Old Paths

Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant. Psalm 25:14


Vol. 15, No. 10 Straight and Narrow October2006


The Final Generation 

By Allen Stump 

The second coming of Jesus Christ has been the Christian’s hope for almost two thousand years. Paul, writing to Titus, called it the “blessed hope (Titus 2:13).” Almost every generation since Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:3),” has believed that they are the generation to see the prophecy fulfilled.

The expressions “last days,” “last day,” “time of the end,” and similar expressions are found in the Bible. How are we to understand them? Let us notice some statements from the apostles that would seem to indicate that the coming of the Lord was very near in their day.

If you had witnessed the events that occurred on the day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus and heard Peter preach you might have believed that the end of all things was very near, for Peter said:

But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams (Acts 2:16, 17).

If you had read some of the epistles of Paul you could have learned:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1, 2).

For then must he [Christ] often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26).

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand (Philippians 4:5).

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha (1 Corinthians 16:22).

The term “maranatha” means our Lord comes, or come Lord. While Paul wrote about the mystery of iniquity saying, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3),” he shortly thereafter added, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work (v. 7).

First and Second Thessalonians were two of the first books of the New Testament written. Writing in, perhaps, the last book penned in the New Testament, the Apostle John states:

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time (1 John 2:18).

Some commentators believe this letter of John was written even after the Revelation which says, “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).” If you had been living then and had read Revelation and then 1 John, what would you have thought? That mystery of iniquity that was already working some forty years earlier had arrived and you might have thought that the coming of Jesus was very soon.

Of course, Jesus did not come within the lifetimes of these Bible writers. How should we then understand these verses that seem to place the coming of Christ as imminent? Certainly many who read and heard these statements thought that Jesus would come back very soon, for Jesus Himself had connected the resurrection of the righteous and the judgment to the last day.

And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. ... No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44).

We do not believe that the Spirit of God was using these statements simply as a spiritual bait to keep the faithful hungry for, and looking for, the coming of Christ. The term “last days” in the Bible refers to the period in which the final events of the world are to transpire. The apostles, however, did not say how long this period, or dispensation, would be. History has shown that is has now lasted for almost two millennia. To finite human minds, two thousand years may seem like a large period of time and unreasonable to label as the “last days,” but in the light of the large picture of eternity and the whole creation, it is actually a small amount of time to God. What guarantee do we then have that the last days will not go on for another millennium or perhaps several? Jesus mentioned signs of his coming in Matthew 24, such as “wars and rumours of wars” and “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places (Matthew 24:6, 7).” We see these items multiplied many times over in the last two centuries; however, we are told by the skeptics that these wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes have always been and will continue to be. Is there anything else in the Bible that instructs us that we are living at the end of the end, that we are living during the time of the final generation upon this earth which will live to see Jesus come?

The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation shed further light upon this picture. Within the authorized version of the book of Daniel, we find the phrase, “time of the end,” five times (Daniel 8:17; 11:35; 11:40; 12:4; 12:9). Adventists have historically interpreted this as a specific period of time which began at the end of the 1,260 years prophesied in Daniel and Revelation as the “time and times and the dividing of time,” “time, times, and an half,” “forty and two months,” “a thousand two hundred and threescore days,” and “a time and times, and half a time (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 11:2; 12:5; 11:3, 12:14).” This time prophecy is understood to have begun in A.D. 538 and to have continued to A.D. 1798. Notice some thoughts from early Adventists:

And, what is of very deep interest, the point of time at which Paul’s warning expires, is the commencement of the time of the end, - the very point to which the visions of Daniel were closed up and sealed.  Compare Daniel 11:33, 35 and 7:25, and the fact that the 1260 years’ persecution of the saints terminates with the commencement of the time of the end, will appear obvious (J. N. Andrews, The Three Messages of Revelation 14:6-12, p. 19).

According to Dan.11:35 the time of the end is when that power is overthrown which had been persecuting the people of God, that power whose time was “appointed.”  In 1798 the civil authority was taken from that power which had been, for the twelve hundred and sixty years, the time appointed, persecuting the people of God.  This marks 1798 as the time of the end (J. N. Loughborough, Heavenly Visions, p. 23).

We think the expression “the time of the end” here means the same as when found in other passages; namely, a period of time commencing in 1798, and extending to the end, in which the main prophetic periods should terminate, and those events and movements transpire which were to warn the world and prepare a people for the end (Uriah Smith, The Biblical Institute, pp. 54, 55).

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Dan.12:4. The time of the end noted in the text is not the end itself.  It is evidently a period of time just prior to the end. In the time of the end many were to run to and fro, and knowledge upon the grand subject before the prophet’s mind, was to be increased (James White, Bible Adventism, p. 70).

Just prior to 1798 and very soon thereafter, signs in the earth and heavens were recognized as fulfillments of Bible prophecies. On November 1, 1755, the great Lisbon earthquake occurred. On May 19, 1780, the great dark day was recorded with the moon appearing that night as blood. On November 13, 1833, the Leonid meteorite shower occurred with over sixty thousand meteorites an hour being visible. Many students of Bible prophecy understood these events as fulfillments of Revelation 6:12, 13, which says:

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

These were signs that the coming judgment prophesied in Daniel 8:14 was soon to begin. As the Advent people continued to study, they realized that the investigative judgment began October 22, 1844. For a generation, these people believed that Jesus would come soon, even in their lifetimes. Ellen White would write:

Because time is short, we should work with diligence and double energy. Our children may never enter college (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 159 – written in 1872).

It is really not wise to have children now. Time is short, the perils of the last days are upon us, and the little children will be largely swept off before this (Letter 48, published in Last Day Events, p. 36 – written in 1876).

In this age of the world, as the scenes of earth’s history are soon to close and we are about to enter upon the time of trouble such as never was, the fewer the marriages contracted the better for all, both men and women (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 366 – written in 1885).

Ellen White’s writings not only spoke of the soon coming of Jesus but, sadly, also explained that there might have to be a delay:

The long night of gloom is trying, but the morning is deferred in mercy, because if the Master should come so many would be found unready (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 194 – written in 1868).

For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord’s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years (Manuscript 4, 1883, published in Evangelism, p. 696).

And yet, there were times when Ellen White later wrote, very emphatically, that those then living, would be alive when Jesus came.

The hour will come; it is not far distant, and some of us who now believe will be alive upon the earth, and shall see the prediction verified, and hear the voice of the archangel and the trump of God echo from mountain and plain and sea to the uttermost parts of the earth (The Review and Herald, July 31, 1888).

Did God not fulfill His promise or was Ellen White a false prophet? We can answer, “No,” on both accounts. At times, men’s decisions alter God’s plans. The Lord told the children of Israel, “Ye shall see the altering of my purpose (Numbers 14:34, marginal reading).” Because of their disobedience and lack of faith, God could not take the children of Israel into the promised land. When Jonah preached that in forty days, Nineveh would be overthrown, it did not happen because the people of Nineveh repented at the message. (See Jonah 3:4-10.) And Ellen White, well understanding the principle that men’s actions can, at times, alter God’s purposes, later wrote:

We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel, but for Christ’s sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action (Letter to P. T. Magan, December 7, 1901, published in Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 202).

Today as October 22, 2006, approaches, 162 years past the time of 1844, almost 173 years from the falling of the stars, and over two hundred years since the end of the 1,260 years and the dark day we still anxiously wait. But these prophetic events can no longer be considered significant to the concept that they herald the arrival of the final generation for multiple generations have arisen and died since then. Surely we are in the end of time even if this exact phrase is not found in the Bible. But, what is our real evidence to believe this? Certain events in the world point to the coming of Christ, but scoffers have said these events have come and gone for centuries. Certainly the earth is groaning from the destructive effects of man, but this has been a process of many generations also.

I would like to propose that Jesus gave a prophecy, the fulfillment of which we see today and which pinpoints exactly that we are in the final generation!

Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 record the major signs that Jesus said would happen before his return. In a letter written to Dr. J. H. Kellogg in 1901, Ellen White noted:

In the twenty-first chapter of Luke Christ foretold what was to come upon Jerusalem, and with it He connected the scenes which were to take place in the history of this world just prior to the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Letter 20, 1901, written to Dr. J. H. Kellogg, published in Counsel to Writers and Editors, pp. 23, 24).

Ellen White noted Luke 21 instead of Matthew 24 or Mark 13 and also mentioned events that were to come upon Jerusalem “which were to take place in the history of this world just prior to the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” There was a reason that Ellen White mentioned the gospel of Luke and a reason she specifically mentioned Jerusalem. Clearly the city of Jerusalem which lies in Palestine is not God’s chosen city anymore. It is not today and neither was it in A.D. 66 or A.D. 70. Events connected with Jerusalem during the times of the apostles, however, were to be signs to the early Christians and events that are connected with Jerusalem today are to be signs for God’s people today.

So let us examine Luke 21 and see what Jesus has to say about Jerusalem and what Ellen White also has to say about what will take place just before Jesus comes.

Matthew and Mark speak of an abomination of desolation and of the need for the Christians to flee the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15-20; Mark 13:14-19). In a similar fashion, Luke speaks of the city being surrounded and Christians fleeing (Luke 21:20, 21). There is one portion of this prophecy, however, that neither Matthew nor Mark mention. It is in the last part of verse 24, but let us notice this verse in the context of the four prior verses:

And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Luke 21:20-24).

Jesus said that Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. What does this mean? Is it speaking of literal Jerusalem or is this symbolic? William Miller’s 11th rule of Bible interpretation that the Adventist pioneers accepted stated:

How to know when a word is used figuratively. If it makes good sense as it stands, and does no violence to the simple laws of nature, then it must be understood literally, if not, figuratively (Rules of Interpretation, p. 22).

Ellen White also taught this principle in her book, The Great Controversy:

The truths most plainly revealed in the Bible have been involved in doubt and darkness by learned men, who, with a pretense of great wisdom, teach that the Scriptures have a mystical, a secret, spiritual meaning not apparent in the language employed. These men are false teachers. It was to such a class that Jesus declared: “Ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God.” Mark 12:24. The language of the Bible should be explained according to its obvious meaning, unless a symbol or figure is employed. Christ has given the promise: “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine” John 7:17 (p. 598-599).

There is no reason to believe that the Jerusalem mentioned in Luke 21:24 should be considered in any other way than to be literal Jerusalem. We easily accept that the portions of the prophecy which deal with the surrounding of the city by the army to be literal. While, as we have noted, Jerusalem was no longer God’s chosen city, it could still function as a sign to God’s people and there is no reason to believe that verse 24 alone should be figurative or symbolic. Some have attempted to make it a symbol of the church or God’s people, but the context would have to be ignored to come up with such an interpretation.

Jesus said that the city of Jerusalem, not the nation of Israel, would be trodden down, trampled down, or crushed under the feet “of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” The term “Gentiles” is from the Greek word “eynov” (ethnos), which means nations. It was synonymous with anyone who was not a Jew. The Jews looked upon all the people of the world as basically within one of two classes, Jewish or Gentile (someone of the nations). Notice how Paul illustrates this:

Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles (ethnos) also (Romans 3:29).

Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles (ethnos) (Romans 9:24)?

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles (ethnos), and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles (ethnos) to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles (ethnos) (Galatians 2:14, 15).

Jesus is saying in Luke 21:24 that Jerusalem would be trodden down and in the control of non-Jewish hands until the times of the Gentiles, or nations, was over. The concept of what Jesus meant by the “times of the Gentiles,” or nations, will be discussed in-depth in a future article, but the point we wish to make now is that Jerusalem was to be a sign for last-day Christians that the times of the nations was done and the end was imminent. History clearly documents the fulfillment of this prophecy. In A.D. 66 we know that the Roman General, Cestius Gallus, surrounded the city in an attempt to lay siege. Ellen White noted:

Not one Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Christ had given His disciples warning, and all who believed His words watched for the promised sign. “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies,” said Jesus, “then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out.” Luke 21:20, 21. After the Romans under Cestius had surrounded the city, they unexpectedly abandoned the siege when everything seemed favorable for an immediate attack. The besieged, despairing of successful resistance, were on the point of surrender, when the Roman general withdrew his forces without the least apparent reason. But God’s merciful providence was directing events for the good of His own people. The promised sign had been given to the waiting Christians, and now an opportunity was offered for all who would, to obey the Saviour’s warning. Events were so overruled that neither Jews nor Romans should hinder the flight of the Christians. Upon the retreat of Cestius, the Jews, sallying from Jerusalem, pursued after his retiring army; and while both forces were thus fully engaged, the Christians had an opportunity to leave the city. At this time the country also had been cleared of enemies who might have endeavored to intercept them. At the time of the siege, the Jews were assembled at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, and thus the Christians throughout the land were able to make their escape unmolested. Without delay they fled to a place of safety—the city of Pella, in the land of Perea, beyond Jordan (The Great Controversy, pp. 30, 31).

Times of the Gentiles time line 1

In the year A.D. 70, Titus came to Jerusalem and brought the foretold destruction of the city. From that time until A.D. 638, Jerusalem was under the control of Roman and Byzantine powers. Control then passed first to the Arabs and then to the Crusaders until the fourteenth century, when control of Jerusalem passed to the Egyptian Mameluks. In 1517, Jerusalem was taken over by the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, the control of Jerusalem passed to the British Empire until the state of Israel was formed in 1948. At that time, the city was divided into two parts. The newer part of the city on the west was in the hands of the Jews while the old, original city was controlled by the Islamic country of Jordan. This was the status of Jerusalem until 1967, when, during the Six-Day War, the old city of Jerusalem was captured and finally returned to Jewish hands, beginning the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus recorded in Luke 21:24.

Cementing their hold on the city of Jerusalem and showing the world their recognition of their possession of Jerusalem, the Jewish Knesset, the Parliament of the Israeli government, on July 30, 1980, officially proclaimed Jerusalem the capital city of Israel.

Thus, for almost 1,900 years the city of Jerusalem was held by the Gentiles. As Jesus was concluding his discourse from Luke 21, he stated: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled (v. 32).” This must apply to the generation that saw the final fulfillment of all the signs that Jesus gave, the last sign being the prophecy of Jerusalem. There are different understandings of what constitutes a Bible generation, but many believe it to be about forty years. (See Numbers 14:34.) If this is so, then forty years after 1967 bring us down to 2007, next year! This IS NOT to say that the date 2007 has a prophetic significance. There is no specific prophecy stating when Jesus will come. We can know, however, that the end is fast coming and we are in the final generation.

Perhaps the question might be asked, “Is this time-setting?” No, clearly it is not. Time-setting would involve setting a specific future date, based on a Bible prophecy, when a specific event would occur. This is not the case with the times of the Gentiles. Students of Bible prophecy look back at the events of 1755, 1780, and 1833 as fulfillments of prophecies, but they did not set dates before these events. Neither was any date set for the return of Jerusalem to Jewish hands, but history does show that this happened in 1967. This was not a prophecy that could be predicted such as the 1,260 year or 2,300 year prophecies, where specific beginning times were given and one could simply do the math to calculate the end time. Also, there will be a specific fulfillment of the Sunday law, but there is no specific prophecy that tells us when it will occur. After it has happened, however, we will be able to look back and pinpoint the date and time.

There is one other concern I wish to briefly touch on at this time. Some might think, “If God has changed (or altered) His purposes at different times in the past, then perhaps He may alter them again and we might not, therefore, really be in the final generation.” God has not altered His purpose concerning this prophecy of Jerusalem, for if God was going to alter His purpose then He would not have allowed Jerusalem to be returned to Jewish hands. This prophecy involved two aspects. The first aspect was an event that man was to fulfill (the return of Jerusalem to Jewish hands) and the second aspect was a proclamation by God based upon the actions of man (that the times of the Gentiles had been fulfilled). Once the events of the first part of the prophecy concerning men and Jerusalem found their fulfillment, the proclamation by God must come to pass. God could not be conditional about it.

Perhaps you have believed for many years that Jesus Christ’s second coming is soon to occur,  but, as time has past and some have been laid to rest, you may have begun to doubt if you will live long enough to see the coming of Christ. Beloved, I want to assure you we are living in the end of time and Jesus is coming in this generation, and we must be ready for this momentous event!

Current events are transpiring very rapidly. United States President George Bush, on September 13th, acknowledged for the first time that the CIA has secret prisons and that tough interrogation has forced terrorist leaders to reveal plots of their plans to attack the United States.

President Bush denied that the United States tortures suspects, but rather stated, “alternative” interrogation methods are used to obtain information from them. Mr. Bush stated that these procedures “were tough, and they were safe and lawful and necessary.”

Mr. Bush is asking Congress to approve harsher prisoner treatment beyond what many consider approved under the Geneva Convention. Many in Congress, however, fear this type of treatment would be reciprocated upon United States personnel captured by other powers. Due process of the law is being withheld from about 1,400 prisoners at this time. This clearly is of a totalitarian nature and forebodes future  Gestapo-type tactics on those who do not conform to the government’s demands.

The month of September was also highlighted by Pope Benedict’s statement quoting a medieval historian concerning the use of violence by Muhammad and his followers to spread Islam. This created a fury in Islam and many were demanding a direct apology from the Pope. At first some statements were made from Vatican sources, but on September 17th, the Pope stated:

I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims (BBC).

This stopped quite short of the apology that many in Islam have requested. As a result of Benedict’s earlier statement, Christian churches have been bombed, people killed, and many threats have been made, even concerning the life of the Pope. Demonstrators in the Iraqi city of Basra burned the pope in effigy. I find it very ironic that in this situation, a group becomes upset because someone claimed that they have used violence in the past, and in response, they use violence! However, suppose that some predominant group or groups in Islam call for a Jihad, or “holy war,” against the Pope and assassinated him. This could bring the whole world to a place of war where national lines no longer constitute the boundaries! I am not saying that I know any such thing will happen, but it is clear that such matters are possible and they do highlight the fact that this earth is as a powder keg waiting for the fuse to be lit!

Next month, by God’s grace, we plan to look at what the “times of the Gentiles” means and the present-day implications it has for us. The timing of the prophecy conclusively tells us that the generation that has lived during the fulfillment of this last sign of Luke 21:24 is alive today and that “the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30)” is near, even at the door! 

To be continued 


Prayer Requests

Dear Brethren, This month we would greatly appreciate if you would especially pray for our live Internet broadcast of our Sabbath services.

Our first Sabbath we had just a few listeners. Then it grew to five or six computers connected. This last Sabbath we had fifteen connected. Each connection may represent a single person or as many as wish to gather around the computer or speaker phone. We are thankful that we are learning how to make the broadcast better, but if you have suggestions let us know.

 If you wish to hear the live services and have not done so, go to our website: http://www.smyrna.org, for details and be sure to share this information with a friend who would be interested! Thank you for your prayers on this matter.


Issues of Prophetic Interpretation

By Allen Stump

When traveling to a destination, the path chosen and the manner of travel used at the beginning are very important. Some roads and means of travel will not take one to the desired place, no matter how much we might wish they could. If I were in the United States and wished to journey to England, I would not simply get into a car and start traveling westward. First, the direction is wrong and I would also need something other than a car to cross the ocean barrier. No matter how sincere I might be nor how hard I might wish the car could navigate water, I will never arrive in England. If I travel in this way, I am doomed to end up at the wrong place.

When traveling the path of Bible prophecy there is an important principle that is often overlooked in our desire to arrive at the proper understanding of prophecies. The concept of prophecy and the interpretation scheme we begin with, will to a great degree, determine where our interpretation will end up.

There are four principle schemes of interpretation that are used as beginning points in the study of prophecy and the place one ends up will, to a great deal, be determined by the scheme of interpretation one begins with. “The system of interpretation a Bible student adopts will make an enormous amount of difference in what he believes the book teaches (Notes on Revelation in The Open Bible edition of the King James Version Bible published by Thomas Nelson).”

The Spiritual Scheme of Interpretation

The first scheme we shall look at is known as the spiritual scheme of interpretation. This scheme insists that the purpose of Revelation is not to instruct the church prophetically concerning the future or to predict specific events. The book, rather, teaches fundamental spiritual principles. While all Scripture teaches spiritual principles of truth, the spiritual scheme of interpretation contradicts the fact that the book claims to be genuine prophecy.

The Preterist Scheme of Interpretation

This scheme teaches that the fulfillments of the prophecies of Revelation are to be found in the Roman Empire during the lifetime of John, especially near the close of the first century. “This view was developed principally in the seventeenth century by a Jesuit scholar, Alcazar, in an attempt to reply to the arguments of the Reformers, who insisted that the book [of Revelation] predicted the corruption and doom of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the two chapters devoted to Babylon (Ibid.).” To accept the preterist scheme, though, denies Revelation’s “prophetic character, and to force many of its statements into a mold too small to contain them (Ibid.).”

The Futurist Scheme of Interpretation

This scheme of interpretation contends that, except for the first three chapters, the visions and prophecies of Revelation will be fulfilled toward the end of the world, just before and shortly after Jesus returns to earth in what is known as the secret rapture. This scheme was principally developed by a Spanish Jesuit, Francisco Ribera, who wrote a commentary in A.D. 1585 on the book of Revelation entitled, In Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij. This commentary was later published in A.D. 1590. “In order to remove the Catholic Church from consideration as the antichrist power, Ribera proposed that the first few chapters of the Apocalypse applied to ancient pagan Rome, and the rest he limited to a yet future period of 3 1/2 literal years, immediately prior to the second coming (http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/antichrist.htm, accessed July 6, 2006).”

The Historicist Scheme of Interpretation

The historicist scheme of interpretation was the scheme of prophetic interpretation used by the reformers in the Reformation. The historicist scheme teaches that the fulfillment of the Bible prophecies of Revelation takes place as an unrolling scroll revealing the events of the past, the current present time, and the future. The historicist scheme of interpretation was used by the Adventist Pioneers to arrive at their prophetic understandings. The great majority of evidence reveals that Ellen White used the historicist scheme in the interpretations she wrote for Daniel and Revelation, especially those found in The Great Controversy. Notice the following two comments of Ellen White and how they support the historicist scheme of understanding:

The book of Revelation opens to the world what has been, what is, and what is to come; it is for our instruction upon whom the ends of the world are come. It should be studied with reverential awe. We are privileged in knowing what is for our learning (The Review & Herald, August 31, 1897—all emphasis in this article supplied unless otherwise noted).

In the Revelation are portrayed the deep things of God. The very name given to its inspired pages, “the Revelation,” contradicts the statement that this is a sealed book. A revelation is something revealed. The Lord Himself revealed to His servant the mysteries contained in this book, and He designs that they shall be open to the study of all. Its truths are addressed to those living in the last days of this earth’s history, as well as to those living in the days of John. Some of the scenes depicted in this prophecy are in the past, some are now taking place; some bring to view the close of the great conflict between the powers of darkness and the Prince of heaven, and some reveal the triumphs and joys of the redeemed in the earth made new (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 584).

These statements clearly lay out the sequential fulfillment of prophecy as history unfolding.

The Purpose of Prophecy

Jesus said in John 14:29, “I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it come to pass you might believe.” Jesus tells us that Bible Prophecy was given to increase our Faith! As we see the events foretold come to pass, our faith is strengthened. The preterist scheme does not predict anything to come to pass, only tells of past events. This cannot build faith. Similarly, the predictions of futurism cannot build faith for they never “come to pass” because the believer will be raptured away before the fulfillment occurs. The spiritual theme does not even pretend to predict prophecy, so it cannot build faith. Thus we see that only the historic scheme will build faith!

Rome in the Hot-Seat

Readers, please carefully reflect on the fact that both the preterist and the futurist views of interpretation were the products of the Jesuits for the purpose of taking the heat off of the Papacy from being the antichrist predicted by the books of Daniel and Revelation. The Protestant Reformers had at first tried to bring about reform in the Catholic Church, hence the name, “Reformation.” At the beginning of the Reformation the reformers believed that the Papacy was God’s church. However, in time, they came to realize that the Papacy had developed into the beast and they believed the Pope to be Antichrist.

Yet it was not without a terrible struggle with himself that [Martin] Luther decided upon a final separation from the church. It was about this time that he wrote: “I feel more and more every day how difficult it is to lay aside the scruples which one has imbibed in childhood. Oh, how much pain it has caused me, though I had the Scriptures on my side, to justify it to myself that I should dare to make a stand alone against the pope, and hold him forth as antichrist (The Great Controversy, p. 143)!”

“That tyranny which the pope himself has for so many ages exercised over the church” and that the pope should be recognized as “the very antichrist, and son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks (John Knox — Taken from The Zurich Letters, p. 199 as referenced on http://www.remnantofgod.org/4fathers.htm, accessed July 7, 2006).”

When the western church was divided for about forty years between two rival popes, one in Rome and the other in Avigon, France, each pope called the other pope antichrist ; and John Wycliffe is reputed to have regarded them as both being right: “two halves of Antichrist, making up the perfect Man of Sin between them (John Wycliffe — The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, vol. 4, as referenced from http://www.remnantofgod.org/4fathers.htm, accessed July 7, 2006).”

With Luther and the other reformers boldly declaring the Papacy to be the harlot, the Catholic Church was losing its stronghold on Europe. Something had to be done! It was time for the Jesuits, founded by Ignatius Loyola, to appear. The Counter-Reformation was born! The leaders of The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) understood that education would be the great tool to bring people into, and back into, the fold of Rome. The Jesuits were intelligent enough to know that if they could get the reformers traveling the wrong prophetic road of interpretation, they would surely arrive at the wrong place.

Rome shrewdly knew that a change in the method of interpreting Daniel and Revelation would lead inevitably to a change in conclusions. It is easy to see that both preterism and futurism direct the prophetic spotlight away from Rome and her activities (Biblical Research Institute — Ellen G. White and the Interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, p. 2).

No wonder early Adventism shunned the preterist and the futurist schemes of interpretation.

Is the Counter-Reformation Knocking on Our Door?

At first, futurism did not gain many adherents among Protestants. Around the first quarter of the 19th century, however, futurism began to make inroads into their ranks. By the first quarter of the 20th century, futurism had become well-established, and today it is considered the norm among Protestants.

With so many winds of doctrine blowing, the necessity of having correct spiritual guidelines in prophetic interpretation is essential in these last days. Today the Counter-Reformation is knocking at the door of Adventism. Using the historicist scheme provides such clear evidences of the fulfillment of the great majority of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation that it is almost impossible to deny their said fulfillment. However, in a sincere effort to make the prophecies more relevant to us today, some have sought to add additional fulfillments using the futuristic scheme of interpretation. Most who advocate this process of dual or multiple applications use Ellen White’s writings to support these ideas. However, we do not believe that Ellen White’s writings, properly understood, support this concept. In fact, writing to a Brother John Bell of Australia, who in 1896 was making a dual application of prophecies relating to the three angel’s messages, Ellen White noted:

From the light that the Lord has been pleased to give me, you are in danger of doing the same work, presenting before others truths which have had their place and done their specific work for the time, in the history of the faith of the people of God. You recognize these facts in Bible history as true, but apply them to the future. They have their force still in their proper place, in the chain of events that have made us as a people what we are today, and as such, they are to be presented to those who are in the darkness of error (Manuscript Releases, vol. 17, p. 3).

Later in the testimony, Ellen White noted:

The leadings of the Lord were marked, and most wonderful were His revelations of what is truth. Point after point was established by the Lord God of heaven. That which was truth then, is truth today. But the voices do not cease to be heard—“This is truth. I have new light.” But these new lights in prophetic lines are manifest in misapplying the Word and setting the people of God adrift without an anchor to hold them (Ibid., p. 4).

Still later, Ellen White became specific:

It is true that there are prophecies yet to be fulfilled. But very erroneous work has been done again and again, and will continue to be done by those who seek to find new light in the prophecies, and who begin by turning away from the light that God has already given. 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. But the Lord does not lay upon those who have not had an experience in His work the burden of making a new exposition of those prophecies which He has, by His Holy Spirit, moved upon His chosen servants to explain (Ibid., p. 15).

Friends, we all surely want to go to heaven and enjoy eternity with our Lord. We also want as many others as possible to be ready for the return of Jesus. May God grant us an honest heart and desire to always be ready. We are told that, “Error is never harmless (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 292).” False views, especially on prophecy, can be used of Satan to undermine our faith. Let us be ever so careful to ask of God the wisdom that comes from on high so that we might be found “rightly dividing the word of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).”

In conclusion, accepting the preterist and the futurist views of interpretation support the goals of the man of sin and divert attention away from that power which God directs special attention to in His word. Accepting either of these Jesuit-inspired concepts will also lead us away from the historicist method of interpretation supported by the Spirit of Prophecy. Beloved, do we wish to draw closer to God or to the Papacy? The destination we arrive at is determined by the pathway and manner of travel we take. Let us accept the Protestant historicist view, which will give the trumpet a clear, certain sound of warning against the man of sin, instead of a Jesuit view that will sound a discordant note.

For further detailed information and documentation on schemes of prophetic interpretation, we would recommend a paper prepared by the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) entitled, Ellen G. White and the Interpretation of Daniel and Revelation.


Conviction versus Preference

By Allen Stump

We all have decisions to make every day and many times the choices we face are easy ones, but they can also be very challenging and it becomes increasingly difficult to know how to apply the principles God has given us in His Word to the complicated lives we face in these last days. Sometimes we are confronted with decisions that do not appear to deal with issues of a spiritual nature, but Paul tells us that “whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:23).” Everything we do should in some way be connected to God, His work, and our relationship with Him. Nothing is ever to be done apart from Him, as if in a vacuum. The purpose of this article is to examine our preferences and convictions as they relate to the decisions we make each day.

When I was younger, I played basketball a lot, even though I was not very proficient at the game. While on the basketball team during my sophomore year in high school, a situation arose wherein the coach did something that was obviously not right. We were playing another team when this happened and two other students and I agreed that we could not conscientiously continue to play for our coach if he did not remedy the situation by the end of the game. At the end of the game, the situation had not changed, the problem the coach had promised to resolve was not dealt with, and I turned my uniform in. The other two players, however, did not. They changed their minds and decided they could continue to play for the coach even though the situation rubbed against their grain. Now, was my choice based on a conviction or a preference? In one sense, it probably was not a conviction because my life was not on the line. Even though I made a decision my friends felt they could not make, it was not a life-threatening decision. Generally, we think of a conviction as something we stand for even when our lives are at stake; whereas, a preference does not involve such serious consequences.

Even though our physical lives may not be at stake, what about our spiritual lives? Today we make choices that may not impact our physical lives but most definitely impact our spiritual lives, and I wonder at what price one would be willing to sell his soul. We may look with abhorrence upon certain activities other people do for gain, and even people of the world look down upon the woman who prostitutes her body for only a few dollars, but many of these same people would do the very same activity if offered a million dollars, because most people do have a price. It is just a matter of finding that price and having it high enough, but, friends, true Christians have no price!

Why is it easier to choose our preferences over our convictions? Do we even have convictions to be chosen? Two hundred thirty years ago, fifty-six men met in Philadelphia with the conviction that they would no longer live under the tyranny of the King of England, fifty-six men who did not change their minds even under the most trying of circumstances. All of them signed The Declaration of Independence, which was as good as signing their death sentence if the great experiment they believed in failed.

Ben Franklin noted, “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.” Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, “With me it will be all over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone.” (A fat person breaks his neck quickly when he falls with a noose around his neck.) These men knew what they risked because the penalty for treason against England was death by hanging. Beloved, we tend to be a people of many preferences and few convictions, and I want to propose to you that God can and will only use people in these end times who live under convictions.

Let us look at a few Bible examples of people with convictions. Daniel Chapter 1 contains the story of Daniel and his companions being taken captive to Babylon and then chosen to participate in the school of the wise men. Nebuchadnezzar had given these men the opportunity to become important people in his kingdom. Daniel 1:8 says that “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel’s request should not be taken in a light way. Daniel did not make this request thinking that if it could not be granted then he would eat the king’s food. Daniel was making a kind, courteous request, but behind that request was the conviction that he would not eat the king’s food whether they agreed to his request or not. “Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king (Daniel 1:9, 10).” Daniel and his three friends knew that, by refusing to eat the food of King Nebuchadnezzar, they were risking their lives. They might end up starving to death. Their convictions were so solid that even if it meant their lives or the life of someone else, they were going to fulfill those convictions. Verse 10 reveals that the prince of the eunuchs said his life would be endangered by what Daniel was asking. Do you think that Daniel and his friends considered the prince of the eunuchs’ concern idle? No, they knew quite well who Nebuchadnezzar was and what he was capable of. They knew he was not to be trifled with and that if his orders were not carried out, there would be serious consequences.

What about us today? Are we willing to have a conviction that not only might endanger us but could possibly endanger others also? What if one of our brothers accepted a conviction in his life that could possibly put his child in danger? Should he give up that conviction and replace it with a preference? Is it good to believe something and/or live a certain lifestyle as long as it does not tread on or hurt someone else? Would our convictions have to change then?

Abraham Clark from New Jersey signed The Declaration of Independence and he gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. These sons were captured and sent to the infamous British hulk afloat in New York Harbor, known as the hell ship Jersey. In the Jersey, eleven thousand captive Americans died. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight and the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered his sons’ lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man’s heart and the anguish of his soul should reach out to every one of us down through the two hundred thirty years since his answer of “No.” He would rather allow his sons to die than to recant. Would we do the same?

King Nebuchadnezzar later made a ruling recorded in Chapter 3 of Daniel. All were to worship the golden image he had ordered to be constructed. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the image, knowing it meant their death.

Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands (Daniel 3:15)?

These men knew that Nebuchadnezzar would keep his word.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king, But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou has set up (vs. 16-18).

An English translation of the Septuagint for verses 16 through 18 says:

We have no need to answer thee concerning this matter, for our God whom we serve is in the heavens able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, And He will rescue us from thy hands, O King. But if not, be it known unto thee O King, that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the image which thou hast set up.

There was not any doubt in these men’s minds that God could save them but whether He would choose to save them or not, they did not know. God had not revealed this information to them, but whether they perished in that fire or not, they would be true to Him and not bow down to or serve any man, and God honored their conviction.

Malachi tells us of a people at the end of time who will proclaim an Elijah message. Elijah lived a few hundred years before Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, and he carried a message that there would be no rain nor dew except by his word. After three and a half years, Elijah finally went to King Ahab with a message.

And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day. So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah. And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel (1 Kings 18:13)?

Friends, anytime people stand with conviction you can almost always be assured they will be accused of being troublers of Israel.

And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou has followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word (vs. 18-21).

Israel was a group of people who were full of preferences but had no convictions. The literal Hebrew for “How long halt ye between two opinions?” speaks about a bird hopping from one branch to another. The question could be understood as, “How long will you hop back and forth, as if you cannot find a place to be comfortable in?” “Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men (v. 22).” There may have been seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal, but Elijah was a lone prophet of God on Mt. Carmel that day. Elijah risked everything to serve God. He knew if God did not answer his prayer, he would be torn into pieces, but Elijah did not fear because he knew that God had sent him.

1 Kings 18:1 says, “And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.” God had made a promise and He kept His Word. We need not fear when God is with us.

Friends, we need not fear taking a stand for anything the Bible says is true because God will be with us. He says, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee (Isaiah 41:10).” There is, however, one thing that will prevent us from being with God and that is sin. 1 John 3:4 says, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Isaiah 59:2 says our iniquities (sins) have separated us from God. Known sin in our lives will separate us from God. (See the example of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 and Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5,  p. 78.) Since God is the source of all courage and strength, without Him we can only have fear and discouragement, for we will not have the assurance that God is with us. If we are living in accordance with His principles, then we need never fear, for God will be close to us and He will enable us to maintain our convictions.

John the Baptist

Did John the Baptist have preferences or convictions? He definitely had convictions. He could have easily toned his message down. He did not have to say everything that he said. After all, John was preaching a lot of truth. He proclaimed the Messiah. He taught the people how to work best with the Romans. He taught great things that were present truth for his time, but those things, of themselves, did not get him into trouble. He was imprisoned because he spoke against Herod taking his brother’s wife as his own. If John the Baptist had just avoided saying this and had instead preached on something else, he would have remained at liberty, but he could not avoid speaking the truth to Herod. Ellen White says this about John the Baptist:

He looked upon the King in His beauty, and self was forgotten. He beheld the majesty of holiness, and felt himself to be inefficient and unworthy. He was ready to go forth as Heaven’s messenger, unawed by the human, because he had looked upon the Divine. He could stand erect and fearless in the presence of earthly monarchs, because he had bowed low before the King of kings (The Desire of Ages, p. 103).

God’s people will have to meet varied fates due to their faith and convictions, but like John, they may stand fearless and erect before the kings of this world if they will bow low before the King of Kings.

Examples from Hebrews 11

“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God (Hebrews 11:5).”

He [Enoch] did not make his abode with the wicked. He did not locate in Sodom, thinking to save Sodom. He placed himself and his family where the atmosphere would be as pure as possible. Then at times he went forth to the inhabitants of the world with his God-given message. Every visit he made to the world was painful to him. He saw and understood something of the leprosy of sin. After proclaiming his message, he always took back with him to his place of retirement some who had received the warning (MS 42, 1900, also 1 BC 1087).

Enoch had certain convictions about the way he would live and about whom his associates would be and God honored those convictions.

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house (Hebrews 11:7).” God told Noah it was going to rain and to build an ark, and Noah believed God. But it is not enough to just believe in the sense of having a knowledge of truth. James says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble (James 2:19).” Noah put his faith into action and demonstrated that he had a conviction by going against the strong tide of conventional wisdom that it could never rain.

Hebrews 11 also speaks of Moses. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (vs. 24, 25).” Moses exemplified the principle that while it is easy to have preferences, it may be difficult to have convictions because preferences involve convenience but convictions, many times, involve sacrifice. If we are not ready to sacrifice, then we cannot be disciples of Christ. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24).” Paul says of Moses, “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:26, 27).” Moses could endure because, by faith, he saw Him Who is invisible.

God has blessed His people all through the ages. He blessed Moses to be the leader of a great people and even though He could not take Moses into the earthly Canaan, He did something better. He took him into the heavenly Canaan. Because they have held their convictions by faith, God’s people have always been greatly blessed of God, but friends, this is not the whole story. Hebrews 11:36 says, “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment.” There are different ways that Satan works and one way is through mockings. It is true the word cruel has been added in this verse, but the implication is that the mockings and scourgings (beatings) would be cruel. God’s faithful ones have been put into prison, but that is not all. Verse 37 says, “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented (Of whom the world was not worthy).” The world is not worthy of your convictions because the world will not appreciate nor agree with them. Do not worry, friends, if people mock your convictions, for the Bible says these mockers are not worthy of such convictions. Do not let scourgings, imprisonments, or even the threat of death sway you from doing what you know to be right based on God’s Word. Why were many willing to face death? Because the invisible God had become visible to them and because they desired to serve Him in death more than to live life without Him. You might say that they desired this because they knew there would one day be a resurrection, and perhaps this is so, but the 144,000 will rather serve God in eternal death, if necessary, than to sin. They love Christ and are willing to give themselves for Him and to Him for anything and to any depth or degree of hell, regardless of how deep the pit of hell might be.

Convictions Concerning Our Faith

Beloved, we must have deep convictions concerning our faith. The Bible says in Romans 10:17 that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Our convictions must be based in the Word of God alone. We must accept the Bible as God’s Word to us and if we find that we have studied amiss and have thus come to wrong conclusions, then we need to admit it. We don’t need to lie or even make any excuses about it. We just need to say that we have been wrong and that God has shown us a better way. Friends, let us be honest and up-front about what we believe and about our convictions. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16 that we are to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We must apply this verse wherever it is applicable, but neither Jesus nor the disciples tried to hide who they were and what they believed. Paul says,

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed (Romans 10:9-11).

Jesus never denied that He was the Son of God. During His trial before Caiaphas, Jesus held His peace and said nothing until the high priest “said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 26:63).” This was the equivalent of asking Jesus, under oath, if He was God’s Son. “Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said (v. 64),” or as recorded in Mark 14:62, “I am.”

When Jesus was asked the question, Art thou the Son of God? he knew that to answer in the affirmative would make his death certain; a denial would leave a stain upon his humanity. There was a time to be silent, and a time to speak. He had not spoken until plainly interrogated. In his lessons to his disciples he had declared: “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father who is in Heaven.” When challenged, Jesus did not deny his relationship with God. In that solemn moment his character was at stake and must be vindicated. He left on that occasion an example for man to follow under similar circumstances. He would teach him not to apostatize from his faith to escape suffering or even death (The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, p. 127).

Preference, as we have noticed, is orientated toward convenience and conviction is orientated toward sacrifice. You can bet on it.

Beloved, we need to develop convictions in every area of our spiritual life. Is it a preference or a conviction that we spend daily time with God? Think about it. Do we allow the press of the daily duties to crowd God out? Are we honest with God? Do we really return a faithful tithe to the Lord? Do we deal fairly with everyone, or do we only deal in a way that looks good or that is accepted as the norm by the world?

Recently my son, Hans, and I went to a neighboring town to look at a car for him. The car was a very nice car that we thought would serve Hans well. While talking with the man that was selling the car, he told Hans that he would put a smaller amount down for the sale price on the title so that the sales tax would be less, but we said, “No, we want on the title what we are paying for the car because it would not be honest to do otherwise.” The difference in savings would have been $90. Can my soul be bought for $90? It is not! Friends, if the savings had been ninety million dollars or even an infinite amount, the price of sacrificing conviction would still have been too high!

Sabbath-Keeping

What are our real convictions about Sabbath-keeping? Do we meet together on Sabbath because it is convenient to take that day off? Do we “guard the edges of the Sabbath (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 356)?” Are we mindful of our Sabbath conversations? While we usually consider Friday to be the preparation day for Sabbath, if we focus our minds throughout the week upon God and our meeting with Him on the Sabbath, we will be able to plan and prepare for the Sabbath all through the week, so that we will truly be ready to meet with Him on Friday evening.

Some Seventh-day Adventists are guilty in the area of intemperance. We work long and hard through the week, planning on Sabbath to catch up on our physical rest with an afternoon nap or by taking it easy on Sabbath. Friends, if man had lived from the beginning as he should have, the Sabbath never would have been a day of physical rest. It would not have been needed. It has been postulated that if we were as temperate through the week as we should be, we would never need the seventh-day Sabbath for physical rest. Instead, we would use it exclusively for spiritual and emotional time with God. If we wait until the very last minute to begin Sabbath or if we are ready to go to Wal-Mart, or a similar store, the very minute Sabbath ends, maybe even being in the parking lot to have prayer when the sun goes down, we do not have the proper convictions about how the Sabbath is to be spent.

Convictions in Daily Life

What about in the way we dress and the way we eat? There are many areas in our lives that we may not have convictions about, only preferences for. The fact is, the way we live our lives and the way we do the things we do reveal where our true convictions lie. If we have convictions, friends, we have principles that we live by, or in accordance with, and we will not compromise them for any reason.

When I was teaching in public school, one of my principals always became exasperated with me each year because I would not use incorrect figures in some critical attendance reports that I was required to file, which helped to determine the amount of federal aid the school would receive. As a Christian I had to be honest even if it meant causing “trouble.”

Do we have convictions? This is a very important issue. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).” Jude says it was necessary to remind the brethren to contend for the faith that was once delivered to them, because if he did not, they would forget! Conviction might fizzle down into a preference and he therefore wanted to remind and encourage them that there was a faith that had been delivered unto them and that they were to hold onto that faith. I ask you today, “What if Martin Luther had not maintained his convictions? What would have been the result?” The Reformation would have had a very slow start.

What are our convictions about faith? Will we compromise our faith for the sake of harmony and unity, or will we hold onto the purity of the faith?

No Communion with Darkness

In Second Corinthians Chapter 6, Paul is very explicit that light does not have communion with darkness.

And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:15-18).

Show me a person who will compromise on spiritual issues and I will show you a person who will not go to heaven. It is that simple. You might not agree with me, but the end result will prove it to be true.

There are a few paragraphs from The Great Controversy that say in principle what I have been trying to express in this article.

But there is no union between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness, and there can be no union between their followers. When Christians consented to unite with those who were but half converted from paganism, they entered upon a path which led further and further from the truth. Satan exulted that he had succeeded in deceiving so large a number of the followers of Christ. He then brought his power to bear more fully upon these, and inspired them to persecute those who remained true to God. None understood so well how to oppose the true Christian faith as did those who had once been its defenders; and these apostate Christians, uniting with their half-pagan companions, directed their warfare against the most essential features of the doctrines of Christ.

It required a desperate struggle for those who would be faithful to stand firm against the deceptions and abominations which were disguised in sacerdotal garments and introduced into the church. The Bible was not accepted as the standard of faith. The doctrine of religious freedom was termed heresy, and its upholders were hated and proscribed.

After a long and severe conflict, the faithful few decided to dissolve all union with the apostate church if she still refused to free herself from falsehood and idolatry. They saw that separation was an absolute necessity if they would obey the word of God. They dared not tolerate errors fatal to their own souls, and set an example which would imperil the faith of their children and children’s children. To secure peace and unity they were ready to make any concession…

I am glad Ellen White doesn’t stop here, but for some people this is where it stops. To secure peace and unity, some people are willing to make any concession.

To secure peace and unity they were ready to make any concession consistent with fidelity to God; but they felt that even peace would be too dearly purchased at the sacrifice of principle. If unity could be secured only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war.

Well would it be for the church and the world if the principles that actuated those steadfast souls were revived in the hearts of God’s professed people. There is an alarming indifference in regard to the doctrines which are the pillars of the Christian faith. The opinion is gaining ground, that, after all, these are not of vital importance (pp. 45, 46).

How do we feel about these things? What is really important to us? Friends, only those who love God supremely will be men and women of conviction. The Bible does say, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5).” Only those who love God and give Him all their heart will be faithful soldiers for Him. Only those who are willing to give 100% will be allowed to be a part of the 144,000, a group in whose mouths are found no guile, a group of people who will enter the temple of God. Ellen White says, “As we were about to enter the holy temple, Jesus raised His lovely voice and said, ‘Only the 144,000 enter this place,’ and we shouted, ‘Alleluia’ (Early Writings, p. 18).”

Beloved, do you want the experience of the 144,000? Then you must have their faith and their convictions. Do you want to have the spirit of Elijah today? Then you must have the convictions and the faith of Elijah.

The greatest want of the world is the want of men— men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole (Education, p. 57).

God wants people who will stand for the right though the heavens fall and who will do what is right because it is right and leave the consequences with God.

The true followers of Christ do not wait for truth to become popular. Being convinced of their duty, they deliberately accept the cross, and thus remove the greatest obstacle to the reception of truth,—the only argument which its advocates have never been able to refute. It is weak, inefficient world-servers that think it praiseworthy to have no principle in religious things. We should choose the right because it is right, and leave consequences with God. To men of principle, faith, and daring, is the world indebted for its great reforms. By such men must the work of reform for this time be carried forward (The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 293).


Report on the Progress of the
Work in Europe

By Allen Stump

During part of the month of August, I had the privilege of meeting with some brethren in Europe, which included holding group meetings, private home meetings, and attending part of a camp meeting in Poland.

Since I have had the opportunity to visit some of the brethren in Europe on past occasions, I was very thankful to learn that Brother Lynnford Beachy of Smyrna Gospel Ministries had been invited to a camp meeting in Germany and that he wanted to make plans to visit other areas in Europe as well. Before final plans could be made for his trip, however, Brother Lynnford’s wife, Kendra, became ill and this necessitated Lynnford staying close by her. I was asked if I could fill in for at least part of the trip.

Therefore, I made plans to visit as many areas within two and a half weeks as possible. I had planned to attend the last two days (Friday and Sabbath) of a camp meeting in Germany, but, due to flight delays and travel problems, I was not able to reach the camp meeting before Sabbath. I was blessed, however, to be with Brothers Vlad and Paul from Romania over Sabbath at the German town of Erfurt, where Martin Luther had studied and labored as a young man.

A Modern-day Priest Is “Obedient to the Faith”

Brother Paul had been a very high-ranking official within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Romania. He first heard the truth about God from his brother living in Vienna, Austria. Paul’s brother, Joseph, had given him material teaching that the Father was the only true God and Jesus Christ was His only begotten Son. Joseph asked Paul to explain to him whether this was true or not. Paul had been trained in the seminary in Romania and had spent several years as a pastor, so Joseph felt Paul would have answers to refute the materials.

After a few weeks, Paul took the opportunity to read and study the material. He was quite surprised by what he read and could see no fault with it. Later, when he and his brother talked, Joseph asked him to explain the error in the material and Paul said that there was none–that the material told the truth!

After Paul’s views became public, the brethren made appeals to him to forget this truth. He asked for a Scripture reason but was given none. Later, the teachers from the seminary were brought to meet with him and they could not offer anything from the Bible or the writings of Ellen White to convince Paul that he should change his mind. Paul was asked to resign and then was disfellowshiped. His wife, Mira, who had been the secretary to the conference president, was also asked to resign and was disfellowshiped. However, they truly are thankful to be free in the Lord.

From Erfurt, we traveled to Brother Erwin Zoor’s place in Adorf, Germany, to visit with him and Brother David Clayton of Jamaica. We met for two days to discuss Bible topics, such as righteousness by faith. Brother Clayton’s trip had been scheduled prior to my plans to be in Europe, but it was nice that I was able to see him in Adorf for two days and also for a day and a half at the camp meeting in Poland.

The night before Vlad, Paul, and I were to leave for Poland, Brother Paul decided to travel back to Romania, via train from Prague, to return home and prepare for meetings at his home near Bucharest. I looked forward to seeing the city of John Huss and we traveled to Prague by car, arriving at the train station about an hour before the scheduled departure. Since we arrived at night, it was difficult to appreciate the city as I wished, but I was thankful to have been in the city that Huss labored and preached in so much.

The inefficiency of travel systems in the old communist countries sometimes leaves much to be desired. Although we arrived an hour early, it took almost the entire time to find a ticket counter that could sell the proper ticket. Finally, after getting a ticket, we arrived at the proper track and found out that the train was going to be at least forty-five minutes late! Since it was close to midnight and we still had a three-to-four hour drive back, we left Paul to await his train. When it finally arrived he boarded and took a private sleeper car. During the night, his room was broken into and his laptop computer was stolen! As bad as this was, we were thankful that Paul was not killed or harmed.

Arriving back at 4:00 a.m., we decided to sleep for three hours before leaving for Poland. Seven o’clock in the morning came all too soon, and we had to be up and ready for travel. Due to his inability to get the correct date for his Slovakian visa, Brother Clayton would have to be delayed a day before going to Poland. It was a difficult goodbye, for we have learned to greatly love Erwin and with his wife, Claudia, who had moved to Adorf to live in the country with his mother, Elizabeth, and step-father, Eward. They were very sweet and generous hosts and it was shocking and saddening to learn Brother Eward died after I returned to the United States. We mourn with this family over the loss of a truly sweet and gentle giant of a man. We claim the promise, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15).”

Poland

After a long day of travel, Vlad and I arrived in Poland and we were heartily welcomed by Brother Jacek Poreda, his wife, Kristina, and the brothers and sisters in Poland. Due to my commitment to meetings in Hungary, I would only be able to be in Poland that evening, the next day, and the following morning. Brother Poreda had graciously scheduled me to speak four times in this brief period. I spoke on the subject of righteousness by faith, with two of my messages being on the final atonement and two on justification.

A highlight of the time I was in Poland was a question and answer session the second night of the camp meeting. Brothers Jacek, David, Erwin, Vlad, and I worked as a panel to try to answer questions that the believers had. A lengthy discussion occurred mostly about the concept of tithes and offerings. The people of Poland have been suppressed by Communists and Catholics for many years and to have the right to think and express oneself is a privilege that they greatly value. While the subject on the surface was money, in the background were issues of faith, love, works, and obedience. Some of the people who attended had been members of the Fred Wright Movement at one time and were still struggling with righteousness by works. To try to free people from these principles, we attempted to answer in a manner that addressed the root issues of the questions. I know that many of the brethren there are being freed from the thinking of men and we praise God for allowing this to be so.

Poland is a country that has about forty million people, thirty-eight million of which are Roman Catholic. The work there is challenging but progress is being made and the brethren are printing several materials on the truth about God, as well as Spirit of Prophecy books in the Polish language.

Auschwitz

From Poland we were to travel to Miskolc, Hungary. On the way, Vlad and I stopped to visit the famed concentration camp at Auschwitz. I had briefly been there once before and was impressed in even a greater manner with the inhumanity of man towards man, as I saw the gas cambers, the hanging gallows, the places of medical experiments, and other grim reminders of this cruel moment of human history. While there, I bought the book, A Girl from Schindler’s List, by Stella Muller-Madej. This gripping account of someone who survived the ghetto at Krakow, the Plaszow camp, and then Auschwitz before being transferred to Brunnlitz, to work at Schindler’s plant is almost mesmerizing. While we are told to think on lovely things (Philippians 4:8), the Bible is also replete with warnings of cruel treatment ahead for God’s people, as well as examples of brutal treatment in past ages that God’s people have suffered at the hands of the wicked. As I think of the extreme cruelty and wickedness practiced at Auschwitz, I am mindful of the following statement: 

The “time of trouble, such as never was,” is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial, every soul must stand for himself before God. “Though Noah, Daniel, and Job” were in the land, “as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.” Ezekiel 14:20 (The Great Controversy, pp. 622, 623).

Hungary

At Hungary we met with brethren who, for the most part, are part of the Christian Advent Fellowship Movement that began when the mainline church entered the Council of Free Churches in Hungary. These brethren had read many of the materials that have been produced on the truth about God. This was made possible because my translator for the meetings, Janos Santa, a young college student, had translated and distributed several materials on the Godhead to those in attendance. Janos’s grandfather had an unused apartment that we were able to stay at and hold meetings in. We were really thankful for his generosity. 

Since these brothers and sisters were very well-read on the matter, they did not wish for presentations to be made but rather desired to have open dialogue and question and answer sessions. Some of these sessions lasted for five and six hours at a time! These brethren were so courteous, kind, and sincere that it made the meetings very enjoyable. Many of their questions and concerns centered on statements from Ellen White and our meetings were very profitable. These brothers and sisters clearly did not wish to discard Ellen White’s ministry but needed answers for themselves, as well as for those within the church who were questioning them.

It was especially good to have Brother Zslot Elo attending the meetings. Brother Zslot has been working in his native Hungary for the last two years holding health seminars and giving Bible readings. His steady manner and joyous spirit greatly added to the meetings.

On Sabbath I was interested in meeting with the Christian Advent Fellowship, figuring that since they were not part of the mainline church ,they would be open-minded and willing to hear the truth. I was shocked to hear that they had already heard about me and had told Janos and Attila, one of the church leaders who came to our meetings, that I was not welcome. I was saddened to hear of such an attitude. A brother who attends one of the mainline Adventist churches at Miskolc, however, asked the local brethren if I would be allowed to speak to the congregation. We were told that it might be possible. With a hope and a prayer, we attended the Sabbath School. After the Sabbath School, I was invited to speak with the pastor and the leadership of the church. Their main concern seemed to be if I was supportive of the General Conference and a part of it. Of course, I had to answer honestly, but, despite not being a member of the mainline church, I was given approval to address the congregation for five minutes. I quickly spoke about the love of God in giving His only begotten Son for our sins. Since I was speaking through a translator, my time of actual speaking was cut in half. When my five minutes were almost over, I felt the need to continue warning the people in the most serious tone that Jesus was coming soon and we must be ready, to not trust in any man, church, or anything but Jesus Christ. I went over my time allotment by three minutes but nobody complained. After the meeting I had several people thank me for the thoughts. Only God knows what the outcome of such experiences will be, but we are told: “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days (Ecclesiastes 11:1).”

Very Short Rest in the Country

Our original plan was to travel Sunday from Miskolc to Vlad’s home in the hills of Romania and then to travel on Monday to the Bucharest area for meetings Tuesday through Wednesday evening at Brother Paul’s home. Brother Vlad, however, was homesick to see his dear wife, Andi, and he convinced me to leave immediately after Sabbath and travel through the night. At about 5:00 a.m., we arrived in the village near where Vlad lives. After parking the car in a garage in the village, we began walking up the trail through the woods to Vlad’s home. The path was narrow in some places and open in others. About a kilometer later, we broke into an open field area and I could see his house up ahead on the hill through the darkness. He had called ahead to Andi to notify her of our arrival and she was joyously waiting for us. By the time we shared a few greetings and prepared to rest, it was 6:00 a.m.! My body wanted to rest, but my body clock did not! However, I was able to rest a few hours and then got up to venture out and see the countryside.

Brother Vlad has a simple, but beautiful, place in the hills of Romania. He had asked God to provide for his needs and our Father graciously provided a place for him to purchase in such a manner that he is not in debt for the house or property. While the house needed a lot of work when purchased, Vlad and Andi have made it a wonderful abode that is clean, neat, and full of love. In an age when it seems the only way to own a home is to incur a large debt, Vlad and Andi have proven that if we are faithful to our God, He will pour out a blessing so abundantly that we cannot receive it all (Malachi 3:9; Philippians 4:19).

Romania

That afternoon we decided to leave on our journey to  Bucharest in order to visit with Brother Sorin, one of the leaders among the believers in Romania. Arriving shortly before midnight, we were graciously welcomed. The next morning we were treated to a hearty Romanian breakfast, including lots of tomatoes. Brother Sorin’s place has two large green houses, mostly for raising tomatoes with some of the vines traveling over two meters tall and bending two meters more downward from their stake! Brother Sorin usually eats at least a kilogram (over two pounds) of tomatoes each day!

Our visit with Sorin was very uplifting and encouraging. It is easy to see why the brethren recognize him as a leader among the people. At this location many of the convocations of the brethren take place. Here they have a chapel and a long series of picnic-type tables and benches underneath a beautiful grape arbor. The scene made me think of what heaven may be like.

The believers meet often and many have to travel long distances to attend these gatherings, but they are hungry for the Word of God and long for the sweet fellowship they find at these meetings. I heard of one mother and daughter hitchhiking several hundred kilometers to attend a convocation. God provided them a ride with a truck driver and they were able to witness to this man along the way. All too quickly we had to leave, and I was sorry that I would not be able to attend the camp meeting that would be held there a few weeks later!

From Sorin’s, we stopped to pick up Sister Gabriela, who would be the translator for me in Bucharest and then in Vienna. Sister Gabriela has translated the books, The Foundation of Our Faith and What did the Pioneers Believe? into the French language, and she is currently working on other materials as well. Sister Gabriela accepted the truth and decided she wanted to forego a college education to begin translating materials on the truth about God and work for the Lord. She received great opposition, however, from her mother. Many prayers later, though, her mother is now giving up her job to labor for the Master sharing the truth!

Our meetings at Paul’s house were almost totally devoted to open discussion with questions and answers. Many of the people attending had read material on the Godhead message and had a good background. The first night the discussions centered on the Godhead. The next night the discussion centered on practical applications of receiving the truth, such as: If the church has left the truth about God and has gone into apostasy, what do we do now and who or what is the true church and where do we take people after we introduce them to Jesus? These were some of the same concerns the early church had. Many members of the early church were not only of the Jewish faith but were also ethnically-related. If they accepted the new revelations from heaven, where were they to take the believers? The Bible teaches they were to be taken to Jesus and received into small local fellowships. To clearly present these concepts to people who have for so long been in darkness and tradition on such matters is not always easy, but I believe that the light grew brighter and brighter as we continued to study. All expressed heart-felt appreciation for the things that they had learned.

The studies at Paul’s house began around 6:00 p.m. each evening and continued until 11:00 p.m. or later. Nothing was too sacred to be discussed and all seemed to appreciate the ability to ask questions or share a point of view.

Austria

The next day we prepared for the long trip to Vienna, Austria. Paul, Gabriela, George (a brother who attended the meetings at Paul’s and a former co-worker of his,) and I were to travel by train. The trip was supposed to last about fourteen hours but turned into a trip of slightly over twenty hours before we arrived in Vienna Friday afternoon. Paul’s brother, Joseph, a taxi driver and the one who first questioned Paul on the issue of the Godhead, picked us up at the train station. After getting some food, we were taken to the place we would stay to get ready for Sabbath.

Friday evening we had an informal get-together at Joseph’s home with his kind wife, Aurora, and some other family members and friends. Various topics of Scripture were discussed. A conference room in a local hotel had been rented earlier for meetings on Sabbath. The format was similar to what I had experienced in both Hungary and Romania—open discussions with many questions followed by answers. After about four hours we took a mid-day break for lunch and then returned for a long afternoon-evening session. Most of the discussion was on the Godhead, righteousness by faith, and understanding what the church is. One brother asked why such a meeting had to take place in a hotel and not in one of the churches. Paul responded that if we could have found one church with an open mind to host the meeting, we would have been glad to have had the meeting there, but he knew of no church that would allow such a meeting to take place.

As there usually are at such meetings, a few tried very hard to object to the truth about God. One dear brother tried desperately to bring up many objections. He did not have a Bible with him and kept appealing to so-called facts that were not in the Bible. His questions and objections were met with a, “thus saith the Lord,” and the other people easily realized the falseness of his position. One sister, however, had another need. She had come to the meeting because her husband had embraced this truth, but she had not. Though a Trinitarian, she was sincerely seeking to find a way to unify her home in truth. She made a strong appeal near the end of the meetings not to misjudge her as she felt some had done. She asked, if we really wanted to help her, why nobody had offered to pray for her. Many hearts were humbled by this and after prayer, Sister Gabriela and I talked to her and tried to show special compassion towards her. I pray that these meetings will be the start of something very good in Austria, for the country is rich in religious tradition and friendly people, but people who need the truth for today.

In surveying this trip, I realized how great the need is to make the truth plain and simple and publish it far and near. As I passed through the large European cities of Frankfrut, Erfurt, Prague, Krakow, Miskolc, Bucharest, and Vienna, as well as very small isolated villages, I was challenged with the task we have of reaching all these people with the gospel message. I only shared with a small fraction of the people in any area I was in and yet these millions must be warned and God’s name and character must be lifted up. Please keep the our European brothers and sisters in your prayers that God may do a wonderful work in and through them.

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, “Beginnings and Belongings”

The adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for the 4th quarter of 2006 covers creation and the early history of our world, with the first five lessons devoted to the creation of the world, the entrance of sin, and the flood. We are thankful to see that a literal creation and a literal creation week are taught in these lessons.

Since the Trinitarian doctrine is accepted by the lessons’ authors, there is of necessity some confusion on the role of Jesus as Creator. For instance, in the study guide God is, at times, declared to be the Creator and then later Jesus is said to be the Creator. To the trinitarian, however, Jesus is part of the God that is being spoken of. The Bible teaches, however, that the Father is God (1 Corinthians 8:6) and that Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16), and that God created all things by, or through, His Son, Jesus Christ.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1, 2).

The Greek word for “by” in verse 2 is dia (dia). Dia is “a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act (Strong’s Greek Dictionary).”

The heavenly hosts declare concerning the Father: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created (Revelation 4:11).” So we see that, while the Father is acknowledged as the Master Creator, creation is accomplished by, or through, His Son.

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:16).

An important point concerning creation that is missing in the lessons is the fact that redemption is a creative process. Redemption is based on creation and in fact, there can be no redemption without creation. To help make this clear, we have reprinted a section from E. J. Waggoner’s book, Christ and His Righteousness. After first discussing the divinity of Jesus and His role in the creation of all things, Waggoner continues with some important practical lessons! Allen Stump 


Important Practical Lessons

By E. J. Waggoner

It is not merely as a beautiful theory, a mere dogma, that we should consider Christ as God and Creator. Every doctrine of the Bible is for our practical benefit and should be studied for that purpose. Let us first see what relation this doctrine sustains to the central commandment of the law of God. In Genesis 2:1-3 we find these words closing the record of creation, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all His work which God created and made.” The Jewish translation renders the text more literally thus, “Thus were finished the heavens and the earth and all their host. And God had finished on the seventh day His work which He had made,” etc. This is the same that we find in the fourth commandment, Ex. 20:8-11.

In this we find, what is most natural, that the same Being who created, rested. He who worked six days in creating the earth, rested on the seventh and blessed and sanctified it. But we have already learned that God the Father created the worlds by his son Jesus Christ and that Christ created everything that has an existence. Therefore the conclusion is inevitable that Christ rested on that first seventh day at the close of the six days of creation and that he blessed and sanctified it. Thus the seventh day—the Sabbath—is most emphatically the Lord’s day. When Jesus said to the carping Pharisees, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day” (Matt. 12:8), He declared His lordship of the identical day which they had so scrupulously observed in form, and He did this in words which show that He regarded it as His badge of authority, as demonstrating the fact that He was greater than the temple. Thus the seventh day is the Divinely appointed memorial of creation. It is the most honored of all days, since its especial mission is to bring to mind the creative power of God, which is the one proof to man of His Divinity. And so when Christ said that the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day, He claimed a high distinction—nothing less than being the Creator, of whose Divinity that day stands as a memorial.

What shall we say, then, to the suggestion often made, that Christ changed the day of the Sabbath from a day which commemorates completed creation to one which has no such  significance? Simply this, that for Christ to change or abolish the Sabbath would be to destroy that which calls to mind His Divinity. If Christ had abolished the Sabbath, He would have undone the work of His own hands and thus have worked against Himself, and a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. But Christ “cannot deny Himself,” and therefore He did not change one jot of that which He Himself appointed and which, by testifying to His Divinity, shows Him to be worthy of honor above all the gods of the heathen. It would have been as impossible for Christ to change the Sabbath as it would have been to change the fact that He created all things in six days and rested on the seventh.

Again, the oft-repeated declarations that the Lord is Creator are intended as a source of strength. Notice how creation and redemption are connected in the first chapter of Colossians. To get the point fully before us, we will read verses 9-19:

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son; in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins; who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of every creature; for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.

It is not an accident that the wonderful declaration concerning Christ as Creator is connected with the statement that in Him we have redemption. No. When the apostle makes known his desire that we should be “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power,” he lets us know what that glorious power is. When he tells us about being delivered from the power of darkness, he lets us know something of the power of the Deliverer. It is for our comfort that we are told that the head of the church is the Creator of all things. We are told that he upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3), in order that we may rest in the assurance that

“The Hand which bears all nature up

Shall guard His children well.”

Note the connection of Isa. 40:26. The chapter presents the wonderful wisdom and power of Christ, in calling all the host of heaven by names and in keeping them all in  their places, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, and then inquires, “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding.” On the contrary, “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” His power is, in fact, the ability to create everything from nothing; therefore, He can work wonders through those who have no strength. He can bring strength out of weakness. Surely, then, anything which serves to keep before the mind the creative power of Christ must tend to renew our spiritual strength and courage.

And this is just the design of the Sabbath. Read the ninety-second psalm, which is entitled a psalm of the Sabbath-day. The first four verses are these:

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High; to show forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night, upon an instrument of ten strings and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands.

What has this to do with the Sabbath? Just this: The Sabbath is the memorial of creation. Says the Lord: “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” Eze. 20:12. The Psalmist kept the Sabbath as God designed that it should be kept—in meditating upon creation and the wondrous power and goodness of God displayed therein. And then, thinking of that, he realized that the God who clothes the lilies with a glory surpassing that of Solomon cares far more for His intelligent creatures, and as he looked at the heavens, which show the power and glory of God, and realized that they were brought into existence from nothing, the encouraging thought would come to him that this same power would work in him to deliver him from human infirmity.  Therefore he was glad, and he triumphed in the work of God’s  hands. The knowledge of God’s power which came to him through a contemplation of creation, filled him with courage, as he realized that the same power was at his disposal, and, grasping that power by faith, he gained victories through it. And this is the design of the sabbath; it is to bring man to a saving knowledge of God.

The argument, concisely stated, is this: 1. Faith in God is begotten by a knowledge of His power; to distrust Him implies ignorance of His ability to perform His promises; our faith in Him must be in proportion to our real knowledge of His power. 2. An intelligent contemplation of God’s creation gives us a true conception of His power, for His eternal power and Godhead are understood by the things which He has made. Rom. 1:20. 3. It is faith that gives victory (1 John 5:4); therefore, since faith comes by learning the power of God from His word and from the things that He has made, we gain the victory or triumph through the works of His hands. The Sabbath, therefore, which is the memorial of creation, is, if properly observed, a source of the Christian’s greatest reinforcement in battle.

This is the import of Ezekiel 20:12. “Moreover, also I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” That is, knowing that our sanctification is the will of God (1 Thess. 4:3; 5:23, 24), we learn, by means of the Sabbath, properly used, what the power of God is that is exerted for our sanctification. The same power that was put forth to create the worlds is put forth for the sanctification of those who yield themselves to the will of God. Surely this thought, when fully grasped, must bring joy and comfort in God to the earnest soul. In the light of this, we can appreciate the force of Isaiah 58:13, 14:

If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

That is, if the Sabbath is kept according to God’s plan, as a memorial of His creative power, as bringing to mind the Divine power that is put forth for the salvation of His people, the soul, triumphing in the work of His hands, must delight itself in the Lord.  And so the Sabbath is the grand fulcrum for the lever of faith, which lifts the soul to the heights of God’s throne, to hold communion with Him.

To put the matter in few words, it may be stated thus: The eternal power and Godhead of the Lord are revealed in creation. Rom. 1:20. It is the ability to create that measures the power of God. But the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Rom. 1:16. Therefore the Gospel simply reveals to us the power which was used to bring the worlds into existence, now exerted for the salvation of men. It is the same power in each case.

In the light of this great truth, there is no room for the controversy about redemption being greater than creation, because redemption is creation. See 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:24. The power of redemption is the power of creation; the power of God unto salvation is the power which can take human nothingness and make of it that which shall be throughout eternal ages to the praise of the glory of the grace of God. “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter  4:19.

(This article was reprinted from E. J. Waggoenr’s book, Christ and His Righteousness, pages 31-38)


Letters 

Please send me your magazine, Old Paths. I recently learned about the origin of the Trinity and I have received quite a few of your books and camp meeting tapes; but I need to get your magazine, Old Paths, especially the issues on the Holy Spirit, which you published earlier this year in conjunction with the church quarterly.     FL 

Words cannot express my gratitude for Old Paths. It often requires me to reread many times over the various articles due to the depth of their content.    PA 

Thank you so much for the order of two books - God’s Love on Trial, What Did the Pioneers Believe?- and for your Old Paths. I have been blessed as I read and share this knowledge with my husband.     GA 

We have tithe that we would like to send to you. What is the best way you suggest to  send it from Australia?    Australia 

(Funds that come to us from banks overseas are hard to cash in West Virginia and even when we can, high service fees are usually attached, even if the money is sent in US dollars. To help with this, we have a place on our web site where funds can be put in a PayPal account, using major credit cards, bank debit cards, and checking accounts. From our home page, click the “About Us” tab on the left side and then choose the “Other Information” link at the bottom of the section. The fourth paragraph of text will have a link to the page that guides online funds transfers.     Editor

I read with interest your article on the final atonement. Much of what you say is true, and much is not, according to the Bible. You quoted the Bible for the basics, but then when it came time to support the Adventist doctrine, it was necessary for you to quote Ellen White or M.L. Andreasen...You must decide who it is that you are going to believe.  Ellen White or Jesus, the Christ.  It is that simple...After I read the entire article, I did not know Jesus any better than I did when I started reading. What does that tell you? Are you showing the people Jesus? Or are you showing them Adventist doctrine and Ellen White?    TN 

(It was our purpose to quote Andreasen for his use of words, not for his authority. We are sorry that this reader did not see this, as some others have who have contacted us concerning this article. It is our burden to lift up Jesus above men, organizations or doctrine.     Editor


Youth’s Corner - Goodness 

By Elyssa Sims 

(The following is part of a devotional talk given at a recent youth camp meeting. We wish to encourage all of our young people to study God’s Word and even to share their faith by writing!    Pastor Allen)

 

Galatians 5:22 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”

I wish to address the concept of goodness in this article. There are different meanings to the word goodness. One meaning conveys uprightness of heart and life and another meaning relates to moral goodness and integrity. Goodness also has the connotation of virtue.

Uprightness of heart and life is between you and God. Only God can see into your heart and know your thoughts and how you really are inside. For example, let us say that you have a little brother (or sister) who either took something from you, teased you, or pestered you to the extent that you became mad at him and felt angry enough to do something wrong to him. You did not say anything or do anything to him, however, but kept your feelings inside, so that no one could tell how really mad you felt or know what you really wanted to do; therefore, making it appear that you were a good person. But was that really being good? No, it would be making a liar out of you. Do you think Jesus would not care? No. He does care what you feel like doing, and if you ask God to forgive you for being this way, He will forgive you and He will help you next time to feel differently.

Moral goodness and integrity are between you and man. I will give some examples so that we can better understand our duty both to mankind and to God and better understand what the concept of moral means. In business, for example, we are to deal justly and honestly with the people with whom we have dealings. The Law of God tells us:

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s (Exodus 20:16, 17).

In summary, the two meanings of goodness are:

Uprightness of heart and life, which is between you and God, for only God can see what is in your heart, and moral goodness and integrity, which are between you and man. We must have both of these types of goodness exhibited in our lives. If we give our hearts and lives to the Lord and have an upright heart, then moral goodness and integrity will follow. It will be natural to have goodness toward man.

In Proverbs 14:2 we read the following:

He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.

Matthew 7:18 speaks about good and evil fruit:

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

So you see, as you give your heart to God, as you surrender all, as you spend time with Him, as you pray without ceasing, and as you seek to do His will,  you will experience the fruit of goodness in your life.

There is too little conversation among Christians in regard to the precious chapters in their experience. The work of God is crippled and God is dishonored by the abuse of the talent of speech. Jealousy, evil-surmising, and selfishness are cherished in the heart, and the words show the inward corruption. Evil-thinking and evil-speaking are indulged by many who name the name of Christ. These seldom make mention of the goodness, mercy, and love of God, manifested in giving His Son for the world. This He has done for us, and should not our love and gratitude demand expression? Should we not strive to make our words a source of help and encouragement to one another in our Christian experience? If we truly love Christ, we shall glorify Him by our words. Unbelievers are often convicted as they listen to pure words of praise and gratitude to God (The Review and Herald, January 25, 1898).

That is a solemn and beautiful quotation isn’t it? Ellen White also tells us that:

We must keep before the people veracity, justice, love, goodness, and every virtue that comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. In all the lowliness, meekness, and gentleness of Christ, His love is expressed to us. His spiritual life energy we must have if we are daily overcomers. All our power is derived from Him. Of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. The prayer of Christ to His Father is a representation of what we must be if we are working to be overcomers; and if we meet this representation we shall certainly bring forth good fruits [John 17:17-26.] (Notebook Leaftlets from the Elmshaven Library, vol. 1, p. 45).

Our final Bible verse is found in Philippians 4:13 which says:

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Dear friends, shall we work together to become upright in our heart, our life, in morality and in integrity? Shall we give our lives wholly to our Saviour and let Him take control of our words, thoughts, and actions? Will we strive to show a Christian attitude in everything we do and in our hearts? Remember, Jesus is always there to help you and to be with you.


PayPal Account Established

As noted in our Letters section, we often get requests from brothers and sisters overseas about the best manner in which to send tithes and offerings to Smyrna Gospel Ministries.

Smyrna Gospel Ministries was established to present the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Father’s love before the people in a fuller sense.

From its onset, Smyrna has made it a point not to ask or actively seek donations or support for this ministry, as that would have given our foes opportunity to accuse us of starting this ministry for monetary gain. To help keep a spirit of reverence  and to create an atmosphere where it is easier for the congregation to stay focused on the Word of God, we never take up a collection at our church on Sabbath or at any other time.

Some people in far-away lands have said that they would like to support the ministry with their tithes and offerings. We are located in rural West Virginia and international monetary transfers with our local banks are very expensive and sometimes impossible. In order to simplify this process, we have launched a PayPal tithes and offering webpage that makes online donations possible.

The PayPal account will use major credit cards, bank debit cards, and will even make checking account withdrawals. We have placed this page in our website in such a manner that it does not stand out as a major feature. To find the PayPal page, go to our home page, click the “About Us” tab on the left side and then choose the “Other Information” link at the bottom of the section. The fourth paragraph of text at this section will have a link (http://www.smyrna.org/paypaldonate.htm) to the page that allows online fund transfers. We do greatly appreciate all those who sacrifice to help make the work of this ministry possible and we extend a sincere thank you.    Editor 


Old Paths is a free monthly newsletter/study-paper published monthly by Smyrna Gospel Ministries, HC 64 Box 128-B, Welch WV 24801-9606. U.S.A. It is sent free upon request. The paper is dedicated to the propagation and restoration of the principles of truth that God gave to the early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers. Duplication is not only permitted, but strongly encouraged. This issue, with other gospel literature we publish, can be found at our web sites. The urls are: http://www.smyrna.org and http://www.presenttruth.info. Phone: (304) 732-9204. Fax: (304) 732-7322.

Editor: Allen Stump - E-mail: editor@smyrna.org.
Assistant to the Editor: Onycha Holt - E-mail Onycha@smyrna.org

Please also visit our Present Truth Website!