Putting last things first

"A church that ceases to await the Lord's coming soon ceases to be a church."

Stanislaw Dabrowski is president of the Polish Union Conference of Seventhday Adventists.


As events in the world point to the approaching climax of history, our faith in Christ's second coming should increase. Not only does this great hope and expectation fill the hearts of Seventh-day Adventist Christians, but it also has come to be a focus of research among scholars of other denominations.

Dr. Jelinek, a noted Lutheran theologian, wrote of his convictions about the Second Advent in his book, O istocie ewangelicyzmie ("The Essence of Evangelical Thought"). Referring to the angels' promise to the disciples who had just watched the Lord ascend to the skies, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11), Jelinek said that he and his fellow Christians had to be reminded by Adventists that a church that ceases to await the Lord's coming soon ceases to be a church. Giving up such a faith, he said, has always been a sign of a church's impending fall.

An American theologian, Father Godfrey Dickman, cited in the Polish Catholic press, declared that the main thrust of the Bible is the second coming of Christ. He felt that this teaching emphasized the wholeness of each person, who would experience the great event with all his faculties.

In Poland the United Evangelical Christian Church, which also includes Pentecostal congregations, now emphasizes that one who pro claims the whole gospel will pro claim the second coming of Christ. Their monthly magazine, A Christian, carries frequent articles about the prophecies, signs, and events that proclaim the nearness of our Saviour's coming. Where churches understand the significance of Christ's return they experience a dynamic evangelistic impulse.

One of the foremost Polish theologians, from the Lublin Roman Catholic University, Alfonso Skowronek, in his article entitled "Eschatological Forms of Future Theology" (published in the journal Ateneum Kaplanskie, volume 381/372) lamented that Catholic theologians and educators had given little place to Biblical teachings about eschatology and last-day events. He felt that both Catholics and Protestants were beginning to pay more attention to this doctrine, and that it might be a means of bringing about a new ecumenism.

Adventists have always found a great source of inspiration and courage in the promise of Christ's return, and now people of good will in many other churches are finding joy in awaiting His coming. When Christ gave His great commission, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14), He erected a banner under which His followers in all faiths may mobilize their energies to accomplish His purposes.

As the various denominations are attracted to the teachings of Christ's return, Christ's prayer to His Father takes on special meaning: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" (John 17:17, 18). Believers in the soon coming of Christ everywhere have a grave responsibility to demonstrate their faith, as Peter admonished them, "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).

In Poland we have greatly appreciated the appeal that has come from the General Conference to prepare ourselves and our churches for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We have published this appeal in our church paper, The Church's Servant, and have sent it to all workers and believers with an earnest re quest that they accept it as a pro gram for future evangelistic and pastoral efforts. We believe that this is an invitation to become involved more fully in the work of God. We were greatly impressed by the call sent out to our church members everywhere "to join hands with conference workers and church officers in a great revival and reformation that will enable God to reveal His power and glory to a needy, desperate world" (Review and Herald, Dec. 6, 1973, p. 5). In several churches across Poland, we have started prayer groups, trusting that the promise given through the prophet Joel and repeated in Acts 2:17 and 18 might be fulfilled in them.

The Polish church is also circulating a translation of the pamphlet "Preparation for the Latter Rain," compiled by B. E. Wagner, which has been a great help in our study of the last-day events. It has also strengthened our faith in the Second Advent and helped prepare church 'members for the task given to us to proclaim the gospel of our Lord.

We strongly believe that the promise implied in the parable of Matthew 25:6 will be fulfilled in our day: "At midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." We also believe that in this hope lies the real catholicity of faith in the world, and a basis for a truly ecumenical movement. The future and livelihood of His church lies in the hands of the Saviour who is soon to make His second appearing. Our most important task is to do our utmost to prepare everyone possible for this great event, through, earnest and well-trained evangelism and pastoral work, through education and sound theological reasoning, and through heartfelt personal invitations, so that all may rejoice in the Christ who promises, "Surely I come quickly" (Rev. 22:20).

Article translated by Ray Dabrowski, managing editor of Znaki Czasu (Polish "Signs of the Times").

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Stanislaw Dabrowski is president of the Polish Union Conference of Seventhday Adventists.

April 1978

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