco’s renderings of Matthew 24:9 with that of the ESV:


Matthew 24:9

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

People will be mean to those who believe in Me. You will even be hated.

The Clear Word

Those who are loyal to me will be persecuted and killed. They will be hated by all nations because they love me.

English Standard Version

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.


The Clear Word is not a bad paraphrase of this passage on the surface, but remember the EGW quote above where she says that our loyalty or disloyalty to the law is what will determine our salvation.3 Blanco uses EGW’s phrasing to emphasize the classic Adventist teaching that loyalty to God is marked by loyalty to the law and to Sabbath-keeping. TCWK, however, is blatantly “off”. There is no mention of death or of being killed for the name of Jesus Christ. Again, Blanco has watered-down the reality that Christians will be persecuted and killed for the sake of Jesus because darkness hates the light.

Next, let us examine John 8:51:


John 8:51

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

Whoever believes Me and holds on to what I say will never die.

The Clear Word

I want to tell you that whoever believes what I’m saying and obeys my teaching will not taste the final power of death.

English Standard Version

Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.


TCWK is a reasonably good paraphrase of this particular verse; TCW, though, has the believer not tasting “the final power of death” instead of never seeing death. In other words, Blanco denies the reality of spiritual life, suggesting believers die but don’t experience the final power of annihilation. Unless one knows Adventist theology, it is possible to miss what Blanco is actually saying. When an Adventist reads The Clear Word, however, it reinforces his Adventist worldview and seems to lend scriptural credibility to it.


Blanco erases “spirit”

Blanco’s paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 12:2-3 in which Paul recounts his having been taken into the third heaven demonstrates Adventism’s disbelief in the immaterial spirit of man.


2 Corinthians 12:2-3

The Easy English Clear Word and The Clear Word for Kids

About fourteen years ago Barnabas came to Tarsus looking for me and took me to Antioch. By then I had already been preaching for about seven years. One day I was taken to heaven in vision. There I saw Jesus. Whether I was there physically or just in vision I couldn’t tell. It was all so real. To this day only God knows. Let me say it again. How it happened I don’t know; only God knows.

The Clear Word

Fourteen years ago, Barnabas came to Tarsus to take me to Antioch. By then I had already been preaching the gospel for almost seven years. One day I was taken up to the third heaven to where Christ is. Whether I was taken there bodily or just saw it all in vision, I can’t tell you. To this day I still don’t know, only God knows. Let me say that again: whether I was taken to heaven bodily or just saw it all in vision, I don’t know, only God knows.

English Standard Version

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—


First, Blanco inserts the story of Barnabas going to Tarsus to bring Paul back to Antioch. This story is recorded in Acts 11:25-26; it simply does not appear in 2 Corinthians 12 at all.

Second, Blanco does not use Paul’s words which state he doesn’t know whether he was “in the body or out of the body” when he was taken to the third heaven. Instead, Blanco has Paul saying he didn’t know whether he was in the body or “in vision”. Visions are experiences that occur to people while they are in the body; in visions, people “see” things that are not in their environment. In other words, Blanco has completely eliminated the possibility that Paul’s spirit was in heaven without his body. The Bible, however, teaches explicitly that Paul was either in the body or out of the body. In contrast, Blanco can’t admit that a disembodied spirit that had consciousness and memory could exist, much less go to heaven to be instructed by the Lord Jesus, because in Adventism, the spirit is only the breath in one’s lungs—the life force that animates the physical person. In Adventist theology, a person is only a body plus breath.

Finally, Blanco states in TEECW and TCWK that Paul saw Jesus. The text of Scripture does not make this claim. In TCW, he has Paul saying he was taken to the third heaven “where Christ is.” Again, this phrase is not in Scripture. What the Bible does say—and which Blanco does not even suggest—is that Paul claimed to be “a man in Christ”. Being “in Christ” is a biblical description of a person who is born of the Spirit and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. This reality is usually missing from Adventism. Because Adventists do not believe people have immaterial spirits that are either alive in Christ or naturally dead in sin, the concept of being “in Christ” is misunderstood and contradicts Adventist doctrine. Blanco had to change that declaration.



Examining Blanco’s wording in these versions of The Clear Word reveals that the Adventist doctrine of “soul sleep” is not only hopeless, it is incorrectly named. According to Adventism, the soul actually goes out of existence at the time of death; the spirit (breath) returns to God, the body returns to dust, and the “living soul” ceases to exist. When reading a good translation of the Bible, however, we see that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. It is far better to be with the Lord than to be unconscious and merely a memory in God’s mind for unnumbered years.

Paul’s letters are an encouragement to believers facing death. We can know that we are saved, and death ushers us into the presence of the Lord.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24).

The horror of “soul sleep” is swallowed up in the life of the gospel, and that is far better! †



  1. White, Ellen G., The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, 1870, p. 27.
  2. White, Ellen G., The Watchman, God’s Test of Obedience, Feb. 4th, 1908, para. 1.
  3. It would be a decent paraphrase aside from the Adventist understanding of the time of persecution. Blanco’s TCW text states that, “Those who are loyal to me will be persecuted and killed.” In Adventist theology, it is those who are keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath at the end of time who are the loyal ones that will be killed.


Life Assurance Ministries

Copyright 2015 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Camp Verde, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised May 25, 2016. Contact email: proclamation@gmail.com



W I N T E R • 2 0 1 5