by Reinder Bruinsma | October 18, 2023 |
In his sermon during the recent Annual Council, our General Conference president commented frequently on “the shaking.” In our Adventist jargon this term refers to a specific phase during the climax of end-time events, just before the close of probation. Large numbers of believers, in this scenario, will give up on our truth, turn their back on the remnant church, and be eternally lost.
The concept of the remnant, the conviction that probation will close, and the expectation of an imminent shaking raise all sorts of questions. Specifically: when I look at all Bible passages in which the word shaking (or a synonym) occurs, I do not find biblical support for the notion of an end-time sifting process in which the body of believers will be starkly reduced. Even many of the traditional Adventist books about the time of the end say very little, if anything, about a shaking.
To mention just two examples: in his very detailed 500-page book about the Adventist end-time scenario, Professor Norman Gulley does not once mention the term “shaking.” Neither could I find it in the Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology.
Ellen White on the shaking
The shaking fits seamlessly into last-generation theology, but it can only be defended through a combination of some Ellen G. White statements. The popular (and conservative) author Marvin Moore wrote prolifically about the last days. In his book The Crisis of the End Time, he devoted an entire chapter to the shaking. It has just one or two indirect references to the Scriptures and relies almost totally on a series of quotations from Ellen White.
For Ted Wilson this is hardly a problem, as he is an uncritical promoter of the writings of Ellen White and takes everything she wrote as just as fully inspired as the Bible, and totally applicable to our life today.
It would seem, however, that Wilson has overlooked some statements of Ellen White regarding the time of the shaking.
In his sermon Wilson was adamant that the shaking is currently taking place. And he seems determined to do all he can to help this shaking process further along. He urges leaders at all administrative levels of the church who do not agree with his theological views to resign from their positions. And all who have doubts about any of the Fundamental Beliefs and/or do not accept the authority of the denominational structure are no longer welcome in the Adventist Church. They are currently being shaken from their spiritual home.
Wilson would do well to review some of the statements of Ellen White about the time of the shaking. In 1882 she wrote that the time for the shaking (or sifting) is “not far distant.” In 1895 she said: “We are in the shaking time, the time that everything that can be shaken will be shaken.” That was over 100 years ago!
Laurence Turner on the fishing net
Wilson’s statement about the shaking is—to say the least—biased and opinionated. As I listened to his long diatribe, my memory went back to a much shorter sermon I heard a few years ago by Dr. Laurence Turner, emeritus professor of Newbold College, at a conference of theology teachers.
The conference had been negatively impacted by the judgmental attitude of some who strongly disagreed with a colleague about a particular aspect of his sanctuary theology. Some openly wondered: how could this particular man (not Dr. Turner, to be clear) remain part of the Adventist community when he no longer subscribed to the traditional view?
At the close of the conference, for the Sabbath service, Dr. Turner preached a marvelous sermon about Matthew 13:47-50—the parable of the net. His sermon sublimely fitted the occasion.
Christ, Turner said, compared his kingdom with the kind of dragnet that catches all kinds of fish—good fish and bad ones. The fishermen would pull the net onto the shore and separate the edible fish from all that was unfit for human consumption. When comparing the dragnet to the kingdom, Christ emphasized that the kingdom-net inevitably contains all sorts of people, and must therefore be sorted.
But that sorting will not happen until the end of the age. Only then will the angels come to separate those who will enter the kingdom from those who will not!
A very mixed catch
Wilson may not be happy with the selection that has been caught in the Adventist dragnet, and he appears eager to keep some and to get rid of others.
To be honest, I sometimes share that feeling: there are many nice people in our church, but there are also men and women I now and then wish were not there. There are legalistic, extremist, fundamentalist persons who spoil the community spirit and bring discord, or worse. Occasionally, I am glad when certain members transfer their membership to another congregation!
But I must constantly remind myself that I am not called to do the sorting! That job is reserved for the angels at the end of time.
I have serious doubts that Wilson’s concept of the shaking is biblically defensible. Most importantly, I am totally sure that if there is something like a shaking, none of us—Wilson included—is responsible for carrying it out. The parable of the net makes this abundantly clear.
Earlier in Matthew 13 the same principle is underlined in the parable of the good seed and the weeds: there will, inevitably, be a mix of good seed and weeds (vv. 24-30). Not until the harvest will the weeds be separated from the wheat.
Actually, most of us would make serious mistakes if we tried to do this: while the plants are still growing, we might have a hard time distinguishing the good from the bad.
I can understand that, given his rigid ideas, and considering the way he reads his Bible but adulates Ellen White, Wilson sees those who differ from him as a serious threat to the church. He must, however, come to realize that even his “plain reading” of the words of Jesus forbids him to push for the separation—that, is the shaking out—of those who should remain in the church from those who should leave.
That is simply not the work of Wilson and his colleagues. God has assigned that task, when the time has come, to the heavenly angels and not to the General Conference!
- Christ Is Coming, Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1998. ↑
- Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2000. ↑
- Boise, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, pp. 181-190. ↑
- Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 400. ↑
- Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 331. ↑
Reinder Bruinsma lives in the Netherlands with his wife, Aafje. He has served the Adventist Church in various assignments in publishing, education, and church administration on three continents. He still maintains a busy schedule of preaching, teaching, and writing. He blogs at http://reinderbruinsma.com/.