The Bible Conference is now over. As this is writ ten the Autumn Council is in session. About half of the 450 delegates to the conference have remained for the Fall Council, and the rest have gone home. But everybody is still talking about one thing the great Bible Conference of 1952.
To describe that great convention is not easy. Many declare that it was the most important meeting ever conducted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It had been thirty-four years since a similar conference had been held, and that incidentally was right across the street from the Sligo church, in Columbia Hall, on the campus of Washington Missionary College.
In his opening remarks on the first morning of the conference, Monday, September 1, W. H. Branson, president of the General Conference, told die delegates: "If there ever was a time when the church needed to preach a united and positive message to the world, that time is now. . . . We who are here this morning realize that we are living in the closing hours of probationary time. We assemble here in this conference on the very threshold of eternity. It is in such a time as this that the church of God must give its most potent and powerful message to the world. Its preachers should be mighty in the Scriptures. I believe that the preachers of the Advent message ought to be the most powerful exponents of the truth that have ever come upon the stage of action since the fall of man. The times demand it."
With that as the keynote, the conference immediately plunged into its work. The first week's session has already been reported by L. E. Froom in last month's issue of this journal. This will be a brief report of the proceedings of the second week.
Interest in the proceedings of the conference increased with each passing day, and by Sunday, the seventh, notebooks that had been furnished with the compliments of our publishing houses were more than half- filled. The first new speaker to make his appearance in the second week was John C. Trever, executive director, department of the English Bible, of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. He has been closely associated with the committee that has spent about fifteen years in preparing the New Standard Revised Version of the New Testament, which was published in 1946, and of the Old Testament, which was released on September 30.
He came to the Bible Conference as our guest to give a report on this monumental achievement. Comparing the language of the King James Version with this more recent accomplishment, he endeavored to show that the translators had tried to use language more suitable to our day and yet to preserve the majesty of the Authorized Version. With full knowledge that he was talking to a group of Sabbathkeepers, he read those portions of the gospel record that describe the resurrection of Jesus, and showed that the words "In the end of the Sabbath" (Matt. 28:1) mean after the Sab bath was over at sundown on the seventh day. Dr. Trever took the time to answer questions at the close of his much-appreciated talk, and the delegates took full advantage of the opportunity.
The devotional messages were given at the last period of the morning from 11:45 to 12:30, with a season of prayer and inspiring testimonies following a fifteen- or twenty-minute talk. H. M. S. Richards, of Voice of Prophecy fame, was the general chairman of the devotional periods, but because of a slight indisposition he was able to speak on only three occasions. E. W. Dunbar, J. L. McElhany, and the writer filled his other three appointments.
On Friday the program of the day was changed to permit the assembly to partake of the Lord's supper in the afternoon. Glenn Calkins concluded the devotional week with an appropriate message at the conclusion of the Lord's supper, after which the delegates were invited to step up to the microphone in front of the rostrum and give their testimonies. Their words of appreciation were recorded and will appear in the second volume of the conference proceedings to be released through the Ministerial Book Club.
Prophetic interpretation during the whole Christian Era was presented with telling effect by L. E. Froom. His four studies are summarized as follows:
Our entire scheme o£ interpretation is tied to the earlier exposition of the most noteworthy Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant interpretations of past generations. These men labored in erecting the imposing edifice of prophetic exposition. We have entered into their labors, as we complete the superstructure and put on the crowning capstone. This very fact gives us a tremendous advantage and affords an unparalleled appeal. We have been called to raise up the "foundations of many generations." We are the recoverers of the lost prophetic truths that have been cast aside by Judaism, Catholicism, and apostate Protestantism. We have revived and reset them in the framework of the "everlasting gospel," in their "present truth" setting. Obedience to this Spirit of prophecy mandate has already resulted in changing the attitude of multiplied scores of religious leaders from hostility to profound respect for the expositions of Seventh-day Adventists. Through this procedure we are now gaining the attention of minds that could not have been reached by any other medium.
After showing the progressive build-up of the great outline prophecies to their present climax, and presenting similarly the year-day principle from the contemporary Jewish and Christian recognition of the seventy weeks, on through the 1260, 1290, 1335, and 2300 years the inevitability and invulnerability of our "1844" interpretation was seen to be inescapable in its logical progression. And the magnitude of the worldwide Advent Movement of the early nineteenth century becomes the earnest of its triumph on a scale not heretofore envisioned. But the climax of the presentation to the Bible Conference was to show that the prophetic outlines are simply the setting for the tremendous redemptive activity of God, and that the two advents of Christ to which our message is tied, and upon which it is based are the focal points o£ time and eternity. Ours is a saving gospel, the "everlasting gospel," to be heralded in the threefold setting of the prophecies of Heaven's last-day requirements. And we are bound before God to preach Christ as the throbbing heart of the prophecies, and to make Him and His righteousness the central theme and essence of the third angel's message.
W. E. Read began his thought-provoking presentations at the 10:20 hour Monday. "The Closing Events of the Great Controversy" was his topic. Appropriate charts illustrated his remarks, and attention was focused on the subject by the use of slides on the screen. A summary of Elder Read's material is given in the following words:
This study meant a survey of the principles of the great controversy that has raged throughout the centuries between Christ and Satan. It was shown that the conflict was moral, in that Satan warred against the truth of God; that it was spiritual, seeing that he carried on relentless warfare to destroy the children of God; that it was military, because the enemy of souls led the nations in bitter revolt against God and against His people; that it was retributive also, seeing that at the end of the great struggle the Lord from heaven rides forth with His mighty angels to have His "controversy with the nations."
These same factors are seen in Satan's final effort to overthrow the government of God. In the battle of the great day of God, in the war of Armageddon, during the period of the sixth and seventh plagues, the archenemy concentrates all his hellish malignity, all his diabolical hatred, against Christ. It is then he .enters into his final contest against the law of God, into his last attempt to annihilate the people of God, into a supreme effort to incite the nations to destructive war, and into his momentous and tragic battle against the Lord from heaven.
The close of the great controversy is when the Saviour as King of kings rides forth with the angels of His glory. Then the warfare on earth is stilled. "The derisive jests have ceased. Lying lips are hushed into silence. The clash of arms, the tumult of battle, 'with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood,' is stilled." The Great Controversy, p. 642. Now "the conflict is over. Tribulation and strife are at an end. Songs of victory fill all heaven as the ransomed ones take up the joyful strain, Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and lives again, a triumphant conqueror." Acts of the Apostles, p. 602.
"Our Bodies A Living Sacrifice" was the subject assigned to Doctors T. R. Flaiz and J. W. McFarland. Dr. Flaiz presented these thoughts:
The prophet Isaiah indicated that the ministry of the Messiah was to restore that which was destroyed through sin. Jesus said He had come to seek and to save that which was lost, and He gave token evidence of His ultimate victory over the evil one as He restored men's bodies and souls.
The physical decay and degeneration, observed concurrently with the fall of man, resulted not from some mysterious malign influence emanating from the evil one, but rather from the violation of certain well-defined and understandable physical laws or principles by which man was intended to live. It is consistent, therefore, that those seeking restoration of all of their God-given powers should take thought for the care of their physical bodies, which Paul stated were the temples of the Spirit of God. Without physical health, there can be no optimum of intellectual achievement, and without intellectual capacity there can be no spiritual perception, tor this reason, Adventists take a deep interest in their own health and in health education.
Dr. McFarland added the thought that one of the fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists is that man is to be saved in his entirety. He is com posed of three parts, as is clearly set forth in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Man's body, mind, and soul came under the bondage of sin, and all three parts must be saved from Satan's bondage. If we can find out what will restore man's diseased body, so that his nerves, his heart, his lungs, his mind, and any other function is renewed, then we will have come across one of the great laws that govern our physical well-being.
What are the agencies or remedies that will re store God's image in man? The pen of inspiration states: "Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power, these are the true remedies." Ministry of Healing, p. 127. Living up to the great laws of health will give us good health and clear thinking, and thus be an aid in overcoming the enemy of our soul. Sanctification means yielding "our bodies a living sacrifice."
T. H. Jemison, head of the department of religion at Washington Missionary College, gave an impressive study on "The Companions of the Lamb."
One of the greatest of all inspirations to godly living, he said, is a clear view of the future that God has planned for those who love and serve Him. This is especially true of the picture given in Revelation 14:1-5 and Revelation 7 of what lies ahead for the 144,000. They are to stand with Christ on the sea of glass, faultless, and with the name of God in their foreheads, and there they will sing the song of Moses and the Lamb in a manner that none other of the redeemed host can duplicate.
Such a reward demands a special preparation that is different from the preparation made by others who will be saved out of this world. Perfection of character is demanded, for one sin cherished in the life would exclude them from their reward. The 144,000 will stand without an intercessor in heaven through the time of Satan's greatest efforts to lead them to sin. Their pure faith, free from erroneous teachings, enables them to be classified as "virgins." Their close walk with Christ in this life, together with the parallel of their experience with His, makes it possible for them to become in a particular manner His companions who will "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth," to view with Him His other works of creation and to witness to His great redemption. "Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand. And let us do all that we can to help others to gain heaven." Review and Herald, March 9, 1905.
W. R. Beach, president of the Southern European Division, presented his subject, "The Gospel Commission and the Remnant Church," on two consecutive evening hours, Monday and Tuesday. He said:
The requirements and privileges of the great commission in the setting of the remnant church are crystallized around seven fundamental facts: (1) The great commission expresses the essential idea of gospel organization and sets forth for the remnant church (Rev. 14:6) the climactic purpose of God for the saints. (2) God's plan of salvation was grand strategy on a universal scale, embracing the world and all men. The total resources of the church must be pooled and allocated with this world objective in view. (3) The intent of the great commission was to set an ultimate goal before the church: there would be an end. (Matt. 24:14.) This "end" brought the future of the world and the church into correct focus. The task being limited in time, a sense of urgency was to accompany the work of evangelism. (4) The thinking of the church must encompass the magnitude of the task. The principal areas of earth have been studded with beacons of light, but vast sections are still draped in darkest night. However, the chief problem is not the immensity of the task but the measure of our faith. (5) The remnant church must carry a universal message to the world. That message is the "everlasting gospel" the "good news" of pardon for sin, freedom from the dominion of sin, and deliverance in the day of God's wrath. This message brings the peace, liberty, and security to which men aspire. (6) It is the prophetic setting and outlook of the last gospel message that will provide the wings of timeliness and swiftness in its proclamation. This distinctiveness will constitute a unique appeal to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." (7) The apostolic pattern of evangelism will finish God's work on earth. At home and abroad, the appointed ministry must lead the church in a vast spiritual trek to the ends of the earth.
God is finishing His work in the lives of His messengers. Through His mysterious workings in the affairs of the nations He is preparing the stage for a final flash of power. His day of triumph is at the door!
R. A. Anderson, editor of THE MINISTRY and secretary of the Ministerial Association, presented his topic, "World Evangelism Our Basic Task," beginning on Tuesday at the 4:40 period. Several visual aids were used to illustrate his subject, and the last presentation was emphasized by a large wheel, the hub of which was labeled "The Sanctuary." "All our doctrines center in Christ and Him crucified," he said. The spokes of the wheel appeared as the various doctrines of the church, and between the doctrines were the names of the general departments of the church. The rim symbolized evangelism, he said, by which the message is to be carried to the ends of the earth. The barriers against evangelism were depicted by a large map of the world, great areas of which were plastered with such words as Paganism, Internationalism, Roman Catholicism, Intellectualism, Commercialism, et cetera. But God says He will break through every barrier erected by the enemy. As the texts were read, the words were torn from the map, suggesting that the whole world awaits the advance of the Advent message.
"World evangelism is our task, our basic task, and our only task," said R. Allan Anderson. As Adventists we have been called into existence for just one thing the proclamation of the everlasting gospel to every nation, every family and every soul on earth. And we are to do this in the most desperate hour of history an hour that calls for big thinking, courageous planning, and a faith that can pierce the fog of muddled ideas and discern the harvest where today there seems but a desert.
Prophecy pictures the third angel's message as being preached. Preaching is a divine method. The apostles of the New Testament were preachers; the prophets of the Old Testament were also preachers. When Ezekiel preached, a desert of death was trans formed into the parade ground for the living army of the Lord. Elijah, Moses, Noah, were all preachers. And the Master Himself was the greatest preacher of them all. God has brought into existence many devices to help forward the message, yet all these are to be handmaids of public evangelism. Through the "foolishness of preaching" God turned the Graeco-Roman world upside down, and He is doing the same today. The apostles faced tremendous odds, yet they accomplished God's purpose, for in a single generation "every creature under heaven" heard the gospel. What they did we are to do, but under seemingly impossible conditions. Today the enemy has built barriers against the advance of this message that outwardly seem insurmountable, but God declares, "I would go through them, I would burn them together." Isa. 27:4. Endowed with divine energy, the message of God is to cut its way through the strongest barriers. Soon the enemy will be routed from every stronghold, and truth will triumph in a blaze of glory.
With "The Place of Prophecy in Preaching" as his topic at nine o'clock on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, A. V. Olson presented these thoughts:
The divine purpose in prophecy is (1) to reveal God to man; (2) to establish in human hearts an unwavering faith in God and in His Word; (3) to lay a foundation for an abiding, unshakable faith in Christ as the divine Saviour from sin and death; (4) to make known in advance God's plans and purposes in His dealings with man; (5) to throw light on the past, the present, and the future.
If this divine purpose is to be met, prophecy must find a big, prominent place in our preaching. There must be no place given to human speculation, fanciful interpretations, or personal predictions. As ministers of God we are not to assume the role of prophets or prognosticators. Our business is to expound the prophecies of the Bible rather than predict the future.
The Advent Movement is a prophetic movement with a prophetic message for a prophetic time. In these last days, when evolution, modernism, and false philosophies are robbing mankind of faith in God as the Creator of all things, and in Jesus as the divine Son of God, Seventh-day Adventists have been raised up in the providence of God to pro-claim with great earnestness a prophetic message of solemn warning against all false worship and to sound forth a clarion call to the inhabitants of earth to return to the worship of Him who created the heavens and the earth and to implicit faith in the atoning blood of the divine Son of God. The Advent Movement is the promised Elijah, with the Elijah message, to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. "The most solemn truths ever entrusted to mortals have been given to us to proclaim to the world. The proclamation of these truths is to be our work. The world is to be warned, and God's people are to be true to the trust committed to them."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 19.
A high point of the Bible Conference was the graphic way in which Walter Schubert presented his subject, "Evangelization of Catholics." In spite of the handicaps of language (German and Spanish being his native languages), he stirred the conference by his presentation. Charts helped to emphasize his message, and all were conscious of the wisdom of his approach. Elder Schubert is the Ministerial Association secretary and division evangelist for South America. Here is a brief summary of his studies:
The first requisite for approaching Catholics with this precious message is to love them sincerely. The next is to understand their religious convictions, and feel as they feel on the question of salvation. We must apply the great principles of the evangelism of Paul, according to 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. To the Jew he became as a Jew. And if we would win Catholics, we must understand them and be as one of them. Holding the interest of Roman Catholics calls for tact and patience. "We have found," he said, "that the first four lectures should be of such a character as to convince the people that the speaker sincerely and solely desires their material and spiritual good and happiness; and to build this confidence and friendship between the audience and the speaker, it is vital to dwell on topics that persuade the Catholics that the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible fount of truth in the matter of salvation." Once they are convinced of this, it will be easy to get them to accept all the truths and doc trines and to reject all traditions.
To the Catholic it seems more important to know which is the true church than to know what is truth itself. Therefore it is necessary to expound and prove all the truths, especially in relation to the sanctuary and the 2300 years. Once convinced that the people of God were to reappear in 1844 in a church that recovered the truths that had been "cast down to the ground" by Rome (pagan and papal), sincere Catholics are eager to embrace this blessed message.
In one of the question hours R. R. Figuhr discussed "Dealing With Unfulfilled Prophecy." He stated the following, in brief:
Seventh-day Adventists are a people of prophecy. It was the preaching of prophecy that brought forth this church. It will ever continue to be the very framework of our message. Adventists must, there fore, ever be known as reliable expositors of prophecy. The early pioneers in this message have left us good examples of preaching unfulfilled prophecy. In no sense were they reckless, precipitate, or hasty.
Moffatt's translation of 2 Peter 1:20 reads: "No prophetic scripture allows a man to interpret it by himself."* Every student and preacher of prophetic Scripture needs help. First of all, he needs the aid and direction of the Holy Spirit. Second, he needs the help of his brethren. We call big meetings to decide what we shall do and how we shall do it and when we shall do it. Then we all go ahead and do it together. Our attitude toward preaching unfulfilled prophecy should be no exception. We should preach as we work, unitedly.
The great system of truth that has been revealed to us and that we have undertaken to proclaim to every nation on earth must produce and foster universal harmony in the Seventh-day Adventist Church —a harmony that convinces the world of the genuineness of the faith we hold. This unity will not be evident in the church unless it is evident in our preaching. Our dependence upon one another in guarding the unity of the faith is clearly set before us in the following quotation:
"There are a thousand temptations in disguise prepared for those who have the light of truth; and the only safety for any of us is in receiving no new doctrine, no new interpretation of the Scriptures, without first submitting it to brethren of experience. Lay it before them in a humble, teachable spirit, with earnest prayer; and if they see no light in it, yield to their judgment; for 'in the multitude of counselors there is safety.' "—Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 47.
In this world of ours, so divided and diversified, there must be seen God's great miracle of a united church, the miracle for which Christ deeply yearned and earnestly prayed, "that they all may be one." The apostle takes up the same plea: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." 1 Cor. 1:10.
L. K. Dickson presented the great subject of "The Holy Spirit and the Latter Rain." No more important theme could come before a group of Bible students than the work of the Holy Spirit. He discussed the personality of the third person of the God head and showed how His ministry as comforter, guide, intercessor, et cetera, enters into the experience of the Christian in his warfare against sin.
It is plain from the Scriptures and the messages of the Spirit of prophecy that the former and the latter rain constitute the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is now due and which will be bestowed upon the lives of the remnant people of God as they earnestly seek it in prayer and entire consecration to God's service.
Emphasis was given to the close relationship between the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and person ally witnessing for Christ, and also to the preparation of heart and life for effectually praying for this promised power. It was shown that true preparation for the reception of the latter rain was identical with preparation to receive the seal of God, and attention was called to the fact that those who receive this final outpouring will be those who have first entered into the benefits provided under the former rain. Great power is promised to the church even under the former rain. Let us all seek to enter into these things that we may possess the "added" power of the latter rain.
Our General Conference president presented in three evening sermons the theme that was the center of the entire conference, "The Lord Our Righteousness." It was significant that without conferring with one another every speaker unfolded something of this subject. This in itself revealed the new emphasis being given to our message.
W. H. Branson unfolded the subject with unusual clarity and power. In brief, these were the main points:
The entire human family has been sold into the slavery of sin. The only way of escape from the inexorable penalty of the law is through a complete exchange of the sinner's guilt for the righteousness of Christ, so that the record shows only the perfect life of the Saviour. This is the free gift of God. It covers all past sins, and this constitutes imputed righteousness.
2. The sinner, though pardoned, is still unable to live a life of righteousness. He must depend entirely upon Jesus to keep him saved and enable him to grow in grace. This is the mystery of the indwelling Christ, by which the life is transformed, brings forth the fruits of righteousness, and attains perfection.
3. The truth of justification and righteousness by faith, laid hold of as a living, personal experience manifested in the life of the remnant people, "is the third angel's message in verity," and will become dominant in our preaching as the message swells to a loud cry under the blessing of the latter rain.
On the last Sabbath of the conference the morning sermon was given by J. L. McElhany, former General Conference president, who presented "High Lights of the Bible Conference." The conference concluded in the afternoon with Elder Dickson's final talk on "The Latter Rain."
Elder Branson spoke a few parting words to the delegates, from which we quote:
Brethren, I am very anxious that the Bible Conference will not die with us who have been here. ... It is now the responsibility, I will say the solemn responsibility, of the men and women who have been in attendance at this conference to keep the spirit of this conference alive, not only here in our own hearts, . . . but also in the field. Brethren, we must carry it to our workers back home. . . . You have come as their representatives. It is your responsibility now under God to carry the Bible Conference to them, to take this inspiration back to the field. Help them to find ways of getting hold of these books when the reports come out. Every worker who can read the English language ought to have these reports, and . . . they ought to be translated perhaps into some of the foreign languages. But, brethren, the reading of these books is not going to be enough. You can't get the same inspiration out of a book that you can out of a meeting, so I am going to make an appeal this afternoon that you have meetings with your workers as soon as possible after you get back to the field, and inspire them with the blessings of this Bible Conference by telling them as much about it as you can.
Brethren, let us stress in all our meetings with our workers the great importance of the message that came to the Minneapolis Conference in 1888— the message that has been repeated here in these meetings by all the speakers, of the absolute importance of this people's receiving the righteousness of Christ. . . . Let us determine in our heart of hearts that we will raise this cry until it is heard by workers and people everywhere and until our people learn how to enter into it for themselves. . . . The end is near, brethren. Our pilgrimage in this world is soon to end. May God keep us faithful until it is all over, is my prayer.
And with those remarks the conference closed. I sat for a moment in the sanctuary of the church, reviewing in my mind the events of each day of the past two weeks. The scenes of Friday afternoon passed before me again—the celebration of the ordinances, the communion service together; and then the testimonies from almost every minister in attendance. It was in one of those testimonies that I heard an overseas representative quote Proverbs 4:18—"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." That's it, I thought—the perfect Scriptural description of what the Bible Conference has meant to all of us. It made the truth of God as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church shine even brighter after these 108 years of the Advent era.
Then I hurried to D. E. Rebok for one last interview. "What did the Bible Conference mean to you?" I asked. "The Bible Conference," he replied, "has accomplished one great purpose in establishing the confidence of our people in the great fundamental teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We can now move forward unitedly in our proclamation of the third angel's message. I carry away with me a deep conviction that time is short, and we must arise with united power to finish the work. The message of the loud cry is righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ. All through the conference we have seen the many facets of this great and all-important doctrine."
To that, all who were in attendance can voice a fervent Amen. Now we know that all of you are looking forward eagerly to the first two books of the 1953 Ministerial Book Club. These will contain the report in full of the proceedings of this wonderful conference. The presses will soon begin to roll, and you are assured that there will be no delay in getting this report into your hands.