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In the last article, we saw the reality that it has ever been Satan’s plan to attack the divinity of the Son of God. We also saw that a correct understanding and acceptance of this subject is inextricably tied to our salvation. Lastly, we saw what it meant for Christ to be the “only Begotten Son of God.”
What we will look at in this article, is the age of the Son of God, the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist pioneers as it concerns Jesus’ divinity, and how the belief system of those pioneers grew over time. In studying these aspects of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, the beauty and distinct principles that this church brings to the Christian community, by God’s grace, will shine forth in its luster.
It is very interesting that many Jews, during the days of Christ, understood very clearly what Jesus was saying, when He claimed divinity, as an attribute He possessed. He did not only claim the divinity of God as His own, but He also claimed equality with God, as something that belonged to Him.
When going through the voluminous writings of God’s messenger we see this very idea extrapolated. Ellen White makes two, among many, very intense statements, the profundity of which, will baffle our minds. The first statement is in connection with Jesus’ statement,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am (John 8: 58).
It reads as follows:
Here [in John 8:58] Christ shows them that, although they [the Jews] might reckon His life to be less than fifty years, yet His divine life could not be reckoned by human computation. The existence of Christ before His incarnation is not measured by figures.
In other words, as far back, in terms of numbers, as our human minds can reach, we cannot calculate the divine lifespan of the Son of God. The greatest number, going backwards in time, cannot compute the beginning of His existence. We can never reach it, because there was no beginning for Christ.
For this reason, as hard as it is sometimes to think that there is a supernatural being without beginning, such as God; it is even harder for some within Adventism to believe that God has a Son, who also never had a beginning. Not only a Son, but One, who as a result of never having a beginning, is just as old as His Father, who never had a beginning; thereby making Christ, God in the fullest sense of the word. The idea behind the last sentence brings forth the concept behind the word “coeval.”
of the same or equal age or antiquity: originating or occurring in and often lasting through the same era or epoch.
According to the statements we just read from John 8:58, and Signs of the Times, it is clear that Jesus is not only pre-existent, but He is also coeval with His Father. Have you ever heard of a Son, being the same age as His Father? Yet, as promised, this sets the stage for the second statement from inspiration, which goes in harmony with the concept behind the word coeval.
Amplifying the concept of Christ as the personified wisdom of God, found in Proverbs 8:22-30, Ellen White states clearly:
In speaking of His pre-existence, Christ carries the mind back through dateless ages. He assures us that there never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God.
…and then concludes with this earth-shattering statement,
He to whose voice the Jews were then listening had been with God as one brought up with Him.
Until this day, I have never heard of a son, being brought up with his father. Now just about every Seventh-day Adventist, and even some, who are part of the One True God movement, would agree, that the Father had no beginning. However, if in human vernacular, the Son was as One brought up with the Father, that means the same eternal existence belongs to the Son, in the very same way it belongs to the Father.
Therefore, how old is the Son? Apart from his human nature acquired at the incarnation, His divine nature has no birth date, for He is the eternal God. The descriptions that we have read concerning Christ, can only apply to one, who is God essentially.
The Pioneers of Our Faith
In light of all that was written above, this was not the way that the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist movement always viewed the subject of the divinity of Jesus. To a large degree some, in their allegiance to the belief system of the pioneers, have chosen to stay with the understanding the pioneers had in our past history, while apparently forgetting that this church is ever receiving advancing light.
The pioneers of this movement came from different religious backgrounds. Some came from the Methodist church, some from the Baptist denomination, and still others from the group known as the Christian Connection. Many of them were a part of the Millerite movement. However, after the Great disappointment on October 22nd, 1844, a small group went on to become the group known as the “Early Sabbath-keeping Adventist,” also known as “Sabbatarian Adventists,” later on to become the “Seventh-day Adventist Church.” This group known as the Sabbatarian Adventist were mostly Anti-Trinitarian.
Some of the great men, who were pioneers of what would become the Seventh-day Adventist Church were James White, Joseph Bates, Uriah Smith, J.N. Andrews, J.H. Waggoner, and many others. In his book “Development of SDA Theology”, Merlin Burt wrote concerning the belief system that these men possessed. The statements are as follows:
Joseph Bates: “Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was an impossibility for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God.”
James White: “Here we might mention the Trinity, which does away with the personality of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ.”
Now something interesting to note is that while James White did not believe in the Trinity doctrine, there was also a slight variation in his understanding of Jesus’ position, in relation to the Father. Dr. Burt states concerning this matter
While James White was opposed to the trinity he did not believe that Christ was inferior to the Father. In 1877 he [James White] wrote, ‘The inexplicable trinity that makes the godhead three in one and one in three, is bad enough; but the ultra-Unitarianism that makes Christ inferior to the Father is worse.’
This is what many Anti-Trinitarians, within the context of Adventism say today. In other words, the idea is that “Jesus is in essence God, because he came forth from or was begotten by God the Father, so of course He would possess all the attributes of His Father, being His express image. Yet, while Christ has the essence of God in Him, He received that from the One who was truly God from the start, the ‘One True God, the Father.’”
Along with that narrative, there are other understandings and nuances as to the subject of how Christ came to be. Christ is not necessarily inferior, but at the same time, the emphasis is on the word “begotten.” In faithfulness to the pioneers, these beliefs are still held today by many. Two of the many great leaders of the Advent faith said it this way:
J. Waggoner: “There was a time when Christ proceeded forth and came from God, from the bosom of the Father (John 8:42, 1:18), but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it was practically without beginning.”
W. Prescott: “As Christ was twice born, once in eternity, the only begotten of the Father, and again here in the flesh, thus uniting the divine with the human in that second birth….”
Many other pioneers echoed the same thought. Notice the concepts of “proceeding forth” and “the only begotten of the Father”, in a very literal sense, being emphasized. We saw, however, in the first article, that these concepts mean exactly the opposite of what many Anti-Trinitarians believe that it means.
For John, the emphasis in the idea behind the words “begotten or proceeding forth” was not the concept of creation, generation or eternal generation, but instead a unique revelation, of the One whose name was being tarnished in the battle between good and evil.
James White, Joseph Bates, E.J. Waggoner, and W.W. Prescott, and many others who believed such ideas, were very wise men, as it concerned their understanding of the Bible, but something that we must always remember, is that at almost every stage of our Christian development, God has to cleanse some species of error from our theological conceptions.
An important point to ever remember is that the Seventh-day Adventist church, is not just a church, but a movement, ever progressing in its understanding of the truth. As more truth comes, it will never contradict the truths of old, but only exalt them. Some of the pioneers recognized this, as it concerned Christ’s deity, and practically followed truth when it was revealed. One example of this was Uriah Smith. His progression on this subject is actually very fascinating, it goes as follows:
Uriah Smith’s view in 1865 concerning the phrase “the beginning of the creation of God” in Revelation 3:14: “the first created being, dating his existence far back before any other created being or thing, next to the self-existent and eternal God.”
Uriah Smith’s view in 1875 concerning the phrase “the beginning of the creation of God” in Revelation 3:14: “Some understand by this language that Christ was the first created being, dating his existence far back before any other created being or thing, next to self-existent and eternal God. But the language does not necessarily imply this; for the words, ‘the beginning of the creation,’ may simply signify that the work of creation, strictly speaking, was begun by him.”
Uriah Smith’s view in 1881 concerning the phrase “the beginning of the creation of God” in Revelation 3:14: “Others, however, take the word arche to mean the agent or efficient cause, which is one of the definitions of the word, understanding that Christ is the agent through whom God has created all things, but that he himself came into existence in a different manner, as he is called ‘the only begotten’ of the Father. It would seem utterly inappropriate to apply this expression to any being created in the ordinary sense of that term.”
By the way some of the sentences are constructed, one can feel the mental struggle, as Uriah progressed in his understanding. The reason that I say mental struggle, is due to the reality that he was leaving his understanding of a created Christ, and gradually correcting his views, advancing to a Christ, who was the agent of all of creation.
To go one step beyond this, would be for him to believe in an uncreated Savior. What is becoming more apparent from this analysis of Uriah Smith, is that the more one seeks to be in harmony with the Bible, and the writings of Ellen White, which only amplify what the Bible teaches, you cannot but progress to a high Christology.
The honest study of Scripture can only lead to more exalted conceptions of Jesus Christ. Alonzo T. Jones was another one of those men who saw these exalted conceptions of Jesus’ eternality. A little bolder than some of his Adventist contemporaries, he stated, in the year 1895, concerning Jesus Christ,
The eternal Word consented to be made flesh. God became man.
Three years later, Jones goes on to make a statement that is very close, to that of Trinitarian ideology, by stating:
God is one. Jesus Christ is one. The Holy Spirit is one. And these three are one: there is no dissent nor division among them.
True to the nature of a messenger/prophet, Ellen White also was ahead of her time, in saying in 1906, this breathtaking statement
Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore.
To say that Jesus was God in the highest sense, friends is to say that His existence is exactly like that of His Father, even without beginning, without origin, and it excludes coming forth by being eternally begotten. He just is.
Now some may look at all of these voluminous statements of progression, from Ellen White along with other pioneers, and say these were added later, by some form of infiltration. I know this because some with anti-Trinitarian views have presented this to me, as a solid vindication for their stance, regardless of the evidence. To them I would respectfully say, take time to do a humble and honest study of the word of God, the writings of Ellen White, and the writings of pioneers.
The tendency of humanity has ever been to come to the word of God, to interpret it, through perceived notions that may be founded in error. I have learned, however, that instead, we must come, open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Bible. We must ever be ready to have our views crushed, if necessary. God’s overall counsel, must purify and become the lens, through which we see everything.
We must also, ever remember, the way in which God, who is light, draws humanity to Himself. To reveal all of His fullness immediately, to a people coming out of darkness, would result in their extinction. The reason being that, finite man cannot handle the complete revelation of the infinite God, it would be too much to handle all at once.
This is the reason for eternal salvation, that we might have eternity, for our minds to process the eternal God. Therefore, Proverbs 4:18 summarizes how our loving God, unveils the truth about Himself, both to the pioneers and this present generation, by saying,
But the path of the just is as the shining sun, that shines more and more unto the perfect day.
In this article, we will examine one of the most popular chapters in all of Scripture—Numbers 19. Did I just say, “one of the most popular chapters”? I did, but with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.
Please be honest—there is no reason to feel ashamed—raise your hand if, at least once, you began an annual Bible-reading plan, became engrossed in the ups, downs, adventures, and sagas of Genesis and Exodus, then came to a screeching halt in Leviticus. In my imagination, I see scores of raised hands, including my own. This is technically Numbers, but chapter 19 is still very … Levitical—sacrifice, ceremony, ritual, blood, burning, clean, unclean.
It is not the end of the world if a lot of us admit that we find reading these sections more tedious than we would find reading stories, letters, prophecies, and other biblical proses. With that said, since walking with God means trusting Him in all things, great and small, normal and strange, then let us trust that He had a plethora of compelling reasons for canonizing such an abundance of sacramental prescriptions and regulations. At a rudimentary minimum, John the Baptist’s declaration of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” is a confirmation of this.
To go on a bit of a tangent, as I am prone to do, Daniel and Revelation are the books that are intuitively considered the keystones of our identity as Seventh-day Adventist Christians. I by no means have a problem with this. However, I recommend we stretch this profile a fair amount.
Hebrews, which may very well constitute a substantial corpus of my near-future writing, means just as much to our existence and mission, for with more explicit clarity than anywhere else, it propels us to direct the attention of those of alternative folds toward what Christ is doing, as well as what He did.
Peeling back another layer, Leviticus, with outside chapters and passages that sound like it, is the catalyst for the other three books. Daniel, Hebrews, and Revelation are completely useless without the sanctuary and its services. The Lord Himself shapes our faith, of course, but it is His intricate, multi-faceted object lesson that shapes our theological infrastructure and, more practically, our effectiveness in preparing ourselves and the world for His soon return.
Getting back on track, we will not simply read Numbers 19, but study it, and through this endeavor, I believe will learn precious principles that will fortify our spiritual journeys. A handful of the themes we will explore here will directly or indirectly coincide with what we have already observed in some of the columns I wrote earlier this year.
There are similarities and differences between the red heifer and other offerings. Their comparisons can certainly teach us relevant aspects of God’s redemptive plan. Nevertheless, we will place greater emphasis on the contrasts. It is from the uniqueness of the red heifer offering that we will garner a greater wealth of gospel gems. First, though, let us delineate a representative list of commonalities:
The first discrepancy between the red heifer and other sacrifices that we will unpack is frequency. Even offerings such as peace, drink, and grain, which would more or less fall under a voluntary category, were conducted on a regular basis.
Keeping in mind that the early Israelite nation, during the Mosaic era, amounted to roughly 2 million people (600,000 males, most of them with families), it is sensible to envision that, at practically any given moment, a handful of people would visit the altar and express their devotion to and adoration and appreciation for God through these tangible means.
This says nothing of the more systematic, backbone sacrifices. The burnt offering first instituted it in Eden, centuries before the Exodus, was the foundation of the sacrificial system. Understanding that in the sanctuary service, the burnt offering was performed twice every single day for national atonement efficacy plus those brought on an individual basis, one needs a scientific calculator to tabulate the occurrences of burnt offerings.
Then, of course, there was the sin offering. God required that those who dwelt within the camp were to bring an animal sacrifice whenever they transgressed one of His commands. The kind of creature used depended on positional and economic association, and even this scale insinuated God’s justice and mercy.
The frequency discrepancy between the red heifer and the other offerings, is perhaps what intrigued me most. The aforementioned offerings likely tallied millions upon millions upon millions, but based on the sources I inspected, the grand total for red heifer offerings ranged from a half dozen to a dozen. To keep things simple, let’s say ten. The Holy Spirit helped me determine that there are two main reasons for this rarity:
It could not be enacted very often
It did not need to be enacted very often
A red cow was not like a pink unicorn or Bigfoot. A person could find one with some effort. For what it is worth, they were more rusty than rosy. Those of us who live in rural settings have probably driven past a few of them. However, not any red cow could be used.
Extra-biblical material suggests that one designated for sacrifice could not have one chromatically divergent follicle, and we saw in Numbers 19
It could not have any blemish or defect
It could not have done any common work—agricultural or otherwise.
A person’s prospect of going from impurity to purity was predicated on a creature with a very lofty pedigree, one up to which very few creatures could measure.
Israel’s sacramental history spanned roughly a full millennium, and there is no indication that the ash supply was ever depleted. Using simple arithmetic, one cow generated enough ashes—enough cleansing benefit—to last about one hundred years. This was quite a relief, especially considering what we just discussed regarding how narrow the options were. The two acknowledgments numbered above go hand-in-hand.
Time is an important factor as it pertains to the red heifer offering, on multiple fronts. We alluded to one already, and we will again in a few moments—the reality that one sacrifice could cover approximately a full century. On a different front, we read in verse 10 that the person who gathered the ashes must go through a cleansing process because of impurity. It was a similar case for the priest and person in charge of incineration, according to earlier verses.
Getting back to contrasts, the person who benefitted from the atonement of a burnt or sin offering is the one who brought the animal, laid hands on it, and slaughtered it. This is not the case with the red heifer.
A person who could potentially be cleansed by the cow’s ashes did not bring it to the priest, lay hands on its head, or slaughter it. This person did not even witness its death or burning. Remembering that one cow supplied enough benefit for about one hundred years, based on the round, conservative numbers we used, this person may not have even been born when the sacrifice occurred. Nevertheless, this particular “time-warp” dynamic did not diminish its purifying effect with respect to any person who needed it.
Verses 9 and 17 state that the red heifer offering was for purification from sin. The surrounding context seems contradictory but fret not. When someone needed to be cleansed, it was not for breaking God’s law; it was for coming into contact with death.
This did not render moral accountability, as such. If Person A was with Person B in a dwelling, and B passed, how could A be blamed? Person A bore contamination—and needed to be purified—but not blamed. The same goes for one who, in familial responsibility, participated in the burial of a deceased loved one.
I have deduced that there are two primary threads that weave through this chapter:
Sin and death are Siamese twins, so to speak
Death is ubiquitous and inescapable … outside of divine intervention
In conjunction with the second point, something we can learn from Numbers 19 is that sin is a matter of condition, as well as behavior. God prescribed sacrifices for wrongdoing, and rightfully so. We must experience atonement for the iniquity we commit, but we must also experience atonement because mortality tarnishes our DNA. With at least a modicum of boldness, I would say that those who were washed with the cow’s ashes were born again.
Overall, what I found fascinating about the red heifer offering is that, in assorted ways, it superseded the burnt, sin, peace, and others. The latter was more limited, especially in regard to time. That is why they were repeated so frequently.
The red heifer’s potency was much more far-reaching, and thankfully so, for very few of them were available. Furthermore, to reiterate, it addressed the conditional dimension of sin, and I have mentioned in prior articles that it would behoove us to emphasize this and the behavioral dimension with equal treatment.
The Potency of Christ’s Sacrifice
We have stayed within ceremonial parameters for much of this study, but now it is time to step out of them. The red heifer’s higher-plane relation to the daily sacrifices was relative, and Hebrews 9:13–14 (NASB) verifies this:
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
No sheep, goats, pigeons, bulls, or even cows could ever actually liberate humanity from the fetters of iniquity and destruction. They were merely shadows of the substance—Jesus and His death on the cross. He superseded the red heifers much more than they superseded the other offerings. The Lamb of God did not need to die twelve, ten, or even six times, but only once, yet the cleansing potency is more than sufficient for every person from every generation, spanning millennia before and after Calvary.
We will conclude with an excerpt from the Spirit of Prophecy. The Lord is worthy of our praise for investing and risking all the resources of heaven to execute such an impeccable plan for our ransom from sin and death.
Beyond this provision itself, He taught us its nuances through various angles, not exhaustively—for we have to accept the elements of mystery that will take us infinite time to uncover—but enough to solicit from us an intelligent faith. We must exercise this faith, for Christ’s purifying sacrifice is the only remedy we have to make us fit for everlasting fellowship with Him and His people in “the midst of the assembly.”
The children of Israel were anciently commanded to make an offering for the entire congregation to purify them from ceremonial defilement. This sacrifice was a red heifer and represented the more perfect offering that should redeem from the pollution of sin. This was an occasional sacrifice for the purification of all those who had necessarily or accidentally touched the dead. All who came in contact with death in any way were considered ceremonially unclean. This was to forcibly impress the minds of the Hebrews with the fact that death came in consequence of sin and therefore is a representative of sin. The one heifer … impressively point[s] to the one great offering, the sacrifice of Christ.
This heifer was to be red, which was a symbol of blood. It must be without spot or blemish, and one that had never borne a yoke. Here, again, Christ was typified. The Son of God came voluntarily to accomplish the work of atonement. There was no obligatory yoke upon Him … Christ alone was free from the claims of the law to undertake the redemption of the sinful race. He had power to lay down His life and to take it up again …
The sacrificial heifer was conducted without the camp and slain in the most imposing manner. Thus Christ suffered without the gates of Jerusalem, for Calvary was outside the city walls. This was to show that Christ did not die for the Hebrews alone, but for all mankind. He proclaims to a fallen world that He has come to be their Redeemer and urges them to accept the salvation He offers them. The heifer having been slain in a most solemn manner, the priest, clothed in pure white garments, took the blood in his hands as it issued from the body of the victim and cast it toward the temple seven times …
The body of the heifer was burned to ashes, which signified a whole and ample sacrifice. The ashes were then gathered up by a person uncontaminated by contact with the dead and placed in a vessel containing water from a running stream. This clean and pure person then took a cedar stick with scarlet cloth and a bunch of hyssop, and sprinkled the contents of the vessel upon the tent and the people assembled. This ceremony was repeated several times in order to be thorough and was done as a purification from sin.
Thus Christ, in His own spotless righteousness, after shedding His precious blood, enters into the holy place to cleanse the sanctuary. And there the crimson current is brought into the service of reconciling God to man. Some may look upon this slaying of the heifer as a meaningless ceremony, but it was done by the command of God and bears a deep significance that has not lost its application to the present time.
The priest used cedar and hyssop, dipping them into the cleansing water and sprinkling the unclean. This symbolized the blood of Christ spilled to cleanse us from moral impurities. The repeated sprinklings illustrate the thoroughness of the work that must be accomplished for the repenting sinner. All that he has must be consecrated. Not only should his own soul be washed clean and pure, but he should strive to have his family, his domestic arrangements, his property, and his entire belongings consecrated to God …
The blood of Christ is efficacious, but it needs to be applied continually … you need the blood of sprinkling thoroughly applied, consecrating you and all your possessions to God.
 Numbers 19:2; see also Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 1:3; 3:1; 4:3; etc.
 Numbers 19:3; see also Leviticus 1:5; 3:2; 4:30; etc.
 Numbers 19:3; see also Leviticus 1:5; 3:2; 4:29; etc.
 Numbers 19:4; see also Leviticus 1:5; 3:2; 4:30; etc.
 Numbers 19:5; see also Leviticus 1:9; 3:5; 4:31; etc.
 White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4 (Battle Creek, MI: Review & Herald, 1881), p. 120–123.
In the previous article, we have established on biblical grounds that the identity of the 144,000 is a symbolic number signifying the multitude of believers. Let’s now clarify a major LGT claim and common misconception: that during the last days the special group of believers expected to reach sinless perfection (the presumed 144,000) will have to live without the help of the Holy Spirit and without the intercession of Christ. Do the Bible and Ellen White support this idea? Let’s look at these issues one by one.
Will Believers Live Without the Holy Spirit During the End of Time?
The idea that there will be a period of time from the closing of probation until the second coming when the Holy Spirit will be withdrawn from the earth and everyone, including believers, is a cause of deep concern for some Adventists. This belief is based on a narrative woven from Ellen White quotes:
All fornicators will be outside the City of God. Already God’s angels are at work in judgment, and the Spirit of God is gradually leaving the world. The triumph of the church is very near, the reward to be bestowed is almost within our reach, and yet iniquity is found among those who claim to have the full blaze of heaven’s light.
The days in which we live are solemn and important. The Spirit of God is gradually but surely being withdrawn from the earth. Plagues and judgments are already falling upon the despisers of the grace of God…. The agencies of evil are combining their forces, and consolidating. . . . Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones.
The restraining Spirit of God is even now being withdrawn from the world. Hurricanes, storms, tempests, fire and flood, disasters by sea and land, follow each other in quick succession.
The time is at hand when there will be sorrow in the world that no human balm can heal. The Spirit of God is being withdrawn.
The wicked have passed the boundary of their probation; the Spirit of God, persistently resisted, has been at last withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble…. So when the irrevocable decision of the sanctuary has been pronounced and the destiny of the world has been forever fixed, the inhabitants of the earth will know it not. The forms of religion will be continued by a people from whom the Spirit of God has been finally withdrawn.
All these statements speak about the gradual withdrawing of the Holy Spirit from the earth, and this has been interpreted by LGT proponents to mean that the Holy Spirit will not be available to anyone during the last days.
However, the statements suggest that the Holy Spirit is withdrawing from the wicked ones, from those who refuse Him. This is a divine manifestation of respect for the choices of His creatures. The believers, however, will continue to have His support until the end as the Spirit continues to work on their transformation into the image of God.
Ellen White states that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit in the last days is to help the believers as they go through the dangerous times during the seven plagues:
At that time the ‘latter rain,’ or refreshing from the presence of the Lord, will come [the Holy Spirit], to give power to the loud voice of the third angel, and prepare the saints to stand in the period when the seven last plagues shall be poured out.
The help of the Holy Spirit during the last days is also exemplified in the parable of the ten virgins where the five wise virgins had abundant oil, which represents the Holy Spirit. We will not be earning our victory by becoming sinless in order to withstand the evil during the end days. The Holy Spirit will continue to be with us and will lead us victoriously through the final crisis.
Will Believers Live Without Christ During the End of Time?
The similar LGT idea that the last generation will have to live without the intercessory work of Christ after the closing of probation is based on some Ellen White quotes and the belief that the pre-second coming judgment and the apocalyptic sealing are two separate events. Let’s look at each of these two aspects.
Ellen White on the Last Generation
In “What is the State of the Last Generation,” Ranko Stefanovic notes that two quotes from Ellen White’s Great Controversy are often used to support the idea that the last generation of believers will live without the intercessory work of Christ. The first quote is found in chapter 24 entitled “In the Holy of Holies,” which tackles the Great Disappointment in 1844. The quote is a warning to those who had expected Christ but were not ready for His return:
Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. … While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people on earth.
Stefanovic suggests that the point of Ellen White’s chapter is to clarify the misunderstanding of the Millerites concerning the Sanctuary and October 22, 1844. The end of the preparation for Christ’s Second Coming, of which she speaks in the quote above, marks the close of probation and of the investigative judgment. Thus, while it is true that Christ’s ministry of intercession will cease prior to His Second Coming, this will happen only after the destiny of all humankind has been determined.
White’s second statement is in chapter 39, entitled “The Time of Trouble,” which speaks about the rising of Michael during the final and troubling days of earth:
Jesus ceases His intercession in the sanctuary above … mercy no longer pleads for the guilty inhabitants of the earth.
[Every] case has been decided for life or death. Christ has made the atonement for His people and blotted out their sins.
When He leaves the sanctuary, darkness covers the inhabitants of the earth. In that fearful time the righteous must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor. The restraint which has been upon the wicked is removed, and Satan has entire control of the finally impenitent. … Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose.
The events described here will usher the believers into what White refers to as the time of Jacob’s trouble. Just as Jacob wrestled with his sins, so will the believers wrestle with their faith and assurance of salvation and forgiveness under the pressure of Satan’s accusations:
They are fully conscious of their weaknesses and unworthiness. Satan endeavors to terrify them with the thought that their cases are hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be washed away.
White mentions similar ideas when she discusses the encounter of Joshua with God’s angel in the vision of Zechariah:
They are fully conscious of the sinfulness of their lives, they see their weakness and unworthiness, and as they look upon themselves they are ready to despair. The tempter stands by to accuse them, as he stood by to resist Joshua. He points to their filthy garments, their defective character. He presents their weakness and folly, their sins of ingratitude, their unlikeness to Christ, which has dishonored their Redeemer. He endeavors to affright the soul with the thought that their case is hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be washed away. He hopes to so destroy their faith that they will yield to his temptations, turn from their allegiance to God, and receive the mark of the beast.
White resembles his time of trouble to a “furnace of fire” that will purify the believers:
[it] is needful for them to be placed in the furnace of fire; their earthliness must be consumed, that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.
Clearly, this trial would not be necessary if the believers have already reached sinless perfection. The believers themselves are aware of their state, which is not one of sinlessness. Yet they are sealed and covered in the blood of Christ and preserved for eternity. While the believers are secure through the righteousness of Christ, the process of transformation more into the likeness of God continues through the time of trouble until glorification.
Once again, while White does mention that the intercessory ministry of Christ will have ceased before this time of trouble, it is because this aspect of Christ’s work on behalf of humanity is no longer needed since all cases have been decided. Yet nowhere does Ellen White suggest or imply that the believers will live without the presence or the help of God.
Throughout her writings, Ellen White has often urged believers to overcome sin and become perfect in character like Christ. We ought to aim for moral perfection, and not allow our human weakness and sinful tendencies to shadow what God has promised He can accomplish in us. However, this standard is not a special one expected only from the last generation but is the standard for all Christians of all times and can only be achieved through Christ’s work of justification and sanctification in our lives.
At the same time, White has repeatedly stated that we will never reach sinlessness on this earth, as exemplified in the following:
As long as Satan reigns we shall have self to subdue, besetments to overcome, and there is no stopping place, there is no point to which we can come and say we have fully attained.
We cannot say, ‘I am sinless,’ till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body. But if we constantly seek to follow Jesus, the blessed hope is ours of standing before the throne of God without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; complete in Christ, robed in His righteousness and perfection.
When the conflict of life is ended, when the armor is laid off at the feet of Jesus, when the saints of God are glorified, then and then only will it be safe to claim that we are saved and sinless.
Stefanovic concludes that White’s statements, read properly in their context, are in harmony with the Biblical teaching that believers living in the end-time are not expected to achieve sinless perfection. Perfection, in the Bible, does not means sinlessness; it means “a total commitment and loyalty to God that reflects His character but that allows for the possibility of incidental and accidental weaknesses and mistakes.” Through the work of the Holy Spirit, our character will be brought more into the likeness of Christs during our entire lifetime on earth, until our glorification at the Second Coming when sin will be eradicated fully from the universe.
Also, relevant to the question of whether believers will live without Christ during the last days is a discussion on the biblical concept of sealing. In “Misinterpreted End-Time Issues: Five Myths in Adventism” Jiri Moskala notes that the Bible speaks of two seals:
The seal of the gospel
The apocalyptic seal.
The seal of the gospel is mentioned in Ephesians 1:13, 14 and takes place when someone gives their life to Christ, accepting His sacrifice. At that moment, the believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit for the second coming of Christ:
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13,14).
After hearing the gospel comes belief, then the sealing of the Holy Spirit, who is a guarantee of our salvation. Think of it like a down payment guaranteeing the full payment, which will take place at the end of time. In Ephesians 4:30 this seal is mentioned again as Paul urges Christians to “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Interestingly, the word esphragisthete appears only two times in the New Testament – in these two verses. Both times the verb is in a past tense, showing that it is not a future experience, but an action performed by God when a person accepted Christ. Since it is an act of God, it involves no uncertainty.
Ellen White seems to be in harmony with this biblical teaching as she writes:
Oh, that the youth and children would give their hearts to Christ! What an army might then be raised up to win others to righteousness! … Do not many of them [parents] think that the minister should take the burden and see to it that their children are converted and that the seal of God is placed upon them?
The second seal is the apocalyptic seal, depicted in Revelation and placed upon the believers not with the purpose of redemption, but of protection. As the seal of the gospel, the apocalyptic seal is an act of God, but it is meant to enable the followers of Christ to go through the events of the end time. It stands in contrast with the mark of the beast and ensures that the last plagues will not touch those sealed. While different in purpose and time, these two seals are equally important for the believer, marking the beginning and the end of the spiritual journey on earth. However, if the gospel seal can be broken – should the believer reject Christ – the apocalyptic seal cannot be broken. When will this sealing take place?
According to Ellen White, the apocalyptic sealing will take place when the Sunday law will be enforced and people will have to make a clear choice between only two alternatives: to worship God or worship the beast. Here are a few statements to that effect:
This is the test that the people of God must have before they are sealed. All who prove their loyalty to God by observing His law, and refusing to accept a spurious sabbath, will rank under the banner of the Lord God Jehovah, and will receive the seal of the living God. Those who yield the truth of heavenly origin and accept the Sunday sabbath, will receive the mark of the beast.
[W]hen the decree shall go forth enforcing the counterfeit sabbath, and the loud cry of the third angel shall warn men against the worship of the beast and his image, the line will be clearly drawn between the false and the true. Then those who still continue in transgression will receive the mark of the beast…When Protestant churches shall unite with the secular power to sustain a false religion, for opposing which their ancestors endured the fiercest persecution, then will the papal sabbath be enforced by the combined authority of church and state. There will be a national apostasy, which will end only in national ruin.
Sundaykeeping is not yet the mark of the beast, and will not be until the decree goes forth causing men to worship this idol sabbath. The time will come when this day will be the test, but that time has not come yet.
Some people believe that at any point before the closing of probation they might be called into the pre-Advent judgment. But the closing of probation cannot take place before the apocalyptic sealing since people will still have a choice to make. Instead, the judgment must come after the apocalyptic sealing, which will be a corporate event taking place after this final test of loyalty–the Sunday law.
Just as Revelation 7 portrays the same group of people described from two different perspectives (see article 3), Moskala argues that the closing cases of the saints living during the end-time and the apocalyptic sealing are one and the same event described from different perspectives.
Returning to the issue of living without the intercession of Christ after the closing of probation, it is true that Christ will cease this ministry, for the case of each person will have been decided and therefore there is no longer any need for intercession. Those who are saved are sealed with the apocalyptic seal after passing the Sunday test of loyalty and can no longer be lost.
However, this does not automatically imply that believers will live without the help of Jesus, or that Christ will be absent from His people. Even though we are sealed for salvation, we will continue to live through Christ, and it will be His righteousness, not our own sinless perfection that will carry us to the end.
We need not worry about having to reach sinlessness in order to go through the seven last plagues when evil is no longer restrained, for our protection during will come from God, and He will take us to the end victoriously. Our dependence on God must rely on His promise to be with us always, and our faith must continue to grow until our glorification at the Second Coming.
 Ranko Stefanovic, “What is the State of the Last Generation,” in God’s Character and the Last Generation, edited by John Peckham and Jiri Moskala (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2018), p. 220-235.
 See White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 (1889), p. 475-476.
 See White, Early Writings, 71; White, The Great Controversy, p. 623; White, Child Guidance (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1999), p. 477; White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1962), p. 506; White, The Desire of Ages (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2005), p. 311.
 White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1 (Battle Creek, MI:..
By sin man was shut out from God. Except for the plan of redemption, eternal separation from God, the darkness of unending night, would have been his. Through the Saviour’s sacrifice, communion with God is again made possible.
We may not in person approach into His presence; in our sin we may not look upon His face; but we can behold Him and commune with Him in Jesus, the Saviour. “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God” is revealed “in the face of Jesus Christ.” God is “in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” 2 Corinthians 4:6; 5:19.
The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, … full of grace and truth.
In Him was life; and the life was the light of men (John 1:14, R.V.; 1:4).
The life and the death of Christ, the price of our redemption, are not only to us the promise and pledge of life, not only the means of opening again to us the treasures of wisdom: they are a broader, higher revelation of His character than even the holy ones of Eden knew.
And while Christ opens heaven to man, the life which He imparts opens the heart of man to heaven. Sin not only shuts us away from God, but destroys in the human soul both the desire and the capacity for knowing Him.
All this work of evil it is Christ’s mission to undo. The faculties of the soul, paralyzed by sin, the darkened mind, the perverted will, He has power to invigorate and to restore. He opens to us the riches of the universe, and by Him the power to discern and to appropriate these treasures is imparted.
Christ is the “Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:9. As through Christ every human being has life, so also through Him every soul receives some ray of divine light. Not only intellectual but spiritual power, a perception of right, a desire for goodness, exists in every heart. But against these principles there is struggling an antagonistic power.
The result of the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is manifest in every man’s experience. There is in his nature a bent to evil, a force which, unaided, he cannot resist. To withstand this force, to attain that ideal which in his inmost soul he accepts as alone worthy, he can find help in but one power. That power is Christ. Co-operation with that power is man’s greatest need. In all educational effort should not this co-operation be the highest aim?
The true teacher is not satisfied with second-rate work. He is not satisfied with directing his students to a standard lower than the highest which it is possible for them to attain. He cannot be content with imparting to them only technical knowledge, with making them merely clever accountants, skillful artisans, successful tradesmen.
It is his ambition to inspire them with principles of truth, obedience, honor, integrity, and purity—principles that will make them a positive force for the stability and uplifting of society. He desires them, above all else, to learn life’s great lesson of unselfish service.
These principles become a living power to shape the character, through the acquaintance of the soul with Christ, through an acceptance of His wisdom as the guide, His power as the strength, of heart and life. This union formed, the student has found the Source of wisdom.
He has within his reach the power to realize in himself his noblest ideals. The opportunities of the highest education for life in this world are his. And in the training here gained, he is entering upon that course which embraces eternity. Ed 30.1
In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one, for in education, as in redemption, “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” “It was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell.” 1 Corinthians 3:11; Colossians 1:19, R.V.
Under changed conditions, true education is still conformed to the Creator’s plan, the plan of the Eden school. Adam and Eve received instruction through direct communion with God; we behold the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Christ.
for they are the principles of the character of God. To aid the student in comprehending these principles, and in entering into that relation with Christ which will make them a controlling power in the life, should be the teacher’s first effort and his constant aim. The teacher who accepts this aim is in truth a co-worker with Christ, a laborer together with God.
Editorial Note: Over the past few years there has been an increase in tensions and debate within the NAD regarding “Last Generation Theology” or LGT. This news piece documents the response of some laypeople and ministers to this tension over soteriology and final events. The presentations described below were a part of a two-day conference entitled “God’s Character and the Final Generation” held on March 22-23 at the Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. While the organizations and individuals involved in this event do not necessarily represent the position of The Compass Magazine, or the author of this article, we believe it is important to document the ongoing conversation in the church regarding this issue.
Presenters: Norman McNulty, Denis Priebe, Larry Kirkpatrick, and Gerard Damsteegt, host pastor Fred Dana, and guests Harrison Gomez and Dojcin Zivadinovic. Moderator: Pastor Mike Thompson
The following are all the questions (paraphrased) and selected answers from the Q&A.
Question 1: Does anything in the context of White’s Statement in COL 69 (the idea that the character of Christ will be perfectly reproduced in his people) suggest it cannot be taken literally?
McNulty: The context is connected to Galatians 5:22, 23 and the fruits of the Spirit, which are part of Christ’s character.
Priebe: We should “take language as it reads … and let language speak its own.”
Gomez: The book “God’s Character and the Last Generation” (edited by Jiri Moskala and John Peckham) ignores White’s statements on the topic. I would like to see one statement from Ellen White that says we cannot overcome sin, but such a statement does not exist. Zivadinovic (reading the context of the quote): If are not to take the idea of hastening Christ’s return literally, then neither can we take literally God’s waiting, His longing desire, and the church.
Question 2: If God’s character is already vindicated in Christ’s life and death, why didn’t Jesus return for us right after His ascension, but allowed another 2000 years?
Damsteegt: The time between Christ’s ascension and His Second Coming will demonstrate what happens with us if Satan is in control and if God is in control, the latter being exemplified at its best in the 144,000.
Priebe: If God won the war at the cross, it should be over, but it is not. Moreover, “[i]f God did accomplish everything He needed to accomplish at that moment, then He is responsible for the horrors and the atrocities that the last 2000 years has brought us, and I consider that an unacceptable solution.”
Kirkpatrick: Our view is not based only on some Ellen White quotes, but also on biblical examples of God’s purposes being delayed, such as the history of Israel and Esther’s speeding up the deliverance of the Jews. The slowing down of God’s purposes is caused by our comfort.
Gomez: Desire of Ages, p. 761 indicates that even after the cross Satan had sympathizers in heaven, and His existence was allowed to endure so that the universe can more see more fully the contrast of character between God and Satan.
Zivadinovic: The investigative judgment involves the judgment of both the dead and the living. That is why there will be a sealing of the living. Based on His foreknowledge, God (alone) knows that additional time would prove those sealed would continue to be sinless. “When He stops His intercession, God comes to destroy sin. That’s why He needs to prepare His people to the point where He does not need to intercede for them anymore. That’s why the cross is not the end.”
Question 3: Could you explain the difference between character perfection and perfectionism?
Priebe: The idea of perfectionism functions similarly to the concept of legalism. The “ism” turns a concept into a negative. “Perfection is God’s working in the lives of the people to change their character to be like Christ. Perfectionism is ‘grit your teeth and try as hard as you can,’… it is doing it the old covenant way: try harder, fail constantly.”
Dana: In God’s Character and the Last Generation the word “absolute” was often added after sinlessness of perfection. But God alone has absolute perfection. “Perfectionism is like to accuse somebody of a level of perfection that goes beyond character perfection.”
Zivadinovic: Perfectionism means the flesh can reach perfection. As White, we don’t teach holy flesh, but holy character. “The character holiness is the true character perfection.”
Question 4: What are the hallmarks of the true Gospel versus the false Gospel and how will they manifest in the lives of the people?
Kirkpatrick: The definition of sin, sanctification, justification, nature of Christ, and whether we can overcome sin. According to the true Gospel, while we are born with human fallen nature, we are condemned based on our choices. Justification is not just forensic, but transformation too.
Dana: The thief on the cross is an example of what justification is: he was not justified only in a declarative way; he was also born again, for Jesus told him he would enter heaven, but no one can do so unless they are born again (John 3:3).
Zivadinovic: “True justification is true conversion and true repentance of every sin that you know.” White says we need to forsake and confess every known sin through God’s power. We are not judged or saved based on the involuntary sin (sin out of ignorance, such as those Luther did), for Jesus mediates for those. “Jesus wants to stop interceding because He needs to come down here, and He can’t be interceding and coming down at the same time. He also needs to stop interceding for our sins of ignorance. Sanctification brings us to the point where God does not need to intercede anymore.”
Question 5: What was the impact of Desmond Ford’s conception of the Gospel and sanctuary on the church’s view of LGT?
Priebe: The seeds of evangelicalism planted in 1950 were grown and popularized by Ford, and now we reap the fruit.
Dana: Most of the arguments that Ford used in his paper (likely entitled) “The Law and the Gospel in Galatians” are in the book God’s Character and the Last Generation.
McNulty: An article in Adventist Review indicates that “nearly all Adventist scholars agree with Desmond Ford’s view of the gospel today in Adventism.”
Kirkpatrick: This other Gospel that is so dominant in our church is a Trojan Horse in our midst.
Gomez: The greatest danger in Adventism is the influence of evangelical theology on our church, as for example the definition of sin, which is a major distinction between the true and false gospel. We must build our theology on what God has given us (Ellen White and Bible) to be protected against the false gospel.
Question 6: How was the evangelical Gospel established in Adventism?
Priebe: The influence of evangelical professors on their Adventist students, radio, the dialogue in the 1950s, desire to escape the label of “cult.”
Kirkpatrick: We love the evangelicals and have a lot in common with them but cannot agree with the unbiblical theological spin.
Question 7: Why is the promise of enmity between the woman and the serpent and their seeds in Genesis 3:16 important?
Zivadinovic: Romans 16:20 says that God will crush Satan under our feet. The cross wasn’t the final crushing.
Question 8: Should we define the Reformation only based on the teachings of Luther and Calvin?
Kirkpatrick: The Reformation occurred under three major branches: Magisterial Reformation (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli), Elizabethan Reformation (Methodism comes out of it), and Radical Reformation (Anabaptism). Much of Adventism came from Methodism and Anabaptism, and few Adventist pioneers were Lutheran.
Damsteegt: We focus on Luther partly because the lengthiest section in the Great Controversy is on Luther (4 chapters). His contribution was major because he emphasized the Bible and the Bible alone. We must continue the work of Luther in emphasizing Sola Scriptura while we disagree with some of his other ideas.
Zivadinovic (quoting from Luther): “Faith is a divine work in us that changes us and makes us to be born again of God. …It is impossible for the faith to not be doing good works incessantly… It is impossible to separate works from faith quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire.”
Question 9: What are the similarities between the apostasy of Kellogg and some current books?
Gomez: The similarity is the attack at the heart of Adventism.
Damsteegt: A hermeneutic that spiritualizes away many things in the Bible.
Question 10: What is the essence of Christ’s character that should be reproduced in us?
McNulty: The desire to constantly be a blessing for the others, which springs from the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22, 23.
Question 11: In a booklet published by The One Project, an author/speaker charges LGT with heresy and theological and behavioral narcissism. Any comments?
Kirkpatrick: “They are accusing us of that?”
Question 12: What are your thoughts on White’s statement? “The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out. The chaff will be separated from the precious wheat.”
McNulty: Some people desire to be part of the invisible church, but the statement clearly indicates that there will be a visible body that will remain the church.
Dana: If being born again and sanctification are not part of the Gospel and are irrelevant to our salvation, then keeping the commandments are not salvation issues and when the last day’s crisis comes people will expect God to understand their lack of obedience and their failure to keep the Sabbath.
Question 13: What is the difference between the seal of the Holy Spirit and the seal of God mentioned in Revelation 7?
Damsteegt: The seal of the Spirit can be experienced by anyone right now, but the seal of the living God in Revelation is placed on the 144,000 in response to the question “Who can stand before God?” and involves the Sabbath test.
Question 14: How would you comment on the objection to LGT based on the idea that being without a mediator is being without a Savior?
McNulty: We still have the enabling from God that enables us to go through the end-time without a mediator.
Question 15: On the same note, if we don’t have a mediator after the close of probation, does that mean that we don’t have a Savior?
Zivadinovic: Christ’s grace is not just justification, but also sanctification. We will not need God for forgiving our sins then, because we will not be sinning, but we will need Him to keep us from sinning.
Gomez: White clearly states that we will be without an intercessor during the time of probation. If we don’t believe what is written, that is another issue.
Dana: God needs a generation that grasps the need of Him as no other generation has, and the only people who can live without an intercessor are those who understand this.
Question 16: How important is evangelism for the experience of the last generation?
McNulty: We cannot have the completeness of Christian character if we are not involved in evangelism. This is a natural response to our surrendering to Christ and must be part of our experience if we are to be the last generation.
Gomez: As we help others we help ourselves. We need to feed ourselves before feeding others.
Question 17: While Jesus did teach, He spent most of his time healing. How should that impact the last generation?
McNulty: Medical evangelism is the right arm of the Gospel. Anyone can do some level of legitimate medical work based on instructions from the Bible and Ellen White.
Zivadinovic: James 1 says: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” “Medical missionary work is part of the pure and undefiled religion.”
Question 18: How do we move forward in support of LGT?
Priebe (quoting Ted Wilson): “Satan will not give up his fight to neutralize the distinctive eschatological message entrusted to Seventh-day Adventists to proclaim in these last days. We are to make plain the Bible truth as it is in Jesus, so that no one will be deceived by Satan.” That is why we have been here at the conference. We will all be witnesses either for truth or for error in our everyday lives. The way to move forward is to be the witnesses that God can count on.
McNulty: Invite people to speak about this in your church.
Kirkpatrick: The message God gave us must live in our churches, and church members need to advocate its presence in the local church.
Editorial Note: Over the past few years there has been an increase in tensions and debate within the NAD regarding “Last Generation Theology” or LGT. This news piece documents the response of some laypeople and ministers to this tension over soteriology and final events. The presentations described below were a part of a two-day conference entitled “God’s Character and the Final Generation” held on March 22-23 at the Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. While the organizations and individuals involved in this event do not necessarily represent the position of The Compass Magazine, or the author of this article, we believe it is important to document the ongoing conversation in the church regarding this issue.
Presentation #5: Living Without a Mediator, Dr. Gerard Damsteegt
The Millerites mistakenly thought that the sanctuary mentioned in Daniel 8:14 was the earth, its cleansing involved the Second Coming of Christ, and as a result, were greatly disappointed when Jesus did not return in 1844. Still, further study yielded new insights, and early Adventists discovered through Daniel 8:17 that the sanctuary in verse 14 is connected to the time of the end. In 31 AD Christ began His intercessory ministry in the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, and in 1844 Jesus entered the Most Holy Place and began the final phase of His ministry.
The cleansing of the sanctuary since 1844 has had two dimensions: the cleansing of the literal temple, which is the sanctuary in the literal New Jerusalem and is occupied by Jesus the King and Priest, and the cleansing of the spiritual sanctuary, which is the church and is occupied by the Holy Spirit. According to Crosier, there is a connection between the two:
As Christ prepares the place, the Spirit does the people. When he came to his temple, the sanctuary, to cleanse it, the Spirit commenced the special cleansing of the people.
God’s people need cleansing because they must be prepared for the pouring of the latter rain and for receiving the seal of God. White writes:
Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of God fully.
In 1844 God’s people were not ready for the latter rain because they held to errors like not keeping the Sabbath, infant baptism, use of tobacco, alcohol, tea, coffee, and eating unclean foods. They also wore jewelry and were mistaken about biblical teachings concerning Godhead, tithe, hell, the immortality of the soul, Christ’s ministry as High Priest, atonement, justification and sanctification, righteousness by faith and overcoming sin.
In Acts 3:19-21, Peter indicates that the return of Christ depends on our conversion and the restoration of things. This restoration is stated by White in the following terms:
When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.
Christ’s Second Advent takes place when all truth is restored and practiced among God’s remnant people. Then they reflect Christ’s character.
At the end of time, the three angels’ messages will produce believers who keep the commandments and the faith of Jesus. These are both crucial and interconnected, for it is through Jesus that we can keep the Law. We must have faith in Jesus to receive the faith of Jesus.
We now live in a time of probation in which we can get ready for the return of Christ by purifying our character. White cautions that
[m]any are deceiving themselves by thinking that the character will be transformed at the coming of Christ, but there will be no conversion of heart at His appearing. Our defects of character must be repented of, and through the grace of Christ we must overcome while probation shall last. This is the place for fitting up for the family above.
Our self-control can be strengthened with help from Jesus, and the Holy Spirit can help us “resist our natural inclinations and tendencies to be wrong, and weed out … every un-Christlike element.” The refining of our character will take places through the outpouring of the latter rain, which is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Only when we receive this do we become fitted for translation.
After Christ finishes His intercessory work as High Priest, forgiveness will no longer be available to human beings and His wrath will be poured in the seven last plagues, but those sealed by God are protected and go through this period without sin and without remembrance of their sins, despite Satan’s attempt to deceive and discourage them.
Presentation #6: Humanity and Divinity Combined, Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick
On their own human beings cannot accomplish anything, yet in Christ they can experience change of heart. Both God and humans have a part to play in their salvation, and humans “can become partakers of divine nature,” affirmed Kirkpatrick, citing Philippians 2:12, 13:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Cooperation between divinity and humanity is key in this process.
White’s references to the natural heart suggest that the heart is initially neither totally evil, nor totally righteous, but that it trends downward. God gives the believer a new nature, but the believer has a part to play, too.
Through Christ, and Christ alone, the springs of life can vitalize man’s nature, transform his tastes, and set his affections flowing toward heaven. Through the union of the divine with the human nature Christ could enlighten the understanding and infuse His life-giving properties through the soul dead in trespasses and sins.
The natural heart needs to be daily subdued and, as we continue to cooperate with God through the power of God, we are changed.
The Son of man is fully qualified to be the originator of a humanity that will blend with divinity by partaking of the divine nature. He offers to make us golden threads in the web of humanity. He would have us act our part by co-operating with Him in healing the springs of life which have been perverted, and setting them flowing in sanctified channels.
White states that,
Christ on the cross not only draws men to repentance toward God for the transgression of His law—for whom God pardons He first makes penitent—but Christ has satisfied Justice; He has proffered Himself as an atonement.
Here Christ’s justification is not just forensic, it is more than a declaration, since we are “made penitent;” we are being changed in the process. Christ and the Holy Spirit are both interceding for us though only Jesus is our mediator. Jesus reconciles us, and the Spirit works “upon our hearts, drawing out prayers and penitence, praise and thanksgiving.” These are not just forensic actions; they are transformative actions.
Some teach that human nature is so tainted by sin that even our good deeds need forgiveness and we cannot transcend our condition. The statement of Ellen White often cited in support of this is the “corrupt channel statement” from Selected Messages, which reads as follows:
The religious services, the prayers, the praise, the penitent confession of sin ascend from true believers as incense to the heavenly sanctuary, but passing through the corrupt channels of humanity, they are so defiled that unless purified by blood, they can never be of value with God. They ascend not in spotless purity, and unless the Intercessor, who is at God’s right hand, presents and purifies all by His righteousness, it is not acceptable to God. All incense from earthly tabernacles must be moist with the cleansing drops of the blood of Christ. He holds before the Father the censer of His own merits, in which there is no taint of earthly corruption. He gathers into this censer the prayers, the praise, and the confessions of His people, and with these He puts His own spotless righteousness. Then, perfumed with the merits of Christ’s propitiation, the incense comes up before God wholly and entirely acceptable. Then gracious answers are returned.”
Yet this statement is often misunderstood. For how can we be hopelessly embedded in our sinful condition when John 17:14 states:
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Likewise, John writes in 17:17:
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
If even truth cannot sanctify us, how then can we be sanctified?
The concept of original sin is often described as humanity’s infection with sin. However, this is not biblical language and does properly describe our fallen humanity. Christ’s human nature was “fallen but not corrupted,” and corruption could only happen in Jesus through disobedience. According to White, Jesus endured more than anyone ever could, yet He overcame:
All that was possible for man to endure in the conflict with Satan, Christ endured in His human and divine nature combined. Obedient, sinless to the last, He died for man, his substitute and surety, enduring all that men ever endure from the deceiving tempter, that man may overcome by being a partaker of the divine nature.
This experience of partaking the divine nature and overcoming sin should be our goal.
Through connection with Christ we, even in our fallen humanity, can achieve true holiness. There is a distinction between evil and guilt. Evil does not always involved choice (for example, animals causing evil), but guilt can only arise from moral evil and therefore is only possible in humans. To say that “even when we are not willfully sinning our human nature needs forgiveness” is a category error. Our nature does not need forgiveness, for condemnation only arises from willful actions. LGT theology’s emphasis on the possibility of victory over sin through Christ is not only biblical, it is liberating and hopeful.
Presentation #7: End Time Soul Winners, Norman McNulty, M.D.
McNulty’s introductory statements emphasized the connection between proper evangelism and correct theology with reference to Ellen White’s call for high standards of truth and obedience.
The standard should not be placed so low that those who accept the truth shall transgress God’s commandments while professing to obey them. Better, far better would it be to leave them in the darkness until they could receive the truth in its purity.
Our lack of involvement in evangelism is sometimes an excuse for unfaithfulness or lack of surrender. If we feel like the church is not ready to receive people, we will hesitate in reaching out. But “evangelism, rightly done, is the final and vital piece of Last Generation Theology,” said McNulty, quoting Rev. 14: 6, 7 and Matthew 24:16. After the Gospel will be preached as a witness to all nations, the end shall come.
It is important to note that evangelism is not only a proclamation, it is also a demonstration.
In order for the Gospel to be rightly demonstrated, we need to have a right understanding of what the true Gospel is, so that we really can believe that we can be like Jesus, through His grace and strength, so that when we share Jesus with others they are not hearing simply about Jesus, they are interacting with Jesus through us. That is what will lead us to the end of all things,
…said McNulty. When the latter rain is poured out the world will see, through the character of the last generation, what it means to be like Jesus, and will be drawn to Christ. Thus, part of character perfection is being a soul winner as Jesus was.
Furthermore, by allowing the perfecting work of the Holy Spirit upon our character, we can hasten the return of Christ. Commenting on Acts 17:31, which speaks about God having “appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained,” White states:
By giving the gospel to the world, it is in our power to hasten the Lord’s return. We are not only to look for but to hasten the coming of the day of God. Had the church done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned, and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory.
Some of our church member’s attitudes towards evangelism are fruitless. Thus, silent witnessing is fooling yourself; it is ineffective evangelism as opposed to proper evangelism which issues an invitation to follow Jesus. Waiting until the loud cry to get involved in evangelism is “like saying ‘I’ll surrender my life to Jesus when the Sunday Law is passed,’” and the mentality that evangelism is not your gift betrays the lack of Christ in your heart.
However, it is equally true that without love for people in your heart, we cannot do effective evangelism.
If you try to share with others our faith and you are annoying, obnoxious, and hard to dialogue with, they are not going to want to have anything to do with our faith,
We can only win people to Christ when the fruit of the Spirit reproduces Christ’s character in us. The love of Jesus in our hearts will compel us to share Him, as White states:
When self is emerged, love springs forth spontaneously.
Christ’s method alone will yield results, and by reproducing His character and approach, we will demonstrate the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within – when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance.
In conclusion, McNulty expressed his confidence in the “future of Adventism and the followers of God throughout Christianity [as] a revivalism of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.”
This article is the third and final installment in a series on the summit section of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. The first two parts covered chapters 6 and 7, respectively, so it stands to reason that this is earmarked for chapter 8, and overall, that is the case. With that said, I will still weave in some subjects that at least indirectly pertain to Romans 7, a hot-button passage that has split theologians and laypeople alike over multiple generations.
To whatever extent the split is narrowed will ultimately be contingent on the willingness of all involved parties to prayerfully and humbly cooperate with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who is the protagonist of Romans 8 and this article.
More broadly and relevantly than achieving a consensus on Romans 7, though connections do exist, I aim to encourage my brothers and sisters to sift through various, auxiliary issues in a manner that augments our capacity to not only understand salvation but live it. With these objectives in mind, let us begin our study.
From what I can tell, most mainstream versions utilize the word “therefore” or some equivalent in 8:1. This is a straightforward indication that Paul is continuing from and staying attached to what he said in chapter 7, especially at the end.
It is because of our intimate bond with Christ that we can be thankful for the prospect of being rescued from our struggle with our sinful weaknesses and be cleared of the death sentence that is pronounced on those who reside in their old lives. This is facilitated by the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus commissioned to be by our sides and captain our new lives.
The awareness we have already gained through our previous sessions regarding Paul’s lofty, reverent esteem, which we need to mimic, for the immutable standards with which God operates His universe must carry over into verse 3. Whatever labels of limitation and faultiness get applied to the law on the surface should be viewed through cause and effect, not inference.
The law is not weak on its own, but because of our pitiful conditions. To repair this, Jesus came to earth, donned our humanity, demonstrated the possibility of seamless obedience, then lovingly and willingly suffered the penalty that we deserve.
Those who read me long enough will determine, if they have not already, that balance is one of my sugar sticks, and I implore everyone to exercise it here. Our Lord did die for us, but He lived for us too. He is as much our example as He is our substitute. It behooves us to focus equitable attention on His first thirty-three-and-a-half years to that on His final three hours. The best way to express gratitude for the gift He wrapped with a red bow on Calvary is to let that gift pulsate through us in transformative efficacy and disseminate this transformation within our Nazareths, Jerusalems, etc.
Walk in the Spirit
Briefly revisiting the debate on Romans 7, the evidence and phraseologies in 8:5–8 can admittedly sway the debate in either direction. I indicated where I lean but included the caveat that my leaning is not as heavy as that of others. Furthermore, though I need the Savior as much as anyone else does, and as modest as I conventionally try to be, independent of which side you take, please replicate my cautious and courteous mitigation of dogmatic fervor.
Conceding that this can be a matter of perspective, I share with you that the portion of the passage that grabs me most is verse 7:
because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so (NASB).
Considering Paul’s genuine delight in the law—and not just its letter, but its substance, principled love—I find it difficult to conclude that he, even in his struggles with sin, was the Lord’s enemy. I instead conclude that he was already His friend, though a fledgling friend who still had to grow up a lot and get closer to putting those struggles behind him as we all must do.
To those on both sides, please keep in mind that an acknowledgment of our resemblance of the Romans 7 dynamic, however quantifiable it is for each of us individually, is not a condonement thereof. The “pre-conversion” folks should avoid undermining the veracity of others’ sincerity of commitment, while the “post-conversion” folks should avoid the notion that these internal clashes are hunky dory. We will only walk through the pearly gates if we consistently walk in the Spirit. The respective paths of the flesh and Spirit are deviating, not helical, so trying to walk them both at the same time will tear our hamstrings.
Romans 8:10–11 carries my mind to Galatians 2:20. The Holy Spirit’s manifestation of Christ’s life through us is predicated on our figurative participation in His crucifixion. Though our inclination may be to recoil at this, let us rejoice in the fact that our time in the grave is short before He, with a strong arm, pulls us out of its terrible clutches.
We are about to go on a detour that is even more extensive and multi-branched than is my custom. I deferentially request your patience and promise to knit everything together as neatly as possible.
I typically strive to minimize gratuitous repetitions, but there are times when they necessarily deepen impression and accelerate a conversation’s momentum. To that end, let us reconsider at least a couple of things I mentioned in prior installments of this series. First, Paul wrote one continuous letter, not sixteen chapters and 433 verses of segmented content. This schematic referencing tool provides some advantages, but we also need to take it with a grain of salt. Keep that on the shelf of your mind for a few moments.
Second, there are “party lines” that link the standard sides of the Romans 7 debate to the equivalent sides of the debates on the nature of Christ and Last Generation Theology. If I decide to write on the other two issues, it would be quite a bit later. For now, I encourage you to prayerfully survey the existing material from qualified theologians and, more importantly, the biblical and Spirit-of-Prophecy evidence, then make your own Spirit-led decision.
There are brothers and sisters who do not ride the party lines, but rather cross over the three topics one way or another. In some regard, they have more credibility than their line-riding counterparts, and I admit I am one of those counterparts, more or less. It was not by design; I did my best to examine each of the three concepts within their own boundaries and stave off any spill-over influences. That is all we can expect from each other.
Anyhow, to “preach” another sugar stick that my readers may have identified, my main goal is not to end the debates, per se, though reaching synchronization would seem to substantiate a collective capitulation to the Holy Spirit, as well as make our faith walks and interactions simpler; my main goal is twofold: vigorously promote mutual fairness and respect and firmly challenge Seventh-day Adventist Christians of all theological, religio-philosophical bents to avoid throwing big-blanket generalizations over those on the other sides, thus turning the party lines into battle lines.
To the pre-conversion, post-fall, pro-LGT people: do not charge the others with complacent, cheap-grace apostacy. To the post-conversion, pre-fall, no-LGT people: do not charge the others with pharisaical fanaticism. Some representatives from both sides do exhibit these corresponding extremes, and that is of great concern, and they need loving, redemptive rebuke, but the big blankets are a big problem. One of the fruits of walking in the Spirit is embodying civility, not erupting in civil war.
Taking the chapter/verse knickknack back off the shelf, I have wondered if these notations contribute to our disagreements and misunderstandings in any way. To clarify, perhaps we are prone to perceive, due to these divisions and the basic disposition of written material, a passage like Romans 6–8, as well as the diverse, synergistic dimensions of biblical soteriology, in a compartmentalized, linear fashion.
I am going to suggest a cyclical approach. There are numerous nuances to this, but for the time being, we will focus on one. A cycle is built on repetition, and though Paul did not explicitly dive into this as a prevalent subtheme, the foundation for his discourse and experiencing salvation altogether is something that must occur on a regular basis—death—not Christ’s, for He died once for all, but ours.
To go on another tangent from this tangent, it is likely that most of us have said the words, “I die daily,” which come from 1 Corinthians 15:31. For what it’s worth, Paul did not say this in the general context of the sanctified life. The immediate context was his constant tendency to put his life in danger, which he was willing to do because he believed in the resurrection, and we will expand this more in a moment. The verse that is more directly associated with daily death as the grounds for one’s overall redemptive pilgrimage with Jesus, is Luke 9:23, in which He commissioned His disciples to take up their crosses.
As much of stickler as I may be for responsible hermeneutics, I do not believe that borrowing verbiage from a given Scripture and applying it in a valid yet originally unintended manner is automatically irresponsible. Paul did it himself, specifically in Romans 4:3, a quote of Genesis 15:6. Again, God did not credit Abraham’s belief as righteousness in the conventional salvation framework. What Abraham believed was that the Lord would give him and Sarah a son in their old ages.
These differentiations notwithstanding, I am convinced that they are all intertwined in a magnificent tapestry. Paul died daily because he died daily. That tautological gem makes it appear that I am slipping in my attempt to reduce redundancy, doesn’t it?
What I mean is that he, at an increased level of maturity compared to that of Romans 7, made it a morning routine to surrender his will to that of the Holy Spirit and let Him subdue his flesh and put his bodily deeds to death. This catalyzed Paul’s agreeability to face shipwrecks, imprisonment, and many strains of disdain from the enemies of God. He was sold out to the gospel because it changed his life, and he yearned to proliferate this unmatchable joy to as many precious souls as possible, come literally hell or high water.
The apostle lived his inspired words in Romans 8:18–25. It is not realistic to imagine that he faced Satan’s attacks with a plastic smile. Paul groaned; he suffered; he developed anxiety, just like the rest of the world does. However, praise be to God that it will not be in vain. He will melt our temporary agony with a permanent revelation of His glory; He will satisfy our eager anticipation and perseverance; He will culminate our adoptions as sons and daughters, cap off the current renovation of our inner beings with the allocation of incorruptible physiologies, and restore us to Edenic pristineness.
God’s Grace Towards Abraham
Shifting back to Abraham, he was accounted righteous because he was accounted righteous. I know, I did it again. Through their faith-based relationship, the Hebrew father cultivated confidence in the heavenly Father and His spot-free track record of keeping His word. If God said Abraham would have immeasurable progeny, then it would be so, no matter how high the odds were stacked against him and his barren wife.
Unfortunately, this story and its main figure took a very wrong turn in the very next chapter. Abraham “helped” God’s prophecy by manipulating its fulfillment. Sarah exerted poor judgment in making this recommendation, of course, but the primary blame was on her husband’s shoulders; that’s the weightiness of accountability that comes with leadership. He broke their sacred, marital covenant, and as awful as that is, that was only the tip of the iceberg, from a volume standpoint at least.
I am of Lebanese descent. I have never visited the homeland, but I would like to someday. My parents, grandparents, and so on were born and raised there. My mom has not returned since her childhood. Her desire understandably surpasses mine, but it is also understandably stifled by hesitations due to the tenuous complexion of international conflict. Our family, and countless others were and are touched by Abraham’s egregious breach of the Lord’s commandments.
In addition, the time lapse between Genesis 16 and 17 was thirteen years. If there was a notable conversation between Abraham and God, Moses wrote it. Thirteen years? If there is any inspired insight regarding this apparent friendship strain that I somehow did not find in Patriarch and Prophets, please let me know. Suffice it to say that we must let these ramifications fill us with immense solemnity.
Nevertheless, thanks be to God for fixing such a wretched situation (residual consequences notwithstanding)! His grace reinvigorated Abraham, and the changes were stark. He went from scoffing at the idea of a stale old couple begetting a fresh little baby boy to not scoffing at all at the mandate from above to take his miracle son and slice his jugular. How could a change like this occur? What imperatives are we to glean?
In Romans 8, one will find a pair of primary pillars that uphold the architecture of walking in the Spirit. We obliquely looked at them already, through Paul and Abraham, but to reiterate, first, walking in the Spirit means letting Him take our reigns. Not giving Him exhaustive permission to slay and bury our flesh means keeping our flesh alive. It is only by a Spirit-instigated rebirth, which takes surrender to both commence and maintain, that we can inherit eternity.
Second, surrender is pointless if not offered in delight, and this delight is made possible by the reality that our God is a promise-keeping God. He has kept every pledge He has ever made, especially the ones connected to His resurrection power. He can redeem us from wickedness, rescue disciples from stormy seas and cold dungeons, reboot a shut-down uterus, and repress a plunging knife. I invite you to make it a habit to buoy your own souls and those of others with reminders of the Lord’s promises, including those in Romans 8, such as:
Polishing our armadillo-skinned prayers, thus making them worthy to reach the Father’s ears
Causing all things to work out for good for those who love Him
Keeping us close to Him with a love that cannot be dissolved
Unpacking that last promise a little bit as we close, some people from the once-saved-always-saved factions have employed the final few verses of Romans 8 to validate their shaky premise. I do believe that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love, but His love is unconditional; eternal life is not. Out of love, He must keep heaven and the new earth safe, but enabling us to enter those gates with our selfish natures would be a perpetuation of miserable anarchy. If we think living on this planet for seventy years is painful, what about seventy times seventy times seventy…?
Let us daily place our lives and wills in the hands of the Holy Spirit. This is the only way He can rewire and fit us for citizenship in Eden, where the wonders of paradise will overwhelmingly outshine the fizzling charms of this dying world.
God cares about people, and because we live in a world of sin, his care extends to advocating justice. However, one of the most misunderstood and misapplied aspects of theology in the Hebrew Bible (HB; what Christians call the Old Testament) is social justice. It has been so politicized in North America that no longer is the Bible central to our understanding (even though in many Evangelical circles they think it is). Also problematic is that (for Adventists) the writings of Ellen White can be used biasedly and out of context to justify the political views people have on social justice.
In two previous articles, I have tried to set the table so to speak on reading the Prophets responsibly. The goal of this series on the Minor Prophets and Social Justice is to get a sense of God’s heart and Word on the matter in the time of the people of God when He was ruling over them through a Davidic covenant king (ca. 900–585 B. C.).
That distinction is crucial because it suggests that it is not the final word on the matter but has a definitive trajectory of a more concentrated effort of reconciling the world to God through holy living (i. e. biblical social justice). What that means is that all that is said here must go through the prism of the New Testament writings and the ways they appealed to the HB to make that trajectory relevant for those who would hear their message and apply it, as the Second Coming of Christ hastens.
Biblical Definition of Social Justice in the Prophets
Anyone who reads the writings of Plato will soon get a sense that often the main protagonist, Socrates, had a penchant for establishing correct definitions because in his view wrong definitions cause wrong ideas and they have consequences. This is no less true of the Bible and even more critical because right now in America it is clear that political ideology, demographics, and personal philosophies are influencing how social justice is being defined in the church.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about those subjects, only that we need to be clear how the Bible teaches us to deal with those issues. The fact that we fail to see that and fail to admit the role those influences play in our lives is why the needle has moved so little on the odometer of actual biblical social justice in practice among us together as the people of God.
When the Prophets proclaimed the injustices that were occurring it was clear that they had a reference point for defining injustice and the same is true of their calls for biblical social justice. It was the “Word of the LORD that came to them” (cf. Ezek 7:1; 12:1, 21) it was not their own ideas and feelings. In fact, Ezekiel and Jeremiah go to great lengths to show the people that their feelings and personal ideas do not equate to God’s Word or God’s perspective on matters of right and wrong and what life should look like (Jer 2:13; 12:5–17; Ezek 13).
The irony is that often times there were political factions, geographical factors, and cultural influences from the surrounding nations that infected how these issues were defined among the people of God (Amos 7:10–16; Mic 3:9–11). Sadly, as a church, we have not paid attention to those problematic areas that the prophets addressed in the time they ministered, and it has caused great confusion concerning how we should ‘apply’ their message today.
The reference point for the prophet’s understanding of Justice is first the Torah (the word of God expressed in Genesis to Deuteronomy). From this foundational revelation of God comes a wide range of words and concepts that carry a significant impact on the nature of injustice as understood by the prophets.
First, the concept of Justice has at least 20 conceptual words that occur within the dynamic of Israel’s daily life. What these words show us is that biblical social justice was more than just an idea of a more ‘perfect union.’ It occurred within a system that included a legal system of personnel (judges, the defendant, the accuser, avenger, witness); problems (lawsuits, misdeeds, inequity, perversion of right, disputes); ethical concepts (righteousness, innocence, guilt) and goals (compensation, restoration, equity).
With that said, if we do not understand how these all factor into the nature of social justice in the Prophets, we will inevitably misuse God’s Word for our own purposes that may have nothing to do with what God is doing in the world or even ignore how they shape our understanding of what God is doing in the world.
The second reference point is divine revelation and inspiration. The prophets were given access to the thoughts, motives, and feelings of people (Jer 5:24; Zeph 1:12). While we can hold people’s actions up to scrutiny, because we have little to no access to the inner workings of people’s hearts, it is difficult for us to ascribe ‘hatred’ or some other emotion or feeling to people.
This is a crucial point because the secular mind today tries to guilt/shame people into their view of ‘social justice’ because they don’t have a bedrock of moral absolutes grounded in a higher power who can and will hold people accountable for their actions. On the other hand, because the church’s witness is so tempered in this country, Christians often try to use the power of the state to legislate its view of social justice.
Christians often accuse unbelievers, non-believers, and agnostics of radical rebellion in their hearts. The problem with this approach to social justice is that we cannot measure the heart of another from our own vantage point (John 7:24). In fact, we (Christians) may be the reason why non-Christians refuse to come to Christ. Our moral malaise and the inconsistent faithful witness may prove a stumbling to others (cf. Ezek 14:3–7; 44:12).
So, a tentative definition would include “the practice of revealing the lordship and love of God in our actions towards others in a covenant community wherein we will be held morally accountable for our actions according to the revealed will of God.” I intentionally left out any political wording because I believe the NT writings have to be included in the conversation to have a true, holistic, view on the topic and modern political lingo is ideologically fraught with bias, prejudice, and moral myopia. Here we are just looking at the Minor Prophets.
Aspects of Social Justice in the Prophets
Covenant and Social Justice
First, and foremost social justice in the Bible is called “social” because it involves the community of faith who have accepted God as their king and made a covenant with Him that they would abide by his moral imperatives in how to relate to each other and the wider world (Jer 11:1–9).
Second, the notion of justice is in harmony with the character of God. Thus any definition of justice without this crucial aspect is not justice at all from a biblical perspective. So, when the prophets called out the injustice of the people, it was in terms of a defined covenant (relationship with God and fellow believers mediated by the Word of God) and in harmony with God’s character of love, holiness, and moral uprightness. They were not just pointing out problems that were solely pertinent to their own life.
In other words, we do not get the sense that Amos was negatively affected by the actions of the Northern Kingdom of Israel because he was resident of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, yet that did not stop him from following God’s leading and addressing the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This is why biblical social justice was covenantal rather than personal. Otherwise, Amos could have refused to engage his fellow Israelites because he was not personally distressed by their actions.
We see this man of faith with a deep sense of God’s love for righteousness and hate for sin and injustice lifting up biblical social justice before the people. Note that his indictments included indictments against the nations surrounding him (Amos 1:1–2:1–3). So, the belief that that the church has nothing to say to the world about injustice is not biblical.
Within that covenant, there was a clear indication of blessings and curses (judgments) that resulted from faithfulness or unfaithfulness to God’s call to selfless covenant love (Lev 26; Duet 28). For example, the prophet Amos gives a litany of covenant curses coming to the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of their social injustice toward others in the covenant community (Amos 4:6–11).
The fulfillment of many of the oracles (messages) of judgment had a local application (i. e. the people suffered material calamity, they were defeated in battle, and they were taken captive into exile). But there was also an eschatological aspect to some of the prophecies about judgment (Amos 9:11–5; cf. Isa 24–27).
Sometimes both are mixed together, and it’s difficult to note the difference (Zeph 1:7–18), making the point that justice is not solely a temporal phenomenon. This is another key principle about social justice; justice in this world is part of the final judgment in the next, and if it isn’t clear to people from our attempt to live out these principles that we are seeking justice in connection with God’s ultimate and cosmic acts of justice, then we are not living out biblical social justice.
While social justice in general points to the Lordship of God, in the prophets in was particularly connected with the Davidic kingship, with a particular justice system. The way the prophets functioned in this system is crucial to understand the prophetic voice in the world. There were what can be called institutional (professional) prophets and non-institutional prophets. Interestingly, there was usually one of each in every generation. Isaiah was of royal origin, and he had ease of access to the king (Isa 7–8).
During the same period the prophet, Micah ministered and was not a court prophet. While Jeremiah was in Jerusalem prophesying in the court, Ezekiel was in Babylon ministering to the exiles. Compare also Hosea/Amos; Haggai & Zephaniah/Habbakuk. So, critique came from within and outside the apparatus of the state. Sometimes the indictment landed at the feet of the kings because they were to reflect God’s leadership regarding the treatment of the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Godly leadership is held accountable for how it represents God to the world regarding justice, equity, giving voice to the voiceless (cf. Hosea 4:1–6).
And whenever the people of God tried to trade in their responsibility of holy living in the community as their mission in favor of power politics, they were condemned (Hosea 7:11–16). The modern application of so-called social justice rarely pays attention to this fact.
Community and Social Justice
The last aspect addressed here is what it means to belong to a community of faith striving for biblical social justice. The Prophets make it clear that a whole and holy community is one that strives for cohesion in care for others. The notion of the haves and have-nots drew the sharpest criticism not because it’s wrong for differences in socio-economic status, but because the haves generally participated in a system that was set up to protect their wealth at the expense of the poor (Amos 5:10–13).
Biblical social justice takes account for how a system is generated and sustained that banks on keeping disparities in the socio-economic realm for personal gain. I often hear people use the statement in Deuteronomy 15:11:
“For there will never cease to be poor in the land.”
As if that was a mandate to be indifferent to the poor. Ironically, the next sentence is rarely appealed to as a motive clause for the responsibility of the wealthy,
“Therefore, I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”
I suspect that if the prophets were alive today among us, their message would not be that different. Thankfully, as a community, we have the gift of a modern prophet, Ellen White who has much to say on the subject.
For the Prophets, they were looking toward the first coming of the Messiah (Joel 2:23; Hosea 3:4–5; Amos 9:11–15; Micah 2:12–13; 5:1–4). Amazingly, that expectation didn’t encourage them to be indifferent to injustice by saying “When the Messiah comes, he will make all things right.” The Messiah’s approach was the very impetus for their calls to biblical social justice.
This is a lesson we are long in learning. The advent of the Messiah should not create a feeling of spiritual superiority based on intellectual attainment. It should burn deep in our hearts and minds that we should do everything we can to make it clear what the Messiah’s soon coming does in us that we should care so much about His justice. That’s what stirred the Prophets, and I pray that is what stirs us. Next time we will look at how the “Day of the Lord” impacted moral action against injustice and for biblical social justice.
 J. David Pleins, Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 100–101.
As we have seen in the previous articles, Last Generation Theology adherents believe that the last generation alive on earth before Christ’s Second Coming will be a special group of people who will achieve sinless perfection as a demonstration before the universe that God’s laws are not arbitrary and that they can be kept. We have looked at the historical development of this theology and seen that it is based primarily on a few quotes from Ellen White and a few Bible passages.
In the next three articles, I will provide a refutation of this theology from the perspective of a few different topics tackled by Andrews scholars primarily in “God’s Character and the Last Generation.” Specifically, we will zoom in on the 144,000 in Revelation, try to understand what the Bible teaches about the last generation alive on earth before Christ’s return, look at how the Bible describes sin (particularly in Romans), as well as justification and sanctification, and seek to grasp the meaning of Ellen White’s quotes in the context of her writings.
The first question I will address is: Who are the 144,000? LGT holds that the 144,000 will be a special group of people who will be sinless and will live through the end times without the help of the Holy Spirit and without the intercessory ministry of Christ. Ranko Stefanovic, a New Testament professor at Andrews University who has been teaching and writing on this topic for many years, offers, on Scriptural grounds, a different interpretation. Here are some of the biblical clues that this number does not represent a special group, but the entire multitude of the redeemed.
Revelation 7 speaks of four angles positioned at “four corners of the earth,” (v. 1)–a symbolic expression indicating that what follows concerns the entire earth. These angles hold “four winds,” a phrase used in the Old Testament to indicate God’s judgment on the wicked. Here, the expression is a symbolic reference to the seven last plagues through which God will pour His wrath upon the wicked just prior to His Second Coming. The winds are held back while God’s saints are sealed on their forehead. This seal has two purposes: (1) to be a distinctive mark of God’s people, in contrast with those who receive the mark of the beast, and (2) to protect God’s people from the seven last plagues.
As you can see, this passage abounds in symbolism with metaphors like “four corners of the earth, “four winds of the earth,” “the earth, “the sea, “the trees,” “the seal of the living God,” “foreheads.” If the gist of the passage is symbolic, it would be an error to assume that the number 144,000 is literal. Rather, the context of the passage compels us to interpret the number symbolically as well.
Another argument that the number 144,000 is symbolic arises from the fact that it is the sum of 12,000 times twelve–twelve being the number of the tribes of Israel. Yet those tribes are no longer in existence, nor does the list correspond entirely with the OT order (for example, it excludes Dan and Ephraim, the idolatrous tribes). Since the list is not historical, we must interpret it in its theological meaning to indicate a symbolic number.
The question, of course, is: what does it symbolize? The key to this question is in the immediate context.
Chapter 6 in Revelation describes the wicked running from the face of God, and concludes with a question:
Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17 ESV, emphases added).
Chapter 7 provides the answer to this question: the sealed 144,000 will be able to stand. Keep in mind that the division of the biblical text in chapters and verses occurred subsequent to its writing and is, to some extent, arbitrary. Of course, this division does not necessarily prevent us from seeing the continuity in the writer’s exposition, but it can slightly obscure it.
Stefanovic argues that, while in the first part of the passage the group of the redeemed is referred to with the symbolic number 144,000, in the second part of the chapter the same group is described as a “great multitude.” How do we know that these two descriptions represent the same group of people?
The 144,000 is the number John hears, while the great multitude is the group John saw.
And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. …. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands (Revelation 7:4, 9).
These are simply two different perspectives on the same group. Such an interpretation is consistent with other passages in Revelation where John hears and sees something and describes his experience in different terms. For example, he hears that the Lion overcame in Revelation 5:5, but in the following verse describes what he sees as a Lamb. Both the Lion and the Lamb describe Jesus from two different perspectives: the victory of Christ through His sacrifice. Similarly, John hears that Babylon, the great prostitute, is sitting on many waters, but what he sees is a woman on a scarlet beast. Other examples can be seen in Revelation 1:10-12; 9:16,17; 21:9,10.
Another claim that appears to support LGT is the description of the 144,000 in Revelation 14:1-5:
It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless (ESV).
In regards to the first characteristic–not having defiled themselves with women–Stefanovic argues that, symbolically, the woman in the Bible represents the church, and therefore the description as “virgins” should not be taken literally to indicate to mean that the 144,000 are believers who never had sexual relations. Instead, the symbolic language suggests that this is a people dedicated and faithful to Christ.
This interpretation is consistent with Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 11:2, likewise a symbolic expression of loyalty to Christ:
For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ (ESV).
The broader context of Revelation 14:1-5, which depicts the work of the spiritual harlot Babylon “and her daughters–apostate churches–seducing the governing world powers into illicit relationships with them (Revelation 17:1-5; 18:3, 9),” also supports this interpretation. This imagery, suggests Stefanovic, recalls an Old Testament practice where soldiers refrained from sexual relationships before going to war.
The second characteristic–having been purchased as the first fruit of God–must be interpreted in light of the fact that this expression is used in Scripture to describe the people of God in contrast with the rest of the world. This is the case in Jeremiah 2:3 and James 1:18:
Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 2:3).
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (James 1:18).
Thus, the expression does not represent a distinct group of believers, but the multitude of the saints.
Lastly, “blamelessness” in Revelation 5:5 is not a synonym of sinlessness, but of faithfulness. This also derives from the usage of the word in Scripture. For example, Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 5:23).
To the church Ephesians, Paul writes:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him (Ephesians 1:3-4).
Peter likewise advises the believers to be blameless:
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Peter 3:14).
In the Old Testament, the term is used in reference to Abraham and Job:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,’ (Genesis 17:1).
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1).
In Ephesians 5:27, Philippians 2:15, Colossians 1:22 and Jude 24, the term has also been used to describe the church during the end time. As we can see, the consistent use of this word throughout Scripture points to its best interpretation as faithfulness, not sinlessness.
Stefanovic concludes that blamelessness in Revelation 5:5 “is not an exclusive characteristic of the last generation of saints because all these admonitions applied equally to the original recipients of these letters two thousand years ago, not just to those who will live at the time before the second coming. Thus, the blamelessness of the 144,000 does not refer to an absolute sinless perfection, but rather it refers to their fidelity and total commitment to Christ.”
While the loyalty of the last generation of believers alive at Christ’s Second Coming will be tested in a way distinct from the testing of believers at any other time in history, “their victory will be achieved on the same grounds as the redeemed of all ages. Salvation is a result of the saving grace of God rather than one’s own holiness and works.”
 Ranko Stefanovic, “What is the State of the Last Generation,” in God’s Character and the Last Generation, edited by John Peckham and Jiri Moskala (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2018), p. 225.
Weimar, California — An Adventist institution known for its health evangelism and service achievements, Weimar Institute, recently gained academic recognition through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) for a period of six years — retroactive to January 2018.
In addition to noting the “clearly articulated mission and vision of health evangelism,” the WSCUC evaluation team cited Weimar Institute’s campus community, assessment, and institutional research in its report.
Baptism: Weimar Institute is known among its students as a place of spiritual discovery and growth. (Photo: Rodolfo Ramirez)
Weimar’s Total Community Involvement (TCI) program, based on the world church’s Total Member Involvement initiative, was also recognized. This weekly service program builds sustained community relationships and meets community needs in a practical way.
Weimar Institute is home to the Chamber Singers, our college music ministry program. The Chamber Singers share their vocal gifts both locally and internationally. (Photo: Rodolfo Ramirez)
In particular, the committee commended the TCI program for its “transformational impact” and noted that it is “rooted in the mission, tied to institutional student learning outcomes, and contributes to civic good in the region.”
While Institute leaders acknowledge the honor of this recognition, they also see significance for students. “This greatly benefits our students in terms of credit transferability and degree recognition,” notes Weimar Institute president Neil Nedley. “We additionally rejoice in what this means to our church, to us all as Adventist brothers and sisters in Christ,” he added. “Our world church’s uniquely Adventist legacy of health and service captured the attention of the WSCUC evaluation team and has been again affirmed as valuable to the world around us.”
Weimar Institute students have the opportunity to engage in health-related research as early as their first semester on campus and later present at national conferences held at Harvard and other institutions. (Photo: Joletta Redd)
Weimar Institute leaders are focused on future growth and expansion of facilities and services to current and prospective students. Plans include the completion of additional housing by August 2019, the addition of a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN) for the Fall 2019 semester, and ongoing preparations for a future wellness center.
Nursing: To date, 100% of our Nursing students who have attempted the National Council Licensure Examination have passed at high levels on the first attempt. (Photo: Joshua Kang)
Weimar Institute is a self-supporting Seventh-day Adventist college located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada of northern California. Since 1978, its vision has been to heal a hurting world — a goal shared by its students, faculty, and staff from almost 50 countries. Home to the NEWSTART Lifestyle Program, Weimar Institute also includes the Weimar Natural Foods Store, Weimar Academy, Weimar Elementary School, and Weimar Farms. These industries and organizations provide students with educational and work-study opportunities while positively impacting the local community, leaders said.