by Jack Hoehn | originally written December 17, 2013 |
My first vision came at age 13. My regular sleep was interrupted with a meaningful dream of the second coming of Christ and the sensation of flying upward through the air and looking about and recognizing friends’ faces. The message and emotion not forgotten in the last 54 years was, “We’ve made it!”
It was, of course, a juvenile dream, and its message was neither profound nor worth repeating, so until now you have been spared Testimonies of Jack. But the message was very much worth remembering, and the sweet sensation of spiritual victory and Heaven at last, I can still taste even today. That dream helped me steer the troubled waters of youth with faith and hope.
I had a second supernatural manifestation in 1978 on a Friday evening after sunset at Mwami Adventist Hospital, near Chipata, Zambia. I was alone in a little brick mission house as my wife Deanne and our 4-year-old son Jonathan were driving back from Lilongwe, Malawi, with Mrs. Ruby Taylor, our Director of Nursing, returning from home leave by flying into the Lilongwe airport that afternoon.
The house was quite empty and quiet and I was seated when suddenly I was commanded with a single urgent, audible but unseen-by-whom, task: “Pray! Pray!”
I was not told why or what to pray for, but I have never had a more urgent command, so I dropped to my knees and did what I was told. I prayed naturally for Deanne and Jonathan. I expressed my puzzlement but made my request known. I asked for understanding and prayed for everyone else I could think of at the moment.
I know now why Abraham offered Isaac. Heaven’s commands are clear and authoritative. I had no idea at that time why or what for, but I had no question as to my duty; there was no doubt that Jack was to pray and was to pray now. No doubt at all.
Shortly after that prayer, Deanne, driving in the darkness of an African night in our VW minivan, let Jonathan, who said he was tired, crawl into the back of the van behind the last seat where he had a “little nest,” and then, in the darkness, our VW van struck a black cow lying down in the middle of the tarmac road for warmth. Deanne was unhurt. Ruby, in the right passenger seat, had lacerations and abrasions and spent the night in a government hospital in Lilongwe. The VW bus was repairable. Jonathan was untouched.
There was a single-wire party-line phone to Mwami Adventist Hospital that worked one day out of seven or eight, but later a call got through telling us that they were OK, although they had injuries and were put up by kind nearby farmers. In the morning, we got them with the hospital ambulance and brought all back to Mwami Adventist Hospital.
My theology of prayer has not been enlightened by this experience. Why was I to pray? Why was an angel not sent to move the cow? What would have happened if I hadn’t obeyed and prayed? Was it in fact not a question of Providence or protection at all, but rather a message to me that spending 13 years in Africa doing impossible things was heaven-approved, and unseen powers were on my side? (Read Dr. James Appel’s books and emails if you need details of what an Adventist mission doctor in Africa today is doing in the Great Controversy between Light and Darkness day after day after day.)
Deeper Understanding of the Bible
My third epiphany was simply a new and sudden understanding of a Bible text, Revelation 13:8, that opened to my mind a theology of creation I am still working out. The editor of Adventist Today has an 11-page introduction to this understanding of Genesis he promises to print someday [It has now been published see Historical Note below.] I have been blogging on “Old Earth Creationism” and hinting about Creation as a Great Controversy for a couple of years now. The sudden enlightenment of my understanding that started me on this course was as remarkable and to the minute as must have been the understanding of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who suddenly got it.
Revelation 13:8 became suddenly clear to me that the Lamb was not slain (dead) after the fall of Eve and Adam, but from the foundation of the earth, from Creation day one. There was no death before sin, but the sin that brought death was Satan’s sin, not Adam’s sin. I suddenly understood that earth was in conflict with fallen created intelligences (fallen angels) opposing the Creator long before Adam and Eve made their choice. Eden was a set-apart guarded paradise in a non-paradise world more like our own than unfallen Heaven. It let me think anew how Light has been fighting Darkness from Creation day one. “From the foundation of the earth” was a small key handed to me in a moment of insight that has opened a large door of greater understanding of creation story and the history of life on earth.
This explained to me why the history of creation in geology, botany, paleontology, genetics, and biology shows a Great Controversy on earth from earth’s foundation. Genesis 1-3 and John 1 tell the same story if we are willing to reread them, and if we can accept that the days of creation might be heaven days, not human days, until after the creation of mankind. Our week and its Sabbath are clearly patterned on God’s creation week, but do not have to be the same length or duration any more than Moses’ earthly tabernacle was not the same size as the great heavenly sanctuary it was patterned after.
Listening to a Book
My last notable spiritual intervention was in September 2013. This time there was no vision. This time there was no voice. This time there was no sudden illumination of a Bible text. This time there was simply a deeper but definite “settling into the truth.” This time I didn’t understand a new truth, but instead an old truth just took deeper hold of me.
A slow but firm conviction came over me during the 20 minutes as Deanne read to me out of a book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Evans. As Rachel in her cheerful yet engaging book on the Bible and women listed a small litany of the abuse of women happening today from Walla Walla to Kabul to Chad to Takoma Park, the conviction took hold of me that the present controversy over the place of women in the remnant church is not a distraction or an option, but is an absolutely vital, central, and necessary present truth.
I also realized that as a man I knew in my heart that the places most opposed to letting women regain their equality in Christ and in the kingdoms of this world need this truth the most. It is women and especially men in Africa and Asia and South America and Amazing Facts who need to know beyond a shadow of doubt that in Christ there is no male or female, and that in the remnant church women are the undisputed equal of men, as fit for leadership as all redeemed sinners can be made fit for spiritual and moral and economic and teaching leadership. That your next conference president, and the next General Conference president could be a spiritual, gifted woman as well as any other human. That mutual submission of men to women and women to men and children to parents, and all to Christ is the rule of our faith.
I remembered that our Bible is the introduction of truth, not the end of truth. The Bible leads to truth; it should not be used to hold back or restrict the progression of truth. Hasn’t God formed Adventism through a woman, our foremother Ellen White? I realized it is way past time for me to ensure that women are replaced into their position of equality, at least in the church, and in every way by every means possible to be uplifted from the unequal submission, degradation, and oppression that sin has wrought.
Instead of endless Byzantine arguments against ordination and self-serving defenses of “male headship,” Adventists should be known at the forefront in support of every law and every movement against the abuse of girls and women, including wife beating and female circumcision, against inequality in wages and terms of employment, against pornography and sexual slavery, and against inequality in ministry.
As Deanne read me Rachel’s book, I felt something like a deep click in my soul. I changed from an approver of woman’s rights to an activist for women’s rights. No conference or union that does not permit gender equality in ministry, including the ordination of women pastors, will receive any of God’s tithes from me. Not because I wish to punish anyone, but because the Spirit has made it clear to me that this is a moral and spiritual battle. I now see that those most opposed to this step in Adventism most need to have it made clear to them that this is God’s way for the end-time church. I am very grateful that Spirit-responsive unions and conferences have taken a principled stand on women’s ordination. They will have the support of our tithes until my own conference and union move forward on the light God is giving Adventists.
At various times and in sundry manners God has helped me see His truth in the past. I am well educated in Adventism through all the standard methods, but on a few widely separated occasions it has been very direct and personal. I hope I am learning to listen well enough that He can continue to help me progress in the future. I suspect it will not be with childish visions or audible angelic commands, but more from spiritual insights as I restudy my Bible. I now understand my Adventist Christianity not as a destination, but as a road I take to truth. The Bible and other inspired writers have become the introduction and open door to truth, not the jail of truth.
My “visions” have been a rare but important factor in my personal life of faith. What are your visions?
[HISTORICAL NOTE October 1, 2019: I thought this original article was published in 2013 on the Adventist Today website. But unlike most of my articles during the past seven years, this one wasn’t found by searching the Atoday.org site or Google! The print Adventist Today article referred to in the article as pending was published by Adventist Today back in 2015 and can be found here.
 It was 8:55 Sabbath morning, May 9, 2009.
 These blogs are still available at https://atoday.org/recent-adventist-today-articles-by-jack-hoehn/
 John 1:5, NIV footnote reading, “The Light shines in the Darkness, but the Darkness has not overcome it.”
 September 19, 2013, on the road to Moscow, ID.
 Ellen White, “…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…” (Manuscript 173, 1902).
 My local church with its female pastors is clearly in support of gender equality, including women’s ordination, and will continue to receive our support.
Jack Hoehn is a frequent contributor to both the print and online versions of Adventist Today. He has served on the Adventist Today Foundation board since 2012. He and his wife Deanne live in Walla Walla, Washington. He has a BA in Religion from Pacific Union College, and an MD from Loma Linda University. He was a licensed minister of the Adventist church for 13 years when serving as a missionary physician in Africa.