March 21, 2007

The Metaphysics of the "Mark"

2007 1509 page15 capespite all our well-meaning plans for revival and mission, not much is going to change in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We’ll continue to have phenomenal growth in some places while in others we’ll plod along, bogged down by the aberrant ideologies and internecine squabbles among us. We can talk revival and unity until the moon shrivels, but not much is going to change.
Not much, that is, until the Sabbath-Sunday crisis.
I can already see eyes rolling among those who regard talk of “the Sabbath-Sunday crisis” as antiquated Adventism from an outdated and irrelevant context (and we wonder why growth is slow in some places?). Funny that folks should think this way, because in my 26 years as an Adventist, never has our theology about the “mark of the beast” seemed so clear and relevant.
German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz asked the most basic of all questions: “Why is there something instead of nothing?” There is something instead of nothing because Jesus created it all (John 1:2, 3). Everything we Adventists believe—everything—is rooted in one reality: God as our Creator (Heb. 1:2). The cross, salvation, the Second Coming, every teaching, every doctrine—everything is based on this foundation.
2007 1509 page15Creation, then, forms the basis of all our beliefs, and the Sabbath—imbedded in the Genesis creation itself (Gen. 2:1-3)—stands as the eternal and immutable sign of that creation. It’s the most basic symbol of the most basic teaching. The only thing more fundamental to it is God. Hence, to usurp the Seventh-day Sabbath is to usurp the Lord’s authority at the most prime level possible, that of Him as Creator. It’s to get behind everything and uproot it at the core. It is, indeed, to seek to take the place of God Himself (2 Thess. 2:4).
Of course, the real issue in the last days is our love and loyalty to Jesus. Everyone knows that. But according to my Bible, this love is expressed in obedience to the commandments (1 John 5:3; Rev. 14:12)—and the Sabbath alone among the commandments gets behind everything because it alone points to God as Creator (Ex. 20:8-11). No wonder it will be the outward symbol of the final divide between those who worship the Lord and those who worship the beast (Rev. 14:11, 12). Considering how basic and fundamental the Sabbath is to everything else, it’s hard to see how the final issue could be anything else.
Now, however solid the theology and metaphysics of the “mark,” it is admittedly hard to see, with the facts on the ground as they are now, how the Sabbath-Sunday issue could arise, especially worldwide. But so what? When I first joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1980, the United States faced a hostile 290-million-person empire armed to the teeth with enough nuclear weapons to incinerate the world 10 times over and roll over the rubble with tanks and armored vehicles. As long as the Soviet Union existed, the United States couldn’t kick Fidel Castro out of Cuba, much less enforce the mark of the beast on the world.
I remember as a new Adventist struggling with the question of how—confronted with the sober reality of the Soviet Union—final events could ever unfold as expected. Then my mind went to Daniel 2, which showed me again that God is ultimately in control, even of great empires, and so I just uttered a prayer and moved on in faith, no matter how impossible our end-time scenario seemed.
What, was the Soviet Union going to just disappear, or something?
My point’s simple: radical changes can happen overnight. I mean, please! If the Soviet military behemoth could fall apart before our eyes, an idea that seemed inconceivable just two years before it happened, then final events can quickly unfurl as we believe, regardless of how implausible they appear now. We will wake up one morning and the scenario we have talked about, preached about, and warned the world about for more than 150 years will be smirking at us with iron teeth.
And when it does, everything will change among us; everything.
Until then?
Not much.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. He also hosts a television program on the Hope Channel called CLIFF!