The atmosphere parted and rolled back, then we could look up through the open space in Orion, from whence came the voice of God. The Holy City will come down through that open space.
(Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald, August 1, 1849)
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. 25, No.1 Straight and Narrow January 2016
The atmosphere parted and rolled back, then we could look up through the open space in Orion, from whence came the voice of God. The Holy City will come down through that open space.
(Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald, August 1, 1849)
In this issue:
This Is Our Father
He measured, laid, and fastened the foundations of the earth, hanging it in space as if on a thread, a feat so amazing and so great that the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy. He stops the seas, as with doors, saying thus far shall the proud waves come, but no further, and through its deepest depths he is able to walk. He knows where light dwells, and he knows also how light scatters the wind. He divides the waters over the earth, so that, from one end of the earth to the other, tender plants grow. He provides for his creatures on earth, from lions to ravens, and looking out from earth, his incomprehensible power is seen sustaining starry hosts like Pleiades, Orion, and Arcturus. His voice reaches past the clouds, and his beauty floats on the goodly wings of the peacock. No one dares stir the strongest of his creation, the leviathin, whose tail is like a cedar, whose bones are like bars of iron, and whose teeth chew brass and iron as easily as straw. This great Creator is also our judge. He sits on a throne of flaming fire, the wheels of which are fire and before which fiery flames burst. We would be instantly consumed, if it were not for Jesus, our elder brother and mediator.
This Is Our Brother
With eyes bright with fire, he walks the length and breadth of earth, searching for gold. Wherever two or more are gathered in his name, he looks with great interest for a home in hearts too often crowded with self, and when one is found, with the voice of water flowing around bends and over rocks, he speaks pardon and peace to the thirsty soul; but to those sitting idly by, with minds on other things, he speaks with the great voice of a trumpet, hoping to stir them from their complacency and self-satisfaction. He yearns for them to listen, for they have lost their first love. They have failed to be watchful and in a deepening darkness have changed the truth into a lie, like the Nicolaitans before them, and in their shrouded, cumbersome walk they have blindly cherished the false doctrines of Balaam and of Jezebel, but like a wonderful counsellor, he speaks words of life to them. He brings good tidings of great joy, and he does so without breaking those bowed with sorrow or those wounded in the battles of life and does so also without quenching the flickering hope of the repentant, trembling one; but Jesus, with eyes of fire, with many crowns upon his head, and with a sharp sword to smite the nations, will soon come to Earth as conqueror, to make war, leading the armies of heaven, and to rescue us.
And This Is Us
Through the winding, back alleys of a place similar to Istanbul, she wanders, totally lost. One forbidding alley has led to another in a maze that seems to never end. Strange sounds and smells press close, and a sense of dread awakens within her. How she got where she is she can’t really say, but she knows it all started with one misstep and then with the surging crowd separating her from her family while she dallied at an enticing stall in the marketplace, and now, alone and frightened, with night drawing on, she senses a new kind of movement, lurking and insidious, in the narrow passageway ahead. Her presence must have been whispered through the shadowy grapevine, and a new fear kindles deep within her when she turns and sees a wall slowly forming behind her. Trapped! But wait—a tall man in a voluminous white thobe strides purposely forward from a passageway on the right. He draws close and, with piercing eyes locked on hers, says in a deadly serious, no-nonsense-allowed command, Follow me! And quickly he moves forward, the material of his white robe flowing behind his long, powerful strides. Into the folds of that flowing robe she slips, matching her stride with his as best she can, and, with the folds of his robe shielding her on all sides, they swiftly move through the menacing crowd into—can it be?—the sunshine and peace of a summer countryside, where no evil presses close and where birds freely sing. Here her Saviour disappears from view, but not from her heart, and here she realizes she has been given a new chance to walk in righteousness and in truth. What wonder and what love!
We realize we are all like this lost woman. We have all been pulled off the straight and narrow path by the allure of sin. We have all stopped to dally at enticing stalls in sin’s vast marketplace, where there is a stall for every type of imagined enjoyment and for every type of supposed pleasure, but sooner or later we find that the stalls are deadly traps and as we try to pull away from them, we become lost in an incomprehensible maze. Only Jesus can lead us out of the broken-glass-and-bomb-filled pathways, only his righteousness can make us acceptable to our heavenly Father, and only his power can give us the ability to overcome as he overcame and, thus, to eventually enjoy the treasures of our heavenly home.
This Is Our Beautiful Future
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Revelation 7:16, 17)
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
Can you imagine a city, a whole city, that is pure gold, whose outside wall is jasper, whose foundations are precious gems, and whose tall gates, each guarded by a marvelous angel, are single pearls? Can you imagine a place where there is no need of the sun because God’s presence lightens the whole city? What about a place where lambs and wolves are friends and where peace flows like a river? In this city dwell only those who are of a contrite and humble spirit.
. . . true, humble, willing obedience to His requirements designates the children of His adoption, the recipients of His grace, the partakers of His great salvation. Such will be peculiar, a spectacle unto the world, to angels, and to men. Their peculiar, holy character will be discernible, and will distinctly separate them from the world, from its affections and lust.
I saw that but few among us answer to this description. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 441)
These humble ones are those who, once they realized they had backslidden, returned to their first works; those who, though suffering severely, were faithful unto death; those who, caught up in the false doctrines of the Nicolaitans, of Balaam and/or of Jezebel, repented of the errors they cherished; those who, thinking they were alive but were really dead, finally became watchful and strengthened their fellow believers who were about to give up; those who, though weak, did not deny God; and those who, being poor, naked, and blind, bought gold to replace their poverty, bought white raiment to cover their nakedness, and anointed their eyes so that they might see. God has promised to overcomers that they will be given the privilege of eating of the tree of life; will be given a crown of life and the promise of safety from the second death; will be given hidden manna to eat; will be given, inscribed on a white stone, a new name known only to them; will be given power over nations; will be given the morning star; will be given white raiment; will be given the promise of their name being inscribed in the book of life and of it being confessed before the Father and his angels; will be given the privilege of being a pillar in the temple of God; will have the name of God, the name of the city of God, and the new name of Jesus inscribed upon them; and/or will be given the privilege of sitting with Christ on his throne! This is a future of such magnitude that it is hard to imagine, but it is the future of everyone who overcomes! Those who overcome may possibly also have the glorious privilege of following the Lamb whithersoever he goes throughout the universe for time without end. How could anyone walk away from such a future?
We may have a right to enter into the city, to eat of the tree of life, and to share in the unending joy of the redeemed. We may listen to the voice of Jesus, sweeter than any music that ever fell on mortal ear, as he welcomes his children to their eternal home. Those who have chosen his service will hear him say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And oh, what a kingdom! There will be no night in the city of gold. God and the Lamb will be its light. There are homes for the pilgrims of earth. There are robes for the righteous—crowns of glory, palms of victory. All that perplexed us in the providences of God, will then be made plain. The things hard to be understood will then find an explanation. The mysteries of grace will unfold before us. Where our finite minds discovered only confusion and broken purposes we shall see the most perfect and beautiful harmony. We shall know that infinite love ordered these experiences that seemed the most trying and hard to bear. As we realize the tender care of Him who makes all things work together for our good, we shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Pain cannot exist in the atmosphere of Heaven. There will be no more tears, no funeral trains, no badges of mourning. “The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.” One rich tide of happiness will flow and deepen as eternity rolls on. (Ellen White, The Signs of the Times, January 27, 1888)
Language fails to express the value of the immortal inheritance. The glory, riches, and honor offered by the Son of God are of such infinite value that it is beyond the power of men or even angels to give any just idea of their worth, their excellence, their magnificence. (White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 40; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
This Is Our Dilemma
How can it be that sinful people, such as we are, can obtain such a wonderful heritage? It is only by being weak in our own strength:
He who was Elijah’s strength is strong to uphold every struggling child of His, no matter how weak. Of everyone He expects loyalty, and to everyone He grants power according to the need. In his own strength man is strengthless; but in the might of God he may be strong to overcome evil and to help others to overcome. Satan can never gain advantage of him who makes God his defense. (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 175)
The Philadelphians have and had “little strength” (Revelation 3:7); but, even in this weakness, they do and did not deny Christ, for Christ gives and gave them the power to become strong. When temptation, trial, or suffering comes, God’s people individually know they cannot overcome alone, and they ask Jesus to be their strength and help, and he always is, every time.
Do not settle down in Satan’s easy-chair, and say that there is no use, you cannot cease to sin, that there is no power in you to overcome. There is no power in you apart from Christ, but it is your privilege to have Christ abiding in your heart by faith, and he can overcome sin in you, when you cooperate with his efforts, putting your will on the side of God’s will. (Ellen White, The Youth’s Instructor, June 29, 1893)
Everything depends on the right action of the will. (Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 176)
Ask Jesus for help and then cooperate by keeping your eyes focused heavenward, away from the deceptive allure of Satan. Obtain a hymnal and sing; go for a walk, singing as you go; recite Scripture out loud; recount your blessings aloud; see in your mind’s eye Jesus dying on the cross for you; call a friend to inquire about his or her welfare, not to recite your troubles; and/or praise God for the sunshine, the rain, the creatures of nature, the gift of his Son, and/or for the angels that protect you. Satan hates to hear your voice praising God in speech and in song, and he will leave; it’s guaranteed because God inhabits “the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3) and “. . . Satan hates and fears the presence of God” (Ellen White, The Faith I Live By, p. 312). Let us praise God always, for we have more than we know for which to be thankful.
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.”
. . . What a hope-inspiring picture is this where the Lord is represented as bending down and hearkening to the testimonies borne by his witnesses! What inspiration it should give us to consider the fact that all the heavenly universe is represented as listening with pleasure to the words that are spoken exalting the name of God in the earth. . . . The words to which God and the angels listen with delight are words of appreciation for the great Gift that has been made to the world in the only begotten Son of God. Every word of praise for the blessing of the light of truth which has come in messages of warning, and which has dispelled the darkness of error, is written in the heavenly records. Every word that acknowledges the merciful kindness of our Heavenly Father in giving Jesus to take away our sins, and to impute to us his righteousness, is recorded in the book of his remembrance. (Ellen White, The Review & Herald, September 10, 1895).
In 1866, A. Katherine Hankey wrote the words to the hymn “I Love To Tell the Story.” We may sing this hymn over and over and never grow tired of it, for the hymn tells of Jesus and his love. In the same way we may recount over and over a personal story of God’s blessing, and it never fails to bring honor him!
Although we may tell the same story over and over, it honors God, and shows that we are not unmindful of His goodness and mercies to us. (Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 115)
Of our weakness we need not be ashamed and need not be perturbed, for it is in weakness that we are made strong: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
This Is Our World under God’s Protection
The same Hand that kept the fiery serpents of the wilderness from entering the camp of the Israelites until God’s chosen people provoked Him with their constant murmurs and complaints, is today guarding the honest in heart. Were this restraining Hand withdrawn, the enemy of our souls would at once begin the work of destruction that he has so long desired to accomplish. And because God’s long-continued forbearance is not now recognized, the forces of evil are already, to a limited degree, permitted to destroy.
How often have those in danger of being destroyed by terrible outbreakings of winds and waters been mercifully shielded from harm! Do we realize that we have been spared from destruction only because of the protecting care of unseen agencies? Although many ships have gone down and many men and women on board have perished, God has mercifully spared His people. But we should not be surprised if some of those who love and fear God were to be engulfed in the tempestuous waters of the ocean. They would sleep until the Lifegiver comes to give them life. We are not to cast one word of reflection upon God or upon His manner of working.
Local disturbances in nature are permitted to take place as symbols of that which may be expected all over the world when the angels loose the four winds of the earth. The forces of nature are under the direction of an Eternal Agency. (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, pp. 280, 281)
From this vision [Revelation 7:1–4] we can learn why so many are preserved from calamity. If these winds were allowed to blow upon the earth, they would create havoc and desolation. But the world’s intricate machinery is running under the Lord’s supervision. Hurricanes, threatening to break forth, are held under control by the regulations of the One who is the Protector of the trembling ones that fear God and keep His commandments. The Lord holds back the tempestuous winds. He will not suffer them to go forth on their death-mission of vengeance until His servants are sealed in their foreheads. (Ibid., p. 279)
This Is the World Out of Control
Soon the four winds of heaven will be loosed, and in every part of the globe there will be dissension, strife, war, bloodshed. Satan is stirred with intensity from beneath. (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, p. 177)
This out-of-control world is filled with confusion, violence, and delusions of every kind, and it will only get worse. For example,
My attention was turned to the wicked, or unbelievers. They were all astir. The zeal and power with the people of God had aroused and enraged them. Confusion, confusion, was on every side. (White, Early Writings, p. 272)
I saw the sword, famine, pestilence, and great confusion in the land. The wicked thought that we had brought the judgments upon them, and they rose up and took counsel to rid the earth of us, thinking that then the evil would be stayed. (Ibid., p. 33)
And in the churches:
I saw that since Jesus left the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary and entered within the second veil, the churches have been filling up with every unclean and hateful bird. I saw great iniquity and vileness in the churches; yet their members profess to be Christians. Their profession, their prayers, and their exhortations are an abomination in the sight of God. Said the angel, “God will not smell in their assemblies. Selfishness, fraud, and deceit are practiced by them without the reprovings of conscience. And over all these evil traits they throw the cloak of religion.” I was shown the pride of the nominal churches. God is not in their thoughts; their carnal minds dwell upon themselves; they decorate their poor mortal bodies, and then look upon themselves with satisfaction and pleasure. Jesus and the angels look upon them in anger. Said the angel, “Their sins and pride have reached unto heaven. Their portion is prepared. Justice and judgment have slumbered long, but will soon awake. Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” The fearful threatenings of the third angel are to be realized, and all the wicked are to drink of the wrath of God. An innumerable host of evil angels are spreading over the whole land and crowding the churches. These agents of Satan look upon the religious bodies with exultation, for the cloak of religion covers the greatest crime and iniquity. (Ibid., p. 274)
We face the long-looked-for close of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, and part of this closure involves the loosening of the four winds of the earth and the sealing of the servants of God in their foreheads. This sealing is a settling into truth:
Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads—it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved—just as soon as God’s people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come. Indeed, it has begun already; the judgments of God are now upon the land, to give us warning, that we may know what is coming (MS 173, 1902). (Ellen White, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1161)
And the shaking that comes after we are sealed is caused by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans:
I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. (White, Early Writings, p. 270)
This counsel is found in Revelation 3:18:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Unless we “heed the counsel of the ‘faithful and true Witness,’ and zealously repent and obtain ‘gold tried in the fire,’ ‘white raiment,’ and ‘eye-salve,’ He will spew” (White, Early Writings, p. 107) us out of his mouth.
The “gold tried in the fire is faith that works by love” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 158). The white raiment is “the covering which Christ Himself has provided” (Ibid., p. 311). It is “the robe of His own righteousness, [which] Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul. ‘I counsel thee,’ He says, ‘to buy of Me . . . white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.’ Revelation 3:18” (Ibid.). Ellen White continues:
This robe, woven in the loom of heaven, has in it not one thread of human devising. Christ in His humanity wrought out a perfect character, and this character He offers to impart to us. . . . By His perfect obedience He has made it possible for every human being to obey God’s commandments. When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah. (Ibid.)
In addition, “the eyesalve is that wisdom and grace which enables us to discern between the evil and the good, and to detect sin under any guise” (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 88).
God does not want us to be part of a nominal church that teaches error, that elevates display, and/or that offers smooth pleasantries which avoid the reality of God’s judgments already coming upon the earth. Instead, God offers us something better:
The Lord shows that there is something better for his people than mere outward worship. He demands of them a pure and undefiled religion. The gold he bids them buy of him is the gold of character. The eyesalve is obtained by earnest seeking of the Lord. We are to come to God confessing our sins and humbling our hearts before him. If ever there was a people who needed to pray most earnestly to God, if ever there was a people who needed to strip themselves of everything that is offensive to him, it is this people who profess to keep the commandments of God and to have the faith of Jesus. (Ellen White, General Conference Bulletin, June 6, 1909)
Concerning the closing scenes of this earth’s history, Ellen White saw and then wrote:
Soon I saw the saints suffering great mental anguish. They seemed to be surrounded by the wicked inhabitants of the earth. Every appearance was against them. Some began to fear that God had at last left them to perish by the hand of the wicked. But if their eyes could have been opened, they would have seen themselves surrounded by angels of God. Next came the multitude of the angry wicked, and next a mass of evil angels, hurrying on the wicked to slay the saints. But before they could approach God’s people, the wicked must first pass this company of mighty, holy angels. This was impossible. The angels of God were causing them to recede and also causing the evil angels who were pressing around them to fall back. (White, Early Writings, p. 283)
May we always be aware of the angels of God surrounding us, and may we seek the gold of perfection and the beauty of Christ’s righteousness. May the yearnings of our soul keep us ever focused heavenward, where the saints will one day worship our heavenly Father and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and where they will walk that beautiful street of gold.
Great is the reward in heaven of those who are witnesses for Christ through persecution and reproach. While the people are looking for earthly good, Jesus points them to a heavenly reward. But He does not place it all in the future life; it begins here. The Lord appeared of old time to Abraham and said, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” . . . to be brought into sympathy with Him, to know Him, to possess Him, as the heart opens more and more to receive His attributes; to know His love and power, to possess the unsearchable riches of Christ, to comprehend more and more “what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18, 19)—“this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17.
It was this joy that filled the hearts of Paul and Silas when they prayed and sang praises to God at midnight in the Philippian dungeon. Christ was beside them there, and the light of His presence irradiated the gloom with the glory of the courts above. (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 34, 35)
Hallelujah! Worthy, worthy is the Lamb!
Recently Dr. Paul Church was expelled from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a Harvard-affiliated hospital in Boston, where he had practiced medicine for nearly thirty years. The reason for his expulsion?
Dr. Church was informed that because of his “unsolicited views about homosexuality that were offensive to BIDMC Staff,” he was being terminated from the hospital staff. Further, he was told that his statements on the subject of homosexuality were “inconsistent with the established standards of professional conduct” and constituted a violation of the hospital’s “Discrimination and Harassment Policy.” (http://www.massresistance.org/docs/gen2/15b/DrChurch-BIDMC/)
Since this kind of reasoning has become commonplace, it might seem to have a ring of soundness to it, but it is important to note that nothing negative was said by the committee investigating Dr. Church concerning his personal conduct with his patients, many of whom were from the LGBT community. In fact, no complaints had ever been received by the hospital from patients concerning Dr. Church, and some patients from the LGBT community had even written the committee in praise of Dr. Church’s treatment of them. Nothing also was said to refute the medical evidence he presented from peer-reviewed articles and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in defense of his stand concerning the medical risks of the LGBT lifestyle—higher incidences of HIV/AIDS, of STDs, of hepatitis, of parasitic infections, of anal cancers, of psychiatric disorders, and of premature death. In fact, the evidence he presented was ignored altogether. Also, nothing negative was said about his medical and surgical expertise. His expulsion was based solely upon his refusal to promote the hospital’s policy of endorsing and promoting the LGBT lifestyle, rather than alerting others to its negative health effects.
In his reasoned and dispassionate statement to the committee investigating him, he said:
In appearing here today, I appeal to the collective wisdom of this governance body to understand that there is a major problem with the medical center putting a political-social agenda ahead of its higher mission to protect the public from unhealthy behaviors and fully educate the public about those risks. By failing to warn the public about risks and dangers of certain behaviors common to homosexuality and the LGBT group, the medical center does a great disservice to the public at best, and at worst is complicit with a deception perpetrated on the public by a self-serving political-social agenda. This is not only BAD policy, it’s BAD medicine. (http://www.massresistance.org/docs/gen2/15b/DrChurch-BIDMC/mec.html,)
This is equivalent to a medical institution promoting the use of tobacco, in spite of the knowledge of its dangerous effects on health, because it is politically correct to do so.
We can expect to face the same type of illogical reasoning from those in authority, both within the church and without, and we can expect to face the same avoidance of flawless evidence. It will not matter at the close of time how impeccably our biblical truth is laid out, how great our service to mankind has been, or how law-abiding, in the state’s eyes, we have been, for no one will care. If we are casting our bread upon many waters today in hope of a return of intervention and protection from fellow citizens in the future (Ecclesiastes 11:1), we will be sadly disappointed at that time, for we will not be politically correct citizens who honor Sunday, as the state will require. Because of this we will be rejected, boycotted, mocked, and eventually condemned to death. It can be likened today to facing a terminal illness. We would not like going through such an illness, for it could be painful and increasingly debilitating, but we could never condemn God or doubt him over it, for we know he is always just, right, and good in all that he does, and we know we can trust him. In such a situation we would need to keep our eyes heavenward, and that is what we will need to do when the end of all things is upon us.
Satan has given us hints of what we can expect in the future—more Hitlers and Stalins; unleashed viruses and rampant antibiotic-resistant bacteria; never-ending disinformation and deception; the undermining of constitutional rights, with the loss of religious freedom; and the increasingly deplorable activity of cults, to which we collectively can expect to be likened, but we can be optimistic! We know the future. We know that our Saviour, leading the armies of heaven, will return to rescue us from the fury of Satan. Let us remain focused on the goodness of God and on his beautiful character, and, though we expect to suffer want and deprivation, let us determine to never look back. Someday the clouds will break, and all heaven, including our heavenly Father, will arrive! What a day of rejoicing that will be! There will be no dark valley then, when Jesus comes to gather his loved ones home. Then we will know peace forevermore, and then we will experience joy and beauty beyond description, Let us now cheerfully follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, for he will lead us straight to the gates of heaven, and our pilgrimage will then be over! Worthy, worthy is our Lord!
(This concludes our series on Preparing for the End.)
. Job 38–41
. Daniel 7:9, 10
. Hebrews 12:29
. Matthew 18:20
. Revelation 1:15
. Revelation 1:10
. Revelation 2; Isaiah 9:6; 42:3; Revelation 19:11–15
. Luke 9:23; Isaiah 61:10; Zechariah 3:4; Matthew 22:11–1
. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Jeremiah 33:8; Ezekiel 11:19
. Isaiah 53:6
. Revelation 21
. Isaiah 11:6; 65:25
. Isaiah 66:12
. Isaiah 57:15; 66:2; Matthew 5:3, 5, 8
. Revelation 2, 3; 21:7
. Revelation 14:4
. See also James 2:5; Galatians 5:6; 1 Timothy 6:18.
. See also Revelation 19:8; Luke 9:23; Isaiah 61:10; Zechariah 3:4; Matthew 22:11–14.
. See also John 14:26.
The 60th General
Preface: In preparing these reports we are attempting to give the reader a behind-the-scene look into the General Conference session business meetings. As we have noted the Bulletins give less than one-third of the total account. Until now audio recordings have helped us to get a more complete picture; however, we recently learned that the General Conference Archives has published transcripts of the business sessions, available at: https://www.adventistarchives.org/gc-sess-transcripts-2015.
What we have tried to do in our reports is to examine the meetings and present that which will help provide a faithful report of what took place, with commentary to explain the significance of the events.
July 7 (Tuesday Morning – Ninth Business Session)
The goal of this meeting was to finish the discussion on the remaining fundamentals of belief (numbers 1, 6, 8, 24), which had been referred back to the committee.
Vice President Ella Simmons was the chairperson for the session. She appeared to conduct the session with kindness and grace.
Belief 24: The Sanctuary — The first of the beliefs to be discussed was the one on the sanctuary. The main issue was explained by Dr. Stele:
A suggestion was made yesterday that we replace one word that appears twice in the context of the typology. We said that the earthly and the heavenly sanctuary are related in the typology arrangement here, and we used for that the word “symbolized.” There was a suggestion for us to rethink it, and it may be better to use the word “typified” instead.
We have studied it, we have looked in the writings of Ellen G. White (how she is using it), we have used all other possible literature that was available, and we came to the conclusion that the suggestion is really good and it will make the intent clearer.
And so we move to adopt the suggestion and to replace the word “symbolized” with the word “typified.” (GC Archive Transcript of Ninth Business Meeting, July 7, 2015, p. 6)
Concerns were addressed by Ray Roennfeldt (SPD). He stated:
I would remind the delegates that the word “typified” is not used commonly in the English language these days, whereas “symbolized” is used. So I would recommend we stay with the wording as it’s been presented to us. (Ibid. p. 7)
Lawrence Ternaries, also of the SPD, expressed a similar concern; however, Baaju Ram Shrestha (SAD) favored the change, noting:
I prefer to use “typified” because of what it is in the context of antitype and type. “Typified” should be a proper use to understand our document. “Symbolized” is a very broad term, but “typified” is specific. Thank you. (Ibid.)
Another delegate suggested the term represented instead of symbolized or typified. Further concerns that typified might be hard to translate correctly were shared. To this Dr. Stele noted:
The intent of the fundamental beliefs is to present them in the English language as clearly as possible as far as ideology is concerned. And then every other language really needs to do the best that is possible to present the intended meaning.
It will not be easy, but if we don’t present a clear understanding in the original, it will then end up somewhere else in a different translation. (Ibid. p. 9)
After this question was called on the discussion, which was approved, followed by the approval of the statement; however, typified was not the only change. Gender-inclusive language was added, along with language to mention the typological significance of the work of the high priest in both the holy and most holy places of the earthly sanctuary. The finished statement then read:
There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle that the Lord set up and not humans. In it Christ ministers on our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross. At His ascension, He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and, began His intercessory ministry, which was typified by the work of the high priest in the holy place of the earthly sanctuary. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry, which was typified by the work of the high priest in the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary. It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. In that typical service the sanctuary was cleansed with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things are purified with the perfect sacrifice of the blood of Jesus. The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom. This judgment vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God shall receive the kingdom. The completion of this ministry of Christ will mark the close of human probation before the Second Advent. (Lev. 16; Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:6; Dan. 7:9–27; 8:13, 14; 9:24–27; Heb. 1:3; 2:16, 17; 4:14–16; 8:1–5; 9:11–28; 10:19–22; Rev. 8:3–5; 11:19; 14:6, 7; 20:12; 14:12; 22:11, 12; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
While some improvements may have been made, the one section that was unchanged continued to state the language of Questions on Doctrine, which promotes a finished atonement on the cross, with no final atonement in heaven!
Adventists do not hold any theory of a dual atonement. (Questions on Doctrine, p. 390; emphasis in the original)
What does the principle author of Questions on Doctrines (QOD), LeRoy Froom, mean by this? Let his own words speak:
How glorious is the thought that the King, who occupies the throne, is also our representative at the court of heaven! This becomes all the more meaningful when we realize that Jesus our surety entered the “holy places,” and appeared in the presence of God for us. But it was not with the hope of obtaining something for us at that time, or at some future time. No! He had already obtained it for us on the cross. (Questions on Doctrine, p. 381; emphasis in the original)
Froom taught there is only one atonement and that is the atonement of forgiveness at the cross. The atonement of cleansing from the Day of Atonement is gone and, with it, victory over sin and the vindication of God’s character! No wonder M. L. Andreasen protested so vigorously to Questions on Doctrine! But here we are today, with hardly a whisper of protest and with even professed historic Adventists claiming that this statement is a courageous realignment with our historic position. The position of Fundamental 24, however, is not the position of Ellen White, who clearly spoke of a final atonement in heaven. She wrote:
As the priests in the earthly Sanctuary entered the Most Holy once a year to cleanse the Sanctuary, Jesus entered the Most Holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Dan, viii, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by his mediation, and to cleanse the Sanctuary. (Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 161)
When Christ, the Mediator, burst the bands of the tomb, and ascended on high to minister for man, He first entered the holy place where, by virtue of His own sacrifice, He made an offering for the sins of men. With intercession and pleadings He presented before God the prayers and repentance and faith of His people, purified by the incense of His own merits. He next entered the Most Holy Place, to make an atonement for the sins of the people, and to cleanse the sanctuary. His work as high priest completes the divine plan of redemption by making the final atonement for sin. (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, p. 157)
The fact is the writers of the current fundamentals craft them in such a way to please both the conservatives and the liberals within the church. The fundamentals are written with doublespeak, and, without spiritual discernment, the average church member sees nothing wrong. We were raised up to be people of the atonement, people of the sanctuary doctrine! The sanctuary, with all its ramifications, is the only truth that sets us apart as a people and when we water it down, we have lost our place as a distinctive and peculiar people; we have forfeited our reason of existence.
The current fundamental contrasts with the original 1872 position, which is properly stated in two different beliefs.
That the sanctuary of the new covenant is the tabernacle of God in Heaven, of which Paul speaks in Hebrews 8, and onward, of which our Lord, as great High Priest, is minister; that this sanctuary is the anti-type of the Mosaic tabernacle, and that the priestly work of our Lord, connected therewith, is the antitype of the work of the Jewish priests of the former dispensation. Heb. 8:1–5, etc.; that this is the sanctuary to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days, what is termed its cleansing being in this case, as in the type, simply the entrance of the high priest into the most holy place, to finish the round of service connected therewith, by blotting out and removing from the sanctuary the sins which had been transferred to it by means of the ministration in the first apartment, Heb. 9:22, 23; and that this work, in the antitype, commencing in 1844, occupies a brief but indefinite space, at the conclusion of which the work of mercy for the world is finished. (1872 tract, “A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught & Practiced by The Seventh-Day Adventists,” Fundamental #10.)
That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that he dwelt among men full of grace and truth, lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in Heaven, where, with his own blood he makes atonement for our sins; which atonement so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of his work as priest, according to the example of the Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in Heaven. See Lev. 16; Heb. 8:4, 5; 9:6, 7; etc. (Ibid., Fundamental #2.)
These statements are in agreement with the Spirit of Prophecy, which teaches that the final atonement is made in the heavenly sanctuary. The final atonement is not made on the earth and then simply applied in heaven, as Questions on Doctrine states.
The 1872 statement on the sanctuary was slightly altered in 1889 and published in the Yearbook during the years 1889, 1905, and 1907–1914. The revised statement is more specific on where and when the final atonement is made:
That the sanctuary of the new covenant is the tabernacle of God in heaven, of which Paul speaks in Hebrews 8 and onward, and of which our Lord, as great high priest, is minister; that this sanctuary is the antitype of the Mosaic tabernacle, and that the priestly work of our Lord, connected therewith, is the anti-type of the work of the Jewish priests of the former dispensation (Heb. 8:1-5, etc.); that this, and not the earth, is the sanctuary to be cleansed at the end of the two thousand and three hundred days, what is termed its cleansing being in this case, as in the type, simply the entrance of the high priest into the most holy place, to finish the round of service connected therewith, by making the atonement and removing from the sanctuary the sins which had been transferred to it by means of the ministration in the first apartment (Lev. 16; Heb. 9:22, 23); and that this work in the antitype, beginning in 1844, consists in actually blotting out the sins of believers (Acts 3:19), and occupies a brief but indefinite space of time, at the conclusion of which the work of mercy for the world will be finished, and the second advent of Christ will take place. (1889 Yearbook)
Belief 8: The Great Controversy — The next fundamental discussed was number 8 on The Great Controversy. The part of the statement in question had read:
This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood. (2015 GC Agenda Book, p. 55)
The first suggestion was to change the statement to read:
This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood, as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1–11. (Ibid.)
The rational for this change was given in the Agenda Book:
There are a couple of reasons for placing this sentence here. First, this is the only place in the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs in which the flood is mentioned; second, the phrase “worldwide flood” is the equivalent of the originally suggested reading (“and that the flood was global in nature”); and third, Statement #8 takes us back to creation and the fall making it possible to make a reference to Genesis 1–11 and not only to chapters dealing with the flood. (Ibid.)
During the discussion on the previous day, it was suggested that the term worldwide be replaced with global. The concern was that the term worldwide might be interpreted to mean simply the part of the world that was then known. Global, though, clearly denotes a flood over the entire planet. The notes in the Agenda Book show that this was the intent of the writers, so the committee had no problem accepting the recommendation from the delegates and replaced worldwide with global, so that the section in question then stated:
This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the global flood, as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1–11. (Ibid.)
After one comment on a possible redundancy of the Genesis reference with Belief 6, the statement was passed.
Thus far fundamentals 8 and 6 were covered. These were the beliefs that Dr. Stele noted were the “easier ones.” The Bible and Creation beliefs would not prove as simple.
Belief 1: The Holy Scriptures — The first statement on the Bible given by the Seventh-day Adventists within a statement of fundamentals was in 1872. It read:
That the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, were given by inspiration of God, contain a full revelation of his will to man, and are the only infallible rule of faith and practice. (1872 tract, Fundamental #3)
Here the Scriptures are said to be the “full revelation” of God to man and “the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” This is as sola scriptura as one can get. This was changed in the 1931 statement to be an “all-sufficient revelation” of God’s will (1931 Yearbook). Finally in 1980 the Scriptures were “the infallible revelation” of God’s will (Church Manual, 1981 ed.).
The proposed language of the new statement was to say that the Scriptures were “the final, authoritative, and the infallible revelation” of God’s will; however, some of the delegates were not comfortable with the term final. As Dr. Stele noted:
A number of delegates spoke to us. They have a problem with the word “final” authority. They feel it is a chronological problem, and they asked us to look into it. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 43)
Therefore, the committee brought back the statement as thus:
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration. The inspired authors spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to humanity the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history. (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 30:5, 6; Isa. 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Heb. 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.) (Ibid.)
Here we see that the word final has been replaced with the term supreme. This was an attempt to make the principle of sola scriptura explicit. In doing this the framers of the statement were coming closer to the 1872 Statement of the pioneers of Adventism.
There were three other changes, as well, from the prior statement. These changes had already been proposed but not discussed. The first was to change holy men of God to inspired authors. The reason given for this change was to give the statement gender-inclusive language.
The second change was to modify the phrase:
In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation.
In this Word, God has committed to humanity the knowledge necessary for salvation. (2015 GC Agenda Book, p. 53)
This was also for gender-inclusive language to be used.
The third change was to revise the Scripture from being :
. . . the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines . . .
. . . the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines . . . (Ibid.)
The committee explained the purpose of this change so as:
To avoid a repetitive use of “authoritative.” The word “definitive” establishes an understanding of the Bible as its own standard, without implying that we evaluate the Bible’s role relative to a human assessment of rationality. (Ibid.)
Thus the background to fundamental 1 was to be discussed on Tuesday, and discussion did come. It was centered around the following points:
Concerning the first point, even using the terms “supreme” and “authoritative” were not direct enough for some. Roger Robertson of the General Conference stated:
The committee has been working hard to find a better word, but for me it’s still not good enough.
In the preamble, we say on line 12, on the same page, “Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed.” So I would suggest that we replace whatever word you’ve been mentioning now with the word “sole.” It means that lines 25 and 26 will read “They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the sole revealer of doctrines.” I believe in the sola scriptura principle. I accept Ellen White as an authority. But in this connection, we really need to state that we believe in the sola scriptura principle, so I suggest we use the word “sole.” (GC Archive Transcript of Ninth Business Meeting, July 7, 2015, p. 12)
Jim Howard (NAD) then spoke to multiple issues with the proposed statement:
The terminology “the uninspired [sic, as the audio recording has Howard saying inspired] authors” is, I don’t believe, what we would want to do to reflect what the Spirit of Prophecy uses when referring to those who wrote the Bible.
As far as I understand, she [Ellen White] always used the terminology “God’s penmen” or “human writers,” but never referred to “humans” as the authors of Scripture. Only God is—the Holy Spirit is—the divine author. Humanity writes, but God is the one who authored the Bible.
And so that raises some concern with me. And I believe that the previous terminology did not create a problem. I know that we are trying to be very careful to be gender-inclusive, and I’ve appreciated some of those changes. But this particular one is simply a quote from Scripture that describes that holy men of God who were moved by the Holy Spirit are the ones who wrote the Bible.
And I don’t know why we would want to remove something that’s a scriptural reference, which strengthens the fundamental belief, and to replace it with what I believe is a little bit of a troubling term, to say that there were human authors.
Second, in response to a previous delegate, I would like to suggest that we remember that the sola scriptura principle does point to the fact that the gift of prophecy is an identifying mark of the remnant church and it does have doctrinal authority, though it must be tested by the Scripture. (Ibid., pp. 12, 13)
Gerard Damsteegt then noted:
I appreciate the efforts for inclusive language. But, again, as I reiterated yesterday, inclusive language is used if you can substitute “male” and “female.” In this case, you cannot, because there were no females that wrote any of the Bible.
Second, you can find females, but then you have to go to the higher critical scholars. They speculate, speculate, speculate.
But if you stay, as has been reiterated by sola scriptura in the Bible, we have to go back to “men.”
Also, frequently yesterday we emphasized inserting the biblical text instead of other things. Here what we are doing is just the opposite. We have a plain biblical text, and now we divide it into two sentences, it becomes unclear, and we have the whole problem with human authors, inspired authors.
I did the research in the Spirit of Prophecy. Yes, she uses “authors,” “human authors,” but never for the Scriptures. It’s always God is the author, Jesus is the author, the Holy Spirit is the author, and the writers are human writers, inspired writers, called penmen. Therefore, in the light of being biblical all the way through, sola scriptura, we should reject demonizations here and go back to the original text. (Ibid. p. 14)
The points that Damsteegt makes are sharp and clear. If you study the Bible, there is clear evidence that every book was written by a man. This is not to say that God could not have chosen a woman, but in his providence he did not. Damsteegt further makes reference to 2 Peter 1:21: “. . . holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Damsteegt pleads with the delegates to follow the counsel to stay with biblical language where possible.
Damsteegt’s plea was met by Dr. Stele with the argument that the Greek word translated men in 2 Peter 1:21 is anthropos. Anthropos is then declared to be a word that “can mean both genders” (GC Archive Transcript of Ninth Business Meeting, July 7, 2015, p. 15). Dr. Stele used 2 Peter 3:1–5 as an example of where it is applied to women. He then further stated:
And the Bible speaks about at least 10 women prophets, and a number of prophecies are really presented as they were spoken; for example, by Anna, by Miriam, and others.
And so to be biblically correct, here the best way to interpret, to translate, the word anthropos is to be gender-inclusive. (Ibid.)
This answer did not satisfy everyone. Louis Torres stated:
First of all, the word anthropos, when Jesus uses it, for example, about the issue of divorce, He says, “Therefore shall an anthropos leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife.” When the disciples heard what He said, they responded, If this is a case with anthropos and his wife, “it’s not good to be married.” So the word anthropos can very definitely mean men. Because if you decide to put “Therefore shall a person cleave unto his wife,” then we could agree with the Supreme Court of the United States today.
So I think we need to be very clear that that word anthropos can also be singular. I did the Spirit of Prophecy research on who wrote the Bible. And constantly Mrs. White says very clearly, “Men wrote the Bible.” And since Dr. Stele is saying that they spoke, what you’re writing here is not what they spoke but what they’ve written. And since we are addressing what is written, it is clear from the Scriptures and the writing of Mrs. White that only men wrote the Bible. Thank you. (Ibid., p. 16)
While Ellen White does not use the exact phrase men wrote the Bible, she does say the Bible was “written by holy men” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 265). As Damsteegt noted only men (males) wrote the Bible; therefore, there is no need to use gender-inclusive language. David Ripley (NSD) gave a counterpoint:
Perhaps it’s the word “authors” that may be tripping us up. If we make this gender-exclusive, then we have to be saying that the words of Miriam were not inspired or the words of the mother of Jesus, Mary, or Elizabeth were not inspired. And we don’t want to say that. We need to say that those who spoke and wrote were all inspired. (Ibid., p. 19)
Later Clinton Wahlen helped clarify the situation by replying:
With due respect to my colleagues on the Writing Committee, the word anthropos is defined by the context. Although the verse that is referred to refers to them speaking, the previous verse indicates that the speaking of prophecy is a prophecy of Scripture, that is, of writing.
And, yes, there were many women who spoke and whose words are recorded in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments, but I don’t think on that basis we would want to canonize the speakers; otherwise we would canonize people like Menander, who was quoted by the apostle Paul.
Also, it’s good to stick with biblical language, as we did with belief 25, for example. Sometimes I think we bend over backwards when we don’t have to. We should make it as clear as possible. And that will also facilitate its translation into other languages accurately, because biblical language is much easier to translate.
Furthermore, Ellen White never refers to this verse in a gender-neutral sense. She always refers to the writers of the Bible as men, and there’s no evidence otherwise that we have from history or tradition. (Ibid., pp. 20, 21)
Earlier Jerona Tuinstra (TED) took issue with Damsteegt and Torres about the gender issue, stating:
Madam Chair, with all due respect to Dr. Damsteegt and Brother Torres, unless they have some knowledge, we don’t have and know all the genders of the authors of the Bible. We should applaud this change, unless of course you have some unbiblical prejudice that women could never write or prophesy any portion of the Bible.
Also, the Bible originated as an oral tradition, so the stories of the Bible were told and therefore prophesied, and God has never been gender-exclusive with prophets. (Ibid., p. 20)
Tuinstra implies that there is no proof that the biblical writers were all men but then, categorically, stated that the Bible “originated as an oral tradition.” But with all due respect to Tuinstra, while many of the stories of the Bible were, no doubt, first told and retold to others orally, where is his proof that men or women finally just wrote down the “tradition” that had been handed to them? On the contrary, the Bible was written by “holy men of God [who] spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).
After a discussion period of about forty minutes, fundamental 1 was passed.
Belief 6: Creation — This left only the statement on creation to discuss. Bringing this statement into a clear position of harmony with the theology of the church was the motivation to open up the fundamentals for review. Creation was the most discussed fundamental from the day before and would carry its share of time in this session. Before the discussion began in earnest, Ángel Rodríguez and Bill Knott (members of the committee to rewrite the fundamentals) were asked to share some of the process and rational for what was presented to the delegates on creation. Much of their presentations were not in the Bulletins. Rodríguez began:
We knew from the very beginning that fundamental belief 6 would be a subject of particular interest to the delegates. And as the committee began to work on it, we came to an agreement among us that we were going to avoid as much as possible using language that was ambiguous, that would lend itself to read into the statement evolutionary ideas or to be interpreted along the lines of theistic evolution.
So we made an effort to exclude, as much as possible, terminology that was ambiguous, so that intentionally the statement is rejecting evolutionary thinking, theistic evolution, or any way of interpreting Genesis 1 along evolutionary lines.
This statement is totally incompatible with theistic evolution. And I think, in that, we are standing on the Adventist doctrine of Creation.
That is my first point. I want to make two more comments. The second one has to do with the use of the word “recent.” This word was found in the document Affirmation of Creation. We took it from there. We put it here. The term is not used to date Creation. In other words, the intention of the use of this term is not to date the divine act of Creation. If I’m not mistaken, the church has never officially—and I’m putting the emphasis on “officially” dated the divine act of Creation as recorded in Genesis 1.
Among Adventists there are different traditions. Some of them talk about 6,000, some talk about 10,000, 13,000. The intention of this is to argue that the Creation record, or the Creation itself, took place not too long ago. Creation took place not too long ago.
And by using this terminology, we are, in principle, rejecting deep time—the deep time that is part of the evolutionary theory of millions and millions of years.
We do have some basic biblical information that will allow for us to talk about a short chronology. We do have genealogies. And I would be the first one to acknowledge that the genealogies found in the Bible are not complete, but they provide enough evidence to indicate that Creation took place not too long ago.
My third comment is about the emphasis on the literal reading of the Creation narrative. We, the committee, worked with the understanding that Adventists have interpreted Genesis 1 through 3 to describe what literally happened there, and that this is a historical description of a historical event.
In fact, we assume as Adventists and Bible students that the history of our planet, that the history of human life and life in general on the planet, began with Genesis 1 and is part of the flow of the history of the planet. So it is with this in mind that we worked as we tried to edit the statement.
As for the seven days, literal days, which is part of this literal interpretation, we don’t say—at least we’re not suggesting—that these were seven days of 24 hours, 60 minutes each hour. We are not suggesting that, because we cannot affirm that. But we do affirm that the days were literal days. If they were two seconds shorter or longer, we’re not going to fight over that. We have taken the days as the Bible indicates to be literal days.
I’m sure that we’re going to continue to argue about words, which words are the best, which words are not the best. My hope is that at the end of the discussion, we can say, “I disagree with the use of this word or this phrase, but I stand by the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of Creation as summarized in the document.” (GC Archive Transcript of Ninth Business Meeting, July 7, 2015, pp. 26–28)
Rodríguez certainly chose his words carefully to note that the church had not officially set a date or time for creation or an approximate time of how long it has been since creation began.
However, Ellen White repeatedly uses the round figure of six thousand years when making reference to the age of this earth and humanity. For example:
For six thousand years, faith has builded upon Christ. For six thousand years the floods and tempests of satanic wrath have beaten upon the Rock of our salvation; but it stands unmoved. (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 413)
In fact, Ellen White even declares that Satan’s rebellion is about six thousand years old, linking it so to indicate it to have begun very shortly before this world’s creation. In the book The Great Controversy, she uses the phrase six thousand years seven times in reference to the great controversy issue (pp. x, 518, 553, 656, twice on 659, 673). More precisely she stated in 1868 that the rebellion was, at that time, not quite six thousand years old, stating that it was “nearly six thousand years” old:
During his experience of nearly six thousand years he [Satan] has lost none of his skill and shrewdness. All this time he has been a close observer of all that concerns our race. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 171)
Not only Ellen White but the leading men of Adventism spoke of the creation being about six thousand years old. Notice the following examples:
The first day of the week was named by Jehovah 6,000 years ago. (Stephen Haskell, Bible Handbook, p. 78)
Compared with his eternity, the entire 6,000 years of earth’s existence are but a span. (E. J. Waggoner, The Signs of the Times, January 13, 1887)
If right, it may be known by its agreement with the divine standard. If wrong at its origin, it can never cease to be such. Satan’s great falsehood which involved our race in ruin has not yet become the truth, although six thousand years have elapsed since it was uttered. (J. N. Andrews, History of the Sabbath, p. 196)
The prophet of God in holy vision beholds the Sabbath of the Lord carried far beyond this world of sin. Thus the Holy Scriptures place the seventh day Sabbath like a grand arch at the beginning of the race of man, spanning the six thousand years of human probation, and reaching into a renovated world after sin is forever destroyed. (George I. Butler, The Change of the Sabbath, pp. 77, 78)
To the committee’s credit, according to Rodríguez, they accepted Genesis 1–3 as literal events and he hoped that, though not everyone will be pleased with every word or phrase, as a body the church would stand behind the statement.
Bill Knott then shared some perspectives, including a change that was made the night before:
You will recall that there was an entire year in this five-year sequence and called the Year of Listening. Well, that habit we have gained of learning to listen well to each other has served us well as a committee with the recommendations that came from the floor yesterday. And you will find the document is coming up in a moment for your consideration to reflect the comments that emerged from the floor from various quarters and points of view yesterday. The goal is always to find that better language that Seventh-day Adventists can rally around and that the vast majority of Adventists have historically believed.
In that context I would point you to the document that is now intended. This is what we would call, from an editing perspective, a clean copy—that is, uncluttered—so that you can see it as a positive statement.
You will note that the initial sentence that had been proposed in the document as of yesterday has been removed, the one that says, “God is Creator of all things.” It is not because we do not believe in God’s creative activity in all things. But one helpful comment identified that there were certain things in the material world formed by human beings that should not be laid at the charge of God; thus that sentence is removed. Now we have the beginning of the sentence, “God has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity.”
Next we heard from a number of respondents on the floor that we needed to carefully identify the historic Adventist understanding that God, at an earlier date, created angels and other portions of the universe before moving to the creation of Planet Earth. And we sought to embrace their contributions in the sentence that now begins “He created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation the Lord made ‘the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them,’ and rested on the seventh day.” The recitation of Exodus 20:11. The many comments made yesterday identifying the need for an understanding of sequence are embraced in what is now the second sentence of the document.
The third sentence, “Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His creative work, performed and completed during six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today.” This merely conjoined the ideas that we had been mandated as a committee by the session of 2010 to bring together the Affirmation of Creation and the previous language of fundamental 6.
And from there, the document reads, as it did yesterday, “The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was ‘very good,’ declaring the glory of God.” (GC Archive Transcript of Ninth Business Meeting, July 7, 2015, pp. 28, 29)
After Rodríguez and Knott spoke, GC President Ted Wilson took the floor to personally endorse the statement and encouraged the delegates to adopt it. Wilson noted, in part:
There is an interesting observation, and it has been alluded to here already. I think Dr. Rodríguez mentioned the word “recent.” You know, words are interesting things. You can put a spin on almost any word to make it say what you think you would like it to say or what maybe someone else ought to think the word says. It’s a kind of an interesting peculiarity in the spoken language.
But, in essence, we have come to the point where we need to clarify that this process was not old. So “recent” is supposed to mean “not old.”
Now, someone might say, “Well, what is ‘old’?” It’s certainly not in the line of what either theistic evolution or evolution would interpret as “old.” “Recent” is supposed to mean exactly what it says, recent. I will tell you from this pulpit, from this podium, personally I firmly believe in what the Spirit of Prophecy has indicated and with what we have understood in terms of biblical historicity that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old. We are not putting that language in here, but we are saying “recent.” So “recent” does not mean 1 million years ago, 2 million, 5 billion. It means recent.
And I would interpret that to mean 6,000, approximately, years old, but some may not quite see it that way. But “recent” means it’s not long ages. We believe in what Scripture has told us. (Ibid., pp. 30, 31)
Wilson’s support for the recent creation is clear and strong. While he notes that he agrees with and supports the six thousand concept that Ellen White speaks of, he does not press it into the fundamental, perhaps to stay within the boundaries of sola scriptura.
Though there was good overall support for the statement, it did receive a good bit of discussion—some to recommend it and some to offer changes.
One discussion point was on the term recent. Being a relative word it was questioned by some how we could tell what it means. Marvin Wray (NAD) even stated:
I would hesitate to speak anything that could be interpreted as being against this motion with my conference president sitting so close to me.
However, I really am troubled by the inclusion of the word “recent” in there simply because it really does not clarify. If we’re seeking not to make things ambiguous, to me this makes it more ambiguous. It’s not a biblical term.
The bottom line that applies to fundamental belief 1, which that we discussed as well, is that we can word these any way we want to, but when we go home, we’re all going to interpret it and teach it according to our interpretations.
And I’m just wanting to keep it really simple. At the end of the day, my question is: When I go back and teach my congregation, who’s going to monitor whether I’m teaching it according to a formal definition or according to my understanding and my interpretation? Thank you. (Ibid., pp. 32, 33)
Wray certainly raises an important point. Who is going to be the theological police to keep people in exact line, if they choose to express their thoughts differently or even have different views than the fundamental teaches? History has shown that dealing with heretics is not easy and usually leads to persecution. When Wray finished the discussion moved on, without any answers offered.
Kathryn Proffitt (GC) made a passionate plea to accept the statement, sharing how a son of hers studied as a biology major at an Adventist university and left as an atheist. Such is the tragic result on not having a clear statement on creation, but, as Wray noted, who will monitor this and especially in an academic setting?
Clifford Goldstein, in one of his few microphone visits, became quite excited about the topic and said:
For decades now, there has been an attempt, one way or another, to try to bring into our church an ideology that is completely, totally foreign and alien to everything biblical, every biblical principle. And that’s why Dr. Rodríguez was very clear about what we were dealing with here. We are purposely doing this to exclude evolution. I mean, we take the name “Seventh-day Adventist.” Is it too much to ask people who take the name “Seventh-day Adventist” to actually believe the name that you take for yourself? I mean, is that a little too hard? (Ibid. p. 34)
We can certainly agree with Goldstein’s plea to believe what the name says. It is too bad that those outside membership of the church who believe these two main doctrinal tenets of the church cannot take the name, without being sued by the General Conference!
After more discussion of a similar nature occurred, question was called on the motion, which passed, and this was followed by the adoption of the motion itself.
Statement of Confidence in the Writings of Ellen G. White
The last portion of business in the Tuesday morning session was a discussion and a vote on a statement affirming the church’s confidence in the writings of Ellen G. White. The statement given to the delegates was:
As delegates to the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, we express our deep gratitude to God for the continuing presence of the various spiritual gifts among His people (1 Cor 12:4–11; Eph 4:11–14), and particularly for the prophetic guidance we have received through the life and ministry of Ellen G. White (1827–1915).
On the centennial of her death, we rejoice that her writings have been made available around the globe in many languages and in a variety of printed and electronic formats.
We reaffirm our conviction that her writings are divinely inspired, truly Christ-centered, and Bible-based. Rather than replacing the Bible, they uplift the normative character of Scripture and correct inaccurate interpretations of it derived from tradition, human reason, personal experience, and modern culture.
We commit ourselves to study the writings of Ellen G White prayerfully and with hearts willing to follow the counsels and instructions we find there. Whether individually, in the family, in small groups, in the classroom, or in the church, a combined study of the Bible and her writings provide a transforming and faith-uplifting experience.
We encourage the continued development of both worldwide and local strategies to foster the circulation of her writings inside and outside the church. The study of these writings is a powerful means to strengthen and prepare His people for the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2015 GC Agenda Book, p. 71)
The first point of discussion involved the second sentence of the third paragraph. Dennis Meier noted:
There seems to be a discrepancy in the sentence, because if the first part is correct, it says that we uplift the normative character of Scripture. But if we say that we use the writings to correct inaccurate interpretations, I understand a correction to be a norm. So we are saying that we take that as normative as well. And I think the first part of the sentence expresses very well what we think and believe, that she uplifts the normative character of Scripture.
So I would suggest and move to amend the sentence to omit the second part, and close after “Scripture.” (GC Archive Transcript of Ninth Business Meeting, July 7, 2015, p. 40)
This motion was seconded and was, therefore, up for discussion. The the amended sentence would read, “Rather than replacing the Bible, they uplift the normative character of Scripture,” leaving off the part which stated “and correct inaccurate interpretations of it derived from tradition, human reason, personal experience, and modern culture.” To this Ronald Nalin (GC) stated:
Speaking on the suggested amendment, I think maybe the verb that is causing some trouble to the brother is use of the verb “correct.” But, for example, we could use the word “expose,” and so maybe the perceived conflict wouldn’t be there anymore.
I did notice, as well, that by using the word “correct” we seem to have a contradiction in our hermeneutics, because we are saying that we are correcting inaccurate interpretations. Interpretation has to do with hermeneutics, so we would be saying basically that to decide whether an interpretation is correct or incorrect, which is the work of hermeneutics, we use the writings of Ellen White. But if we were going to say she exposes incorrect interpretation, then the lesser light points us to the greater light, and then we can use Scripture to decide how to do our hermeneutics. (Ibid. pp. 41, 42)
So Nalin is willing to let the writings expose error but to him, allowing them to correct error would be setting the writings up as an interpreter of the Bible and denying sola scriptura. The writings could even be looked upon as a teaching magisterium with this statement. To Nalin’s comments Clinton Wahlen noted:
I think especially important are these lines . . . because the Spirit of Prophecy has helped us avoid wrong ideas derived from church tradition; human reason, which often is manifest through critical approaches to Scripture; personal experience, which might seem to be spirit-inspired or spirit-led, but may not be correct, may be of another spirit; and, of course, modern culture, which we feel and recognize acutely.
So I speak against the motion to amend. I’d like to suggest that the word [sic] “normative character of Scripture” makes it clear that we stand on the foundation of sola scriptura. The Spirit of Prophecy is simply the lesser light pointing to the greater light. Thank you. (Ibid., p. 42)
Later Ray Roennfeldt (SPD) spoke in support of the amendment, noting that it was different from what had been voted the day before on the Spirit of Prophecy, where the delegates desired to give Ellen White prophetic authority but not an authority to override sola scriptura.
Jim Howard (NAD) then spoke against the amendment and revealed he disapproved of the statement about the Spirit of Prophecy voted the previous day. He said:
I think it’s fascinating, the discussion that’s happening here now. Because yesterday, when we discussed the Spirit of Prophecy fundamental belief, we addressed the issue that, by removing truth from the fundamental belief, it may bring about the very thing that’s happening on the floor right now, which is people questioning whether or not what we really did yesterday was removed the Spirit of Prophecy as having any doctrinal authority. So I really feel that that may be a need to be readdressed.
As it stands, I think it’s very good, and I would speak against the amendment. I just want to bring to the delegates this statement from Early Writings, page 78.
“I recommend to you, dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice. By that Word we are to be judged. God has, in that Word, promised to give visions in the ‘last days”; not for a new rule of faith, but for the comfort of His people, and to correct those who err from Bible truth.” Very clearly, the gift of prophecy given to us was for, at least in part, the purpose of correcting those who err in their understanding of the Bible, and we need to uphold that. Thank you. (Ibid., p. 43)
Here is a direct statement from Ellen White saying that her writings, while they were not for a “new rule of faith,” were “to correct those who err from Bible truth” (emphasis supplied).
At this point in the session, time was running out, and the chair asked if the session could be extended for five minutes. A motion was made, seconded, and passed so the discussion could be finished.
Gerard Damsteegt then shared another reference from the writings to speak against the amendment:
There is a problem with the amendment. And I would like to cite the words of the prophet in regard to the relationship of correction. “The Word of God is sufficient to enlighten the mostly beclouded mind, and may be understood by those who have any desire to understand it. But notwithstanding all this, some who profess to make the Word of God their study are found living in direct opposition to the plainest teachings.
“Then, to leave men and women without excuse, God gives plain and pointed testimonies, bringing them back to the Word that they have neglected to follow” [Ellen White, Selected Messages, bk. 3, p. 31].
So here you see a clear statement that will be in opposition to the amendment, and therefore I would simply move to cease discussion. (Ibid., p. 44)
This was accepted as calling question on the amendment, which was approved, and the amendment was voted down. Discussion then was picked up by Vivencio Bermudez (SPD):
Thank you, Madam Chairman. In connection with the Statement of Confidence, if it is proper, may I raise a question as to what is the real stand of our church with regard to the Spirit of Prophecy, or Ellen G. White’s writings? First, is it a test of fellowship? And the second is Is it a test of leadership? When I mean “test of fellowship,” can we baptize a person who does not accept fundamental belief 18? And can we appoint a church leader who is not a firm believer of the gift of prophecy? (Ibid., pp. 45, 46)
The chair thanked Bermudez and went on. Nobody considered answering his question during the session, but surely someone had to think about it. The pioneer position was that a belief in Ellen White was not to be made a test of fellowship. Her name was never in our fundamentals until 1950. Ray Roennfeldt noted the day before:
. . . I think that she [Ellen White] would actually be scandalized by the fact that we as Seventh-day Adventists have incorporated her name in our Fundamental Beliefs. (GC Archive Transcript of Eighth Business Meeting, July 6, 2015, p. 37)
The last main statement of substance on the discussion was by Eric Hensel (TED):
When we say that the writings of Ellen G. White correct inaccurate interpretations of the Bible, I feel that we, with good intentions, make a mistake with our hermeneutics with the sentence in line 22, where we say that we believe in sola scriptura. But with using Ellen White to “correct inaccurate interpreting of the Bible,” Ellen G. White becomes the normative over the Bible and how the Bible should be read. This leads to the use of her writings as a corrector of biblical authority, as if everything she wrote were 100 percent what we can understand in the Bible. We would exclude the Holy Spirit for every reader and never grow in knowledge if we take the sentence as we read it.
So I would rather see the sentence changed. Thank you. (GC Archive Transcript of Ninth Business Meeting, July 7, 2015, pp. 46, 47)
After this, question was called on the motion, which was approved, and then the statement on confidence in Ellen White was approved. After the vote Dr. Stele noted:
I would just like to remind the delegates that it was stated that this statement is against the fundamental belief about the gift of prophecy. I would just remind that, in the statement that we voted yesterday, we have the following sentence: “Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide for comfort, guidance, construction, and correction to the church.” (Ibid., p. 48; emphasis supplied)
How can we reconcile the concept of sola scriptura with Ellen White’s statements in Early Writings, Selected Messages, as well as with fundamental 18, “The Gift of Prophecy?” Interestingly, the only time the word correction is used in the Bible (KJV) is in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” However, the root word that correction comes from is ὀρθῶς (orthōs), which means to make straight or upright. It is used in various forms in such texts as:
And make straight paths for your feet . . . (Hebrews 12:13)
. . . until the time of reformation. (Hebrews 9:10)
Stand upright on thy feet. (Acts 14:10)
Thus, biblical correction is a matter of straightening out that which is crooked.
Ultimately, correction comes from the Scriptures, but does God use human channels to deliver his correction? The answer must, of course, be yes. In Ephesians 4 we read of spiritual gifts and why they are given to the church:
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12, 13)
Correction will be needed for the perfecting of the saints and to bring all to a unity of faith. The fact that the unity of the faith is not in existence without the gifts is proof that correction is needed and uses the gifts, but that correction comes within the framework of the Scripture. That is why Ellen White could say:
The Lord has sent his people much instruction, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little. Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light. (Ellen White, The Review and Herald, January 20, 1903)
Nobody would question a pastor correcting a drunkard for using alcohol, as long as the minister did it with the kind use of Scripture. Nobody would say that the minister was placing himself above the Bible or supplanting sola scriptura in using the Bible for that correction. When one reads the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, there is an abundance of scripture and scriptural principles expressed that are used to correct the people of God but done in a manner to show that the Bible is the supreme and final authority.
The morning session was complete. The afternoon would be devoted to approving the rest of the Church Manual, preparing the way for the main theological event of the conference—the issue of women’s ordination.
. These transcripts show very minor editing for grammar and clarification and very closely represent that which was said.
. We incorrectly also listed number 9 in this group on page 22 of the December 2015 issue of Old Paths, but as noted on pages 13 and 14 of the same issue, fundamental 9 had already been discussed and approved. We apologize for the error.
continued on page 21, col. 2
Escape from Siberia
(This installment is Chapter 7 of Escape from Siberian Exile by John Godfrey Jacques, published by Pacific Press in 1921.)
AN EXILE STATION
THROUGHOUT March, I was so ill that I had to lie in bed nearly all the time—a result, no doubt, of the exposure and want of the preceding months. For a still longer time, I could hear continually, with all the vividness of actuality, the rattling of shackles and the shouts of guards which had sounded in my ears during those months.
Late in April, I was well enough to walk a short distance, with help, along the trail that led through the deep snow between our lodgings and the river. The sunshine was then bright and cheery, though the cold was still severe.
Even while suffering physically, I was happy; for though under guard, yet I could breathe the pure out-of-door air, and go about freely within narrow limits.
In Siberia, as in many parts of Russia, the people are unaccustomed to sleeping in beds. A bed is commonly included in a bride’s dower, but it is merely for display. When we were strong enough, we bestirred ourselves to get something else to sleep on than the one poor semblance of a bed which our room contained. The people were astonished that we should think of indulging in such luxury; but we deemed it a necessity, for protection from the cold that came through the crevices in the rough floor.
Although there was a boundless supply of timber in the dense forests all about, the deep snow prevented our securing any of it; but we found birch saplings, and bent these in such a manner as to give a springiness to the beds we manufactured of them. At first, our attempts aroused much ridicule; but after awhile, other of the exiles tried to imitate our products.
A perplexing problem was, how to defend ourselves against the hordes of bedbugs that assailed us at night. To rid our room of these pests was impossible, as the log walls furnished innumerable hiding places for them.
By experiment, we learned that the creatures could not swim. So we set the legs of our bedsteads in cans of water, and thus were insured against attack.
The people about us marveled when they learned of this device. All their lives, they had been tormented by these pestiferous insects, often being ill in consequence. Yet they had never resorted to even so simple a plan of defense.
Immediately after arriving at our destination, we had written home; but not till near the first of June did an answer reach us. In the spring months, the breaking up of the ice makes the river impassable for either sleds or boats; and these northern stations are entirely cut off from the world during that period.
For about three months of the summer, river steamers come up from the south, bringing flour and other supplies, and taking in exchange pine nuts that the settlers gather from the forests. Some years there are none of these nuts to be found; but one good crop pays for provisions for a number of years.
The large rivers of Siberia all flow toward the north. In spring, the ice near the sources of the rivers breaks up fully a month earlier than that at their mouths ; and the broken ice, as it is carried northward by the current, is forced beneath the still solid ice of those colder latitudes, causing it to burst with a tremendous boom, like that of heavy thunder.
This broken ice forms immense dams, which cause the rivers to overflow thousands of square miles of the tundra. For this reason, only the small patches of higher land along the rivers are inhabited, except by the native Tungus. The people of that wild tribe travel over the swamps in summer, as over the snow in winter, on skis.
The settlements become little islands when the tundra is flooded; and there is never any certainty as to the height at which the water will cease to rise. The people always have their canoes ready for use in case the water should reach the houses.
In the month of June, the mouths of the rivers become free of ice. Then the water from the tundra flows back to the river beds. The retreating water leaves a thick mud over the land. In the remaining six or eight weeks of the summer, there grows up in this mud a coarse grass, man-high, which is the only fodder obtainable for horses and cattle.
The leanness of the stock, however, is caused not so much by lack of food, as by the cold. Each year, many domestic animals freeze to death. Still others fall victims to the big Siberian bears.
As the horses and the cattle must be kept in stables throughout the long winter, they suffer from the confinement; and the owners let them out in the spring as soon as patches of ground can be found where the snow is sufficiently melted off.
Not long after we reached Alatayevo, a cow that had been let out for exercise, was found dead, the body partially devoured. The men of the village organized a bear hunt; and eventually they found the guilty beast—a big female bear.
With four or five cubs, she was snugly sheltered in a natural tent formed by the drooping branches of a pine tree. The weight of the snow on the branches bent them down so that their outer ends reached the ground, but no snow could sift through the thick foliage.
The old bear was killed, and the cubs were captured. One of the cubs was given to the children of the family that the chief of our guard lived with, and it became very much of a pet. I used often to see it when I went to call on the guard.
I know of no more charming pets than young bears. They are very playful—more so than any kitten—amusing themselves for hours at a time by turning somersaults, or clutching the head in the hind paws and rolling over and over like a ball, or performing other comical “stunts.” They are also very chummy with their human friends.
This one soon learned to take milk from a bottle. Having been accustomed, bear-like, to sucking its paws, it had little difficulty in substituting the bottle rubber for them.
Still more, it soon acquired the art of holding the bottle in its paws. A ludicrous figure the little fellow made, sitting up on his haunches, with the bottle in his big paws. And even little bears have very big paws.
When we had been in Siberia about two months, all the exiles in our village were summoned to the house of the head man of the station, to get our apportionment of money for the time we had been in exile—seven rubles and twenty copecks a month for each person. Later fifty copecks extra was added. Ordinarily one ruble is equal to half a dollar of American money; but because of the war, the value had then fallen to about a third of a dollar. No allowance was given in advance.
Meanwhile Gorelic and I had received a few dollars from home. Exiles were permitted to have only small amounts, any larger sums that were sent to them being confiscated. We purchased a few dishes, also fish and meat, and sometimes a little milk.
The fish and the meat, and even the milk, were frozen. Farther south, where there are markets, milk is sold in solid blocks, carried by a string or a stick, one end of which has been frozen into the block.
The people of Siberia subsist almost wholly on meat, fish, and tea, with an imitation of bread. This last is made largely of small wild berries, which are dried, ground, and mixed with a dark, inferior flour that is shipped from the south. White flour is a dainty enjoyed by the wealthiest only, as are also any fruits and vegetables that are imported. The few potatoes grown in the country do not mature, and are of very inferior quality. Hardier vegetables could be grown, but the people undertake nothing their fathers did not do.
Nature has attractions even in Siberia, especially in winter. I could almost be content to live there—in freedom. The country is beautiful. The great firs, bent under their load of snow, seem like gray-haired patriarchs. But the reflection of the sunlight on the snow is so dazzling that it often causes injury to the sight. ?
From the File Cabinet of History
Broadcast Services Available
We wish to inform our new readers and remind our old readers that we broadcast our main services each week. This includes our Wednesday night prayer meeting (7 pm EST), our Sabbath morning song service (9:15 am EST), a Youth/Adult Sabbath school class (9:35 am EST), and Sabbath Worship services (11 am EST).
These services can be accessed over the phone by dialing 1–712–832–8320 and by entering the reference code 755896 when prompted. Follow the rest of the prompts to be a part of the service. This connection includes a feature that allows you to interact with the service. You may also use this phone connection for our weekly story hour on Mondays at 7 pm EST. The story being read at this time is Pilgrims’s Progress, Part 2, Christiana by John Bunyan.
For those who have Internet access and wish to view the service as well as hear it, you may access the service at www.webmeetinglogin.com/go/church/services. Log in using any user name you wish, and you may see and hear the services, as well as use the chat board for prayer requests and comments. Editors
Two Mission Reports from the Philippines
During my first month in the Philippines, I stayed in Pissong, on the island of Negros Oriental, and right away we were faced with decisions concerning the school Pastor David Sims wishes to reopen and other issues. We looked for facilities for accessing and maintaining the property of the school. In a store we discovered supplies for generating solar power, which is an option for the school.
We learned of a group of people holding a camp meeting on Mindanao. Sister Marrah Matarum lives on Mindanao and knew the naturopathic doctor organizing it and felt that he would be open to hearing the truth about God, so Pastor David and I decided to visit this camp meeting. It took us forty-four hours of travel to go from Pisong in La Libertad on the island of Negros Oriental to Valencia on the island of Mindanao—we traveled by ferry (more than once) and by bus (often). We left Negros Oriental and arrived in Dapitan, Mindanao, after we were prevented from traveling by ferry for a day because of a typhoon in the area. We were blessed that this didn’t hinder us in a negative way and was actually a blessing because it allowed us a day of needed rest. After arriving in Dapitan we traveled by bus toward the city of Valencia, which involved a ferry ride from Ozamiz to Kolambugan. This saved a lot of time backtracking on the coastal road. While we rode the ferry, which also carried our bus, we met a Filipino gentleman who had lived in Kansas, working as a teacher for several years. The Lord opened an opportunity to share with this man, as we were able to speak about true education with him, which allowed us to speak to him about the Sabbath, the mark of the beast, and the new world order that the ungodly are trying to create. He thanked us for our missionary efforts, and we gave him literature as we parted.
Many hours later we arrived in Valencia, Mindanao, meeting Sister Marrah and her brother, Mark, and were led to our abode, where we were able to rest for the night. The next day we met again with Sister Marrah and with a few other sisters, who joined us for breakfast. Later we began our trek to the camp meeting, which was about six hours away, outside of Davao City.
The camp meeting was themed The Time of the End and the End of Time—Exposing Last Day Deception. There were some good meetings. The brother who is a naturopathic doctor spoke on character development, as well as on health. I did not understand some of what he was saying, as he spoke in his native tongue; however, all his references, most of which were from Ellen White, were in English and presented from a projector.
Pastor David was able to share a few messages. He started with a presentation on the mind and its faculties. Later he gave messages of Jesus being the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. These were mostly well-received. We had good fellowship there. I spoke with a brother and encouraged him to continue studying the Godhead. I also spoke with another brother, who was from America. He was very concerned about the message of righteousness by faith, as taught by Jones and Waggoner. At the camp meeting there were about seventy to one hundred souls.
After the camp meeting we came back to Valencia, which has been our seat of operations and which will be until we head back to Negros. While we have been in Valencia, we have been able to meet and study with others. We traveled about two hours west and met with an independent church. Pastor David was able to share on true education with about thirty souls. We had a study on the truth about God with the leader of the group. We also visited a recovering elder who had been ill. We traveled to a neighboring town near Valencia and spent time with a brother, with whom we studied when he brought up questions, especially questions regarding the lunar sabbath. We also went to another neighboring town and shared the Godhead truth with a group of about ten.
The southwestern side of Mindano is Muslim-controlled, and foreigners are advised to avoid it because of the many kidnappings that have occurred there. We were told to be careful, even in the northwestern area, and to check with the Coast Guard about which buses to ride on; nevertheless, I have found it to be a great experience here in Mindanao, as well as in the Philippines as a whole. I have seen where men, professing to be of God, have barred doors and where God has opened new ones. May He continue to bless the work here. Michael Woodward
We were recently blessed when God sent two of His servants, Pastor David Sims and Michael Woodward, to us here in Mindanao, Philippines. Pastor David was sick when he arrived, but, through human weakness, the Lord’s strength was made perfect. God opened the way for us to attend a camp meeting attended by seventy-five to one hundred people, most of whom are in the Seventh-day Adventist community. The messages at the camp were a call to reformation and alerting them to the agenda of the new world order. We were asked to share, at first, a message about the mind but by the intervention of God, we were later asked to share on the topic of the Son of God. It created an interest to the degree that Pastor David was asked again to talk, this time about the Holy Spirit. The total time for the Godhead message ended up being about four hours, including question and answer time. There were lots of young adults, and there were many that received it well. Some asked for Pastor David’s material to study further. Some spoke individually with us, as well. These messages were a testimony to the power of God, as Pastor David was sick with a cough, with a sore throat, with a hoarse and quiet voice, and with a fever of 101 to 102 degrees throughout his presentations, yet the messages were very clearly presented, according to the testimony of several, including that of the organizer of the meetings, who had been in the valley of decision concerning the subject of the messages.
After the camp, the Lord also opened the door to share the truth about God with several other individuals. Another individual who has been wavering on the Sabbath because of the lunar sabbath theory asked us to help him clarify that issue in his mind. The Lord blessed the study and the individual’s confusion was cleared up.
The highlight of their visit was when several young people came over to study. One of these had been offered to gods as a child, and it has angered the enemy whenever she has tried to study, and she has had great difficulty focusing and listening to the Gospel. She needed to hear the simple Gospel. After our study we were filled with joy when this same young person surrendered her heart to Christ.
May God bless you in the coming year.
In the service of God, Marrah Matarum
2016 West Virginia Camp Meeting
We are pleased to announce that the 2016 West Virginia camp meeting will be held at Smyrna Sabbath Chapel in West Virginia on Tuesday, June 14, through Sabbath, June 18. The theme of the camp meeting is The Final Atonement. No subject is dearer to the heart of the Adventist cause then the atonement, especially as it relates to what is going on in heaven now and, correspondingly, in our lives on earth. We have been told:
The scripture which above all others had been both the foundation and the central pillar of the advent faith was the declaration: “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Daniel 8:14. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 409)
The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill. (Ibid., p. 488)
We certainly encourage you to come and to share the blessing with us. We will have details in the coming months, but please check your calendars now and block off the time.
As always, we eagerly look forward to this special time of study, prayer, and fellowship, and we are very eager to see all of you once again. We are also very desirous to meet new friends and family. Please do not let anything prevent your attendance this June because time is short, and, more than ever, we need to draw closer to one another and closer to our Redeemer. Editors