Popular Interest in Prophecy
By Ministry request, I recently attended a Congress on Prophecy, held in New York City in November. About fifty leading ministers, evangelists, Bible teachers, and college presidents, as well as editors of several religious papers, were delegates at this meeting. These representatives from churches, religious institutions, and seminaries, came from different sections of the United States and Canada. They were from such organizations as the Baptists, Presbyterians, Moody Bible School, Bethany Reformed Church, Independent Bible Church, American Board of Missions to the Jews, Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Pennsylvania Bible Institute, and Dallas Theological Seminary. Perhaps some of the better-known ministers among the representatives were Dr. Louis S. Bauman, writer for the Sunday School Times, Dr. Henry A. Ironside, pastor, Moody Memorial Church, Chicago, and Dr. John W. Bradbury, editor of the Watchman-Examiner. Large audiences attended these sessions both during the day and evening meetings.
The purpose of this Congress was to restudy and re-emphasize certain great Bible truths, and to undertake to clarify the confused situation in the realm of prophetic interpretation. The program of the Congress reads as follows :
"Because confusion is increasing among the Lord's people with regard to trustworthy teaching on prophecy, the time has come when a clear Biblical expression is desperately needed. To render a needed service to members of the church of Christ, a group of believers, assisted and counseled by well-known and trusted Bible teachers, have called a 'Congress on Prophecy' in New York City, in Calvary Baptist Church, under the auspices of the American Board of Missions to the Jews."
From what was said at the Congress, it was in the thinking of this body to formulate a textbook to serve as a uniform guide in the interpretation of Bible prophecy for generations to come. As I listened to some of the discussions, I noticed that the trend of thinking clustered about such subjects as "The Pre-Tribulation Rapture," "The Return of the Jews to Palestine," "The Church of God Is Never Called Israel," "The Rapture of the Saints," and similar subjects.
I cannot say that I discovered any change in the interpretation of prophecies used to sustain such teaching. The discussions amounted to a reaffirmation of these positions, which are well known.
While we cannot, of course, see light in many of the conclusions arrived at in dealing with these prophetic subjects, yet it is significant that this Congress was called under the circumstances which they state: "Because confusion is increasing among the Lord's people with regard to trustworthy teaching on prophecy, the time has come when a clear Biblical expression is desperately needed." In this crisis of the world, the minds of men are more and more turning to the prophetic portion of God's infallible word. They want something that is logical and clear, for "a clear Biblical expression is desperately needed." It was not so long ago that Seventh-day Adventists seemed to be quite alone as they consistently taught and preached on various phases of Bible prophecy. Surely it is high time that nominal Christendom should be most earnestly studying these things.
Dr. Howard H. Ferrin, president of the Providence Bible Institute, Rhode Island, spoke on the question, "Is the Church Ever Called Israel ?" In his introduction he stated, "If the church is ever called Israel, then this conference need not have been called." The burden of his argument was to apply the term Israel to the literal Jews who must return to Jerusalem as a nation, and thus the promises of God to them will then be fulfilled. The scriptures we use to apply to spiritual Israel, he applied to the literal Jews. Dr. B. B. Sutcliffe, president of Multnomah School of the Bible, Portland, Oregon, stated concerning the rapture that the second coming of Christ is not near.
"It is not imminent, for too many unfulfilled events are yet to take place. The coming of the Lord is always near at hand, but not the second coming of Christ. All of the signs of Christ's coming take place within the seventieth week of Daniel, and then the church will be caught up."
Dr. J. Hoffman Cohn, American Board of Missions to the Jews, Brooklyn, New York, dealt with the subject, "Is God Through With the Jews ?" "The Jew is first," he said, "and the apostles and early preachers never got away from these closing injunctions of the Lord." (Luke 24 :47 ; Acts 1:8.) "The very foundation for premillennial teaching is the Jewish restoration."
Since attending this Congress on Prophecy, my appreciation of our message has increased. For many years the "remnant church" has proclaimed this message of truth. Changing world conditions do not and have not changed our doctrines, nor is there any need of changing them. We do not find ourselves in confusion concerning the prophetic interpretation which we have used for years. This word from the Spirit of prophecy is heartening :
"There is to be no change in the general features of our work. It is to stand as clear and distinct as prophecy has made it. . . No line of truth that has made Seventh-day Adventist people what they are, is to be weakened. We have the old landmarks of truth, experience, and duty, and we are to stand firmly in defense of our principles, in full view of the world."—"Testimonies," Vol. VI, p. 17.
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