Sabbath School Reflections: Motivated & Moved by Hope

Reflections on The Great Controversy chapters 18-21

Charissa Torossian
Sabbath School Reflections: Motivated & Moved by Hope
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash
Listen to the audio version here

Chapters 18-21 of The Great Controversy are epic. As I read (and listened) to these chapters, I was struck yet again with the overwhelming realisation of the incredible, transformative power of God’s Word. Throughout history the careful, prayerful, patient study of the Scriptures has ever been the catalyst for the Holy Spirit to work real and remarkable changes in the lives of men and women, boys and girls—people just like you and me.

William Miller experienced this life transformation, and his approach to the study of the Bible is worthy of consideration. This quotation included by Ellen White in her biographical chapter on his life, beautifully captures his ardent love for the Scriptures:

“I saw that the Bible did bring to view just such a Saviour as I needed; and I was perplexed to find how an uninspired book should develop principles so perfectly adapted to the wants of a fallen world. I was constrained to admit that the Scriptures must be a revelation from God. They became my delight; and in Jesus I found a friend. The Saviour became to me the chiefest among ten thousand; and the Scriptures, which before were dark and contradictory, now became the lamp to my feet and light to my path. My mind became settled and satisfied. I found the Lord God to be a Rock in the midst of the ocean of life. The Bible now became my chief study, and I can truly say, I searched it with great delight. I found the half was never told me. I wondered why I had not seen its beauty and glory before, and marveled that I could have ever rejected it. I found everything revealed that my heart could desire, and a remedy for every disease of the soul. I lost all taste for other reading, and applied my heart to get wisdom from God” (S. Bliss, Memoirs of Wm. Miller, pp. 65-67).

Simply Studying God’s Word

William Miller didn’t have a plethora of Bible commentaries in his library, years of theological training behind his name, or the internet with a powerful search engine! Yet his simple, methodological study of the Bible led him to stumble upon the soon fulfilment of the Bible’s longest time prophecy. A Baptist, Christian farmer, Miller believed wholeheartedly that the Bible was God’s Word, could be trusted, and was relevant to his life and future. This positioned him to be a vessel God could use; and He did. Miller’s message literally set in motion the events that precipitated the Advent movement.

 “He had devoted two years to the study of the Bible, when, in 1818, he reached the solemn conviction that in about twenty-five years Christ would appear for the redemption of His people” (The Great Controversy, p. 329). Let’s not miss this! It was as Miller unpacked the prophecies of Daniel 7, 8, and 9, that he was led to discover the startling connection of Daniel 8:14 to the time in which he lived. Thus, the catalyst for William Miller’s discovery was specifically the study of Bible prophecy. This connection was extremely impacting and motivating for him. Love for God and confidence in Him is today still strengthened through this same study. And it should not surprise us, for this is the purpose of Bible prophecy. Jesus said, “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe” (John 14:29).

As Seventh-day Adventists we find our prophetic roots in Revelation 10, our prophetic identity in Revelation 12, and our prophetic mission and message in Revelation 14. Sadly, many today think Bible prophecy is too hard and even irrelevant for our lives. Ellen White identifies the ultimate reason for the disinterest many professing Christians have toward the study of Bible prophecy at the end of chapter 18: “It is the result of a studied effort of the prince of darkness to conceal from men that which reveals his deceptions. For this reason, Christ the Revelator, foreseeing the warfare that would be waged against the study of the Revelation, pronounced a blessing upon all who should read, hear, and observe the words of the prophecy” (The Great Controversy, p. 342, emphasis supplied).

Stirred and Discontent

I love that William Miller was 50 years old, with no training or preaching experience when God called him to preach. Truly, God looks not for ability but our availability. The messages of this farmer turned preacher stirred the hearts of thousands, inspiring others to preach also, and revival followed. While Miller’s understanding of Daniel 8:14 led him to a wrong but prophetic conclusion, we should ask ourselves this question: Is my heart as stirred by the blessed hope of Jesus’ soon return as Miller’s was? The more we prayerfully study God’s Word, hungering and seeking after His righteousness, the more we will be motivated by the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) of seeing our Saviour face to face.

“Those who really love the Saviour cannot but hail with gladness the announcement founded upon the word of God that He in whom their hopes of eternal life are centered is coming again, not to be insulted, despised, and rejected, as at His first advent, but in power and glory, to redeem His people. It is those who do not love the Saviour that desire Him to remain away, and there can be no more conclusive evidence that the churches have departed from God than the irritation and animosity excited by this Heaven-sent message” (The Great Controversy, p. 341).

Oh, that we would love God more and love this world less! Oh, that our hearts would yearn for the salvation of the world around us, as God’s own heart yearns for the salvation of this world! Oh, that we would be discontent with a mediocre faith walk with Christ!

Ashes to Adventist

As a testament to the Holy Spirit’s work and leading, people from around the world came to Miller’s same thrilling conclusion, that the coming of Jesus was imminent. Joseph Wolff, Lacunza, Bengel, Gaussen, and the child preachers in Scandinavia are just some of the individual stories highlighted in the book. Their lives remind us that whenever God’s truth is preached, attended by the power of the Holy Spirit, it reaches everyone and anyone. The rich and the poor. The old and the young. The educated and the uneducated. Ready sacrifices were willingly made for Jesus by those early Advent believers as the glory of God’s love and truth was grasped by faith. The stories surrounding the revival that swept the globe in the months and weeks before October 22 are exciting. While their hopes were crushed for a little while, what a joy it is to be reminded that, “Jesus and all the heavenly host looked with love and sympathy upon the tried and faithful yet disappointed ones. Could the veil separating the visible world have been swept back, angels would have been seen drawing near to these steadfast souls and shielding them from the shafts of Satan” (The Great Controversy, p. 374).

While October 22 came and went as a devastating blow for the Advent believers of 1844, we are privileged today to view their disappointment from the vantage point of hindsight. Today, we can see clearly that that which was considered to be a great disappointment, was in fact a divine appointment with prophetic destiny (cf. Revelation 10). Much like the disciples of Jesus who discovered their greatest joy and purpose after their great disappointment at Calvary, so Seventh-day Adventism as a movement finds its great purpose in the ashes of the disappointment of 1844.

Disappointment does not disqualify a movement; the story of Calvary assures us of this. If the disciples of Jesus could overlook the important fact that Jesus had said He would rise again on the third day, we should not be surprised that the true meaning of Daniel 8:14 was missed by the Adventist believers in 1844 also. Ellen White states clearly God’s purpose in allowing this:

“The great day was at hand, and in His providence the people were brought to the test of a definite time, in order to reveal to them what was in their hearts. The message was designed for the testing and purification of the church.They were to be led to see whether their affections were set upon this world or upon Christ and heaven. They professed to love the Saviour; now they were to prove their love. Were they ready to renounce their worldly hopes and ambitions, and welcome with joy the advent of their Lord? The message was designed to enable them to discern their true spiritual state; it was sent in mercy to arouse them to seek the Lord with repentance and humiliation” (The Great Controversy, p. 353).

I’m not surprised William Miller never imagined his message would birth another denomination. He had just assumed that Christians everywhere would be thrilled and long to meet Jesus in the clouds of heaven! But as people heard the preaching of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, they found themselves unable to stay in the churches they were part of and some were asked to leave so thousands left their denominations in the summer of 1844. Today, as we live so much nearer to the coming of Jesus than those first Adventists, God’s truth continues to have the same effect. All around the world, the three angels’ messages continue to call people to stand for Jesus and follow His truth. Truly, “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). These are just a few salient points that stood out to me in the reading of these chapters. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. The collective decline in the spiritual condition of the churches at the time of the proclamation of the first angels’ message, the simple unpacking of the prophecies of Daniel 7, 8 and 9, amongst other things, are excellently documented as welll. May the Holy Spirit help our love for Jesus to be so strengthened through our study of His Word, so that we too will be moved with burning conviction to tell the world of our soon coming Lord.

Charissa Torossian

Charissa Torossian is the prayer coordinator for the North New South Wales Conference in Australia where she lives with her husband and son.