I was 20 years old when I first took an inventory of my grandfather’s life. When I realized his birth year was concurrent with the beginning of World War I, my mouth fell open in silent awe.

I recalled the stories of his childhood: the amazement of children watching “motorized buggies” grumbling down roads of hard-packed Georgia clay; the awe of grown men standing motionless in fields, eyes turned heavenward to glimpse a biplane flying overhead. Life, like adventure, appeared simple. Armed with just three items—a slingshot (fun), a sandwich (sustenance), and a few pages of the Sears and Roebuck catalog (hygiene)—he often traipsed through familiar woods and ambled down unknown trails.

Could he have ever conceived of how the world would change in his own lifetime?

Yesterday’s Change

By the time my grandfather passed away in 2014, an abbreviated newsreel of major events affecting his world included women’s rights (the vote), the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the moon landing, Vietnam, civil rights, the beginning and end of the cold war, the Gulf War, September 11, the war against terrorism, and the great recession. Technologies emerged that transported him from horse and buggy to flight, from radio to television, from written letters to telephone, cellular, and Internet, from slow to fast, from real to virtual, and, increasingly, from inconvenience to convenience.

Not only did the world shrink in size, but society appeared ready to burst at the seams.

Through it all my grandfather never appeared worried or uncertain. I often wondered, How come?

Fear of the Future

For those who are nostalgic, yesterday allures with its definition and perceived security. We forget that 20/20 hindsight sometimes suffers from myopic vision. As a result we see the past as a vague outline of sanitized cultures and events, slowly unfolding, devoid of uncertainty. To its contemporaries, however, history has never appeared so affable.

In so many cases Grandpa demonstrated a peace that passes understanding.

Just 50 years ago the tumultuous events of 1969 resulted in some calling it “The Year That Changed America.”1 It was a year of “landmark achievements, cataclysmic episodes, and generation-defining events,”2 a small sampling of which included the Santa Barbara oil spill, Cuyahoga River fire, People’s Park student riots, Stonewall LGBTQ riots, Apollo 11 moon landing, Woodstock Festival, Manson Family and Zodiac Killer murders, Days of Rage demonstrations, sentencing of Sirhan Sirhan, initial withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, Hurricane Camille, and the start of the trial of the Chicago Eight.

It may be no coincidence that the book Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler, was released the very next year, 1970. The term future shock points to the stress and disorientation caused by the rapidity of societal and technological change. The authors posited that society was gripped by a type of paralysis caused by the rapid shift from agrarian to industrial to postindustrial economies.

The authors also presciently surmised that the next major shift would be to an information age. Though some have accused the book of being a loosely bound collection of wild guesses, many of its conjectures proved startlingly accurate. For Bible-believing Christians, however, the rapid increase of knowledge and its corresponding change had already been foretold (Dan. 12:4).

Ever since sin entered the world fear, selfishness, and the law that all things fall apart entered with it. From Adam and Eve witnessing the first scenes of death and decay, to Noah’s warning of a worldwide flood, to the prophet Habakkuk questioning God’s justice in the face of widespread evil, to the martyrs of the Dark Ages, those standing at the edge of history have watched earth careen from one crisis to the next.

In this context, today simply threatens larger doses of yesterday’s turmoil. How, though, are we to maintain hope?

Peace in the Promise

The secular world recognizes its need of hope. In an article entitled “The Necessity of Hope,”3 Stan van Hooft claims that without hope there would be no impetus to seek the betterment of our lives and to show benevolence toward others. He states that goals and aspirations would be pointless; a life fully lived would be an impossibility. He further describes six of hope’s key features: hope (1) is based on a felt need, (2) implies a judgment that what is hoped for is morally good, (3) is directed at an outcome that cannot be achieved alone, (4) will lead to appropriate action by those who hope, (5) is rational and realistic (not mere wishful thinking), and (6) requires trusting one’s fate with other powers—supernatural, people, systems, or otherwise.

Intentionally or not, this comprehensive definition of hope amounts to a clear statement on faith as declared in the Bible: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). Although God has provided temporal promises to His children, the book of Hebrews focuses on the promise of salvation and restoration in the person of Jesus.

In His wisdom and mercy God offered hope of reconciliation from the moment we sinned (Gen. 3:15). He reconfirmed the promise in His covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:6-21) and made it a focal point of Israel’s worship in the sanctuary blueprint. His longing has always been to dwell with us once again (Ex. 25:8).

Though the promise tarried, God reaffirmed His faithfulness to patriarchs and prophets that “it will certainly come” (Hab. 2:3). Even as the oppressor weighed heavy upon earth, Jesus came at the appointed time (Matt. 1:20-23).

As our confidence and our example, Christ accomplished for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Just as our ancestors pointed to the promise of His advent, we point to the promise that He will return (Heb. 11:39, 40).

Watchers on the Wall

God has set us as lookouts upon the wall of the world (Eze. 33). As colaborers with Him, we share in His mission to seek and save those who are lost and despairing. That we might fulfill our service and calling to be a blessing to the world, He has revealed His momentous movements to His people (Amos 3:7).

Jesus Himself highlighted the signs, calamities, and distresses that would signal His return (Luke 21:25-28). He has gone before us and prepared the way to ensure that we are not “future-shocked.”

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was called into existence for such a time as this, that we might share with all our God-grounded hope in these end times. Though for the saved Christ’s return is attended by rejoicing and gladness, all will face the fearful question “Who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:17, KJV).

What does this mean? Are we to become wild-eyed prophets, warning others of their imminent destruction? Even if it is perfectly presented, will people hear our message of preparation for Christ’s soon return? The mere sharing of information will prove much too inadequate.

The Power of “Do as I Do”

According to a recent Forbes magazine article, we now produce more than 2.5 quintillion (2,500,000,000,000,000,000) bytes of data each day.4 We have produced more than 90 percent of all of the data and information in the world’s history in just the past two years!5 In 2011 average Americans processed the equivalent of 100,000 words per day in just their leisure time.6 Though our brains are able to sort through astonishing amounts of information, sheer volume has made it more difficult to separate the trivial from the important. Information overload has become a real phenomenon.

Although we have a vital message to convey, the church is left competing with every Snapchat post, YouTube video update, news article, Instagram photo, LinkedIn connection, Tinder swipe, Facebook message, text message, e-mail, WhatsApp chat, phone call, television show, and Google search, along with day-to-day responsibilities, for just a small slice of an individual’s attention. God be praised: He has provided us with a way of making an impact!

We all have a special set of neurons in our brains, mirror neurons. The American Psychology Association describes these neurons as “a type of brain cell that respond[s] equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action.”7 In other words, to these neurons, witnessing an action is the same as performing the action. This discovery may provide additional insight into the verse “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). It strongly suggests that our choices in entertainment and fellowship contribute significantly to the shaping of our characters. With the discovery of these magical neurons, parenting guides have begun to emphasize to an even greater degree the importance of demonstrating for children to “do as I do.”

Similarly, our impact upon the world depends upon the example we set. We move in an atmosphere created by our thoughts and actions, and time spent with our heavenly Father. Just as more than 90 percent of communication is nonverbal, what we do, more than anything else, provides the testimony of Christ in our lives. As a result, our success depends upon one question: “Have I put on Christ?” (Col. 3:12-17).

An Incomprehensible Mystery

Jesus drew near to those who were downtrodden and suffering. Surrounded by the atmosphere of heaven, in the midst of those who were sin-infected, He ministered to those broken in spirit and healed their wounds. His actions reflected the love of His Father to such a degree that when He spoke His hearers experienced power and conviction in every word.

In the same way Jesus commanded us to follow His example: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

Ellen White wrote: “At this time the church is to put on her beautiful garments—“Christ our righteousness.” . . . The Lord Jesus is making experiments on human hearts through the exhibition of His mercy and abundant grace. He is effecting transformations so amazing that Satan, with all his triumphant boasting, with all his confederacy of evil united against God and the laws of His government, stands viewing them as a fortress impregnable to his sophistries and delusions. They are to him an incomprehensible mystery.”8

If such re-creation of the heart mystifies Satan, how might the same witness influence the world?

Nothing to Fear for the Future

As I think about my grandfather, I remember both his qualities and his flaws. After he joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church at middle age, he continued to struggle against his defects.

Yet in so many cases he also demonstrated a peace that passes understanding (see Phil. 4:7, KJV). That came from his connection with, and faith in God. Grandpa was not future shocked.

Jesus, through His divine power, has given His church everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We are His living testimonies. Remember then, when trepidation threatens regarding what may come: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”

  1. Craig Wilson, “1969: The Year, and a Book That Defined an Era,” USA Today, Jan. 26, 2009, usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2009-01-25-1969-book_N.htm. Retrieved Jan. 26, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Stan Van Hooft, “The Necessity of Hope,” The Guardian, June 3, 2011, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/jun/03/necessity-hope-despite-risks. Retrieved Jan. 27, 2019.
  4. Bernard Marr,“How Much Data Do We Create Every Day? The Mind-blowing Stats Everyone Should Read,” Forbes Online, May 21, 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/05/21/how-much-data-do-we-create-every-day-the-mind-blowing-stats-everyone-should-read/#36b20c8d60ba. Retrieved Jan. 27, 2019.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Daniel J. Levitin, “Why It’s So Hard to Pay Attention, Explained By Science,” Fast Company, Sept. 23, 2015, www.fastcompany.com/3051417/why-its-so-hard-to-pay-attention-explained-by-science. Retrieved Jan. 27, 2019.
  7. Lea Winerman, “The Mind’s Mirror,” Monitor on Psychology, October 2005, 36. no.9 (October 2005), www.apa.org/monitor/oct05/mirror.aspx. Retrieved Jan. 27, 2019.
  8. Ellen G. White, Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1922), pp. 207-209.
  9. Ellen G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), p. 196.

Greg Milton is a director of project management for Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sin possesses a singular, defining trait: the fatal effect of tainting its host with total dependence upon, and complete interest in, self. Once infected, hosts suffer from the illusion that they are in control. This illusion of control extends to the gifts provided by God and the environment in which we exist. In more untempered forms it even leads to the desire to control others.

When this mystery of iniquity was first manifested in a perfectly created being, the Bible says of him, “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor” (Eze. 28:17). The pathology of the disease became fully evident in Lucifer as he began to view God’s gifts as his intrinsic possessions, to covet God’s kingdom and power (Isa. 14:13, 14), and as he manipulated one third of the angels into joining his quest (Rev. 12:4).

The Sin of Self-sufficiency

The same pattern becomes evident in the fall of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2 we witness a perfect creation. Ellen White describes it: “As man came forth from the hand of his Creator, he was of lofty stature and perfect symmetry.”1 Even in character, Adam bore the image of God with a mind capable of understanding divine things.

Yet in Genesis 3 humanity succumbs to the serpent’s insinuations that God has withheld something from it. It begins to believe in its intrinsic immortality. With this new perception humanity’s first act is to seize upon the illusion of control. Whereas heretofore God has provided every need, including life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), now humanity attempts to supply its own need in the form of fig leaves and a belief that it will not surely die.

Today 84 percent of people in the world engage in religion, almost all of whom have some belief in an afterlife.2 So most of the world believes, with varying nuances, in what the Western world refers to as the immortality of the soul. Studies have shown that Millennials may be the least religious generation in North American history. Yet with more Americans denying the existence of God than ever before, an increasing percentage of them believe in an afterlife.3

In the era of the much-discussed “culture of me,” why does the Western world seem to believe in its own essential immortality? One baffled researcher hypothesized that it may be a sense of entitlement, or that perhaps people just want something for nothing.4 I believe it is because sin has created a culture of suspicion, possession, self-elevation, and control in the self-serving pursuit of presumed happiness. Lucifer and Adam displayed these same traits and, unfortunately, they continue to this day.

In this culture relationships fade and materialism comes to the fore. With fixed mind-sets, we focus on possessing things—beauty, wealth, fame, knowledge, power, even immortality—with the belief that these define
what we are; and we eschew the relationships that define the very essence of who we are.

The Quest for Meaning

Emily Esfahani Smith recorded a TED Talk in April 2017 entitled “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy,” in which she states that in a culture obsessed with the fleeting emotion of happiness a more fulfilling path can be found only in a life lived with meaning. As she grappled with her own lack of meaning, her turning point led her to conduct countless hours of research and engage in thousands of interviews. Her conclusions define meaning by four pillars: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. In short, these pillars may be summarized as individuals’ identity based on their feelings of acceptance and belonging to a group, their service to others, their acknowledgment of a world that is larger than themselves; and their ability to craft a positive or redemptive metanarrative for their life.

As I listened, I became convinced that whether Emily Smith knows it or not, she has restated biblical lessons regarding God’s culture of immortality. We all feel that there must be more, because God has “set eternity in the human heart” (Eccl. 3:11). Yet apart from God eternity would become hell, a never-ending attempt to find happiness in self-definition and control. In His mercy, eternal life exists only through connection to Him, as He alone has life in Himself (John 5:26). In His wisdom Jesus has provided solutions to our longing.

Intimacy and Immortality

What do you see in Genesis 2 and 3? I see intimacy. The King of the universe stoops in the dust to form man with His own hands. He bends low to breathe life into him. To God, words alone would not suffice in the creation of humanity. No, He chose to get His hands dirty. When Adam first opens His eyes, He sees the face of God. The first words He hears are the words of God. He is surrounded by the perfect creations of God. The love of God envelops his first feelings. What’s more, as Adam sleeps, Eve’s experience parallels his own.

In these scenes we find meaning. God has anticipated and met our core needs. We find our identity as children of God, made in His likeness. He reveals our purpose as stewards of the earth with a duty to serve His creation. As we grow in discovery of Him and His creation, He inspires epiphanies, large and small, moments in which our stories disappear in His. In the midst of our failures, God reminds us of His awe-inspiring redemptive love, and confirms His ability to recreate us in His image.

In all this a self-evident culture comes into view: love, respect, trust, other-centeredness, dependence, patience, long-suffering, mercy, grace, growth. Rather than a trait to be grasped, conditional immortality is simply a support extended by God; a requirement for us to claim our birthright as His sons and daughters (James 1:17; Rom. 6:23). What is that birthright?

According to Ellen White, our birthright is an eternal relationship with God in which “every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. . . . There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body. . . . As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more [men and women] learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character.”5

Bound by love, this relationship sets the conditions for, and defines the culture of immortality.

  1. Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890, 1908), p. 45.
  2. Pew Research Center, “The Changing Global Religious Landscape,” Apr. 5, 2017, retrieved on July 21, 2018, from www.pewforum.org/2017/04/05/the-changing-global-religious-landscape/.
  3. Maggie Fox, “Fewer Americans Believe in God –Yet They Still Believe in Afterlife,” NBC News, Mar. 21, 2016, retrieved on July 21, 2018, from www.nbcnews.com/better/wellness/fewer-americans-believe-god-yet-they-still-believe-afterlife-n542966.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), pp. 677, 678.

Greg Milton is a director of project management for Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia. He and his wife, Luiza, attend the Atlanta North Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Life’s Penultimate Reality

38 1 1

Human attitudes about death run the gauntlet: some fear, and will not speak of it lest their words blight themselves or someone else. At the other extreme there are cultures that thrive on open mockery of it. A follower of Christ, who died and rose again and holds death’s keys, can look beyond death and mortality to life unending with our resurrected Lord in a brand-new earth that will know neither grief nor loss: no more death. We offer some indicators about how people who live in North America see death and the afterlife. —Editors

78.7 years

Average life expectancy in the United States1

57 percent

Adults in the United States who would stop medical treatment if there was no hope for improvement.2

35 percent

Americans who would tell their doctors to do anything possible to keep them alive, even if there was no hope of recovering their health.3

62 percent

Adults in the United States who believe they have a moral right to take their own lives if they are in a great deal of pain and there is no hope of improvement.4

Physician-assisted Suicide

47 percent

49 percent


72 percent
believe in a heaven
“where people who
have led good lives are eternally rewarded.”

58 percent
believe in a hell “where people who have led
bad lives and die
without being sorry are eternally punished.”


(Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu)6

47 percent
believe in “heaven.”

31 percent
believe in “hell.”

  1. Huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/21/death-america-pew-research_n_4312321.html.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/10/most-americans-believe-in-heaven-and-hell/.
  6. Ibid.

We need a God who can’t be explained or trivialized.

Who and what is God? Religions, philosophers, scientists, writers, and romantics have all attempted to explain Him. After all the arguments and all the proofs are presented, most Bible-believing Christians would end up agreeing with two basic statements about Him: (1) God is mystery, and (2) God is love. Yet today debate springs up as Seventh-day Adventists attempt to provide more precise definitions of God.

People of the Book

Throughout its history our church has attracted scholars and academics. Biblical proof texts combined with a coherent macronarrative have marked our evangelistic efforts before there was even a church. Logic, clarity, definition, and certainty provide a siren call of control in a world of chaos. We can explain the why, where, how, and when of humanity’s existence. We understand theodicy. We have doctrines. We “have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Rom. 3:2).

Indeed, truth brightens the path of the searching soul. But trusting in mere human knowledge, limiting ourselves to rational explanations of Bible facts, threatens to overintellectualize and supplant a gospel that at its core is inseparable from faith and personal commitment. Is it possible that we sometimes exchange faith in God and His Word for a false security in some idiosyncratic understanding of
cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am)?

As I look back on my life, I see this tendency in myself: the tendency of trusting my mind and my ability to understand. Unfortunately, this tendency sways toward a precipice that lies close beside the narrow way: to walk by sight, not by faith. Irony stands tall for those of us who claim a belief system that rests on faith. Sadly, I, and others like me, are not the first to careen toward this precipice.

John Harvey Kellogg, mental genius, physician, inventor, innovator, author, thought leader, philanthropist, and giant of the early Seventh-day Adventist Church, fell victim to the belief that he could understand God. He dwelled on where the person of God resides. He created postulates about the Godhead, and even attempted to use examples in nature to explain God. With an awareness of his own genius compared to others, Kellogg attempted to answer the question What is God? Over time, and despite years of prayer and pleading from those closest to him, his own rationale, intellect, and pride became the governors of his life. Kellogg eventually left the church while clutching to pantheistic beliefs.

It is notable that the Bible has much to say about the essential unknowability of God. A few minutes of searching a concordance uncovers scriptures—Job 26:14; 42:1-6; Psalm 139:6, 17, 18; 145:3; 147:5; Isaiah 55:9; and Romans 11:33-36—that clearly tell us God is a mystery. He is incomprehensible to His creation.

Our Multidimensional God

To further illustrate the point, let’s take an object lesson from Edwin Abbott’s
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. The story is written from the point of view of a two-dimensional square who lives in a world named Flatland, in which every object is two-dimensional.

Through the course of the tale, the square encounters a sphere who comes from a three-dimensional world. The square cannot truly conceive of sphere or his world. The sphere makes many attempts to explain himself to the square, but to no avail. The sphere even attempts to reveal himself to the square by passing through his world. Yet the square cannot comprehend the sphere. True, the square sees aspects of the sphere, but despite all the sphere’s efforts, the square cannot discern or understand three-dimensional space or what it means to be a sphere.

This crude example captures the essence of our dilemma with God. As David Asscherick illustrated in a series of sermons entitled “This Is My Church?” delivered to students at Andrews University in March 2014, the very words we use to describe God—omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, omnibeneficence—are mere reminders of the fact that He is a mystery that our finite minds cannot comprehend. When deconstructed, our descriptions of Him will always fail of clarifying His nature, or genius or power or saving love.

For example, to be omnipresent is to be everywhere at once. Yet as we are trapped in space and time, we cannot imagine being in two places at the exact same time. We lack the words and experience to even begin to portray this single aspect of God accurately. In the context of our analogy, we are two-dimensional objects attempting to understand a three-dimensional world. We see slivers of truth, but completely fail to understand the subject in its totality.

Perhaps this is why Christ asked, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Of all the things the Word could attempt, He did not attempt to explain in detail the nature of God, but to reveal His character, leaving us with the confidence of the Father’s solicitude, because “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).. Scripture does not attempt to reduce God to the limits of our descriptions and understanding. Instead, the Bible, like nature and our personal providences, provides evidence that God is love, and for this reason, is entirely worthy of our trust.

Always the Same, Always Changing

Do you remember the “everlasting gobstopper” from the children’s book
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? It was a candy that could be enjoyed forever without ever growing smaller or disappearing. This infinite candy also regularly produced new flavors to experience.

The path of faith to which God’s elect are called is like this everlasting gobstopper. For the redeemed, His mystery is part of God’s gift to us. Referring to those who are saved, Ellen White wrote: “And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ.”1

Faith is the key to the birthright that we lost in Eden. Faith unites us with angelic hosts and with other created worlds as we peer into the mystery of love. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor 2:9, KJV).

  1. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 678.

Greg Milton is a director of project management for Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia. He and his wife, Luiza, attend the Atlanta North Seventh-day Adventist Church.