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Chapter Twenty Seven
Why Be a Seventh-day Adventist? - Some Reasons
There are many troubled hearts in Adventism today in Australia and New Zealand. We wish that our Church was progressing more like we see in the island fields and around the world. Instead we are conscious of the fact that we worship in a church that has many serious divisions over procedure, belief and worship which are causing discouragement. At such a time as this, it can be wise for all of us to re-examine the question "Why be a Seventh-day Adventist?"
We live at a time when society as a whole is undergoing great changes. More change takes place now in one year than would normally have taken place in centuries. It has been estimated that the decade before the year 2000 is seeing more social, political, economic and religious change than has taken place since Abraham came out of Ur of the Chaldees. While the church would not want in anyway to compromise its message to the world, there is yet increasing pressure on the church to be relevant in its culture.
A rapidly changing culture also causes a quick succession of generational differences. We are conscious of the Survivor, Baby Boomer, Baby Buster and Generation X differences. All have different perspectives of what they expect from the church. Along with this is the fact that the church has followed the counsel of Ellen G. White and gone wholeheartedly after Christian education.
It was she who told us to teach the youth to be "thinkers and not mere reflectors of other men's thought". This we are doing, and as a consequence the youth are thinking different ideas from their parents. Christian education if it is working correctly does produce
people who think creatively, critically and with discernment. We should expect some new thoughts to be part of the fruitage of a successful educational system.
We belong to a church that originally refused to write up a creed. It was our founding fathers who decided there must be room left for advancement in our understanding of Bible truth. They decided that this church was not going to fall into the trap of other great movements led of God in the past by cutting themselves off from walking in the light. In developing this attitude they received clear counsel from the pen of Ellen White.428 If it was true as she suggested, then we have but the faintest gleanings of the light which is yet to come. The great challenge is then, how can we all grow together and not apart? Some will grow faster than others. Some will not want to grow at all. It is not easy for a church to stay together as they search for more light from God's Word.
It would seem that in our day we have inherited within Adventism many of the unresolved theological differences of our forefathers. Differences that have lain around unresolved for decades have arisen to divide our church today.429
As many become aware of the above tensions they become discouraged. Therefore it is important for us to look again at the questions "Why be a Seventh-day Adventist?" "What do we have to offer the world, both Christian and non Christian?" "Does God have a special work for us to do?" and "Can God still be with us even though we do have these differences and tensions?" I want to share with you a few of my personal convictions as the why I am a Seventh-day Adventist.
Why I am a Seventh-day Adventist
The Everlasting Gospel
The first reason I am a Seventh-day Adventist is because of the gospel. The essence of all true Seventh-day Adventist preaching is found in the everlasting gospel as expressed in Revelation 14:6. It is the same gospel that Jesus said would be preached in all the world (Matthew 24:14). This is the hub of which Adventism is all about. All other teachings and doctrines must be related to this one great truth.
Christian churches (including our own) are often found guilty of fighting about ideas that do not affect salvation in Christ. Many debates major in minor matters. I have come to the conclusion that unless the teaching is directly linked to the gospel then it is probably not worth all the fuss and attention that many give to it.
The discerning Christian will always be zealous to contend for the purity of the gospel. We must not become discouraged as we see conflict in our church regarding this issue. Even the apostolic church had conflict in this area.430 It has been the centre of controversy all through church history and probably will remain an issue until Jesus returns. The gospel is always relevant to any culture. It gives hope to a world which desperately needs some "good news".
A second reason I am a Seventh-day Adventist is because of our view of the nature of mankind in death. Almost the whole world, both Christian and non Christian, have accepted the Devil's lie found in Genesis 3:4 regarding the fact that death is not really death. We believe that we have life only in Christ. It is because of our belief in Christ that God will one day change our vile bodies and we will "put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)
In our day the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is paving the way for spirits of devils to impersonate the dead and deceive many. This same doctrine is a basic teaching of the "New Age Movement" as it brings Eastern Mysticism to the West. It paves the way for the acceptance of reincarnation and the idea of developing the godlike qualities within you as taught by The New Age. Only as we understand the Bible teaching on this subject are we able to effectively warn men and women concerning the deceptions of spirits of devils working miracles and impersonating the dead. The belief in the non-immortality of the soul is also crucial for the correct understanding of the nature of the return of Christ and the Millennium.
It is interesting to note that in recent years some prominent biblical scholars who are not Seventh-day Adventists have come to realise the truth of what we preach on this subject.431
Annihilation of Unbelievers
Linked with the teaching of the immortality of the soul is the doctrine of eternal torment. The teaching that God will for all eternity burn people in hell has caused many to walk away from Christianity with a hatred for a God who could be so cruel. Traditionally most of Christendom has taught the doctrine of eternal torment however over more recent times some prominent scholars have began to question this teaching also.432
The Validity and Value of the Sabbath
A third reason I am a Seventh-day Adventist is because the Bible clearly teaches that the seventh day is the Sabbath of God. It amazes me that so many other Christian denominations go on record as upholding the Ten Commandments yet do not honour God's Sabbath, the seventh day. We know that many centuries ago part of the "falling away" was to take the first day of the week, Sunday, and use it to replace the Sabbath. Fewer subjects are clearer in the Bible than the fact that the Seventh day is the Sabbath. Many years ago when I came to understand how the change took place and why it took place, I determined to honour God by observing His memorial of creation. Since Samuel Bacchiocchi wrote his book "From Sabbath to Sunday" many prominent scholars have come to admit the truthfulness of what his book said.433
In a world that is searching for meaning, the Sabbath reminds us that we have lost our Eden home. It also reminds us that one day God will give it back to us again. Our rushing and restless society needs the rest that God so graciously gave us. The observance of the Sabbath is linked with our rest in Christ and a means of preserving family life at a time when so many families are breaking up. It also provides a weekly revival of physical, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing.
Today there are very few real Sunday keepers. Churches are lamenting the fact that many of their constituents go to the football stadium or the beaches instead of going to church. Some churches are trying to lure people back to church by having church on Saturday night or during the week. However for Seventh-day Adventists the Sabbath is nor a weekly hour of worship at the convenience of time, but the twenty-four hours of the seventh day, when we give priority to God in our thinking and living.
A fourth reason I am a Seventh-day Adventist is because of the holistic lifestyle the church advocates which is linked to our view of the nature of mankind. Time and surveys have vindicated the benefits of Adventist lifestyle.434 I do not believe there is another Christian body today that has so much to offer in this area, although some have come to take more note of the subject of health in more recent years. It is important to see the health principles advocated by our church, not as rules or regulations, but as benefits to our health given by our Creator because of His care for us.
A fifth reason I am a Seventh-day Adventist is because I believe that God has given a prophetic message to this church to proclaim to both Christian and non-Christian alike. The Three Angel's Messages are to be proclaimed to the world to prepare a people to meet Jesus.
There is to be a conflict between the church and the Beast and its image at the end of time as described in Revelation chapter 13. As I read this chapter I find that the deciding issue is to be over worship. Who is to be worshipped? How is worship to take place? When is worship to take place? I can see in this chapter, the first four commandments of the Decalogue are central to this issue.
Prophecy is best understood "when" it comes to pass.435 We may be surprised at the time of fulfillment as to how some of the finer details work out. Never the less, Seventh-day Adventists have a sense of mission to prepare a people to face this last great crisis between the church and the forces of Antichrist.
Some teachings we have which help us to understand the prophecies of Revelation are:
The reality of the heavenly sanctuary. Other Christian churches have not given adequate attention to this key subject. Each vision of Revelation begins with a scene of what is happening in the heavenly sanctuary before it pictures what is happening on earth.
The Great Controversy theme. An understanding of this theme is unique to Adventists. It gives an overall view of why God allows sin and suffering to remain. It helps us to see the reason for the judgement scenes in Revelation. It gives meaning as to why God respects human freedom and punishes sin in the lake of fire at the end of the millennium.
Our prophetic message calls for men and women to accept Jesus prior to His appearing at His second coming. We do this on the basis of the preaching of the Three Angel's messages (Revelation 14:6-11) taking place before the appearing of Jesus (verse 14). These messages warn against worshipping the beast and its image and call for people to worship the God who "made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water." (Verse 7) 436
Dispensational Prophetic Scenario
Today most Christians who preach about end time prophecies believe that prior to the end the church of true believers will be raptured home to heaven and so escape the tribulation. This event will supposedly commence the 70th week of Daniel 9:25-27. During this time 144,000 Jews will be converted and rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. These Jews will get on with the preaching of the gospel to all the world. They believe that the beast power will appear. After 3½ years of keeping a covenant with the Jews, the beast will break the covenant and commence 3½ years of persecution on the Jews and their converts. Then there will be a third coming of Jesus to end it all and Jesus will rescue His people.
It can be shown from history that this school of prophetic interpretation was developed by a Spanish Jesuit by the name of Francisco Ribero as a counter measure to the Protestant Reformation which had identified the Papacy as the Antichrist. Later it was made popular by the Brethren Movement and The Scofield Bible. In more recent times it has become the prevailing view of Evangelical churches. This teaching has many serious differences with our prophetic teaching. Some of the major flaws of the dispensational scenario are:
The Adventist Response
The commission to preach the three angels messages therefore makes our ministry different to that of other churches. In our preaching, we respond to their views by pointing out the following:
This is by no means a complete list of reasons why I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I could add more on our Sanctuary message and the writings of Ellen White whom I see as an inspired messenger given to us by God. I am also proud of the work our church does to help the under privileged through ADRA and ADCARE
We would never claim we possess all the light that God wishes to impart to His people. Nor would we claim that we are better than Christians in other churches. We believe that God has true followers and believers in every Christian congregation.440 However we do believe that God has commissioned us to preach some great truths to both Christians and non-Christians alike to prepare men and women to meet Jesus when He returns.
God Works with Ordinary People
Church history testifies to the fact that God has to work with ordinary humans who are prone to misunderstand and let Him down. The apostolic church had to get away from its "shut door" mentality of thinking that the gospel was only for the Jews.441 The church in Corinth was riddled with problems yet God was still working patiently with them.442
Calvin was caught up in his teaching of predestination which closed the door on those who were not the elect.
Luther refused to change his view on transubstantiation and gave his blessing to the ruthless putting down of the peasant revolts.
Wesley was caught up with his view of perfectionism and instantaneous sanctification.
Spurgeon insisted on clinging to the idea of an ever burning hell.
Division Within Churches
Today most denominations are divided by many issues and personality clashes. The Baptists are divided over inerrancy, creation, the charismatics,
pretribulation and postribulation. etc. The Roman Catholics are divided over the authority of the Pope, the changes brought in by Vatican Two, etc. The Anglicans and the Uniting Church are divided over homosexuality and women in ministry, etc. The Charismatics frequently divide over the personality of the pastor.
Where can a Christian go without finding some infighting and divisions? The truth is that through some 2000 years of the history of the Christian church there have always been differences between and within denominations. Jesus has never promised us a perfect church free from problems. Look at the parables of the "sheep and the goats"; the net that dragged in all kinds of fish; the sower; the wheat and the tares etc.
God Has Given Timely Truths to the Adventist Church
I see in Adventism some things and people which disappoint me at times. There are times when I get angry at what I consider to be the stupidity of people, and frustrated at the slowness of progress. I wish we could streamline our organisation faster than is happening. Then I come back to the point where I ask myself "Why am I a Seventh-day Adventist?" Despite all that I see which annoys me I am convicted that God has given this church some vital truths to share with the world. Despite the annoyances and disappointments, there are many people who do encourage me and whom I consider to be true Israelites.
Most of all, I think of Jesus and what He has done for me. He was let down badly by His church but that did not stop Him from going ahead and making His sacrifice on Calvary. It is only a passionate love for Jesus and conviction from the Bible that God has given us some wonderful truths to share, that keep me and others in the Seventh-day Adventist church.
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one
already laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 3:11.
428 CWE, p. 35. "MANY GEMS YET TO BE DISCOVERED.—New light will ever be revealed on the word of God to him who is in living connection with the Sun of Righteousness. Let no one come to the conclusion that there is no more truth to be revealed. The diligent, prayerful seeker for truth will find precious rays of light yet to shine forth from the word of God. Many gems are yet scattered that are to be gathered together to become the property of the remnant people of God." Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 34. (1892.) The whole section, p. 33-55, is worth reading. [back]
429 Issues such as the role and function of Ellen White, the nature of Christ as it relates to a correct understanding of the gospel. [back]
430 Galatians 1:8-9. [back]
431 Oscar Cullmann, Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? Epworth Press, 1962. Steven H. Travis, I Believe in the Second Coming of Jesus, Hodder and Stoughton 1990. John Stott, possibly the most prominent Evangelical scholar today has also accepted the view of the non immortality of the soul. [back]
432 See Edward W. Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, Forward by F. F. Bruce, Providential Press, 1982. [back]
433 Their comments are mentioned in his book which can still be purchased from the ABC. [back]
434 Our Health Department directors are loaded with material from reports of surveys, many in which Seventh-day Adventists have been surveyed and recognised as living longer and being free of many diseases which are striking down the population in general. [back]
435 John 14:29. [back]
436 A discerning reader will note that this is a strong correlation here to the wording of the fourth commandment as expressed in Exodus 20:8-11. [back]
437 Galatians 3:26-29. [back]
438 Hebrews 8:1-2. [back]
439 In his book, The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman's, 1975), George Eldon Ladd has made a significant contribution to move many scholars away from Futurism. Many other publications of significance have followed. I Believe in the Second Coming of Jesus, by Stephen Travis, is one such publication which reflects a strong move towards many of our positions by prominent scholars. It is to be expected that it will take many years before this effect is seen amongst congregations and more popular publications. [back]
440 See 28 Fundamentals #13— The Remnant and its Mission "The universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ. . . ." [back]
441 Acts 10:9-48. [back]
442 In 1 Corinthians, almost every chapter is addressing some issue which divided them. They had infighting and were divided into their clicks. People were taking each other to court, others were tolerating immorality in their church. There were marriage problems, some were criticising Paul's ministry, many were abusing the Lord's Supper, there was widespread disorderly conduct in worship, a few were denying the resurrection of Christ, etc. Paul faced constant criticism from "false brethren" and churches that he himself had founded. See 2 Corinthians 11:16-29. [back]