Adventists: Why are we really here?

Read about why the author says “Seventh-day Adventists, as a people, are built to last.”

Clinton Wahlen, PhD, is an associate director, Biblical Research Institute, Silver  Spring, Maryland, United States

It was born and raised in the United States. From the time I can remem­ber, I was an atheist. Science was my god. A quest for knowledge was my passion. All that changed one sum­mer day when someone handed me The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White.

I began reading the chapter titled “The Origin of Evil,” and for the first time, Christianity made sense. Before the summer was over, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Before reading The Great Con­troversy and understanding the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, the Bible just did not seem real. My Christian friends in high school often told me, “Jesus bore your sins and died for you on the cross. Don’t you want to accept Him as your Savior and go to heaven? Otherwise you’ll go to hell!”

Now, I had heard about Jesus, heaven, and hell, but it was as if my friends were speaking to me in a foreign language. They made no sense. Once I learned the truth as it is in Jesus, not only did it make sense—my life has never been the same.

I understood that God raised up the Advent movement at a particular time for a particular purpose in earth’s history: to give a prophetic message to the world and to proclaim Christ’s soon return. I am glad to be a Seventh-day Adventist—spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and socially.

Built to last

From small and insignificant begin­nings in the mid-nineteenth century, Seventh-day Adventists have grown into an 18-million-member movement in more than 200 countries of the world. And we continue to grow.

These facts are surprising when we compare them with another prod­uct of the Millerite movement—the Advent Christian Church, which has just 125,600 members in 35 countries.1

Why has the Seventh-day Adventist Church been so successful? It is not just that we have a better understanding of truth than other faith-systems. The vast majority of our doctrines are shared with other Christian denominations. The Seventh Day Baptists, for example, discovered the Bible Sabbath back in the early 1600s, but they number just 50,000 members in 22 countries.

In trying to find out why the Adventist Church has been so suc­cessful, it may be worth looking at a best-selling book titled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. In it, they describe companies that were “built to last.” The authors studied 18 companies, such as Boeing, Sony, and American Express, and compared them with their rivals to find out “What makes these truly exceptional companies different?”2 Centering on core values, adapting to change while never abandoning their foundation, and setting “big, hairy, audacious goals” are some of the qualities that have enabled them to endure and prosper.

While we are not a company, Seventh-day Adventists, as a people, are built to last. We are built to last far longer than any of the companies Collins and Porras describe because the Advent movement is built by God, not man. The Advent movement built to last not just for generations but for eternity. It is built to endure through the last great conflict!

To help us understand and remem­ber better, I am using the following acronym to study how the Adventist church is built:

Bible-based faith: We go by the Bible—the one thing that lasts forever (Isa. 40:8).

Understanding of the prophecies, as Daniel predicted (Dan. 12:8–10; Rev. 10).

Inside information: the great con­troversy, how it began and ends (Rev. 11:19; 12).

Law and gospel, perfectly blended for the antitypical day of atonement (Rev. 14:6–12).

Timely: Adventism arose at the exact time specified by prophecy (Rev. 12:17).

Bible-based faith

“God’s Word is the foundation upon which our hopes of heaven must be built.”3

Once I realized that the Bible com­prises God’s inspired Word, I knew that the most important thing was to understand this book. Though writ­ten by many different authors over a period of 1,500 years, I found not only divine wisdom but also accounts of history and creation unrivaled in their directness and elegance. I also discov­ered that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a mission similar to that of John the Baptist, based on Isaiah 40. Interestingly, the passage concentrates more on the Second Coming than on the first.4 This passage also empha­sizes the priority of Scripture over human ideas that are likened to the grass: “ ‘The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever’ ” (Isa. 40:8, NKJV). Along the same lines, the words of Ellen White bear repeating: “God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support.”5

Understanding of the prophecies

We have an understanding of the prophecies stretching to the end of time, just as Daniel predicted.

Daniel 12:8–10 predicts an end-time people who would understand clearly things that even Daniel himself did not then understand. Revelation 10 describes this time in terms of a little book, once closed and sealed but now open. God raised up the Advent movement at a particular time for a particular purpose in this earth’s history. We are not just another church but have been raised up by God to warn people against receiving the mark of the beast. As a young person, I was surprised that other churches seemed unable to explain what that mark is.

The historicist view of interpreting prophecy leads logically to Seventh-day Adventism, which may be one reason why Protestants by and large now consider most of Revelation to be fulfilled either in the distant past (preterism) or as still future (futur­ism). Amazingly, for many Protestants, reunification with Rome is looking more and more attractive. Sadly, even some Adventists seem to have begun valuing unity with other Christians more highly than proclaiming the message for this time.

Thirty-six years ago, many of the things I read about in The Great Controversy did not seem possible. I had to accept them by faith. How things have changed!

At that time I could not imagine how the United States, described in Revelation 13 as looking like a lamb, could ever speak like a dragon. The separation of church and state was strong and wide. Religion and politics stayed politely apart. Furthermore, Big Brother, watching people’s every move, might exist in totalitarian regimes, but this could never happen in the United States.

That was then. How far we have come in so short a time. Now, in the interests of national security, the United States is prepared to use every means, even at the expense of its own principles and ideals, to spy on its citizens. Additionally, three decades ago I could not have imagined the degree to which so many Protestants would now be ready to abandon their Bible-based beliefs.

Inside information

We have an incredible source of inside information through our under­standing of the great controversy.

As I read The Great Controversy, I found that evil was an intruder in God’s universe, though it was no surprise to God. Rather, the possibility of sin was the risk that a God of love was willing to take so that there could be true free­dom. I realized that God will not force anyone to be saved—but also that He will not wait forever! The prophecies of the Bible were sealed only until the “time of the end,” and they show where we are in earth’s history. The prophecy of Daniel 9 impressed upon me the trustworthiness of the Bible with its accurate depiction of historical events hundreds of years in advance and fulfillment right on time. Especially impressive to me was the 2,300-day/ year prophecy pointing to the cleans­ing of the heavenly sanctuary in 1844.

Revelation 11:19 points to this time: “the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple” (NKJV). Talk about inside information! We have insight from the inner sanctum of the heavenly temple and from the ark of the covenant itself. This verse marks a significant turning point in the book of Revelation.6 It signals the beginning of God’s dramatic work near the close of earth’s history. It introduces the great controversy between Christ and Satan and the devastating impact of the devil’s attacks, as God’s true people were forced into obscurity while an apostate form of Christianity held the reigns of power. Suddenly, I realized that the atrocities of Christian history were not chargeable to God and that, at the end of the 1,260-year period in 1798, a remnant people would be raised up by Him as a clear contrast with the fallen churches of Babylon.

Law and gospel

We proclaim the gospel message for the end time, which perfectly blends law and gospel, justice and mercy.

The first angel’s message, found in Revelation 14:6, 7, proclaims the “everlasting gospel” in terms of “ ‘the hour of [God’s] judgment.’ ” This is not a new gospel, because it is called “ever­lasting.” But like the “new” covenant on which the gospel is based, there is something new—this new element is urgency. Urgency because, as the angel of Revelation 10:6 says, there will be “time no longer” (KJV). The end is near.

This declaration, connected with the heavenly announcement in chap­ter 14, announces that God’s judgment hour has arrived. Many Christians think of Judgment Day as the day Jesus comes. And, of course, that was the understanding of the Millerite Adventists too—until they found the key to unlock the mystery of Daniel 8:14. Through an understanding of Christ’s work in the heavenly sanctu­ary as our High Priest, they realized an important fact. Since Jesus says that, when He comes, His reward will be with Him “ ‘to give to every one according to his work’ ” (Rev. 22:12, NKJV), the judgment must precede His second coming.

Furthermore, Adventists under­stood that this heavenly judgment was symbolized in the “cleansing of the sanctuary” in the ministry of the earthly sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. That was the one day in the religious calendar when every Israelite was to participate. Ignoring the day was unthinkable because it meant being “cut off” from Israel, excluded from the people of God. This day was also the only day of the year that was observed like the weekly Sabbath. There were ceremonial sabbaths, which meant a day off work, a holiday. The Day of Atonement, however, was the only one that was to be kept like the seventh-day Sabbath—total rest. No work at all. It is no coincidence that, in the antitypical day of atone­ment going on now, the seventh-day Sabbath takes on more importance than ever before.

Perhaps surprising to some is that, even though the gospel of the end time is connected with the judgment, the gospel is still good news! It is good news because Jesus is coming soon. It is good news because He is coming to bring justice, to right all wrongs, and reward His faithful people. It is good news because sin and sinners will be no more—no more suffering, temptation, or pain. Even the time of trouble is good news. Why? Because we are told that, as a result of the judgment, our sins have been “borne away into the land of forgetfulness” and we will not be able to “bring them to remembrance.”7 What better news could there be?

When the final crisis is over, John sees a people: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). That is what the third angel’s message does. The third angel’s message continues as a mes­sage of good news, a message of hope, and a message of faith to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord.

Timely

Adventism is timely—it arose at the predicted time.

Adventism is a movement of prophecy, more specifically, of time prophecy. It was through an understanding of the 2,300-day/year prophecy that we came into existence. But we also arose at the time predicted in Bible prophecy. The end-time rem­nant was to arise after the 1,260 day/ year period of Christian apostasy predicted in Daniel 7:25 and ending in 1798.8 As if to make sure we would not misunderstand, this period is mentioned twice in Revelation 12 in the space of nine verses (vv. 6, 14). Then the end-time remnant emerges (Rev. 12:17). John’s vision into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary and seeing the ark underscore the centrality of the law for the end times, as does the fact that the remnant is identified as those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17, NKJV).

That the time had come for the remnant to arise was confirmed by God through signs in the heavens (Matt. 24:29; Rev. 6:12, 13). Seemingly by design, these signs were visible in the very part of the world where God was calling into existence a special people to do a special work.

Conclusion

As Seventh-day Adventists, our prophetic movement is built to last. We are:

B— a Bible-based movement; we go by the Bible (Isa. 40:8);

U— a people with an understanding of the time prophecies unsealed for the time of the end, just as Daniel predicted (Dan. 12:8–10; Rev. 10);

I— a movement having inside informa­tion about the great controversy between Christ and Satan—how it began and how it ends (Rev. 11:19; 12);

L— proclaiming a perfect blend of law and gospel (Rev. 14:6–12); and

Ttimely: Adventism arose at the time specified by prophecy, just after the 1,260- and 2,300-year periods (Rev. 12:17).

God raised up the Seventh-day Adventist Church for a reason. The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation form a compelling picture of a God in control of history, and He has raised up a remnant to finish His work on earth. May God give us grace to humbly accept and fulfill this humanly impossible task.

References:

1 “Advent Christian Church,” Wikipedia, accessed Apr. 20, 2014, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent_Christian_Church.

2 Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (New York: Harper, 1994).

3 Ellen G. White, In Heavenly Places (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1967), 106.

4 See especially Isa. 40:3–5, 9–10. Thus John’s message of purging and his surprise when Jesus did not fit his messianic expectations (Matt. 3:7–12; 11:2, 3).

5 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), 595; emphasis added.

6 See Kenneth A. Strand, “ ‘Victorious-Introduction’Scenes,” Symposium on Revelation: Introductory and Exegetical Studies, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series 6, ed. Frank B. Holbrook (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 1992), 57, 58.

7 Ellen G. White, Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1 (Battle Creek, MI: Seventh-day Adventist Pub. Assn., 1969 facsimile), 124.

8 On the dates for the beginning and end of this and other time prophecies, see Heinz Schaidinger, Historical Confirmation of Prophetic Periods, Biblical Research Institute Release 7 (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 2010).

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Clinton Wahlen, PhD, is an associate director, Biblical Research Institute, Silver  Spring, Maryland, United States

October 2014

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