Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re undoubtedly aware of Pope Francis’ whirlwind tour of the United States last fall.
Francis’ visit might be the story of 2015, and with good reason. The highlight of his rockstar-like tour was a keynote address in Washington, D.C., as he became the first pope to address a joint session of Congress. Without question, Francis has a number of endearing qualities: his compassion for the poor, concern about the climate, support for traditional family values, and the sanctity of life among them.
But don’t be fooled. Even if 99 percent of Francis’ message is commendable, he has, like every other papal leader before him, a greater mission: to return the Vatican to the prominence it once enjoyed as the most influential power in the world, to heal the deadly wound (see Rev. 13:3).
Adventists should be paying attention. It’s important to follow current events along with the light we’ve been given through our understanding of the books of Daniel and Revelation and the counsels of Ellen White. But at the same time, this should not be our greatest concern.
The Adventist movement is not rooted in the proclamation of a national Sunday law or warnings about the mark of the beast.
The first angel of Revelation 14 is seen flying through the heavens with an eternal gospel to share with the entire world. This sequence culminates with the message of the third angel in verses 9-14. Ellen White called this third message “the theme of greatest importance.”1
So what, exactly, is this theme? Again, White brings clarity: “The message of Christ’s righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel.”2
Are we better versed in the pope’s encyclicals than the truth of the third angel’s message? We Seventh-day Adventists have the privilege of introducing the world to this theme of greatest importance: the righteousness of Christ.
In Revelation 14:10 those who receive the mark of the beast are faced with having to drink “the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength in the cup of his wrath.”
These words point us back to the experience of Jesus in Gethsemane. With blood dripping off His forehead, He begged the Father to “take this cup from me” (Matt. 22:42). Thankfully, He drank that cup by yielding Himself to death and complete separation from His Father, a separation so complete that Jesus wasn’t sure He’d see the Father again.3
No one has to perish. In the end, the only people who will drink the cup of God’s wrath are those who don’t accept that Jesus already drank it for them. His righteousness frees us from the law of sin and death. Our faith in His righteousness gives us power to “keep the commandments of God” (Rev. 14:12, KJV).
I wonder if we’ve been dwelling on lesser themes to the exclusion of the greatest one. The pope has a strategy to fulfill his mission. It’s time that we focus on fulfilling ours.
Jimmy Phillips is executive director of marketing at San Joaquin Community Hospital.