April 24, 2016

Adventism's Massive, Unrealized Potential

Q. Where do you personally believe the Adventist Church is in the stream of Bible prophecy?

Prophetically, the Adventist Church exists at the intersection between “Remnant” identity, with all its latent potential, and “Laodicean” identity, with all its self-deceived blindness.

Adventism is a massive unrealized potential!

The problem is, we live as a people under the persistent, self-inflicted illusion that “we are finishing the work.” We imagine that if we just say what we’re saying loud enough and far enough, that if we just come up with the right program or system, that if we just get ourselves on the biggest Television networks, then our mission will be completed. So through our Laodicean eyes, we assume we simply have a logistics problem and it never occurs to us that we may have a fundamental content problem.

The problem is, we live as a people under the persistent, self-inflicted illusion that “we are finishing the work.”

There is only one move that can be made to thrust the mission of Adventism forward. We need to retrace our historical steps and go back to where we last saw the light. And where we last saw the light was when the prophet to this movement went to her death urging that the gospel of righteousness by faith must become pervasively incorporated into our doctrinal construct, our missional methods, and our ecclesiastical systems.

“Our churches are dying for the want of teaching on the subject of righteousness by faith in Christ, and on kindred truths” (Ellen White, Gospel Workers, p. 301).

“The thought that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, not because of any merit on our part, but as a free gift from God, is a precious thought. The enemy of God and man is not willing that this truth should be clearly presented; for he knows that if the people receive it fully, his power will be broken” (Ellen White, Gospel Workers, p. 161).

“The end is near! We have not a moment to lose! Light is to shine forth from God's people in clear, distinct rays, bringing Jesus before the churches and before the world. . . . One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other—Christ our righteousness” (Ellen White,Review and Herald, December 23, 1890).

Our current predicament is twofold: (1) The strident voices on the right have redefined “righteousness by faith” as “victory over sin” and “obedience to the law,” which keeps the emphasis and onus on the human agent as the primary locus of forward thrust, and therefore it is merely a retooled continuation of the egocentric, legalistic orientation God has been attempting to correct in Adventism since 1888. (2) The strident voices on the left have merely reacted to the legalism on the right by marginalizing or denying key Adventist doctrines while adopting a weak sentimentalism wrongly called “grace.”And so swings the great Adventist pendulum!

What is vitally needed is an understanding of the gospel that is richly informed by and seen through the lens of Adventist doctrine and eschatology. When that happens, the theological fission we commonly call the “loud cry” will take form, through which the whole earth will be “illuminated” with the “glory” of God’s good character, thus overturning (or causing the “fall” of) the dark pictures of God advanced by “Babylon” (Revelation 18:1-4).

Q. Is the eschaton to happen soon? If so, why? If not, why not?

As a general rule, eschatological prophecy is conditional, not determined. Peter explained that, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This is the key factor from God’s side of the eschatological equation. He loves people and waits as long as there is any hope of salvation for men and women.

The reason I say this is a “general rule” is because there is a variable that God alone can see and monitor. In modern social and market trends, the principle upon which this variable operates is called, “the tipping point.” It is the point at which the cumulative directional weight of a trend builds momentum sufficient to become normative or profitable. This principle applies not only to economics, but also to psychology, politics and morality.

The Bible articulates the tipping point phenomenon in various difference ways. I’ll offer two examples: (1) the “full cup” principle and (2) “the fulness of time” factor. You’ve only allowed me 1000 words, so I will simply summarize the idea like this:

There is a line that the corporate mass of humanity may cross beyond which no additional time or mercy would have redemptive effect. We might call it, an irrevocable moral slide, just because that sounds cool (although I assure you, it is not). God alone is of sufficient wisdom to discern when and if that line is crossed. Theoretically, if that line were crossed, it is conceivable that God would find it necessary to intervene to “cut the work short for righteous purposes.”

Short of that line being crossed, God will continue to labor with the hope that His church will awaken to its glorious identity in Christ and rush with “beautiful feet” to the highest mountains of public discourse to proclaim the good news of God’s unfailing love.

Anyone who keeps reading will be changed in their perspectives. To not change is not learn or grow.

Q. Was your perspective the same at the beginning of your Adventist experience, or has it changed over time? How have your views changed since the year 2000?

Anyone who keeps reading will be changed in their perspectives. … To not change is to not learn or grow. My views have become more nuanced in some ways and more concrete in other ways. I’m almost out of words, so I’ll leave it at that, because I like the next question more.

Q. What events will signal to you that we have reached the last moments of earths history?

The moral evils of the world will wax and wane as humans react back and forth socially, politically, and militarily. But there is an unseen factor that constantly plays into the acceleration and breaking process of world events. God’s angels are holding in check “the fierce winds of human passion” (Last Day Events, p. 239) until God’s people are sealed in their foreheads, or settled into the truth of God’s selfless love, both intellectually and spiritually, so that they cannot be moved by the release of the forces of evil.

What we should be watching for is a phenomenon of convergence, not merely of critical mass. In other words, the end will come when certain key factors converge to produce an overall climate in which God can safely lean into His people with “latter rain power” and lean out from the world by ceasing to hold the “four winds” of human evil at bay. The end will not come simply when there are enough natural disasters and there is enough papal popularity. Those kinds of factors are throttled by
angelic influence as the Holy Spirit simultaneously strives to rivet the attention of the church on the love of Christ (Romans 5:5-8).

Two forces will clash with increasing intensity: love and selfishness. One the one had, Jesus said that the love of many will grow cold, while, on the other hand, in the face of increased degradation and hostility, God’s people will “endure” with love “to the end” (Matthew 24:12-14).

So when we witness within the church the love of Christ in our dealings with one another, and when the focus of the church shifts with significant focus and passion to the message of righteousness by faith, then we can know that we have reached the final moments of earth’s history.

Ty Gibson is Co-director of Light Bearers and pastor of Storyline Adventist Church in Eugene, Oregon.