by Herbert Douglass
Seventh-day Adventists are always one generation away from oblivion. Not that they should cease existing but that they could lose the fire of purpose and mission that inspired their founders for 160 years. They could fall prey to simply doing a lot of activity without the reason for its existence.
Seventh-day Adventists are a Movement, not just another church. They do not look back upon a famous leader, such as the Lutherans or follow the strict pattern laid out by the great Methodist leader, John Wesley. These men were great for their time but God wanted more to be said on this earth before He returned.
The Seventh-day Adventist Movement was formed by Bible-studying men and women from most of the main churches in the middle 1800s. They realized that Bible prophecy was meant to be understood, especially Daniel and Revelation when those books focused on the Second Coming of Jesus.
The more they studied, the more they were impressed that God was returning for His people, especially those “who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). This central theme opened up new questions such as the real meaning of “obedience” and “faith”–two words that are terribly confused in most established Christian churches.
All this serious study opened the door to the lessons to be learned in the Old Testament sanctuary doctrine and how it became better understood after the death of Jesus on the Cross and after considering what He is now doing in Heaven. The great lesson: Keep our eyes on Jesus, Paul's message in Hebrews.
After a few years of conferences and after the rise of a young woman who was recognized as God's Messenger, all these fresh biblical studies fell into an integrated, coherent picture that we call The Great Controversy. From beginning to end, it became clearer that God was patiently permitting Satan to do his best to rule the world in his own deceptive way.
All the while, God was gently leading out a people who were listening to Him and saying, “No!” to Satan. Jesus called it the difference between wheat and tares, the wise and foolish. The Controversy would be ended when the wise were so committed to truth that they could not be moved by anything Satan threw at them. And the foolish will live out their choices as the world is convulsed in the Seven Last Plagues.
Seventh-day Adventists are to do their part in the Controversy—telling the truth about God who has been so terribly misrepresented. The best way that is done is by living as His witnesses to this truth. The Controversy ends when the whole universe sees/hears the difference between God's way for living and Satan's way of so-called freedom to do as one pleases.
Thus nothing is more important for Adventists than keeping the purposes of the Controversy clear, fresh, and appealing in both preaching, teaching and living in all that Adventists think and do.
That is why the circumstances of 1957, for instance, became a “fork in the road” for Seventh-day Adventists. Here were good men and women trying to convince other good Calvinists that we too were Christians. Then they fell into the dialogue trap where each party reframes its position so that there could be conclusions with which both could agree. Hegelian dialectics—thesis, antithesis, synthesis—a place where some at the beginning cannot really recognize themselves in the end. Every dialogue always ends that way, all through history.
The main subjects that drifted away from general Adventist thinking in this 1953-57 dialogue were the humanity of Jesus and what He is now doing in the Heavenly Sanctuary. If we do not understand why Jesus came to earth and what He is doing now, the Great Controversy becomes a mystery and we would have no clue as to how it should end. Further, getting right these central truths about Jesus has everything to do with how one understands “righteousness by faith” and whether “overcoming” has any real meaning.
Thus, Adventists can lose the heart of their message and purpose for existing if they merely try to baptize Saturday-keepers without passing on the Big Picture of all that is involved in the Great Controversy between God and Satan.
It doesn't take long until Christian bodies become entranced in focusing on “Jesus” as a Friend but not as Lord. Relationship becomes a warm, emotional thrill coupled with zingy choruses.
When it comes to understanding why He died, the answer is usually nothing more than “He died for my sins.” If that is all we believe, Satan could not be happier! If all we think of when we claim “faith” is that we are saying the right words and raising the hand in the right meeting, again Satan could not be happier!
All I am saying is: Assuming the name Seventh-day Adventist is far more than saying we believe Saturday is the biblical Sabbath and that Jesus some day is returning to earth.
Cheers, Herb Douglass