My favorite author put it this way:
“There is in human nature a tendency to run to extremes and from one extreme to another entirely opposite. Many are fanatics.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies Vol. 5, 305.
I believe this is also the case in regards to end time “speculation”. There are two extremes, two ditches to fall in when it comes to how we relate to God-inspired prophecies. Therefore let’s humbly and prayerfully consider the two, and may God help us to not stay/fall into any of them…
Ditch #1: Too little focus/attention
Roughly one third of the entire Bible is prophecies. Further in average 1 out of every 25 verses in the New Testament talks about our great hope of the Second Coming of Christ. That makes a total of over 300 times, 330 to be exact. Additionally, it has been calculated that 1,527 verses in the Old Testament refer to the Second Coming of Christ. In fact, for every time the first coming of Christ is mentioned, the Second Coming is mentioned eight times! In other words, there are good reasons to conclude that the revelation of the second coming of Christ is one of the most important and most frequently mentioned teachings in the Word of God and in the NT in particular, wouldn’t you agree?1
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near,” penned the disciple that Jesus loved in the introduction of the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:3). As if that was not enough, in the end, in the very last chapter of the book he writes: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” – Revelation 22: 7.
Think about that. That’s remarkable. That’s unique.
Tell me one other book in the Bible that either begins or ends with such an encouragement to study and embrace its message…
Sure, we do well to study any book of the Bible and as we take the message to heart we will be blessed/it will increase our joy. But there is no other book in the Bible with such a strong encouragement to read and to heed.
Another noteworthy Scripture are the following words from the lips of Christ: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand” – Matthew 24:15 (NIV)
Jesus here quotes from the prophetic book of Daniel and entreats people to understand its message. He never did the same with any other book of the Bible. He never quotes from the book of Job and encourages people to understand its message… He never came with a stronger encouragement to understand any other specific portion of Scripture.
What makes this even more remarkable and relevant is that He did this in Matthew 24 – in the context of the time of the end – the signs of the Second Coming.
In other words, the two books of the Bible that the Word of God itself especially encourages us to give our earnest attention, the two books we are most strongly entreated to understand and apply are the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation. So there is not without reason that Ellen White wrote2:
“There is need of a much closer study of the word of God; especially should Daniel and the Revelation have attention as never before in the history of our work.” – Counsels to Writers and Editors, 65.
“The book of Revelation, in connection with the book of Daniel, demands close study… We are to proclaim to the world the great and solemn truths contained in the book of Revelation. Into the very designs and principles of the church of God these truths are to enter. There should be a closer and more diligent study of this book, a more earnest presentation of the truths it contains, truths which concern all who are living in these last days. All who are preparing to meet their Lord should make this book the subject of earnest study and prayer.” – Signs of the Times, July 4, 1906.
To conclude this part: one ditch, one extreme most Christians and even many Seventh-day Adventist Christians today have fallen into is too give the end time prophecies too little focus/attention. To not heed the encouragement of the Word of God – of our loving Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the degree we should have.
Ditch #2: Too much/unbalanced focus/attention
Again, “There is in human nature a tendency to run to extremes and from one extreme to another entirely opposite. Many are fanatics.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies Vol. 5, 305.
When we rightly react to the position of people in one ditch, in this case, people who give the prophecies too little focus/attention, we are in danger of taking it too far, in going to the other ditch.
I can hardly imagine that we give the study of God-inspired end time prophecies too much of our attention. Most of the time the problem is rather the opposite. But undoubtedly, we who eagerly study the prophecies have the tendency, and too often fall into the ditch of having an unbalanced focus and giving prophecy related aspects too much weight or attention.
“Now the End Comes!”
“Now the end comes!”, many a sincere Christians and Seventh-day Adventists have proclaimed as they observe a new remarkable move from the pope or the president of the United States.
Yet time has passed.
Years have passed.
In fact, decades have passed, and we are still here!
Yes, we should earnestly study the prophecies and follow along on how things in our world are developing in line with what the prophecies predicted. Yet, we need to be humble – and careful.
For several reasons…
End Time Speculation?
While I believe using our holy imagination to picture how God’s Word will come true we must not be cocksure or overconfident.3 We must remember that our understanding is faulty and limited. Thing’s might not happen exactly as we think they will. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways, and God’s thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
Additionally I believe we do well to remember that both the disciples and early Adventist pioneers were surprised to learn that things didn’t happen in the way they thought it would…
That being said I want to say this: the prophecies are not blurry, vague and speculative as some think. No, they are clear, powerful and specific. We can see and know when the Second Coming is approaching the Word of God says (Hebrews 10:25…).
“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near,” Christ said (Matthew 24:32). And I can tell you, even though we do not have fig trees here in Scandinavia, we know – even in the coldest parts of Scandinavia – when the summer is near!
So, as we humbly, prayerfully and earnestly study and observe what the prophecies say – we are not involved in end time speculation. But rather we are observing facts – how God’s sure Word of prophecy is step-by-step becoming a living reality!
But don’t miss this crucial point. That is, when we observe what the prophecy does say!
This leads us to another thing we do well to remember. The prophecies will not be fulfilled in a hidden corner or secret room. They will be fulfilled before the eyes of the world! For instance we are told that it will be the people, not one leader or a small group of leaders, who will make the image of the beast (Revelation 13:14)!
So as we are observing how God’s Word is coming true, let’s spend our time observing what is happening in the open world rather than speculate about what happens behind closed doors.
After all, how much time did Ellen White in the Great Controversy spend on what will happen behind closed doors? How many times did she talk about Jesuits? Freemasons or Illuminati?
Give it a search!
The Healing of the Wound
If I fall and break my leg today, in what condition will I be in tomorrow?
Unless God performs a miracle, my leg will be broken!
You see, a wound does not heal over night! It takes time, it is a process.
So with the beast in Revelation 13 and the coming of Christ.
There is no one sign that tells us that the time of Christ is imminent. There is no one sign that will make it clear to us that now the end comes!
Ellen White nailed it:
“Those who place themselves under God’s control, to be led and guided by Him, will catch the steady tread of the events ordained by Him to take place.” – Testimonies Vol. 7, 14.
So though the wound is not healed in one event, when we view our world with spirit-anointed eyes we will see the “steady treads of events.”
And as we look back today on the significant events related to the Catholic Church since 1798 (when it received its healing wound), or even just the last 30 years, a lot has happened. The wound is indeed healing and it has come very far in that process!
So why is this important?
You see, when a remarkable thing is happening towards the fulfillment of a Bible prophecy, we may be tempted to make more out of it than it is. We may be tempted to shout: “now the end is here!” While this might only be an important step in that direction and more time than we think yet will pass. If we fall for that temptation, people will (and sadly many have) loose confidence in the prophetic words of God! When we talk about minor things or speculative things related to the prophecies, it may many times have an opposite effect than we intended. It might lessen people’s confidence while if we only focused on major prophetic events people’s confidence and faith may have been strengthened.
Now, please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that we shouldn’t preach the prophecies. We definitely should. In fact, the very purpose of our church is to share the three angels messages to the world. But what I am saying is that we need to carefully consider how and when we share it, what focus we have and how much we talk about different things.
Do Not Be Like the Catholic Church!
Please, never forget, the book of Revelation is first and foremost a Revelation of Jesus Christ and not a revelation of the beast! (Revelation 1:1)
Don’t be an antichrist – don’t be like the system of the Catholic Church (remember, there are many great and sincere Catholics around the world!).
What is the main thing God has against that system?
They put themselves in the place of Christ and they lead people’s attention away from Christ (from the heavenly sanctuary to earthly temples, from his priestly ministration to human priests etc.)
Think about it, if we tell people about the beast, a horn or whatever prophetic detail or character it might be, while failing to lift up Christ as we should – we are doing the same error! We lead people’s attention away from Christ!
In fact, in away we are even worse. We condemn the Roman Catholic Church for doing this while we in that very process are committing the same error!
Let’s heed the wise counsel of Ellen White:
“Ministers should present the sure word of prophecy as the foundation of the faith of Seventh-day Adventists. The prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation should be carefully studied, and in connection with them the words, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” [JOHN 1:29.]” – Gospel Workers, 148.
“Lift up Jesus, you that teach the people, lift Him up in sermon, in song, in prayer. Let all your powers be directed to pointing souls, confused, bewildered, lost, to “the Lamb of God.” Lift Him up, the risen Saviour, and say to all who hear, Come to Him who “hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us.” [Ephesians 5:2.] Let the science of salvation be the burden of every sermon, the theme of every song. Let it be poured forth in every supplication.” – Gospel Workers, 160.
“Theoretical discourses are essential, that people may see the chain of truth, link after link, uniting in a perfect whole; but no discourse should ever be preached without presenting Christ and Him crucified as the foundation of the gospel. Ministers would reach more hearts if they would dwell more upon practical godliness.” – Evangelism, 186.
In Closing: The Most Important Things…
Where are you at today? Which ditch are you in or in danger of going towards?
Is God calling you to study the prophecies more than you are?
To read or reread the Great Controversy?
Is He calling you to change your focus or attention in your study and/or presentation of the prophecies?
While we should be interested in the Pope’s agenda we should be much more interested in God’s agenda!
What is He waiting for?
Be certain, He is not waiting for the Pope or the United States, He is waiting for you and for me!4
While the timing for Christ return should be on our mind, our fitness for His return is much more important!
“The only way to be ready for our Lord’s return is to love Christ supremely, know Christ intimately, obey Christ willingly and share Christ passionately. As Luther Warren, a powerful Adventist preacher from yesteryear, once said, “ The only way to be ready for Christ’s second coming is to get ready today and stay ready.” The purpose of all of the signs of Christ’s coming is not to make us sign-watchers. The purpose of the signs is to lead us to a deeper, richer, fuller relationship with Jesus.”5
Beloved of God, are you ready to meet our soon-coming Lord?
Read the article: “Is It Time To Keep Silent?” here.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
Here are two more statements: “The solemn messages that have been given in their order in the Revelation are to occupy the first place in the minds of God’s people. Nothing else is to be allowed to engross our attention.” – Testimonies Vol. 8, 302.
“If our people were half awake, if they realized the nearness of the events portrayed in the Revelation, a reformation would be wrought in our churches, and many more would believe the message. We have no time to lose; God calls upon us to watch for souls as they that must give an account.” – Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 118.
One Biblical example of this is Hebrews 11:19.
See for instance: 2 Peter 3:9, 12, Matthew 24:14, Mark 4:26-29, Revelation 14:14-16,
“It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in “because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.
For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord’s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.” – Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Vol. 1, 68-69, emphasis added.
““When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.
It is the privilege of every Christian not only to look for but to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Peter 3:12, margin). Were all who profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the whole world would be sown with the seed of the gospel. Quickly the last great harvest would be ripened, and Christ would come to gather the precious grain.”- Ellen G. White, Christ Object Lessons, 69.
“The final movements will be rapid ones.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, Vol. 9, 11.
“The Pope and Church Unity – How Close are We?”Mark Finley, http://intoalltheworld.com/the-pope-and-church-unity-how-close-are-we/#.VdB0_rdkI-M