Posts tagged Seventh-day Adventist Church (Religion)
Making Sense of Adventism: Faith-Journey of an Adventist Blogger

Do you have to be absolutely perfect in order to be saved? Is it wrong to have fun on the Sabbath? How can we say we are saved by grace and also say that those who don’t keep the Sabbath in the last days will be lost? Was Ellen White obsessed with obedience? How do we reconcile the cross of Christ with the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment? What does it mean to be “perfect”? How should Christians relate to Conspiracy Theories? Are Adventists even Christians? What do former or non-Adventists think about God and our church? What exactly is wrong with going to the theater? And what is the right way to worship?

These questions and many others are the subject of Making Sense of Adventism. Having grown up Adventist I acquired lots of different ideas and beliefs that I assumed were part of our identity. In fact, the confusion was so great that had I left Adventism during those years and written a book against the church it would have been entirely inaccurate – that’s how skewed my picture of Adventism was. All of that began to change when I arrived at Southern Adventist University (SAU) for what would be four years of theology school. Those four years were some of the most significant years of my life and it was during that time that I wrote more than 200 blogs and articles that reflected the epiphanies, discoveries, and paradigm shifts that were allowing me, for the first time, to discover the beauty of Adventism and its relevance for the world today. In Making Sense of Adventism I share the most relevant blogs, some of which began to be written long ago as I sat on the cushioned pews of Newark Spanish Seventh-day Adventist church in Newark, NJ. Others began to be written during my time in Hawaii and Iraq as a US Army soldier. And still others began to be written during my time in Australia where I was first exposed to concepts and theologies that would later demand explanations. It wasn’t until years later that they would find themselves onto paper, whether during my personal time or as an assignment for one of my classes at SAU. This is my journey and I share it with you with the hope that the answers I have discovered will help the struggling Adventist make a little more sense out of it all.

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Guest post: The Self Murdering Church
photo credit: Funky64 ( via photopin cc

The Self Murdering Church
by Suzanne Ocsai

Note: I wrote this first part in the summer of 2011 after I finished writing my manuscript on the first 10 years of GYC history. I was trying to sort through everything I’d learned about the behind the scenes workings of GYC, my Church Youth Department, and the Church as a whole.

Our Church is dying. No, it’s not just dying . . . it’s killing itself.

How? You ask. I’ll tell you how. I was faced with the how the entire time I was writing this book. I didn’t see it at first. I didn’t even realize our Church was dying when I started the project, but soon enough I saw it. And it made my heart break.

I’ll be honest, writing this book depressed me. Oh, yes there were high points. I loved seeing how GYC was able to begin against the odds of not having enough money or support from their local conference in California. I also loved the time my Church youth leaders gave me to interview them—talking with them was truly inspiring.

But in the end, I came back to the same realization that undoubtedly MOST people in our Church have, yet aren’t talking about or doing ANYTHING to remedy! The Divide. Yes, we are a divided Church that will not stand unless we decide to start working together for the common goal of seeing Jesus return in our lifetime. I mean, is anyone really that thrilled about living on a planet where children are sold into slavery, women are abused, and men are destroyed by the other men seeking more power than they deserve? Really?! No. Don’t even call yourself Adventist. Because we, by our very own name, are seeking the Second Advent of Christ.

We are divided over many things. But it all comes down to this . . . it’s not what we view as the correct form of worship that divides. It’s not our varying views of theology that divides us. It’s not dress reform that divides us. It isn’t any of that . . . while the fact that we vary on all of those points probably doesn’t help . . . that ISN’T what divides us. What divides our Church is our pride. It is our pride in each one of those areas. We say, “I’m better than you because I only sing out of the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.” We say, “I’m better than you because I wear dresses . . . I’m not causing my brother to stumble.” We say, “I’m better than you because I don’t exclude people who live alternative lifestyles.” We say, “I’m better than you because I don’t condemn people for praising God with drums and contemporary Christian music.” We say a lot of stuff that doesn’t mean anything!

But what we don’t say a lot of is this, “I love you even though I don’t agree. I love you even though I think you are wrong. I love you and I know that I don’t have everything completely correct either, but you know what, I am, and I believe you are too, still searching for how God would have us be. How can we work TOGETHER to find HIS ideal?

While writing this book I saw how the two sides (GYC verses the Church Youth Department) couldn’t get along–leadership on one side seemed overly condemning while leadership on the other side wasn’t willing to confront the condemnation head on, and so the young people were caught in the middle to clean up the political mess.

In every generation this happens. 1888 . . . remember the story of that GC session? Pride. And the young people were let down.

When I saw this happening to my generation, I cried. I was so angry and hurt. Why haven’t we grown past this? Why aren’t the youth the most important segment of our Church? Why are our Church leaders on both sides making us choose between the left and the right?

I love my Church. But as I’ve grown up in it I’ve come to see that this judging back and forth is not just something solely between GYC and the Youth Department but something that spans the entire spectrum of Adventism. From GYC to JCI, from the chaplains offices to the youth ministries office, from Women’s Ministries to Pastoral Ministries, from the General Conference to the North American Division and all the other Divisions, from the Michigan Conference to Southeastern California Conference. We are divided. We are separate. We love to point fingers and call each other out. I know . . . I’ve done it. I’ve been overwhelmed with anger and hatred for the side I thought was against me.

But what made me cry that day in my room was obviously not the good I saw on any of the sides. It was the fact that because of pride and personal differences, the good of both sides was not able to be measured together. I believe God ordained people on both sides for a special work. But I don’t believe He ordained one side above another. When I came to the end of the book, what I discovered made me angry because I felt like I had to choose one side over the other.

WE’RE ONE BODY, I wanted to shout . . . Please, get your act together or you won’t have young people to pass your offices to. And I’m talking to the left and the right! This IS NOT one sided. It takes two to tango, whether you dance or not.

In my frustration a question popped into my mind. If we are divided, will we not be attacked? But . . . you don’t often hear about countries in civil wars being attacked. Why not, they’re wide open . . . Why didn’t England attack the United States during the Civil War?

I did some research into this and discovered the reason . . . and that reason . . . made me even angrier.

England didn’t attack the United States for several reasons. 1. England was conflicted as to which side it really wanted to support publically. 2. It was thought that dealing with two separate republics would be easier than one. And then came the third reason . . . the worst reason. They were selling weapons to both sides. They were making money off us . . . while we were destroying ourselves! We weren’t a threat . . . so there was no need to fight us . . . so they decided to make money off us as we killed ourselves for them.

If they were to join a side they would have lost money by entering the war; supporting their soldiers while losing one side of “clients.”

Now, I love my English friends, but this just made me slightly upset . . . to say the least . . . they were making money . . . MONEY . . . off us, while we were killing ourselves.

And then I saw the analogy. We, the Seventh-day Adventist Church are in a Civil War. We are fighting each other for our own agendas while the Devil makes money off us in the form of souls we are neglecting.

Because, while I interviewed each side of the “war” I heard one resounding theme. “We want to be the last generation on earth; we want to reach the world for Christ.”


Because as long as we continue to fight ourselves we will NEVER be a threat to the kingdom of darkness. Until we can come together and become a united force, we will continue to lose valuable souls that Christ died on a cross for.

Obviously we’re really good at fighting, what if we took that passion and turned it toward the real enemy. Not each other, but to Satan. What if we could unite against the real traitor? How much could we accomplish?

How can we unify? Only through Christ and getting into His Word. Only through daily seeking God in our own lives can our hearts be humbled and changed. By beholding we become changed. And when we start to behold God above ourselves and our agendas and even our personal viewpoints can we become that united Church that can be a threat to the enemy.

In the end, I refuse to choose a side. I will continue to attend and support GYC as I will continue to attend and support my Church youth events. If there is something I don’t agree with at either, I will voice those concerns to the appropriate people and dialog with them about why that was chosen. While understanding there is a Divide in my Church, I refuse to acknowledge its power. Because to me, it has none. I am a Seventh-day Adventist. Not a right-wing Adventist or a left-wing Adventist. Not a Spectrum Adventist, not a GYC-Adventist, not a One Project Adventist, not a Michigan Conference Adventist . . . because I don’t believe God cares if I read Spectrum or if I attend GYC or any other event the church has to offer. What I believe He cares about is whether I have a personal relationship with Him . . . because that’s what guarantees He’ll be able to spend eternity with me . . . the whole reason He came to earth and died on a cross and in three days rose again . . . so I could live with Him forever.

So, until we can set aside our pride and come together with the single goal of getting addicted to the Word of God, we can forget about being the last generation on this earth. 

Click here for the rest of the story.
The Sabbath as "Seal" & Grace Alone: My Struggle with the "Contradiction"

photo credit: LarimdaME via photopin cc

I don't know about you, but the-Sabbath-as-seal doctrine is one that bothered me for quite some time. In case you don't know what that is allow me to explain. Seventh-day Adventists believe that the Sabbath is the seal of God and that in order to be sealed by God we must keep the Sabbath. Such a doctrine immediately throws up red flags. Being sealed by God means we belong to him. If we cannot be sealed unless we keep the Sabbath then logically it follows that we must keep the Sabbath in order to earn Gods seal and thus, ultimately, salvation. In the end then, it seems as is Adventisms claims to salvation by grace alone are pseudo claims since we do, in fact, believe that the Sabbath is the seal given only to those who honor the Sabbath. As I said above, this concept bothered me because it seemed incompatible with the gospel. However, after taking a closer look the Holy Spirit settled my questions by showing me two simple points I had totally missed. Ultimately my main problem was that I had an oversimplified understanding of the seal doctrine. It was this oversimplification of that led me to my misconceptions. By looking deeper I discovered that there was more to the seal than I had previously known and this new understanding opened up a whole new view to the seal. 

First, While Adventist believe that the Sabbath is the seal of God we do not believe that the Sabbath alone is the seal of God. To view Gods seal as simply the Sabbath is an oversimplification of Adventisms seal theology. The seal of God is primarily and foremost a love seal not a law seal. Ellen White expressed it well when she said, "Love is expressed in obedience, and perfect love casteth out all fear. Those who love God, have the seal of God in their foreheads, and work the works of God" (LDE 221.4). This quote demonstrates that Ellen White understood the seal of God to be more than just going to church on Saturday. It has to do with having a heart that loves God supremely – a love which according to scripture is always expressed by obedience (John 14:15). So, far from receiving the seal of God due to our ability to read the calendar correctly or to keep the law well, the seal of God is given to those who love God. 

Second, those who love God she describes as those who "work the works of God". Notice that the seal is not simply given to those who "work the works of God" but to those who "love God" and as a result "work [his] works". Thus, the seal of God must not be understood as simply a "law" issue, but as a "love" issue. What this demonstrates is that, according to Ellen White, Adventisms seal doctrine is presupposed by the same gospel that Luther, Calvin, and Arminius preached. That is that we are saved by Gods grace alone and that our salvation - while not dependent on - is nevertheless evidenced by our works. This point is important because it places the concept of obedience to God in the proper sphere. Working the works of God have nothing to do with earning salvation or earning the right to keep salvation. Instead, they have to do with the evidence for salvation. And it is the third point that God showed me which really brings this to life.

The third point is this: The seal of God as the Sabbath must be understood in its apocalyptic setting in contrast to the mark of the beast. Let that sink in. In fact, read it over again two or three times before moving on. The seal of God as the Sabbath must be understood in its apocalyptic setting in contrast to the mark of the beast.  If we separate the seal of God from that context we end up with an oversimplification that both misrepresents Adventisms theology and also undermines the gospel. 

First, without the apocalyptic context in mind the Sabbath as seal doctrine translates as a “you must start keeping the Sabbath to be saved” theology that does nothing but undermine the truth about Jesus only. If such a theology were true then Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley - along with the billions of Jesus-followers of every age - will all be lost because none of them kept the Sabbath and thus none of them received the seal of God. However, this is not  what Adventisms seal theology teaches. So what does it teach? Once again, this teaching must be understood in its apocalyptic context.

Scripture is clear that in the final days there will be a crisis over loyalty. All of mankind will be compelled by force and threat to worship the beast but those who are faithful to God will refuse on pain of death. The faithful are described in Revelation as "those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). Today there is much debate over the validity of the Sabbath. Faithful Christians find themselves on both sides of the debate. But in the final crisis there will no longer be a debate. Every person will know for sure whether or not they are following God or following the beast. Thus, it is within this apocalyptic context that Ellen White could say:
... when Sunday observance shall be enforced by law, and the world shall be enlightened concerning the obligation of the true Sabbath, then whoever shall transgress the command of God, to obey a precept which has no higher authority than that of Rome, will thereby honor popery above God {GC, 449}.
Those who would have the seal of God in their foreheads must keep the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. This is what distinguishes them from the disloyal, who have accepted a man-made institution in the place of the true Sabbath. The observance of God’s rest day is the mark of distinction between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not (Manuscript 27, 1899) {7BC 970.2}.
Understood within the apocalyptic context the seal of God poses no contradiction to Jesus Only. Those who decide to follow the beast will evidence their loyalty by obedience and those who choose to be faithful to God will evidence their faithfulness by obedience. Both groups will be obeying someone as a sign of loyalty. So the seal of God in Revelation is set against the backdrop of the mark of the beast. In the final crisis everyone will have either the mark or the seal. There will be no in between. And unless one is willing to go as far as to develop a theology that teaches that it’s OK to be disobedient and receive the mark of the beast and still be saved then you have to come to terms with the apocalyptic seal.

However, never make the mistake of thinking that we earn Gods apocalyptic seal and thus earn salvation. The issue here has nothing to do with faith vs works. It simply has to do with sincerity. Are we going to be faithful to God and worship him or are we going to ally ourselves with the religio-political beast system of Revelation and worship it? When you dig deep it becomes obvious that the real issue is not about 7th day VS. 1st day but about who your Lord is, man or God? It’s really that simple.

Therefore, it seems to me that the only way to turn the seal of God into a legalistic doctrine is to remove it from its apocalyptic context. Once you do that, yes it very much sounds like we are sealed based on our performance instead of Gods grace. But within the apocalyptic context it becomes clear that it is primarily and issue of sincerity/loyalty not faith/works.

A perfect example of this is the book of Hebrews. The book was written with one purpose in mind - to convince persecuted Christians, who were considering returning to Judaism in order to escape the persecution, to remain faithful to God. Hebrews is clear that turning your back on Jesus means forfeiting the salvation he so freely offers. Paul is encouraging the believers to be faithful to Christ because he is the only way to heaven. Judaism and its many ceremonies could not save, only Christ and his righteousness alone.

Likewise, in the apocalyptic context the Christian church will suffer intense persecution. The beast will offer his mark and say that anyone who receives it will escape the persecution. Since Adventists believe the beast is Papal Rome and his mark of authority is Sunday observance then we conclude that a Sunday law will be enforced. Those who honor it will give allegiance to Papal Rome. But those who refuse and instead honor Gods Sabbath (a sign of his creation, salvation, and redemption) will evidence their allegiance to Him and thus receive the apocalyptic seal. Is it possible for a sincere Christian during this time to say, "Well I'm not saved by works so I'm just gonna get the mark of the beast and go to heaven anyways"? No way! Such a thought is nonsensical. 

The way I see it, the final test has nothing to do with revealing to God who his faithful ones are. He already knows. But the final test will help us see if we really love God and would be happy to spend eternity with him. God never tests us to discover something about us he doesn't know. He tests us to reveal something to us that we don't know. I think at this time many who thought they wanted to go to heaven and be with God forever will discover that they find no joy in honoring him in the midst of a temporary conflict and will thus make their decision to walk away from him forever. Again, sincerity is the issue.

However, the NT does say "do not grieve the Holy Spirit by whom you "were" sealed." Not "by whom you are going to be sealed." This concept, when combined with Revelation, paints a picture of a two dimensional sealing. One in the here and now. It gives us assurance of our salvation. The other is in the apocalyptic context, protects us from the plagues, and reveals to us how much we truly love God.

In conclusion, the Sabbath as seal poses no contradiction to salvation by grace through faith. An oversimplification of this doctrine that places it outside of its apocalyptic context certainly creates that problem. However, placed within its apocalyptic context where it belongs demonstrates that the seal of God is a love issue, not a law issue. Because this is a contextual topic it is clear that no one today has the mark of the beast. It is only at the end of time when the polarization becomes clear that the mark is given. However, all who love God today have the seal of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of salvation and in the end of time, those who are alive will receive the apocalyptic seal in contrast to the mark of the beast. However, Gods people won't be sealed because they keep the Sabbath but because they love God. That love will compel them to honor him in the final conflict which involves the Sabbath by honoring the one day that celebrates him as creator, redeemer, and restorer while rejecting the day that celebrates the papacy - a system which presents an alternative method of salvation that counters the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Note: This post is an edited excerpt from: REclaiming Adventism: A Response to the Testimony of Former Adventist Eliana Matthews.
What the...? (Ellen White & The Golden Card)
photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via photopin cc

All the angels that are commissioned to visit the earth hold a golden card, which they present to the angels at the gates of the city as they pass in and out. Heaven is a good place. {CET 97.2}

Then my attending angel directed me to the city again, where I saw four angels winging their way to the gate of the city. They were just presenting the golden card to the angel at the gate, when I saw another angel… {CET 101.2}
More than once I have heard people inquire, some with a sense of innocent nosy awe, and others with a sense of theological suspicion, about this so called golden card that Ellen White says the angels have. While I am not an Ellen White apologist I have, for some time, been really interested in looking into this myself and seeing what all the fuss is about.

The golden card can be found in 11 different places in Ellen Whites writings. However, those can be boiled down to just 2 since the others are simply times in which the original statements were republished in different books. Therefore, the first thing we must notice is that this golden card issue was not something that impressed Ellen White as much as it impresses some of us. During her lifetime, Ellen White wrote approximately 10,000 pages worth of material and the golden card shows up, in original format, only twice. She never wrote about it or expanded on it again. This is an important point to note because one critic has asked why God would “withhold this important piece of information from Christians” for so long. The answer is, it isn’t important.

However, it is still a topic that skeptics like to hone in on. Many are quick to point out that God is omniscient and all-knowing. Why would the angels need to present a golden card to get through the gates of heaven if God knows who his angels are and who they aren’t? In order to answer I would like to present some biblical scenarios that raise the same questions.

Scene 1: Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom and Gomorrah were notorious for their wickedness. If these two cities were around today they would make Las Vegas look like Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show. The cities became so bad that God had to destroy them. However, before He judged the cities He investigated first. The Bible says in Genesis 18: 20-21, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."

Here we read that God has heard the cries of people who are fed up with the evil in Sodom and Gomorrah. Now instead of saying, "I know that already and now I'm going to judge them" God essentially says I'm going to go down there and check it out for myself to see if its as bad as they say it is. He then sends two angels into the city and after the men of Sodom tried to rape them He judged the cities and destroyed them.

In the spirit of the "golden card critics" I then ask, Why did God need to send angels to check out Sodom? Didn't He already know everything?

Scene 2: The Passover

God told Israel that He was about to judge Egypt. The Israelite’s were to put blood on the door posts and that when He passed by a home He would look to see if the blood was there. If it was He would pass over and if it wasn't He would judge that household. 

Doesn't God know men's hearts? Didn't He already know who was His and who wasn't? Then why the blood? And further, once the blood was there why did He have to look to see if it was? Didn't He already know who put the blood on the door frame and who didn't?

Scene 3: The Fall of Jerusalem

The Fall of Jerusalem also serves as an example of this. Even though Israel had become so wicked that it was impossible to hide it God investigated before He judged them through the Babylonians. God said in Zephaniah 1:12, "At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent..." 

Search Jerusalem with lamps? Why? Isn't it obvious that they are evil? Don't you know all things Lord? Then why "investigate" to see who is wicked and who isn't? Why does God need to investigate? Doesn't He already know everything?

Scene 4: The Mark/Seal

In Ezekiel chapter 9 God executes judgment on idolaters in Jerusalem. Before he does the story says, “Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary” (Ezekiel 9: 3-6).

Why would God put a mark on the foreheads of his faithful? Doesn’t he know who they are? In addition, this scenario repeats itself in Revelation 7 where judgment cannot be executed until the faithful receive a mark on their forehead. What’s the use of a mark if God already knows who his faithful are? He is after all, all-knowing isn’t he?

I suppose I could go on and on but I think it’s good to stop there. Each of us can give a good answer as to why God acted the way he did in each of these scenarios even though the Bible clearly teaches that he is omniscient. And likewise, a very good answer can be given as to why angels use a golden card to enter heaven even though God already knows who his true angels are. However, before I give my final answer let’s look at the two quotations in their entirety. 
Then my attending angel directed me to the city again, where I saw four angels winging their way to the gate of the city. They were just presenting the golden card to the angel at the gate, when I saw another angel flying swiftly from the direction of the most excellent glory, and crying with a loud voice to the other angels, and waving something up and down in his hand. I asked my attending angel for an explanation of what I saw. He told me that I could see no more then, but he would shortly show me what those things that I then saw meant. {CET 101.2}
There is perfect order and harmony in the holy city. All the angels that are commissioned to visit the earth hold a golden card, which they present to the angels at the gates of the city as they pass in and out. Heaven is a good place. I long to be there, and behold my lovely Jesus, who gave His life for me, and be changed into His glorious image. Oh, for language to express the glory of the bright world to come! I thirst for the living streams that make glad the city of our God. {CET 97.2}
Notice something very important in the first quotation: Ellen White makes it very clear that the angels present the golden card “to the angel at the gate” not to God. Even though God is all knowing the angels are not. The beauty of this is that it shows us that in all his power and omniscience God is not a dictator or a control freak. He entrusts his created angels with the administration of heaven. In my estimation, this paints a beautiful picture of Gods character.

Nevertheless, one critic has asked, Is it possible for “evil angels to deceive good angels to get into heaven?” At this point it is important to note that Ellen White does not actually tell us what the golden card is for. Most people automatically assume it is an access card to enter heaven. However, according to the second quotation, the angels present the card “as they pass in and out.” In addition, in the first quote Ellen White says, "...I saw four angels winging their way to the gate of the city. They were just presenting the golden card to the angel at the gate, when I saw another angel flying swiftly from the direction of the most excellent glory". Notice that in this statement Ellen White sees four angels at the gate, but only one card. The group of angels, rather than producing multiple cards only produces one. If the golden card were an access card or an ID then all of the angels would have had to present their individual ID's. Instead, only one card is shown in behalf of the four angels. Whatever the function of the card is then, it cannot be said with certainty that it is and ID that is meant to prove you are a good angel. Perhaps the card is used to keep a perfect record of angelic activities kind of like a log book. The Bible itself speaks of a book of remembrance that is used to keep a record of individual human works and experiences (Malachi 3:16; Psalm 56:8; Revelation 20:12). However, I am not suggesting what the card is really meant to do for, as I already stated, we are not told what its function is and apparently neither was Ellen White.

The main point of this whole golden card thing is really quite simple. Ellen White tells us what it is when she says, “There is perfect order and harmony in the holy city.” Whatever the golden card is, and whatever function it has, the main point is that heaven is a place of order. That is all. Any further speculation misses that simple point. So what is the golden card? It’s a golden card, that’s what it is. What is its function? We have no idea. But whatever it is this we do know, heaven is a place of order. 

Ellen White then goes on to say, “Heaven is a good place.” I don’t know about you, but the simplicity of that sentence hits me hard. Here we have an articulate woman who also has editors and friends who are skilled in writing and can help her, if need be, to express the goodness of heaven in eloquent words and yet the awe of its beauty was so grand that all she could muster was a childlike phrase, “Heaven is a good place.” Unfortunately, in their attempt to discredit and challenge what seems to be odd about this statement the critics miss that which is clearly breath taking.

The final point I would like to make is this. The golden card is such a minute issue that Ellen White herself did not seem to care much for it. This is not only true with regard to her writings at large, but it is also true with the immediate context of the statement. While she mentions the golden card, Ellen White appears to quickly lose interest in it and instead focuses her attention on something, which in her estimation, was much more impressive. Ellen White says, “Heaven is a good place. I long to be there, and behold my lovely Jesus, who gave His life for me, and be changed into His glorious image. Oh, for language to express the glory of the bright world to come! I thirst for the living streams that make glad the city of our God.”

As I said, Ellen White didn’t seem to care much for the golden card. Her heart was captured by something far more riveting. Was it heaven? Not really. Read again and you will see that it was her “lovely Jesus” that she was captivated by. That “lovely Jesus” who “gave His life for [her]”. She longed to see him face to face so that she could be “changed into His glorious image.” Then with a cry of passionate desire she declares, “Oh, for language to express the glory of the bright world to come!” She was at a loss for words. No human verbiage could describe the world she had just seen. And with solemn yet romantic words she concludes, “I thirst for the living streams that make glad the city of our God.”

With such beautiful themes to focus on no wonder she cared little for the golden card.

Note: Some of the scenes and their comments were originally posted in the blog Why Does God Need to "Investigate?" You can read it by clicking here.
Q&A: Why 1844 Is Perfectly Logical

Q: I would like to see the following statement proved from the Bible only: "Jesus moved from the Holy to the Holy of Holies on Oct. 22, 1844" Please don't refer to any other writings besides the Bible to explain this. I believe that it is cults that use other writings besides the Bible to prove their doctrines (heresies).

A: Great question. First of all let me start out by saying that I can't prove that statement to you. While I am willing to share with you why I believe what I believe there is no way I can prove those beliefs. So I hope that even if we disagree we can at least appreciate one another's faith.

Now I also want to tackle another statement you made.

"Please don't refer to any other writings besides the Bible to explain this. I believe that it is cults that use other writings besides the Bible to prove their doctrines (heresies)."

If this is true then all churches are cults that teach heresy. The reason why is because when we are dealing with apocalyptic literature such as Daniel and Revelation, there is just no way of fully understanding it without using extra-biblical historical resources. Adventists are Historicists in their interpretation of scripture and as such we use extra-biblical historical resources to help us understand the events that the prophecies are delineating. If this approach makes the SDA church a heretical cult then Victorinus, Arnuf of Orleans, Eberhard II (all Catholic) and Martin Luther, John Calvin, Isaac Newton (all protestant) are also heretics for they all followed the Historicists method of interpreting prophecy. In addition, even if you are not a Historicist but are instead a Futurist or a Prederist (the majority of Christendom) you still have to use extra-biblical historical sources to explain the prophecies. So I conclude that when the SDA church uses historical writings and calendars that are extra-biblical in order to arrive at their understanding of 1844 they are simply doing what every body else does and are thus not a cult and not heretical.

What would make us a cult is if, like the Mormons, we relied only on Ellen White or other pioneers such as Uriah Smith in order to teach the 1844 doctrine. But this is not the case. 1844 was understood by William Miller and many others without the help of Ellen White (she hadn't even begun her ministry yet) and the consequent revelations of the sanctuary being in heaven do not necessitate EGW to be understood. In short, SDA's don't need EGW for any of our doctrines. They stand on the Bible alone. In addition, the SDA church does not put EGW next to James, Paul, Peter or any other Biblical writer. We place her beneath them. She did the same when she was alive. While there are some SDA's who treat her as though she was scripture this goes against the church's stance and even against EGW's own position. We consider her writings to be authoritative and inspired but they do not interpret scripture for us, they do not replace scripture for us, and they sure don't have an equal standing with scripture.

Now onto your question. Like I said, I cant prove it but I will simply explain to you why I believe it is true.

Most Christians teach that the judgment took place on the cross. Others teach that it will take place at the second coming. There are numerous NT verses that show the apostles were looking forward to a future judgment. This was after the cross, therefore, biblicaly speaking the judgment did not take place at the cross. Then there are the passages that say that when Jesus comes he comes to award both the righteous and the wicked including those who have not seen death (others teach the judgment happens at death). This shows us that a decision was reached before the second coming. Then there is Revelation 14:6, a message that is pronounced before the second coming and says that the judgment has already begun. Thus, the judgment did not happen at the cross and it will not happen at the second coming but since Jesus comes with rewards it cant happen after the second coming either. So the message is clear, the judgment happens sometime between the cross and the second coming. 1844 happens to between those two events. (see below)

Now that doesnt prove the date per se, in order to come to the actual date October 22, 1844 we would have to interpret Daniels prophecies using the Historicist method of interpretation. To do that would take so long that Im not going to do it here. But at this point Adventists establish the start time of the prophecy which Gabriel gives to Daniel and we count the 2300 years and we arrive at 1844. Using more complex historical sources such as calendars etc. we arrive at the October 22 date. None of this necessitates EGW or any other Adventist pioneer. If you are really interested in reading about the evidence for this then I recommend Clifford Goldsteins "1844 Made Simple" and Marvin Moores "The Case for the Investigative Judgment." Not that they can prove it either, but at least you will be able to see two very well written books on the topic that do not use EGW at all.
Anyways, understanding that the sanctuary of Daniel is the sanctuary in heaven (of course we are not suggesting that there is some building in heaven that looks just like the OT sanctuary)we then conclude through a systematic study of the sanctuary, its type and anti-type etc. that Jesus began his final work of cleansing the sanctuary in 1844. If you want to read my views on the theology of the Investigative Judgment then I recommend my paper (The Investigative Judgment)...

Honestly K, I am not a stickler on October 22, 1844. While I agree its the best interpretation of the time line I don't get hung up on it. The judgment could have begun in 1922 for all I care. The date doesn't change the theology of the judgment at all. The point is that God is now doing his final work on behalf of man, he is trying to get as many people into heaven before time runs out for us, and Jesus is coming soon.
Did Jesus Complete the Atonement on the Cross?
photo credit: Christopher JL via photopin cc
Some have charged the SDA church with teaching that the atonement was not finished at the cross. Below is an edited excerpt from the article REclaiming Adventism (A Response to the Testimony of former Adventist Eliana Matthews) that briefly deals with this issue:

From the book Seventh-Day Adventists Believe, put forth by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 
On the cross the penalty for human sin was fully paid. Divine justice was satisfied. From a legal perspective the world was restored to favor with God (Rom. 5:18). The atonement, or reconciliation, was completed on the cross as foreshadowed by the sacrifices, and the penitent believer can trust in this finished work of our Lord. – 350
From Ellen White
[Christ] planted the cross between heaven and earth, and when the Father beheld the sacrifice of His Son, He bowed before it in recognition of its perfection. “It is enough,” He said. “The atonement is complete” {RH September 24, 1901, par. 11}.
Our great High Priest completed the sacrificial offering of Himself when He suffered without the gate. Then a perfect atonement was made for the sins of the people {7BC 913.3}.
Christ’s sacrifice in behalf of man was full and complete. The condition of the atonement had been fulfilled. The work for which He had come to this world had been accomplished {AA 29.2}.
The Lord would have His people sound in the faith—not ignorant of the great salvation so abundantly provided for them. They are not to look forward, thinking that at some future time a great work is to be done for them; for the work is now complete {1SM 394.3}.

Clearly, the charge that Adventists teach an unfinished atonement at the cross is false. But aren't there other quotes and sources that suggest that Adventists believe the atonement was not completed on the cross? Yes. Then are we contradicting ourselves? No. Allow me to explain.

The real issue here is one of semantics. SDA theology places a wider definition on the word atonement than do other Christians. For most Christians the word atonement means the work of Christ on the cross. For Adventists, the word atonement means two things: the atonement of the cross, and the final atonement. The atonement of the cross is what Jesus did for us in offering salvation. That is complete. But the final atonement involves, among many things, the second coming of Jesus, the final destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of the New Jerusalem. Thus by final atonement, we mean that God is going to bring the entire universe into perfect harmony as it was before sin began. Since Jesus' death on the cross did not bring the universe into perfect harmony we can say that the atonement is not complete. However, when speaking of the atonement in the sense of salvation it is 100% complete. Therefore, it is not a denial of the cross to say that Jesus is doing a work of atonement in heaven. The best way to summarize the SDA understanding is this way: The sacrificial atonement was provided in full on the cross of Calvary. Nothing needs to be added to it. It was perfect. The atonement taking place in heaven is simply Christ applying the benefits of the cross to our individual lives. He is not adding to it. It is perfect and complete and when we come to him we can rest assured that everything needed for our salvation is found, not in ourselves, but in Christ. Then, at the end of time God will complete the other phase of the atonement which has nothing to do with the death of Christ, but with the complete restoration of the universe.

From:  REclaiming Adventism (A Response to the Testimony of former Adventist Eliana Matthews), edited.
How I Handle Anti-SDA Assaults
photo credit: Anant N S ( via photopincc

I get emails and comments every month that range from friendly to hostile. Adventists often write and thank me for this blog. Members of other denominations write and engage me in friendly debates. And of course, others (sometimes former Adventists sometimes not) write with aggressive tones, angry accusations, and hostile inquiries. I have had people email me to tell me ever so kindly that I am in a cult, that the church I love teaches heresy, that Ellen White was a false prophet, and that the SDA church has roots in freemasonry. I have had people tell me that the teachings of our church are unbiblical and built upon "the leaven of Ellen White," that I am in a "works-based religion," and countless other statements that I cannot even remember.

So how do I respond? With grace. At times this has helped turn the attacker into a friend, but there are other instances in which no amount of kindness has helped. Some people write with one goal in mind: to argue with me. They are not interested in common ground. They are not interested in appreciating my faith and having a respectful conversation. They just want to fight. But I made up my mind a long time ago that fighting about religion is immature and downright ridiculous. What's funny is when I refuse to argue but instead open an invitation to respectful and friendly dialogue these would be defenders of the truth never write back. I am left wondering, if I really was in a cult how in the world do these people expect to help me by bombarding me with hostile accusations from every possible angle? To those who like to attack my church, allow me to share with you a response I gave to one of my many assailants: "Is it possible that I am misled? Of course! But if you know the truth, you certainly are not doing a great job of wooing me toward it."

I am not surprised when people are hostile toward the SDA church. First of all, the SDA church is still relatively new in the world of Protestantism. Study the history of protestant denominations and you will see that every time a new denomination popped up the old ones were hostile toward them. As a matter of fact, SDA's are lucky when we are called a cult. Historically speaking many members of new protestant denominations were fatally persecuted by members of the older protestant denominations. "Because of the belief of opposing infant baptism and refusing to fight in wars, Anabaptists were persecuted by Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Calvinists. Hundreds to thousands of them were tortured and executed for their beliefs."* This trend continued as late as the arrival of the Methodists and Seventh Day Baptists. John Wesley encountered fierce persecution during his life, even to the point of being dragged out of his home by an angry mob that wanted to kill him. John James, a Seventh Day Baptist preacher, was martyred in 1661 for his political views. So when people call the SDA church a cult, as much as it hurts, I am thankful. I bet John James would have preferred such treatment.

At the end of the day the aggressors will always be there. There is nothing I can do about that, but as we begin this new year I would like to thank everyone who has ever dialogued with me in this blog and has done so with kindness and respect. Even when we disagree entirely it is always refreshing to talk about our differences with love. If that is you, don't stop writing me. I love to hear from you even if our faiths are polar opposites.

Wishing you all a happy new year.


Why Sabbath Keepers Should Care About Modern Slavery

Every 7th day, Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh Day Baptists, Jews and countless other Sabbath keepers around the world gather together to rest and remember that God is our creator and redeemer. Inherent in this belief is the reality that we do not belong to ourselves or to one another but to God. We are Gods creation, created in his own image. The very first thing God did with Adam and Eve after creating them was call them apart to rest. That is what the word Sabbath means. It means rest. God created us, not to be mindless working machines, but to be companions with him. Every Sabbath we are called apart from the bussyness of life to rest and remember that we are his and that we were created to be in a relationship with God.

And yet, from the entry of sin into our world there has not been a single generation in which slavery has not existed. In one form or another, this evil has always been a part of the human experience since the fall of Adam and Eve. Today, millions of people worldwide, from children to the elderly, are subjected to some of the most cruel forms of slavery. Some are forced to work countless hours without rest or pay. Others are forced into brothels where they are prostituted. Worst of all, children are not exempt.

When the Sabbath arrives I forget about school, work, and stress. I forget about the errands and the hustle and bustle. I rest. However, I wonder if, like the rich man who hoards his riches while millions starve; do I horde the rest I enjoy while millions are subjected to the never ending horrors of slave labor? In other words, How can I, a Sabbath keeper, enjoy Gods day of rest each Sabbath without stopping for one moment to think of the 29 million who have no idea what rest is? I am reminded of Gods words against the city of Sodom, "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy" (Eze. 16:49).

The Sabbath is a weekly reminder that we were not created to be walking factories. We were created to rest. As a friend of mine once said, "we are human beings not human doings." I appeal to Sabbath keepers everywhere: Don't miss the message that Gods day of rest is screaming at us. It is a call to rest, but so long as we live in this broken world it is also a call to action. Millions of slaves are in need of rest. As you rest this coming Sabbath think of them. Think of the child locked in a brothel. Think of the teen barred in a factory. Think of the woman forced into a mansion. Think of the father kept hostage in a diamond field. They need rest.

Perhaps you are wondering, What can I possibly do to help? Below are a list of organizations that fight against slavery. Support them. Sign up with them. Sign their petitions. Donate money to them. And simplest of all, share their links and articles on Facebook, Twitter or email. You may not have a penny to spare but raising awareness wont cost you anything but time.
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. - Isaiah 1:17

Further Reading

The Civil War Did Not End Slavery
Adventism and Activism

Walk Free
Anti-Slavery International
Free the Slaves
International Justice Mission
Not For Sale
Polaris Project
John Wesley on Christian Perfection

I recently read John Wesley: A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. As a Seventh-day Adventist the doctrine of Christian perfection (not to be confused with the heresy of sinless perfectionism) is one that is near and dear to my heart. Ellen White spoke much on Christian perfection and, knowing that she was a Methodist, it was pretty cool to read about the doctrine of perfection from the man she learned it from - John Wesley. Not only did this experience help me appreciate the doctrine more but it also helped me gain a greater understanding and appreciation for Ellen Whites approach to perfection. Below are some of my favorite quotes from Wesley's book. I am sharing most them as answers to 3 basic questions: Did Wesley believe in perfection, how did he define it, and were did he stand regarding the concept of absolute, or sinless, perfectionism.

Did John Wesley believe in Christian perfection?
"Yes, we do believe that He will in this world so 'cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, the we shall perfectly love Him, and worthily magnify His holy name."
"Why should devout men be afraid of devoting all their soul, body, and substance to God? Why should those who love Christ count it a damnable error to think we may have all the mind that was in Him? We allow, we contend, that we are justified freely though the righteousness and the blood of Christ. And why are you so hot against us, because we expect likewise to be sanctified wholly through His spirit?"
"[T]his we do confess... we do expect to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves."
How did Wesley define perfection? 
"[R]ejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks... this is all that I mean by perfection..."
"By perfection I mean the humble, gentle, patient love of God and our neighbour, ruling our tempers, words, and actions."
[Perfection] is purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God. It is the giving to God all our hearts: it is one desire and design ruling all our tempers. It is the devoting, not a part, but all our soil, body, and substance to God... it is all the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked. It is the circumcision of the heart from all filthiness, all inward as well as outward pollution it is a renewal of the heart in the whole image of God, the full likeness of him that created it... it is the loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves."
Did Wesley believe in absolute perfection? 
"Absolute perfection belongs not to man, nor to angels, but to God alone."
"Sinless perfection is a phrase I never use."
"Is [perfection] sinless? It is not worth while to contend for a term. It is 'salvation from sin.'"
"[Perfection] is perfect love. This is the essence of it..."
"I do not contend for the term sinless, though I do not object against it." 
My thoughts:

While Ellen White was a firm believer in the doctrine of Christian perfection, she parts ways with Wesley in two senses. The first is that Wesley maintained that we could know in this life if we had attained perfection. Ellen White never suggests that we can reach a point in our lives where we can know we are perfect. In fact she consistently taught otherwise as can be seen in the following statement:
So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, I have fully attained. Sanctification is the result of lifelong obedience {AA 560.3}.
The second point of departure is in clarity. Wesley seems to almost beat around the bush when it comes to the concept of sinless perfection. He never explicitly taught it, but as can be seen above, he never explicitly denied it. This is made most evident in his final quote "I do not contend for the term sinless, though I do not object against it." Ellen White did not beat around the bush when it came to sinless perfection. She denied it consistently throughout her ministry as in the following quote:
We cannot say, “I am sinless,” till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body [the second coming]. {ST March 23, 1888, par. 13}.

Some other cool Wesley quotes:
"As a very little dust will disorder a clock, and the least sand will obscure our sight, so the least grain of sin which is upon the heart will hinder its right motion towards God." 
"[T]he devil fills whatever God does not fill."
"Indeed it has been my opinion for many years, that one great cause why men make so little improvement in the divine life is their own coldness, negligence, and unbelief."
"In the greatest temptations, a single look to Christ and the barely pronouncing His name, suffices to overcome the wicked one..." 

Note: I read this book in a Kindle so there were no page numbers. If there is a specific quote you would like to trace feel free to message me and ask for the location number if you'd like. 

Further Reading:

Never Good Enough: The Close of Probation and Sinless Perfectionism
3 Most Common Questions About the Investigative Judgment

Does the Investigative Judgment destroy the assurance of salvation?
The short answer is no. The Investigative Judgment in no way contradicts righteousness by faith, salvation through grace, or assurance of salvation. As with any other doctrine it has been abused and misrepresented by many Adventist preachers and their critics but the doctrine itself is far from legalistic. "Adventist authors have emphasized over the years again and again that our standing in the judgment is not based on our works but Christ’s perfect work."[1] Critics continue to charge the doctrine as inherently legalistic but if you just study it for yourself you will see that it is actually one of the strongest deterrents for legalism and, of all doctrines, one that upholds the finished work of Jesus at the cross like none other. Here are some links of mine that expand on this:

The Pre-Advent Judgment and Righteousness by Faith (Assurance of Salvation)

What Does it Mean to be Judged?

The Urgent Implications of the Pre-Advent Judgment

Facing Life's Record (An Analysis of the Great Controversy's Scariest Chapter)

If Jesus finished the work of atonement at the cross what is the point of him doing something in heaven for us now?
"The issue here is one of semantics. SDA theology places a wider definition on the word atonement than do other Christians... Therefore, it is not a denial of the cross to say that Jesus is doing a work of atonement in heaven. The best way to summarize the SDA understanding is this way: The sacrificial atonement was provided in full on the cross of Calvary. Nothing needs to be added to it. It was perfect. The atonement taking place in heaven is simply Christ applying the benefits of the cross to our individual lives. He is not adding to it. It is perfect and complete and when we come to him we can rest assured that everything needed for our salvation is found, not in ourselves, but in Christ."[2] Here are some posts I have written that can be of help with this question:

Did Jesus Complete the Atonement on the Cross?

Did Christ's Ministry End at the Cross?

REclaiming Adventism (A Response to the Testimony of former Adventist Eliana Matthews)

Why Does God "Need" to Investigate?
Many critics charge that God has no need to judge because he already knows who the saved are. This is true, but then why is there a judgment in Revelation 20? This final judgment is a judgment on the wicked. Why would God have to judge the wicked if he already knows who the wicked are? John also says that the wicked “were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (12). Why would God judge the wicked out of the books when he already knows who is lost? Does he need to refresh his memory by reading a book? Not only that but John goes as far as to say that “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (15). Did God need to look at a book to make sure he was throwing the right people into the lake of fire? Obviously not. The judgment was not for Gods benefit but for the saved to look through the books and see Gods justice against the wicked for themselves. Likewise, the Investigative Judgment is for the benefit of angels to see Gods justice on behalf of the saints. Here are some other blogs I have posted on this question:

Benefit for Angels

Benefit for Man

Character of God

To explore the Investigative Judgment doctrine in more depth click here.
[1] Torres, Marcos D. The Pre-Advent Judgment and Righteousness by Faith (Assurance of Salvation), [].
[2] Torres, Marcos D. REclaiming Adventism (A Response to the Testimony of former Adventist Eliana Matthews), [item # 2,].
Who Are The 144,000? (part 2)

In part 1 we saw who the 144,000 are in Revelation 7. Revelation 14 begins by revisiting the 144,000. This time rather than John hearing the name 144,000 he looks and sees them. One could argue this is evidence for the literality of the 144,000 but such is not the case. At this point John has already heard the number 144,000 and seen that it represents the numberless multitude. Rather than say, “Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him a numberless multitude that no man could number who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” John used the nickname for this group and instead said, “…and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” John is not here saying that he saw a literal 144,000. Based on previous evidence it is clear that the number 144,000 refers to all of the saved of all ages. Therefore, John saying he looked and saw 144,000 is a simplified way of saying he looked and saw the numberless multitude of the redeemed. He is simply making use of the symbolism in the same way the angel made use of it in chapter 7. 

Another evidence is found in the description of this group. John says, “These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.” There is nothing in this description that demands this be a “special” group. This description can easily apply to any Christian. Take the Apostle Paul for example. Did he "not defile himself with women" (false doctrines)? Did he not "follow the lamb wherever he goes"? Was he not "purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb"? Can it not be said that "no lie was found in his mouth and that he was blameless"? It is clear, the description of the 144,000 presents no evidence of a special elite group of last day Christians who have attained a perfection that no one else has ever attained before.

But why did the angel choose the term 144,000? Couldn't he have chosen a less confusing symbol? While there may be many answers to this question allow me to propose one that I believe is very significant. 

In Revelation 11:1 John is "given a reed like a measuring rod" and told to measure the temple. We see this same picture in Ezekiel 41. The act of measuring is a symbol of judgment. That which is being measured is being inspected. The same scenario takes place in Revelation 21:16-17 when the angel measures the New Jerusalem. John says, 
And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.
Notice that the height of the city is 12,000 furlongs.  Its breadth is 12,000 furlongs. Its height is also 12,000 furlongs. All of the measurements are equal. The number 12,000 is used by the angel when describing the 144,000 in Revelation 6:5-8
of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed... etc.
Notice also that when the angel measures the wall of the city it is 144 cubits, a number which parallels the 144,000. When the inspection is over the New Jerusalem is described as a beautiful city with walls of jasper, streets of pure gold as clear as glass, twelve gates made of 12 pearls etc. In the end the angels inspection revealed how beautiful the city was. The interesting part is that the earthly Jerusalem was a city of rebellion and apostasy and yet here we have a New Jerusalem that has been measured and is a symbol of loyalty and beauty. 

Likewise, I believe the angel refers to the saved as 144,000 because they too have been measured ("inspected" or "judged") in the pre-advent judgment. The inspection has revealed how beautiful they are, arrayed in the white robes which they made white in the blood of the Lamb. They were not defiled, they follow the Lamb wherever He goes, in their mouth was found no deceit, and they are without fault before the throne of God. Thus the term 144,000 is not used to describe a literal number of a group of last day super saints, but it is used to describe the all sufficiency of the blood of Jesus to cleanse and transform a filthy sinner of any age, of any tribe, and of any culture into a beautiful creature. Like the New Jerusalem which replaces the earthly Jerusalem, the 144,000 are "new creatures" in Christ. The number 144,000 is not a numerical description of people but a redemptive description of all the saved. It is a number that symbolizes measurement, inspection, and judgment which reveals the beauty of those who were once sinners and are now saints. The number testifies to the promise of scripture:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (1 Cor. 5:21).
How sad that many waste their time debating back and forth over whether the number is symbolic or literal. While these discussions are good and beneficial, if we focus on them at the expense of the gospel message, at the end of the day we miss the true meaning of the 144,000. They, like the city, have been measured and the act of measuring has revealed God's saving grace in taking these sinful human beings and transforming them. It is a testimony to the power of grace and it is beautiful. 

So who are the 144,000? They are the saved of every age who, by virtue of the blood of Jesus, have been found spotless and who, by virtue of the power of grace, have been transformed into beautiful new creatures. Ah yes, heaven is all about the new. New heavens and new earth. New bodies and new life. New Jerusalem and new humanity. Jesus says, "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). And its all because of grace.
Who Are The 144,000? (part 1)

Revelation 7, the chapter that deals with the 144,000, has been a very divisive chapter in Adventist history. Several years ago I became interested in the topic so I listened to two popular Adventist speakers present on it. One of the speakers said the 144,000 was a literal number. The other said it was symbolic. I was frustrated. Which one is it? Another theory I heard attempted to the merge the two by saying that the number was a literal number of end time leaders of Gods people but not a literal number of all of the faithful in the end time.Today I am certain, based on Revelation 7, that the term 144,000 is not a literal number. Here are the reasons why:
The first thing to notice is that John did not see the 144,000, he only heard the number “Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000”.
The second thing to notice is that John specifically says that this group of people are Jews, “144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.” He then proceeds to give a very detailed list of which Israelite tribes the 144,000 come from and how many come from each tribe (12 tribes with 12,000 from each tribe). If we are to take the number 144,000 literally then we must also conclude that they are all Jews and that they all come from 12 different tribes within Israel even though those tribes no longer exist. 
So who are the 144,000? The answer comes to us in verse 9 which says: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count.” While John heard the number 144,000 when he looks upon the scene he does not say he saw 144,000 but “a great multitude which no man could number.” John then goes on to say, “from every nation, tribe, people and language.” In other words, they are not just Jews from Israel but a diverse, multi-ethnic parade of saved people who are “standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” While John “heard” that there were 144,000 from Israel he “saw” a numberless multitude. And while John "heard" they were all Israelite's he "saw" people from all over the earth. The 144,000 is a symbolic number which refers to all of the saved of every culture of all time.

The final evidence I see for the rejection of a literal interpretation is the description of this group at the end of the chapter. The description John writes includes 1) They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands, 2) they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God…” 3) they… have come out of the great tribulation, 4) they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, 5) they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple, 6) he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence, 7) Never again will they hunger…[or] thirst, 8) The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat, 9) the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, 10) ‘he will lead them to springs of living water, 11) And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Notice that nothing in this description gives the impression that the 144,000 are a “special group” of people. They are not super saints. They have not suffered more or less than other saints in history. And they receive the same blessings that we can find elsewhere in scripture as being promised to the whole of the redeemed. However, what about their description in Revelation 14:1-5? Doesn't that do away with this entire argument? I will cover that in the next post.

Further Reading: Who Are the 144,000? (part 2)
Guest Post: Why I Gave Away My Entire Library of Ellen White Books
photo credit: via photopin cc

Until recently, I possessed a fairly extensive library of books, the majority being classic Adventist books written by Ellen White. Among that prized collection was a flawless set of the Testimonies donated to me in, 2007.  When I was in college, I read the entire Spirit of Prophecy  books including the manuscript releases on my computer while waiting for opponents to move on chess games and listening to music on Napster!   Since that time, I think I have read most of her books at least 5 or 6 times and have been blessed by new insights each time I’ve read them.
God has blessed me with very good recall abilities.  I can remember whole passages from the Spirit of Prophecy and I also remember what position the quotation or passage is on the page in the book.  This allows me to quickly find the appropriate quotation and use it in a discussion.  This wonderful skill has some definite drawbacks as well.
I’ve noticed in my discussions with people of other faiths (especially Christians) my mind brings up quotations of the Spirit of Prophecy faster than it does the Bible.  I find myself arguing from an Adventist position rather than from the Bible.
Let me pause here to explain what I mean.
Some of you might wonder, isn’t being biblical distinctly adventist? Yes, and no.  Every ‘faith community’ has its own frame of reference.  For example, when discussing the heavenly sanctuary in Hebrews, I remember Hiram Edison’s view of Christ in the Sanctuary in heaven. Or when talking about the antediluvians I cannot but help remember passages about Enoch’s life that are very dear to me but are not in the Bible.  I find that my reading of the Spirit of Prophecy sometimes becomes a convenient crutch for me.  Worse, my evangelical friends are unable to understand my line of reasoning because it is intermixed with the Spirit of Prophecy.  Now some hardliners among us will insist that I should introduce Ellen White to my friends so that they can see ‘light’ and understand the Bible more fully.  I firmly believe that we sometimes (at least me for sure) forget that Mrs. White is the lesser light and the Bible is the Greater Light.  The Bible informs us of God’s Supreme Will and His workings on our behalf.  Mrs. White always pointed to the Bible.  Later in her life she deplored the use of her writings when discussing Biblical points of view.  I resolved to rid myself of this self-made crutch and rely on the Bible alone for my knowledge of God.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Mrs. White’s writings.  When I compare her work to the Bible, I find her emphasis, and use of the Bible, to not only be masterful but inspired. I still hold them in the highest regard and believe everything written in them.  But my reliance should always be on the Word of God in times of need.  My existence should depend solely on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
So I gave away my entire Spirit of Prophecy collection to a friend.
Since then I’ve read the Bible by itself.
One of the things, I resolved to take up after chemotherapy was learning how to write clearly.  I am painfully aware that my writing is not as precise and clear as it should be. I enjoy reading the Bible all the more now, because I can see the literary resonance of the passages.  I have newfound appreciation for the rhythm in biblical sentences such as these:
And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal (1 Sam. 15:33). 
But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Amos 5:8
And he shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Is. 2:4
I find my reasoning has become sharper.  I have resolved to memorize the entire New Testament in the next three years using trained memory techniques that I’ve used to great success in college and business. I hope someday to memorize the entire Bible like Pastor Randy Skeete.  I dream of being able to effortlessly recall text upon text and understand the context of whole passages in the Old Testament and their proper bearing in the New.
Now, when I discuss biblical topics with my evangelical friends, I find myself arguing from the text rather than from Adventist tradition and in the highest sense I know that I’m fulfilling our high calling to be people of the Book.

- This post was originally written by Adrian Zahid on his website
The Uniqueness of Adventism (and Why We Should be Proud of It)

Adventism has lots in common with the evangelical world. We stand on the shoulders of the apostles and the great protestant reformers. We trace our doctrines and lifestyle practices to many of these champions of the faith. As a denomination we are indebted to the Seventh Day Baptists for teaching us the truth about the Sabbath. We owe our belief in sola scriptura to the Catholic theologian Wycliffe. We owe our understanding of justification by faith to the Catholic professor Martin Luther who became the founder of the Lutheran church. Sanctification by faith comes to us from the great reformer John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterians and Congregationalists. We thank the Anabaptist's for leading the way in the doctrine of the believers baptism. We thank the Baptists for reclaiming the biblical concept of immersion as Gods only true method of baptism. We are indebted to the doctrine of perfection in love as taught by John Wesley, the father of the Methodists.* And the list goes on and on. Adventists certainly have lots in common with the denominations that surround them.

However, there is a growing tendency among Adventists to act as though being an Adventist is really no different to being a Baptist, Presbyterian, or non-denominational Christian. Perhaps this tendency is a response to the narcissistic attitude of many of our Adventist forefathers who treated all other denominations as inferior to their own and in extreme cases even demonized them. In that sense, I am glad that the pendulum is swinging to the other side. However, could it be that the pendulum is swinging too far? In other words, are we going from being an arrogant "we alone have the truth" church to an insignificant movement with no unique reason for its existence.

While I gladly reject the pride and narcissism that many Adventists embrace regarding their denomination, neither do I believe the Adventist church to be simply another church. We are unique. We are different. If that troubles you, allow me to give you a different perspective that may be of help. This church, united as it may be with the whole of Protestantism, is indisputably distinct. Not weird, but certainly different. Here are a few examples of how I, as a Seventh-day Adventist, consider myself to be different from all other denominations:

1. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe that God will torture sinners in hell fire for all eternity. I believe God will bring justice and closure to the perpetrators of his law and that each person lost will receive a just punishment. God is not a sadist, a torture artists, or a pyromaniac. He is a loving and just God who will give eternal life to those who love him and eternal death to those who would rather die than be around him.

2. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe that God created some people to be lost and burn in hell for ever and others to be saved and go to heaven. I believe everyone has a choice in where they want to spend eternity. God is not some arbitrary dictator who controls the universe like a psychopathic control freak. He gives us the freedom to chose and desires that all will come to repentance.

3. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe that the dead go straight to heaven or hell. Instead, I believe that they cease to exist until the resurrection when everyone receives their just reward either for eternal life or death. While some would say this belief removes hope and comfort from many I do not apologize for it because that hope and comfort for some comes at the expense of sorrow and heart break for many others. In order for me to believe my grandmother is in heaven to comfort myself I must be willing to accept that my neighbors atheist teenage son who died of a drug overdose is currently in hell writhing in agony with no possibility of escape. Would it be nice to think my grandmother is in heaven? Sure. But not a the expense of my neighbors comfort. Thankfully, I don't have to make that choice because the Bible teaches that the dead are asleep and will be judged at the last day. No one is dancing in heaven right now and no one is suffering in hell either. As a Seventh-day Adventist I believe that.

4. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe in human dualism which divides the body from the spirit and claims one is important and the other is not. Because we reject this common evangelical view Seventh-day Adventists tend to care for their physical health as much as their spiritual health. As a result we live an average of ten years more than our American counterparts. That's ten more years to tell people about Jesus and share our wisdom with our grandchildren.

5. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe that every day is created equal but that God blessed, sanctified, and made holy the seventh day of the week Saturday which the Bible calls the Sabbath. It is a day of rest and recovery from the wild craziness of everyday life. While I am an every day Christian the Sabbath is a special day of rest that reminds me that I cannot create myself for God is my creator and I cannot redeem myself for God is my redeemer. I believe this day matters for God never blessed any other day besides the seventh day and those who keep it experience a wonderful blessing.

6. As a Seventh-day Adventist I can answer questions other denominations struggle to answer. For example, "You Christians have been saying that Jesus is coming back for over 2,000 years, why isn't he back yet?" No problem my friend! Allow me to give you a bible study on the 2300 day prophecy which culminated in 1844 marking the beginning of Christs final work on behalf of man. When he finishes that final work he will come. Or what about "You Christians are always talking about what Jesus did 2,000 years ago but that was forever ago. Is he doing anything relevant to my life today?" Sure! Allow me to give you a Bible study on the sanctuary system beginning with the Old Testament and moving on into the new. How about "I hate organized religion. Christianity has done nothing but cause pain and suffering. Just look at the crusades!" I agree entirely! Would you like a Bible study on the little horn power of Daniel and the Beast of Revelation? I think you will be surprised! "Why didn't God destroy the devil?" Great question! Allow me to give you a Bible study on the great controversy. "Church is full of hypocrites and that's why I don't go!" Really? Would you like a Bible study on the Investigative Judgment which teaches that God began his work of judgment on the church and will not judge the wicked until he is done judging his church? And so on and so forth.

7. The Seventh-day Adventist church is the only united church body that upholds the historicist method of interpreting Bible prophecy as taught by Martin Luther, John Calvin, Isaac Newton and many other protestant reformers. As such our prophetic narrative is unique and distinct from any other denomination. Therefore, while we are thankful for the teachings that we have learned and embraced from other denominations our eschatological uniqueness places a more urgent value on each of those teachings. One example is the rapture. Adventists do not believe that the church will be raptured just before the days of tribulation but that we will go through the tribulation. Many denominations teach that the church will be delivered from the final crisis through a "secret rapture." Such a teaching, found nowhere in scripture, is preparing myriads of believers for a great disappointment much like what the early Adventists (Millerites) experienced in 1844 when they thought Jesus was coming. After the disappointment many gave up their faith in Christ. Likewise, I believe that many who expect to be delivered from the final crisis will be so disappointed when they find themselves in the midst of it they will give up on their faith in order to escape the persecution. With such a terrible scenario ahead I have, as a Seventh-day Adventist, the unique mission to sound the alarm and help prepare as many as possible for what is coming. Some call this doom-and-gloom preaching but if it is, it is no different than Noah's warning of a flood, Jeremiah's warning of and invasion, and Jesus' warning of Jerusalem's destruction.

I could go on and on but I think I have made my point. Being an Adventist means something. We are not simply another denomination in the mix of all denominations. We are unique and we bear a powerful and distinct message to the world. I fear many Adventists are, as a backlash to the narcissism of their forefathers, attempting to erase any and all distinction between Adventism and other denominations. We want to be considered evangelical. We want to be part of the club. We want to be accepted. Please don't call us a cult any more, don't you see? We are just like you! No difference! And while we certainly are evangelical, while we certainly are a Bible believing, Jesus uplifting church we are indisputably different. To be an Adventist is to stand for an offensive, foolish, and unpopular message. But do you know what I have discovered? There are only four groups of people that generally hate Adventisms message: disgruntled Adventists, former Adventists, ultra-conservative evangelicals, and other Christians who simply misunderstand our message. But go out and share this message with the lost, the post-moderns, the "church haters" and sinners and you will find that our message carries healing in its wings. It is the story of Jesus as told by scripture. And I said before, "Is our God-story perfect? Do we have a flawless theology with no room for improvement? Not at all. We have much to discover. But I do believe, in the most politically incorrect way, that Adventism approximates the biblical story of Gods love, grace, and work for mankind in a much finer way than any other theological system around."**

Fellow Adventist, don't be ashamed of your message. Stand up and be proud. We don't have to apologize to anyone for our beliefs. They are awesome. They are satisfying. They are Bible. While we are not greater than any other church, no holier, no smarter, and certainly no better looking we have a message to preach that no one else is preaching. True, all of our doctrines (even the investigative judgment) can be found outside of our church in one form or another, but there is not a single united body of believers, not a single denomination or movement, that is preaching this message besides the Seventh-day Adventist church. The uniqueness of Adventism is nothing to be ashamed of. It is who we are. Being an Adventist is an invitation to be a part of something epic. I am a Seventh-day Adventist and I am proud of it. Take it or leave it. Love it or hate it. Embrace it or reject it. That's your choice. As for me, I'm all in.
Southern Adventist University Faculty Statement on the Emerging Church Movement

Southern Adventist University's (SAU) school of religion released a statement on the emerging church movement October 23, 2013.* I am thankful for this statement that shows SAU is committed to Biblical Christianity and rejects the religious syncretism inherent in the emergent church movement. Here is the statement:

A Reaffirmation of Seventh-day Adventist Faith and Practice
October 23, 2013


The Emerging Church movement (EC) began as an attempt to be relevant to a postmodern and post-postmodern culture. The EC in its various forms seeks creatively to reinvent church in the twenty-first century, “emerging” in protest from traditional Christianity to form a new “post-Christian” worldview.1

Like postmodernism, which defies clear lines of definition, the EC is eclectic and diverse, focusing less on distinctive biblical teaching and emphasizing the authenticity and spiritual experience of the individual. How a person lives is more important than what he or she believes.2  This emphasis that “faith without works is dead” and that true Christianity will display itself in a life which is consistent with the truth is commendable. However, this emphasis also betrays one of the drawbacks of the EC--that experience very easily becomes the essential standard of authentic spirituality without the framework of Scripture or the guidance of an organized faith community.

The EC is committed to accepting philosophical pluralism, denying that any system (or religion) offers a complete explanation of God or truth. Rather than bouncing between arguments of relativism and absolutism, EC leaders insist on a “Third Way” that dialogues and ultimately embraces the multi-faith world and does not judge faith issues and movements within traditional lines of Christian interpretation. While theological humility is laudable, within the EC this view seems all too often to lead to positions which are relativistic in fact, if not in name.3
The EC reduces Christianity to “one voice” among many and is strongly ecumenical, seeking to experience God in dialogue and by adopting beliefs and worship practices in the multi-faith world of religions such as Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Eastern mysticism, and even non-religious atheism.4  EC leaders embrace such practices as symbolic, multi-sensory worship; centering prayer; prayer beads; icons; spiritual direction; labyrinths; and lectio divina.5  While some of these practices have merit, the semantic elasticity of many of these terms, as used by proponents of EC, contributes to the problematic nature of the movement.6  For instance, “spiritual formation” is a key term which has been enlarged by the EC to encompass mystical practices.7  The worship of the EC may include charismatic and post-charismatic elements, and its music varies from hymns to contemporary Christian music and secular forms.8

The EC is disillusioned with the organized church and seeks to deconstruct modern Christian worship, evangelism, and community by providing a new theology for post-Christianity. Within our own denomination and in many others, the lack of emphasis on personal spiritual experience has left many faithful believers hungering for a deeper relationship with God. It is this reasonable desire and genuine need that the EC attempts to address. However, despite some positive contributions, we must be cautious of its theological views and spiritual recommendations. 

In response to the growing impact of the EC in Seventh-day Adventist churches, colleges, and universities, we, the faculty of the School of Religion at Southern Adventist University, wish to encourage spiritual revival and reformation and to offer this affirmation of authentic biblical belief as expressed in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

  1. We affirm that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the infallible revelation of God’s will. The Bible has authority in all areas of Christian teaching, life, and practice because it is the inspired Word of God, and all truth is consistent with this revelation (Is. 40:8; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16).
    The Bible is not merely a “library of diverse voices making diverse claims.”9   On the contrary, it speaks inrldmonyand rldmony to rld. We therld. We therefore cannot accept that “faithful interaction with a library means siding with some of those voices and against others,”10  for “Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35). While we acknowledge and appreciate the role of God’s Spirit in guiding the church, we insist that the Spirit confirms and conforms to the Scriptures. Therefore, we believe in the unique authority of the Bible and understand that it is not merely one way among many to understand Gthe standard of charipture is the standard of charauthorrustwoest of experience, the authorve reve rev of doof doctrines, and the trustworthy recort “Sola scrip actcts in history. We cannot accept tt “Sola s scriptura . . . tends to downplay the role of God’s Spirit in shaping the direction of the church,”11  as some in the EC assert, or that sacred texts outside of the Bible are metanarratives of equal authority to that of the Bible. Personal experience; culture; and ancient, modern, and postmodern philosophies cannot replace the Bible as the basis of all “doctrine, for reproof, . 3onorrection, and fo” (2 Tim. 3on in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
  2. We thsus crus us createdeatedthil thithat that He was and is forever truly God and also betrulytruly man to live and perfectly exemplify the righteousness and l. We a Gorm th affirm that He died a substitutionary and expiatory death, was bodily dead,r the from the dead, and ascended to heaven to minister there in the presence of the Father in the heavenly sanctuary (Jn. 1:1-14; 8:58; 10:30; Heb. 1:6; Phil. 2:10-11; Gal: 4:4; Matt. 1:1; Jn. 1:30; R; 1 3:25; Isa. 53:5-12; 1 Cor. 15:3, 14-17; Luke 24:36-43; Heb. 8:1-2).
    Jesus was noty a gly a good moral leader: He uly truly the divine Son of God.12  It was an act of unfathomable love for God to send His Sonie o Jesus to dihe crohe cross and for he Son to consIt wtodivie. It w “divi an act of “ed abuse,”use,”1se,”13  asassertin the EC have asses’ death ogh Jesus’ death on the cross was indeed an example to humanity of authentic, missional living, it cannot be limitedIthe atoniIthe atoninglso the atoning sacrifice which redeems us from our slavery to sin, as well as the unique basis for the reconciliation of humans to God. God’s grace is channeled to the world through Christ and cannot be found where enlightenment is sought within the person. As revealed in God’s Word, it is a gift bestowed by Jesus Christ and cannot be acquired by the skill of humanity or merited by human goodness. Though Jesus, as God, is ever-present through the Holy Spirit, the pantheistic notion that Jesus is a Cosmic Christ “woven into Creation and all of life”14  misrepresents the fundamental distinction between creature and Creator.
  3. We affirm that this world is the focus of a great cosmic controversy between Christ and Satan over the character and government of God, His eternal moral law, and His sovereignty over the universe (Ezek. 28:12-17; Is. 14:12-14; Rev. 12:4-9; Job 1:6-7; 1 Cor. 4:9; Matt. 4:3).
    Satan is not simply a metaphor for evil. He is a fallen personal being, working actively today to confuse humanity into believing that there are many avenues to God other than Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). To the extent that other philosophies and faiths identify alternative links between God and humanity, they are mistaken. Just as the means of access to God are d’s law nd irreplaceable, so also God’s law is chan a mutable me and place. Isuwas t to change over time and place. It was a p writtenn by Godensown finger in stone as a permanent, compr lonsive mora cha and spiritualty 3elation of His loving character to humanity 31:. 31:18; Deut. 10:1).
  4. We affirm the biblical revelation of the fall of humanity after a perfect creation, and we acknowledge that sin is the transgression of God’s eternal law (1 Jn. 3:4; Gen. 3:1-10; Jas. 2:10; 4:17). Obedience to God’s law through the empowering of the Holy Spirit is Christ’s command to His followers: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. :18; ; Jn. 15:10; Matt. 5:18; 19:17; Heb. 8:10). 
    Although personal experience is an essential element in Christianity, it is not the standard by which we test truth. Christianity is not all about us or our subjective experiences, for it was humanity, relying subjectively on the senses, which disobeyed God and plunged the earth into sin. The work of the Holy Sp tit is to lead sinners tn tosus Christ, rather than to self.15  Our faith must rest in Christ, as revealed in Scripture, anur own s our own spiritual inclinations, feelings, or expe thnces: “Test the spirits to see whethehn, ey are from God,” says postapostle John, “because man (1 Jse propheve gone gone out into the ld” (1 Jn. 4:n. 4:1).
  5. We affirm that the church is the nity nity of believers whoess Jess Jesus rist as Loas Lord and Saviour, who are called out from the world to join tohip, felor worship, fellowe, proruction, proruction,n, instruction, and celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 16:1 Eph. 2:h. 2:19-22; 3:8-11). 
    The church is not an amorphous and unbounded gathering of persons who hold dissimilar views of the Bible and Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches that there were clear and non-negotiable expectations, both of belief and of practice for members of this community, and it specifically warns us of the danger of false teaching (2 Pet. 2:1-2). Church organization is vital to accomplish the mission which Christ has entrusted to His followers. While diversity of means and methods is vital to the church (1 Cor. 12:12-20), this does not imply that any doctrine, any spiritual practice, or any ethical standard espoused by a person claiming Christ is approved by Him or should be accepted by the church. The church is sent to all nations (Matt. 28:19) and strives to become “all things to all people” (1 Cor. 9:22), but the church expresses this diversity within Scriptural guidelines, being commissioned by Christ to teach all. 1:8-9) has commanded (Matt. 28:20) and not “another gospel” (Gal. 1:8-9).
  6. We affirm that in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. a The remmnant arivances the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heraldsHihe approach of His second advent. This pr is sy ton is symbolized by the three angels of Revelatith the it coincideh the the work oof repeent in heaven and resof repe a work of repe repentance and reform on eartave a py believer is called to have a personal part in this worldwide witne7; 14:6sy (Red’s peo7; 14:6-of error and apostasy (Rev. 12:17; 14:6-12; 1:10; J 2 Cor. 5:10; Jude 3, 14; 1 Pet. 19; 219; 2 Pet. 3:10-14; Rev. 21:1-14.).
    The message of Christ is uniq is not jusot just one metanarrative among the maativetaof oatives of other world religions, all of which lead to truth. God’s end-tillll faithfaithfulthful people is to leave all ls and sin sin anin and to unite themsels faithful m abedHis faithful y d pholding bit people by upholding bibli16l doctrine and he v6 Thhe v6 Thhe Seventh-e Seventh-day Adventist Church c minister  minister astoor with postmoderns, but muut must, rather, minister for postmoderns, calling them out of the confusion of relativism into God’s eternal truth.17  We must not blur the boundarih and error, nd error, whether through the revisionist critique of Protestantism and thocacy for “pos for “post-Protestantism and post-Christianity,”18  or by returning to any historic Christian tradition (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant,19  or Celtic,20  or even sdis1) indisdistinct blending of these21) or by any syncretistic merging with world religions that woulplaisplace or redefine the everlasting gospel.
  7. We affirm that the final test of humanity at the end of time will be over the issue of faithfulness to God and obedience to his expressed will, ding a t uding a to the return to the observance of t seveiginal seventh-day SabbatCreatCreatiEx. 20:8 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11; Rev. 14:7-9, 12). 
    The seventh-day Sabbath is not a transitory expression of religious practice, but from Creation it has been a memorial of God’s power and love and a sign of faithfulness to Him, and it will remain the test of worshipful allegiance at the end of time. God’s truth is unchangeable, and His will is immutable. Those who are recognized by heaven as God’s own people at the end of history will conform to the same standards of belief and practice which have characterized the righteous in all ages.
  8. We affirm that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” and that our spiritual practices e thoseo be those taught by the Lord, directed by the Holy Spirit, and confirmed by the Scriptures (Jn. 4:23; Luke 11:1; Rom. 8:26-27, 2 Pet. 1:3-4; Ps. 1:2; 119:97). 
    True worship must be defined biblically.22  No doctrine, behavior, or spiritual practice, however great its antiquity or wide its acceptance, oved, except by oved, except by its conformity to the Word of God.23  Regular study of Scripture, unceasing prayer, constant attention to the leading of the Spi, and God, and fretualt spiritual conversatiosation with fellow believers, both in daily life and during weekly Sabbath rest, are indispensable elements of true biblical spirituae form disciplitian cich leads to the formation of Christian charaes (su4  Other spiritual practices (such as centering prayer, contemplation, meditation, lectio divina, eucharistic tion, icons,inthsinthsinths), whhether of non-Christiantian or medieval origin or of recent devising, must be evaluated by Scripture.25
  9. We affirm the movement of history toward the final culminating event of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, who will return literally, personally, and visibly with the heavenly hosts to take up the elect for an eternal kingablishet will be established in heaven during the millennium, followed by the descent of the New Jerusalem on a restored new earth (Matt. 7:22-23; 16:27; 24:30; 25:11-12; Jn. 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 14-15; Rev. 1:7; 19:12-16).
    The Kingdom of God is not merely a better life to be established politically or socially on this present earth through an ecumenical movement where all religions “are revelations of the same reality.”26  Though it has begun on this earth through the teachings of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit, the hope in Jesus is that its culmination will be in a world that will be cleansed of all evil and perfectly restored by Christ after the millennium. The final message of the “everlasting gospel”27  must be faithfully preached to all the world to fulfill Christ’s mission. God desires all to be saved, but those who reject the Son and show themselves unfaithful to God will be lost (Jn. 3:35-36).
School of Religion Faculty, Southern Adventist University

1 For a primer on the EC, see Leonard I. Sweet, Brian D. McLaren, and Jerry Haselmayer, A Is for Abductive: The Language of the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003; for critiques of the EMC movement, see D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005); Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Silverton, OR: Lighthouse Trails, 2007); Jeremy Bouma, Reimagining the Christian Faith: Exploring the Emergent Theology of Doug Pagitt, Peter Rollins, Samir Selmanovic, and Brian McLaren (Grand Rapids, MI: Theoklesia, 2012); Fernando Canale, “The Emerging Church – Part 1: Historical Background,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 22/1 (2011) 84-101; idem., “The Emerging Church – Part 2: Epistemology, Theology, and Ministry,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 22/2 (2011) 67-105; idem., “The Emerging Church – Part 3: Evangelical Evaluations,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 23/1 (2012) 46-75.
2 Scot McKnight, “Five Streams of the Emerging Church,” Christianity Today 51/2 (February, 2007); accessed online Sept 29, 2013.
3 For the impact of relativism in EC, see the extensive discussion by Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, 125-56; and most recently, in general, Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012); cf. Canale, “Emerging Church – Part 2,” 79-80.
4 Samir Selmanovic, It’s Really All About God: How Islam, Atheism, and Judaism Made Me a Better Christian(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010); and his website on Faith House Manhattan, where a “Christian Buddhist” is a member the Board of Directors:, accessed Sept. 23, 2013.
5 On Lectio Divina, see David Foster, Reading with God: Lectio Divina (London/New York: Continuum, 2005); Basil Pennington, “Lectio Divina: The Gate Way to the Spiritual Journey and Centering Prayer,” in Centering Prayer in Daily Life and Ministry, ed. Gustave Reininger (London/New York: Continuum, 1998), 20-25.
6 Many of the terms employed for spiritual practices, including “contemplation,” “meditation,” “spiritual reading,” “spiritual direction,” and even “prayer,” are vague and can be accompanied with major redefinition and new application. Both the Bible (Luke 5:16; 11:2; Ps. 55:17; 1 Tim. 4:5; Jas. 5:13) and Ellen White provide extensive commentary on the importance of meditation on God’s Word and prayer (Acts of the Apostles, 424;Gospel Workers, 127). Ellen White writes, “Let the truth of God be the subject for contemplation and meditation. Read the Bible, and regard it as the voice of God speaking directly to you. Then will you find inspiration and that wisdom which is divine” (Testimony Treasures, 3:188). See especially White’s statements in Desire of Ages, 83, 363 and Education, 260-61.
7 On spiritual formation from an EC perspective, see Doug Pagitt, Reimagining Spiritual Formation: A Week in the Life of an Experimental Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004); Richard Foster, “Spiritual Formation Agenda: Three Priorities for the Next Thirty Years,” Christianity Today, Feb. 4, 2009; accessed online Sept. 23, 2013.
8 For an analysis of the relationship between charismatic worship and EC worship, see Canale, “Emerging Church – Part 2,” 74-75.
9 Brian McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World (New York: Jericho Books, 2012), 204.
10 Ibid.
11 Will Samson, “The End of Reinvention: Mission Beyond Market Adoption Cycles,” in An Emergent Manifesto of
ed. Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), 156.
12 For an analysis of McLaren’s views on the divinity of Christ, see Jeremy Bouma, The Gospel of Brian McLaren: A New Kind of Christianity for a Multi-Faith World (Grand Rapids, MI: Theoklesia, 2013), 47-51.
13 McLaren, The Story We Find Ourselves In (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003), 102.
14 Selmanovic, All About God, 76-82.
15 John Markovic, “Emergent Theology: Voices of Confusion,” Ministry (May, 2010).
16 Stanley J. Grenz, a key theologian of the EC adopts “open theism” which restricts God’s ability to predict the future and limits the gift of prophecy which is central to the prophetic voice of the faithful remnant at the end of time (Grenz in Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times, ed. Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth, Justin Taylor [Wheaton IL: Crossway Books, 2004], 19).
17 On these categories, see McKnight, “Five Streams.”
18 McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), Chapt. 7; on other revisionist works, see Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008); Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (New York: HarperCollins, 2009).
19 McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 221-225.
20 Selmanovic, All About God, 22-23.
21 See the discussion by Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, 172-77; Canale, “The Emerging Church: What Does it Mean and Why Should We Care?” Adventist Review (June, 10, 2010); accessed online Sept. 14, 2013, states, “The emerging church is going back to Rome. If we continue to play follow the leader, new generations of Adventism will go back to Rome, as well.”
22 Canale points out that “the center of emerging worship is no longer Bible preaching, but the Eucharist,” (“The Emerging Church – Part 2,” 72). For many “preaching is no longer the authoritative transferring of Biblical information” (Dan Kimball, Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations[Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004], 87), but has been replaced by storytelling. Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe Geisler critique the EC’s limiting view of Scripture in “A Postmodern View of Scripture,” in Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion of the Emergent Church Movement, ed. William D. Henard and Adam W. Greenway (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 107.
23 Grenz places the community and tradition over Scripture as the basis for doctrine, “Our Bible is the product of the community of faith that cradled it . . . the writings contained in the Bible represent the self-understanding of the community in which it developed” (Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology A Fresh Agenda for the 21st Century [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993], 121; see the critique by Canale, “Emerging Church – Part 2,” 79-80). In Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era([Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006], 347), Grenz quotes Michael S. Horton favorably maintaining that the new center for evangelicalism is to embrace a consensus view of tradition (“What Still Keeps Us Apart”? in Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyse What Divides and Unites Us, ed. John H. Armstrong [Chicago, IL: Moody, 1994], 253). This is a reversal of the biblical and Protestant hermeneutic of sola Scriptura, see discussion by Norman Gulley, Systematic Theology, Vol. 4: Church, Final Events (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2014).
24 On spiritual discipline, see Ellen White, Christian Education, 136; on the formation of character,Fundamentals of Christian Education, 254. In contrast it should be noted that in the EC “Spiritual Disciplines are a very important part of the ‘vintage’ Christianity that emerging leaders retrieve from medieval Roman Catholic spirituality” (Canale, “The Emerging Church – Part 2,” 73).
25 On the use of monastic mysticism in the EC, see Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (New York: Crossroad, 2009), 12; Nanette Sawyer, “What Would Huckleberry Do? A Relational Ethic as the Jesus Way,” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 41–50; Selmanovic, All About God, 130-141.
26 Selmanovic, All About God, 288, note 3.
27 Ellen White writes, “The messages of Revelation 14 are those by which the world is to be tested; they are the everlasting gospel, and are to be sounded everywhere” (Selected Messages, 2:111); cf. Great Controversy, 311.

Was Ellen White Against Anything New?

photo credit: Anders Illum via photopin cc
I once read a book that lamented the good ol' days when Christians rejected anything that was new. As you can imagine, the book was anti-new. This is a common view held in every denomination by what many have dubbed the traditionalists. Traditionalists are known by their fear, dislike, or suspicion of anything and everything that is new. In one sense, their fears are well founded. Jude wrote:
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. - Jude 1:3
For Jude, it was "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" that was the true faith. Anything new was to be discarded. In the same way, modern attempts to reinterpret Genesis 1 - 11 as allegorical, merge Christianity with other religions, or undermine the central pillars of biblical Christianity should be rejected.*

However, not everything that is new is bad. It was in the name of "the old ways" that many of the Pharisees refused to come to Jesus or accept Christianity. Likewise, 1888 taught the Adventist church the danger of rejecting new light simply because it is new. Many in those years patronized themselves and one another with "sticking to the old ways." Such an attitude made many feel as though they were standing for the truth though the heavens fall. But the reality was that they rejected the Holy Spirit who was trying to bring them to a new experience and traded Gods will for their lives for their allegiance to "the old ways."

However, history shows that the Adventist church is riddled with the new. A new understanding of the Sabbath, a new view of the state of the dead and hell, a new revelation of the sanctuary doctrine, a new emphasis on health and education. We were on the cutting edge with sanitariums and Christian education, have a new prophet, a new style of evangelism, and a new message. Adventism, it seems, was all about the new. In keeping with the flow Ellen White made the following comments on outreach, evangelism, and the need of the new:

In the cities of today, where there is so much to attract and please, the people can be interested by no ordinary efforts.... put forth extraordinary efforts in order to arrest the attention of the multitudes.... make use of every means that can possibly be devised for causing the truth to stand out clearly and distinctly. {Ev 40.3}
The methods and means by which we reach certain ends are not always the same. The missionary must use reason and judgment. Changes for the better must be made... {GW 468.3}
Let us not forget that different methods are to be employed to save different ones.  {Ev 106.2}
Different methods of labor are really essential in sowing the seeds of truth and gathering in the harvest. {TM 251.1}
New methods must be introduced. God’s people must awake to the necessities of the time in which they are living. God has men whom He will call into His service,—men who will not carry forward the work in the lifeless way in which it has been carried forward in the past.... {Ev 70.1}
Whatever may have been your former practice, it is not necessary to repeat it again and again in the same way. God would have new and untried methods followed. Break in upon the people—surprise them. {Ev 125.4}
Let every worker in the Master’s vineyard, study, plan, devise methods, to reach the people where they are. We must do something out of the common course of things. We must arrest the attention. {Ev 122.4}
As field after field is entered, new methods and new plans will spring from new circumstances. New thoughts will come with the new workers who give themselves to the work. As they seek the Lord for help, He will communicate with them. They will receive plans devised by the Lord Himself. {6T 476.2}
We fully believe in church organization; but this is not to prescribe the exact way in which we should work, for not all minds are to be reached by the same methods. {6T 116.1}
There must be no fixed rules; our work is a progressive work, and there must be room left for methods to be improved upon. {Ev 105.1}
Some of the methods used in this work will be different from the methods used in the work in the past; but let no one, because of this, block the way by criticism. {Ev 105.2}
There is to be no unkind criticism, no pulling to pieces of another’s work... {AA 275.2}
The leaders among God's people are to guard against the danger of condemning the methods of individual workers who are led by the Lord to do a special work that but few are fitted to do. Let brethren in responsibility be slow to criticize movements that are not in perfect harmony with their methods of labor. Let them never suppose that every plan should reflect their own personality. {9T 259}
With history, the insights of Ellen White, and the need of the hour I propose that it is time we stopped giving innovation the cold shoulder. We should not be so naive as to embrace every new thing but neither should we flip the "auto-pilot of rejection to anything new" switch. We need new. We need innovation. If we embrace this reality and seek God for those new ideas and methods of evangelism and outreach the results, I'm sure, will be stunning.

* While any new anti-biblical teachings should be rejected we must always do so intelligently and graciously not dogmatically. Behind every teaching is a soul for whom Christ died and they must never be mistreated for their faith regardless of how much it differs from our own.

Thanks to Russel Burril's How to Grow an Adventist Church for the compilation of Ellen White quotes.
True Worship VS False Worship

photo credit: Will Foster via photopin cc

“He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” – Rev. 14:7

The angel in this passage is giving a message of warning to the people of the earth. The final events of earth’s history are about to unfold. The angel doesn’t have time to give his own message or talk about unimportant things. There’s no time for foolishness, no time for nonsense, no time for abstract theology. He’s got to get to the point and so every word of the angel is precisely what you and I need to hear in these last days and I find it fascinating that the angel brings up the issue of worship.

Now most of you probably had a mental picture when I said the word worship just now and it most likely involved music. But music is not worship. Music is an expression of worship. So it is a part of worship but it’s not worship in its truest sense. Worship goes much deeper than pianos and saxophones. It goes much deeper than hymnals and praise bands. So what is worship? What does it mean to worship? I am going to propose this morning that true worship is not a state of doing, but a state of being. In other words, worship is life. But what exactly do I mean by that and can we find that idea in scripture? One of the clearest definitions of worship in the Bible is found in Romans 12:1-2. It reads:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The first point that Paul makes in this text is that true worship is offering up your bodies as a living sacrifice. This is another way of saying true worship is the total surrender of your whole self to God. I have a friend that I grew up with in church. They used to call him “flower picker.” A flower picker is someone who goes out into the field and picks a flower, then another, and another etc. Well my friend was a flower picker but instead of picking flowers he picked girls. He always had a different girlfriend. One day he told me about a young lady that he liked. Now he was dating at the time and this young lady wasn’t his girlfriend. But he told me that if he ever broke up with his girlfriend he would go for this other girl. In other words, he had a backup! Now how in the world are you supposed to have a successful relationship with someone if you have a backup in case the relationship fails? You might as well end the relationship because unless you change that mindset the relationship will fail.  He wasn’t fully committed. And many of us aren’t fully committed to God. And if you are not fully committed your relationship with God is not going to succeed. True worship says Paul is a full commitment to Christ. Everything.

Understand: True worship is not singing for an hour Saturday morning at church. True worship is a total commitment. You can’t compartmentalize true worship. True worship is a 24/7 phenomenon. It is the moment by moment surrender to God. Some people get caught up with talking about where to worship and what music to use and how to dress for worship and they miss the point that worship is bigger than the church building and bigger than the song selection and bigger than what you wear, worship is how you ought to live every moment of the day. Worship God when you are driving to work, worship him when you are listening to music, worship him when you are talking to your friends and family, worship him in everything!

The second point that Paul brings up regarding true worship is: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” In other words, don’t be worldly. Now, what does it mean to be worldly? When I was a kid my father made my brother and I wear church clothes to public school. He wouldn’t allow us to wear jeans because he didn’t want us to be like the “world.” Is that what it means to be like the world? I have been studying what the Bible says about worldliness among Gods people, and the interesting thing is that when the Bible speaks of the world in the church, when it speaks about worldliness among Gods people it’s hardly ever talking about the stuff we talk about. Our definition of worldly is small compared to the Bibles definition. We say silly things like, “The new pastor doesn’t wear a tie! The world is creeping into the church!” Or “Our church puts the songs on a projector now. I’m telling you the world is coming into the church!” “Can you believe? The church doesn’t have pews anymore. Since when do we have chairs in a church. We are becoming like the world!” Any of you ever heard silly stuff like that before? It’s nonsense! Now let me clarify. I am not saying that we should just accept every new thing as though it didn’t matter. That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is this, for many of us our definition of worldliness doesn’t go any further than external things. But when the Bible talks about the world in the church, more often than not it’s talking about character. Worldliness in the Bible isn’t “the youth are wearing Roman skirts instead of Jewish ones.” Worldliness in the Bible is Christians who act like the world. What do I mean by Christians who act like the world? Christians who gossip like the world. Christians who hate like the world. Christians who argue like the world. Back stab one another like the world, criticize each other like the world. Christians who are lazy, uncompassionate, merciless, unloving, indifferent and judgmental. That’s biblical worldliness. Not wearing jeans but talking about the elder behind his back, mistreating your spouse, ignoring your children, and avoiding people at church that you don’t get along with. That’s worldliness. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 Paul says,
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
With this in mind, it’s perfectly possible to be a good conservative, orthodox, traditional Adventist who does everything by the book and still be worldly. Really? Are you serious? I thought I was a godly person because I no longer listen to music with curse words. I thought I was godly because I no longer watch violent movies. I thought I was godly because I don’t have tattoos, or piercings, or a Mohawk on my head. Well, I’m not arguing against any of that, but let me ask you: Are you impatient? Are you constantly arguing with people in church. Do you mistreat your children? Do you envy others? Do you gossip or slander your pastor and your elders and deacons? Worldliness is not just culture guys, its character. Do you love only those who love you? Jesus said, 
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matt. 5:46-47).
Worldliness goes a lot further than external things which more often than not are a matter of opinion. This is one reason why some of the worldliest people in Jesus’ days were the Pharisees and likewise, I believe that some of the worldliest people in the church today are the people who are always arguing about religion and doctrine but show no love for their neighbor and no compassion for their brothers and sisters. And if worship is a state of being, if worship is a 24/7 phenomenon then you cannot be worldly and a worshiper at the same time. Let me make it clearer. You cannot talk to your wife and children any old kind of way, gossip, boast, and slander during the week and then show up here on Sabbath and think you are worshiping God. You’re not worshiping God! In Isaiah 29:13 God says, 
These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
So what solution is there to this problem? Paul mentions it. It’s the “renewing of the mind.” What does Paul mean by “renewal of the mind?” When Paul speaks of the mind he talking about two things in particular that takes place in our minds. Thoughts and feelings. Our thoughts and our feelings combined form who we are, they form our character. So when Paul says that we need a renewal of the mind what he is saying is that we need new thoughts and new feelings. We need a new character. We need the character of Christ. If you want to be a true worshiper today, a 24/7 worshiper, you can’t do it on your own. You need a new mind. New thoughts. New feelings. New character. Christ’s character.

In the last days of earth’s history there’s going to be a battle over worship. There’s going to be a battle over commitment. Those who are worldly, committed to this world, will side with this world. But those who have chosen to be true worshipers in everything they do will take their side with God. Whose side do you want to be on?

This post is originally a sermon manuscript for a sermon I preached titled "Worship is Life"

Further Reading: Worldliness in the Church (This post is an edited version of the mid-portion of this post which deals with Paul's definition of "worldliness" in the church.)