The voice of God in the General Conference (Part V)

Considerable discussion has taken place among conservative Adventists regarding Ellen White’s statements across the decades of her ministry concerning the authority of the General Conference. The assumption has been promoted, based on a few passages, that while Ellen White in her early ministry saw the General Conference as the voice of God on earth, that in later years she changed this position due to departure on the part of the brethren from various aspects of divine instruction.

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Gunfire in Genesis

The Advent Movement was designed to be a cavalry.  It was to be fast-moving, hard-hitting, and always on the offensive, taking the three angel's messages to the entire world and calling the remnant out of Babylon. Many of you are like me, you enlisted in this apocalyptic army, summoned by a love for truth and by catching the vision of that great controversy. You responded to the call. And so our spiritual careers are encircled by spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:4).  We must fight the good fight and be alert for the enemy is prowling around looking to destroy people (1 Timothy 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8).

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The principle of conditional prophecy (Part IV)

Some years ago, the leaders of two Seventh-day Adventist self-supporting ministries participated in doctrinal discussions with leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement.  At one point in the conversation, one of the self-supporting ministry leaders asked those from the Reform group, “Does your church have rampant apostasy in it?  Are false doctrines being taught in your schools and pulpits?  Are there false forms of worship being promoted in your churches as the new, avant garde method of reaching the lost?  Are Bible and Spirit of Prophecy lifestyle standards being widely disregarded in your ranks?” The Reform leaders vigorously shook their heads.  “Absolutely not!” they insisted.  Whereupon the self-supporting ministry leader who had asked the question responded: “Then you can’t possibly be the true church.  Because according to the Spirit of Prophecy, these are the types of conditions that will prevail within God’s true church at the close of time, prior to the shaking.” 

The point raised by this self-supporting ministry leader offers an insightful introduction to our consideration of the attempt by certain ones to apply the principle of conditional prophecy to Ellen White’s statements on the end-time shaking and the survival of the church.  Those conservative Adventists who have toyed with—and in some cases accepted—the notion that the denominational structure is presently beyond any realistic hope of reform, frequently cite the Old Testament promises to ancient Israel and the fact that these were conditional on obedience (1). Such persons insist that those who believe organized Adventism will eventually triumph despite an overwhelmingly disobedient majority, are advocating a form of “unconditional election,” “corporate predestination,” or “once saved, always saved” so far as the church is concerned (2). One such person writes: "Today as then, obedience to God’s law is the condition of all His promises" (3).

We will address in a later installment of this series the circumstances under which divine rejection of a particular faith community is possible.  But the question we must rightfully ask is, Are all God’s promises in fact conditional?  What about the promise of Christ that He will come again (John 14:3)?  Is there any chance that won’t happen?  Certainly the timing of the second advent is conditional, on the spiritual preparedness of the church (II Peter 3:10-14; I John 3:2-3).  This is the biblical premise on which Ellen White bases her assertion, “When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (4).  But is the fact that Jesus is coming again also conditional?  I see no biblical or Spirit of Prophecy evidence to suggest that it is.

Along the same lines, God has promised to make a final end of sin, to dispense eternal rewards to the righteous and the wicked, and to restore the lost paradise of Eden on this earth.  Is that promise conditional?  Is there any chance it won’t happen?   Is the promise of John 3:16 conditional, that “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”? 

I think we get the picture. Many of God’s promises are certainly conditional.  But one is hard pressed to make a biblical case that every one of them is.                                                           

What is particularly problematic about applying the principle of conditional prophecy to Ellen White’s prediction of Adventism’s final triumph, is the specific nature of the predictions themselves.  When someone states that Ellen White’s promises of the church going through are conditional on obedience, we need to ask, Conditional on whose obedience?  That of the majority within the church?  How can this be if the very predictions of this triumph make clear the great majority will not be obedient?

It would be one thing if the writings of Inspiration simply predicted the ultimate triumph of the church, without giving details regarding the allegiance at that time of either the majority or minority of professing believers.  Even more significant would have been a prediction on Ellen White’s part that the great majority would prove faithful in the end—a prediction which, no doubt, would be cause for widespread discouragement in the present situation.  In the light of that sort of prediction, the argument for conditional prophecy would carry more weight.  (It helps to remember that unlike Ellen White’s predictions regarding the end-time church and the shaking, the Old Testament never foretells the spiritual triumph of ancient Israel despite the departure of an apostate majority.)  But all the inspired evidence we have seen thus far indicates that the church’s great majority will prove disobedient in the end, but that God will save His church anyway—by sifting the disobedient out.

We need to be careful here, of course.  It is true that the salvation of each individual is conditional on sanctified obedience (II Thess. 2:13; Heb. 5:9).  Salvation is a personal affair, not a corporate one.  In Ellen White’s words: "The work of preparation is an individual work.  We are not saved in groups.  The purity and devotion of one will not offset the want of these qualities in another" (5).

A fundamental principle of the great controversy has been God’s respect for the free choice of His created beings.  No divine action or promise can ever transcend that freedom.  With this in mind, some have claimed God cannot guarantee the eventual triumph of organized Adventism because such a guarantee would overrule free choice.  One such person has observed: "Others (those believing in the church’s ultimate triumph) believe that in some way God is going to force the organization to repent and reform" (6).

But the end-time purification of corporate Adventism will not require force.  God’s reverence for free choice does not prevent Him from allowing or creating circumstances which would make continuing involvement in the believing community intolerable to those choosing to reject His truth, disregard His standards, and thus spurn His salvation.  What we have seen thus far from the inspired pen gives every evidence that this is precisely what God will do to the Seventh-day Adventist Church when the mark of the beast is urged upon us.

No Cause for Complacency

Some conservative Adventists genuinely fear that the view expressed in this series encourages unwarranted trust in church leadership and organization, and a resulting spirit of complacency.  (“The church is going through, so as long as I’m in the church, I’m going through.”)  Indeed it is sad that certain ones, whether in laity or leadership, have at times quoted Ellen White’s assurances that the church is going through as a means of silencing legitimate, constructive criticism of contemporary church practices or institutional policies.  If indeed—so the reasoning goes—the Adventist Church is the object of God’s supreme regard and is prophetically destined to triumph in the end, anything permitted or endorsed by any segment of the official church is presumably not to be disputed. 

But such naïve assumptions are quickly demolished by the very statements which promise the church’s triumph.  Anyone who quotes Ellen White’s promise that the church will not fall as justification for beliefs or activities disobedient to inspired counsel, is pronouncing his own sentence of doom.  One was painfully reminded of this point some years ago, when one contemporary Adventist author wrote a book trashing a number of distinctive Adventist beliefs and standards, then devoted an entire chapter near the end to assuring our people that “the church will go through” (7).

But the same promise which declares that the church will not fall assures us that “the sinners in Zion will be sifted out” (8).  Sinners in Zion can include anyone from the lowliest pew-sitter to the General Conference President.  However entrenched such persons may appear within the denominational system, the final fulfillment of prophecy will create circumstances which will make their continuing presence in official Adventism intolerable to themselves as well as the faithful.  Thus, as the servant of the Lord declares, they will, “under one pretext or another, go out from us” (9). 

At the bottom line, those who deny our distinctive message and its practical demands, but who simultaneously assure our people that the church will go through, will—unless they repent—find themselves outside the church when it does go through.  Such persons deserve a lot of prayer and godly opposition from conservative Adventists, but never should the faithful permit the presumption of such persons—in predicting the church’s ultimate triumph while facilitating and tolerating departure from inspired truth—to in any way shake their confidence in the divinely-promised victory of the corporate Seventh-day Adventist Church over apostasy. 

The next installment of our series will consider Ellen White’s statements regarding the voice of God in the General Conference, and how all of her statements on this subject—despite seeming discrepancies over time—fit together in perfect harmony according to her own explanation. 


1. Gwen Reeves, “An Unconditional Promise?” Historic Adventist Land Marks, April 1996, pp. 13-15; Ron Becker, “What Inspiration Says About . . . Conditional Promises,” Historic Adventist Land Marks, April 1996, pp. 23-25.

2. Reeves, “An Unconditional Promise?” Historic Adventist Land Marks, April 1996, pp. 14-15.

3. Ibid, p. 14.

4. Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69.

5. ----The Great Controversy, p. 490.

6. John Grosboll, “Which Church Do We Take Them To?” Historic Adventist Land Marks, November 1996, p. 7.

7. Martin Weber, Adventist Hot Potatoes (Boise, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 1991), pp. 114-125.

8. White, Selected Messages, vo. 2, p. 380.

9. ----Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 400.

The strange case of Adventism and sexuality

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has done well at using Scripture to sift traditional doctrine and practice, and reject that which is not biblical. A good example is the Sabbath, there being no sound biblical argument for keeping the pagan day of the Sun in derogation of the biblical Sabbath. Another example would be the state of the dead; the notion that a disembodied consciousness continues on after death is a pagan Greek idea that is contrary to the Scriptures. But Adventists have not done as well as most other “high Scripture” Christian churches in one area. We are weak on the one topic that Christianity has historically seen as emblematic of, almost definitional to, the distinction between Christians and pagans.

We Have No Fundamental Belief on Sexual Behavior

As Dr. Elizabeth Iskander pointed out in an article here last October, the SDA Church has no fundamental belief on sexual behavior. Elizabeth proposed that the following language be added to FB No. 22, on Christian Behavior:

We are not to engage in biblically unlawful sexual acts, including sexual acts between persons of the same sex, or between unmarried persons of opposite sex. Lev. 11:1-47; 3 John 2; Lev. 18:6-18, 22; Ex. 22:19; Prov. 7; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 5:1-2, 6:9-11, 7:2-3; 1 Thes. 4:3-4; Heb. 13:4.)

It is not clear why our fundamental beliefs contain no statement setting out this basic, near universal Christian belief about sexual activity.

It could be argued that such a statement is not necessary, because it is common to Christianity. But there are many things in our fundamental beliefs that are shared by almost all Christians, including that the Scriptures are the written word of God (FB 1), the there is a Trinity (FB 2), that Jesus is God, was incarnated, died for our sins, and was resurrected (FB 4), etc. Since we chose to reiterate many of the basics of the Christian faith, why did we omit a statement on sexual behavior?

We Have Ignored All Biblical Guidance on Sex Roles

I will not extensively rehash what has often been discussed on this site, but the Bible establishes sex roles in the home and in the church. The husband is the head of the home. (Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1). The church offices of episkopēs (“bishop” or “overseer”) and presbuteros (“elder”) are described as male offices, to be filled by sober men who are the husband of one wife, and capable fathers. (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Effective leadership of the family is a prerequisite to leadership in the church: “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4) There are specific admonitions that women should not be in church leadership roles. (1 Cor. 14:33-35; 1 Tim. 2:11-14).

But when we Adventists read these passages, they seem alien to us. They have never been emphasized in the Quarterly, the Review, or any other official SDA publication. They seem almost the guilty secret of individual Adventist Bible readers, who think, “Wow, my pastor never said anything about this.” Needless to say, there is no fundamental belief on male headship. The clear biblical model of patriarchy in the home and in the church is not any part of our Adventist religious subculture.

I do have an idea how this came to be. Adventist pioneers often had to deal with those who—quoting the patriarchal passages—argued that because she was a woman Ellen White should sit down and shut up. Having a group of texts constantly used against you will not engender any fond feelings toward those texts. Adventists apparently decided there must be something wrong with the texts themselves, rather than in how they were being deployed against Ellen White. In fact, there is clear biblical precedent for female prophets (Judges 14:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Luke 2:36; Acts 21:8-9), and for women to prophesy in a church setting (1 Cor. 11:5). But the biblical fact that women may be prophets and may prophesy in church does not vitiate the normal gospel order of headship. (1 Cor. 11:3)

The result of our ignoring the biblical guidance on sex roles is that the SDA Church is now riven over the issue of women in church leadership. Most SDA members are in third world countries with more traditional cultures; they do not want female ordination. But the first world, having drifted along with post-Sexual Revolution feminism, is committed to implementing female leadership in the church, just as first world cultural, business, military and governmental elites are committed to implementing female leadership in all aspects of secular life. Even otherwise very conservative Adventists in North America, Europe, and Australia see no problem with women in leadership roles in the church. Last year, we watched as the NAD's attempt to remove the barrier to women becoming conference presidents led to a rebuff from the GC, which led, in turn, to a rebellion by the Columbia Union and the Pacific Union, both of which voted to ordain women notwithstanding that the world church in General Conference session has twice voted against it.

We Are, as a practical matter, Pro-Abortion

God has commanded us to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28; 9:1), and Scripture portrays children as a blessing from God (Gen. 33:5; Deut. 7:14; 28:4, 11; Psalm 127:3-5; 113:9; 128:1-6; Prov. 17:6; John 16:21; 1 Tim. 2:15; 5:14). A recurring scriptural motif is the barren woman who, in answer to her prayers and through God's power, is made fertile and bears a child. This was true of Sara (Gen. 18:9-15; 21:1-6), Rachel (Gen. 30:1-22), Samson's mother (Judges 13), Hannah (1 Sam. 1:1-20), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25). In Scripture, children are greatly sought after, a cause for rejoicing, and fondly cherished.

Interestingly, the prophets write of God having formed them in the womb, and called them to be his messengers while still in utero. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.” Psalm 139:12. “Yet you brought me out of the womb . . . from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Psalm 22:9-10. Of Jeremiah, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jer. 1:5. Isaiah testifies: “Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. . . . And now the LORD says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself.” Isa. 49:1, 5. Paul states, “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles . . “ Gal. 1:15. Samson's mother began preparing him for his future calling while he was yet in the womb, by eating a special diet during her pregnancy. (Judges 13:7, 13-14) These passages clearly imply that personhood begins before birth; a person is a person, capable of being designated for a consecrated purpose, while yet in the womb.

One who accidentally causes a premature birth or a miscarriage is subject to a fine (Ex. 21:22-25), but Scripture does not seem to have contemplated a situation in which someone would intentionally kill a baby in the womb. Yet there can be little doubt that abortion is contrary to a biblical and Christian world view. Scripture condemns the ritual killing of children as a “detestable practice.” (Lev. 18:21; 2 Chron. 28:3, 33:6; Ezek. 16:20-21; Jer. 7:31; 19:3-6; 32:35). In most pagan cultures, including ancient Greece and Rome, it was perfectly acceptable to abandon unwanted babies to die of exposure. But just as a Christian Rome eventually outlawed gladiatorial combat, she eventually, in 374 AD, also outlawed the pagan practice of exposing unwanted babies (the ancient practice most comparable to the modern late-term abortion). The Christian consensus about babies is that they are not to be killed, in the womb or out of it.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has an ambivalent official statement about abortion, which speaks of an unborn child as “a magnificent gift of God,” while also seeking to preserve “the personal liberty of women” to toss that magnificent gift in the trash. But there is nothing ambivalent about the Church's involvement in the abortion industry. We are hip deep in the abortion business. Elective abortions are performed at many Adventist hospitals, but the real history has been made by individual Adventist doctors. Dr. Edward C. Allred, a graduate of La Sierra University and Loma Linda University, founded “Family Planning Associates” and personally aborted well over a quarter of a million babies. Dr. Allred made the abortion business very lucrative by spending no more than five minutes with each expecting mother. “We eliminated needless patient-physician contact,” he told one reporter. Allred owned 23 abortion clinics, which generated $70 million in annual gross revenues and $5 million in annual profits. When Dr. Allred retired from the business, he sold it to another Seventh-day Adventist, Dr. Irving M. “Bud” Feldkamp III. (Dr. Feldkamp is a dentist, not an OB/GYN, but he recognized a profitable business when he saw one.)

Although Allred's fortune was built on aborted babies—and he continues to own horse-racing venues which he has stuffed with slot machines—his money was plenty good enough for his alma mater, La Sierra University, which named the “Edward C. Allred Center for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship” after him. La Sierra's board is chaired by Pacific Union President Ricardo Graham; other union officials and three conference presidents also sit on the board. If these men approve of taking blood money from a mass abortionist and naming a “center” after him, it cannot reasonably be argued that the SDA Church is ambivalent about abortion. We are pro-abortion. We seem to consider abortion as wholesome as motherhood and apple pie.

The church’s pro-abortion stance has consequences. It is often argued that high standards are an impediment to church growth, but all of the research and empirical evidence suggest that people are attracted to churches that have high standards and make demands on their members. Our failure to take a Christian position turns people off, including many Adventists. Teresa Fry Beem was a Seventh-day Adventist anti-abortion activist, one of four children of a prominent family in Keene, Texas, where I grew up and was educated. Teresa became so frustrated with the church's stance on abortion that she converted to Roman Catholicism. She's written a book entitled, “It's Okay Not to be an Adventist,” and has founded a “former Adventist discussion group” on Facebook. It's hard to know how to respond to the Teresa Beems; abortion is a needless and indefensible stain on the Adventist Church.

We Are Slowly liberalizing the Church Manual on Divorce and Remarriage

At the 2000 General Conference session in Toronto, a comprehensive re-writing of the church manual chapter on divorce and remarriage was approved. Actually, the re-writing had been tabled after stiff opposition from the conservative third-world delegates, but was revived by a parliamentary maneuver and approved by majority vote on the last morning of the session, when only about 150 of more than 2,000 official delegates (fewer than ten percent of the official delegates) were present on the floor. Most of the conservative delegates from the developing world had gone to check on flight reservations (there was a rumor of an Air Canada strike) and were not present for the vote.

The new chapter on divorce and remarriage begins with a general discussion of marriage that includes an unsubtle attempt to undermine the Biblical teaching of male headship in the home. (Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1) The new chapter states: “Partnership in Marriage—Unity in marriage is achieved by mutual respect and love. No one is superior.” Of course, role distinctions do not imply ontological superiority or inferiority, but role distinctions between men and women are part of the created order. The new chapter also states, under “Restoration and healing, No. 2”: “Oneness and Equality to be Restored in Christ—The gospel emphasizes the love and submission of husband and wife to one another (1 Cor. 7:3-4; Eph. 5:21).” The cited scriptural passages are not germane. Corinthians 7:3-4 commands spouses not to withhold sex from each other. Ephesians 5:21, telling believers to “submit to one another,” probably does not even apply to relations between the sexes, but rather to Christian believers in general. Most translations attach this phrase to verse 20, as in the KJV: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Some politically correct translations, like the most recent NIV, detach verse 21 from the preceding verse and place it below an added, editorial subheading, “Instructions for Christian Households” or some similar verbiage. The next verse, Eph. 5:22 states, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.” In verse 25, husbands are commanded to love, but not submit to, their wives.

The biblical standard for divorce is very clear: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Mat. 19:8. Jesus' disciples thought His teaching on divorce was outrageous, and we are just as committed to easy divorce as were the people of Jesus’ day. But the standard is the standard. “Men are not at liberty to make a standard of law for themselves, to avoid God’s law and please their own inclination. They must come to God’s great moral standard of righteousness.” Ellen White, The Adventist Home, p. 342.

Ellen White’s counsel notwithstanding, the SDA Church at Toronto made a new standard. The revised Church Manual chapter states:

Grounds for Divorce—Scripture recognizes adultery and/or fornication (Matt. 5:32) as well as abandonment by an unbelieving partner (1 Cor. 7:10-15) as grounds for divorce.

Did Paul really intend to add another ground for divorce to what Jesus had clearly stated? (How ironic that, based upon this lone passage, we’ve expanded the biblical grounds for divorce, yet remain in full-throated denial of Paul’s oft reiterated specification of male headship in the home and the church.) Even assuming that Paul created a new ground for divorce, does this situation arise often enough to warrant mention in the Church Manual? It seems to apply only when two non-Christians marry, one is later converted, and the unconverted spouse then insists upon getting a divorce without biblical grounds.

The re-written Church Manual chapter also postpones discipline in cases of non-biblical divorce until either of the spouses marries a third party, at which time the remarrying spouse should be removed from church membership. The most probable practical effect of this change is that one or both of the former spouses will have moved to different church before remarriage, the prior marriage and divorce will have been forgotten, and discipline will go by the boards.

As explained below, church discipline in cases of divorce has become rare, so the changes to the church manual were largely academic. But the absence of practical consequences argues for leaving the standards as they were: Since discipline is rare anyway, why add another ground for divorce, and why defer the possibility of discipline from the time of the unlawful divorce until the time of the unlawful re-marriage? It is difficult to view these changes as other than incremental (creeping) liberalism, a slow abandonment of that much-hated, impossibly high moral standard on divorce and remarriage.

What to do?

In all of these areas—biblical grounds for divorce, sex roles, sexual behavior, and abortion—a Southern Baptist will be far more likely than an Adventist to be familiar with the relevant biblical principles. That is not something to be proud of. Our Adventist religious subculture has, strangely, failed to acknowledge plain biblical standards and principles in the area of human sexuality.

Until about four decades ago, Adventism in North America could ride the coattails of a basically Christian sexual constitution. In the 19th and early 20th Century, we were more patriarchal than Latin America is now or ever was. Father knew best. Divorces could only be obtained by rigorously proving a ground for divorce (or by agreement, but even an agreed divorce usually necessitated an extended vacation in Nevada). Abortion was illegal, expensive and dangerous. Pornography was illegal; “stag films” existed underground, not as a multi-billion dollar above-the-counter business. Sodomy was illegal, and laws against overt homosexual activity were often enforced. Social disapproval of unwed motherhood and illegitimate children, and the lack of effective birth control, discouraged out-of-wedlock heterosexual activity; when an unmarried girl was found to be pregnant, inquiries were made and a shotgun wedding was arranged.

But the Sexual Revolution changed all that. Society rejected the concept of sex-role differentiation in the workplace, and governments began to enforce gender neutrality across a wide range of endeavor. Between 1967 and 1973, all 50 states adopted no fault divorce, meaning that either party could be granted a divorce without having to prove grounds. In the late 1960s, a few jurisdictions began to liberalize their abortion laws, and in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court mysteriously found a theretofore unimagined constitutional right to abortion. Some 55 million babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade. Most forms of pornography—those that did not involve minors or extreme acts—effectively became legal, as the Supreme Court subjected state obscenity laws to an expanded notion of freedom of expression. The gay rights movement erupted after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and by the late 1970s most cities had stopped enforcing sodomy laws (although they remained enforceable until the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas deemed them unconstitutional). Strong social disapproval of unwed motherhood began to dissipate (does anyone remember “Murphy Brown”?); unsurprisingly, the percentage of out-of-wedlock births has quintupled since the sexual revolution, and now stand at 41% of all births. In sum, the Sexual Revolution overthrew a basically Christian sexual constitution and replaced it with one that is pagan or worse.

The Sexual Revolution’s toppling of the Christian sexual constitution has many implications for organized Christianity, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, one of which concerns church discipline following divorce. Before the introduction of “no fault” divorce, the church could usually rely on the state to determine who was at fault in a divorce proceeding. But today, almost all divorces are no-fault divorces; the state courts no longer find fault, but merely divide the common property and issue any necessary orders regarding child custody, support, and visitation. The church would need to introduce ecclesiastical divorce courts in order to replace the factual findings of fault that the civil courts no longer make. Thus far, the church has shown no interest in instituting church courts. The result is that, in North America over the past 35 years, there has been less and still less formal church discipline over divorce, until it is now almost never seen. Sadly, we now have even pastors who are remarried in a way that is biblically unlawful.

The Sexual Revolution brought about radical changes to the sexual constitution of the developed world, discarding a traditional Christian view of sexuality and replacing it with a pagan view of sexuality that is based upon the idea that anything consenting adults want to do with each other is normative and acceptable. Because of this cultural earthquake, Christians in the developed world can no longer coast along with the dominant culture. And yet that is exactly what Seventh-day Adventists have done in the areas of sex roles, abortion, and divorce and remarriage. We must not continue to drift along with an increasingly pagan larger culture. As Seventh-day Adventists, we need to open our Bibles and, in humble submission, learn what Scripture teaches about sexuality. It seems late in the day to transform our sexual subculture, but the first step in solving any problem is to admit you have one. We have one.

He can still shut the lions' mouth

Have you ever wondered what Daniel was doing in the lion’s den? I have. As a kid I used to picture the lions being sweet like those in heaven. I wondered if Daniel was able to pet them. Maybe he could cuddle up by them and hear them purring as he went to sleep. I don’t know about all that, but I think I do know one thing he was doing. Years ago, our church had purchased thousands of Final Events DVDs to hand out to the community. My family had volunteered to help. We all spent an hour or so putting DVDs in clear plastic bags, and telling the children how nice it was that we could share Jesus with the people in Alvarado, wondering how many people would be in heaven because they chose to witness for Jesus.

I had three children in my van: our twelve-year-old son, Joshua, our daughter Missy, who was 6, and another little girl, Hosanna. We were having such a happy day passing out DVDs. The children were hanging a bag with a DVD in it on each doorknob, and I was driving right beside them. When all of a sudden a very large black German shepherd came at them barking and snarling and snapping at Joshua’s legs. I was so proud of him for staying between the dog and the little girls. Three frightened but uninjured children made it into the van. A lady yelled from down the street, “I’m so glad they are ok! That dog is mean. They need to do something about him. Last week he bit someone!”  Josh’s torn jeans seemed like a small thing.

But now what? It was important for each house to get a DVD. We were praying and expecting people to be in heaven because of these DVDs! I had read tons of missionary and colporteur stories to my children, stories about God performing miracles. What kind of witness was it to my kids for us to up and leave these houses undone because of a mean dog? Would the missionaries and colporteurs  give up? Did I want to let Jesus down?

I turned off the van, took the bags from the children and got out of the van. I told the Lord that I was trusting in Him. I reminded Him that He had taken care of countless colporteurs and I knew He could take care of me. My prayer as I walked to the other side of my van was, “I am doing Your work, You said You would be my Refuge.” The dog began to come towards me barking and snarling. Any courage I might have felt melted away, leaving only fear, but I kept on walking forward. “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief!” The dog continued to snarl staying about three feet away. I didn’t have the courage to go to their door, but their mailbox was right there, so I hung a bag on their mailbox, and began to go to the other houses. But that big, black, angry German Shepherd didn’t stay at home. It followed me to every house keeping a distance of about three feet, snarling and threatening me the whole time.

I was praying and claiming promises, yet the dog would not leave me alone. Then, I was impressed to sing. For almost a decade, we had been teaching the children the opening hymn for church. I began to sing one of those hymns of praise we had memorized. And the moment I began to sing, that dog stopped snarling and his mouth was shut. The courage I had acted on, but had not felt, I then began to feel.

Now, when I think of Daniel in the lion’s den, I’m not so sure he was cuddling up to any lions. But I am pretty sure he was singing songs of praise.

Shaken out of what? (Part III)

This is part three of a seven part series called "The prophesied cleansing and triumph of the Seventh-day Adventist Church." Read "The problem (Part I)" and "Open Sin and the Church Militant (Part II)"We often hear, whenever the identity and future of God’s true church is discussed among conservative Adventists, that “history repeats itself.” In recent years, for example, books and articles emphasizing the prophetic parallels between the church of today and the church of ancient Israel have warned the faithful that the doom which befell the corporate church in Jesus’ time is likely to befall corporate Adventism—if in fact it hasn’t already (1).

Moreover, just as the true and faithful at various times in history have been compelled to separate from an apostate structure in order to preserve their faith, so the assumption develops—though it is rarely stated outright—that the true and faithful in contemporary Adventism will in time be forced to leave the corporate denominational structure if they wish to stay true to God’s Word. Many of those conservative Adventists who worship in “home churches” and other independent congregations believe themselves to be following this predicable historical pattern.

We cannot deny, of course, that many parallels do exist between the experience of ancient Israel and the experience of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The following inspired statements make this clear:

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 (2).

So Christ sorrows and weeps over our churches, over our institutions of learning, that have failed to meet the demand of God. . . . The warnings come down to all that are following in the tread of the people of Jerusalem, who had such great light. This people is before us as a warning. By rejecting God’s warnings in this our day, men are repeating the sin of Jerusalem (3).

The sin of ancient Israel was in disregarding the expressed will of God and following their own way according to the leadings of unsanctified hearts. Modern Israel are fast following in their footsteps, and the displeasure of the Lord is as surely resting upon them (4).

Comparing Adventism with Israel, God’s angel at one point declared through Ellen White, “Ye have done worse than they” (5). Elsewhere she writes:

I have been shown that the spirit of the world is fast leavening the church. You are following in the same path as did ancient Israel. There is the same falling away from your holy calling as God’s peculiar people. You are having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Your concord with unbelievers has provoked the Lord’s displeasure. You know not the things that belong to your peace, and they are fast being hid from your eyes. Your neglect to follow the light will place you in a more unfavorable position than the Jews upon whom Christ pronounced a woe (6).

But however often the past does indeed repeat itself, neither the God of Scripture nor the Sacred Record are compelled to act in never-ending cycles of repetition. Unlike Hinduism, Christianity doesn’t teach that the cycles of history never stop. While God’s principles remain the same in all ages, His methods of operation do vary from time to time. And as we study inspired predictions of end-time events, we find that a number of future developments will differ sharply from historical patterns.

For example, the Lord brought encouragement to His people for many centuries by pinpointing future events through time prophecies. But since 1844, God has chosen to use this means no longer (Rev. 11:6) (7). After probation’s close the righteous will have to stand without a Mediator in heaven (8). Never before has this been required of God’s people. During this same time God will not permit any of His people to suffer martyrdom—another decisive break from the past (9).

Understanding this, we should not be surprised if in the last days God has chosen a different method of purifying His church than in days of old. In the past, a persistently faithless majority has meant divine rejection for the covenant community. This was the fate that befell the Jewish nation, the early Christian church, and the religious bodies which emerged from the Protestant Reformation. And we are told that at the end of time, the great majority of God’s professed people will again prove unfaithful:

Soon God’s people will be tested by fiery trials, and the great proportion of those who now appear genuine and true will prove to be base metal. . . . To stand in defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few—this will be our test (10).

When the law of God is made void, the church will be sifted by fiery trials, and a larger proportion than we now anticipate will give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (11).

When the day comes when the law of God is made void, and the church is sifted by the fiery trials that are to try all that live upon the earth, a great proportion of those who are supposed to be genuine will give heed to seducing spirits, and turn traitor and betray sacred trusts (12).

In this time, the gold will be separated from the dross in the church. True godliness will be clearly distinguished from the appearance and tinsel of it. Many a star that we have admired for its brilliancy will go out in darkness. Chaff like a cloud will be borne away on the wind, even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat (13).

What clouds of chaff will then be borne away by the fan of God! When now our eyes can discover only rich floors of wheat, will the chaff be blown away with the fan of God. Every one who is not centered in Christ will fail to stand the test and ordeal of that day (14).

Shaken Out Of What?

Those conservative Adventists who believe the official church has passed the point of no return with God, or presumably soon will, understand the above statements as meaning the apostate majority will be shaken out of the true faith and away from those who live it, but will not necessarily be shaken out of the official church structure. The following remarks, written some years ago by one of this persuasion, express this view quite clearly:

Notice that the 1886 statement (see Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 324, or Selected Messages, vol. 2, 380) does not say that they (the sinners) will be sifted from the church organization; it distinctly says that they will be sifted from the loyal and true and that this is a terrible ordeal (15).

There was a shaking (in Christ’s time) and almost the entire Jewish church was shaken out. But their church organization went right on. That is something that many people have not thought of and you need to think it through. Judaism still existed, but almost the entire group, or organization, was shaken out. I have to tell you the truth. According to prophecy, something very similar to this is going to happen to the Seventh-day Adventist Church before the end (16).

But Inspiration teaches exactly the opposite of the above statements. Ellen White is clear that something will happen to the church’s apostate majority at the end of time that has not happened before. Instead of retaining the visible church in their grasp and thrusting the faithful out, the prophet is clear that this time the faithless majority will leave the visible church:

The shaking of God blows away multitudes like dry leaves. Prosperity multiplies a mass of professors. Adversity purges them out of the church. As a class their spirits are not steadfast with God. They go out from us because they are not of us, for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, many are offended (17).

At the eleventh hour the Lord will gather a company out of the world to serve Him. There will be a converted ministry. Those who have had privileges and opportunities to become intelligent in regard to the truth, and yet who continue to counterwork the work God would have accomplished, will be purged out (18).

Some have entered the work with a human commission rather than the divine. . . . In short, they have a theory but not true conversion and sanctification through the truth. The great issue so near at hand will weed out those whom God has not appointed and He will have a pure, true, sanctified ministry, prepared for the latter rain (19).

As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position, and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light, and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side (20).

God is sifting His people. He will have a clean and holy church. We cannot read the heart of man. But the Lord has provided means to keep the church pure. A corrupt people has arisen who could not live with the people of God. They despised reproof, and would not be corrected. They had an opportunity to know that theirs was an unrighteous warfare. They had time to repent of their wrongs, but self was too dear to die. They nourished it, and it grew strong, and they separated from the trusting people of God, whom He is purifying unto Himself. We all have reason to thank God that a way has been opened to save the church, for the wrath of God must have come upon us if these corrupt pretenders had remained with us. . . . As we near the Judgment, all will manifest their true character, and it will be made plain to what company they belong. The sieve is moving. Let us not say, Stay Thy hand, O God. The church must be purged, and it will be (21).

I saw that individuals would rise up against the plain testimonies. It does not suit their natural feelings. They would choose to have smooth things spoken unto them, and have peace cried in their ears. I view the church in a more dangerous condition than they ever have been. Experimental religion is known but by a few. The shaking must soon take place to purify the church (22).

Clearly, these statements are not talking about people being shaken out of the faith while remaining in the visible church, continuing to call themselves Seventh-day Adventists while treating the despised faithful minority as a troublesome offshoot to be persecuted and disfellowshiped. Regardless of what certain ones in our time claim to have experienced, we cannot—as we said at the beginning—permit personal experience to drive our understanding of the inspired evidence. Regardless of the discouraging circumstances some may encounter in the contemporary church, it is imperative that—by the grace of God—we cling to the promises of His written counsel, especially at moments when the struggle against apostasy and wrongdoing seems to our finite eyes to make so little progress.

In our last installment we looked briefly at what is perhaps Ellen White’s signature statement on the church’s survival of the end-time shaking:

The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out, the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place (23).

A simple, straightforward reading of this passage reveals three obvious points, among perhaps others:

  1. “The church” and “Zion” are one and the same.
  2. The church (Zion) has sinners in it.
  3. The church (Zion) remains while the sinners are sifted out of it.

One must change the meaning of plain words to insist, as one cited earlier has stated, that this passage “does not say they (the sinners) will be sifted from the church organization; it distinctly says they will be sifted from the loyal and true” (24). What the passage distinctly says is that the sinners will be sifted both from the organized church and from among the loyal and true. What else could be meant by statements which speak of those “who continue to counterwork the work God would have accomplished” being “purged out” (25)? Or which speak of those who “have entered the work with a human commission rather than the divine,” and that “the great issue so near at hand will weed out those whom God has not appointed and He will have a pure, true, sanctified ministry, prepared for the latter rain” (26)?

Purged out of what? Weeded out of what? Obviously these persons do not have a right relationship with God, or they wouldn’t be trying for years to counterwork God’s purpose or entering ministry without God’s leading. The wording of these statements simply does not allow us to conclude that these are faithful believers ceasing to be faithful, and thus being shaken out of the true faith while they presumably stay in the organized church. These statements only make sense if one understands the “purging” and “weeding” being described as referring to the removal of these individuals from a community containing both saints and sinners. And let’s not forget the statements we studied in our last installment, which clearly depicted the abominations for which the sealed saints sigh and cry—including such as “doing after the manner of the world,” together with “pride, avarice, selfishness, and deception of almost every kind”—as being “in the church” prior to its purification by the shaking (27). These are obviously not merely secret sins and concealed abominations being described here. Everything in these passages makes it clear these are open and very egregious offenses which fester within the church until the shaking completes its task.

Another statement likewise helps us understand that the shaking of the last days will in particular remove unfaithful leaders from their positions in the church:

The days are fast approaching when there will be great perplexity and confusion. Satan, clothed in angel robes, will deceive, if possible, the very elect. There will be gods many and lords many. Every wind of doctrine will be blowing. Those who have rendered supreme homage to “science falsely so-called,” will not be the leaders then. Those who have trusted to intellect, genius, or talent, will not then stand at the head of the rank and file. They did not keep pace with the light. Those who have proved themselves unfaithful will not then be entrusted with the flock. In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. They are self-sufficient, independent of God, and He cannot use them. The Lord has faithful servants, who in the shaking, testing time, will be disclosed to view (28).

Obviously when she speaks of the “rank and file” and the “flock” in this statement, it is the visible church—with its present apostate majority—that is in focus. How else could she speak of how, when the shaking time comes, those trusting to genius and intellect, paying homage to false science, and thus proving unfaithful, “will not then stand at the head of the rank and file” and “will not then be entrusted with the flock”? The plain implication of this passage is that such persons may very well, at the present time, be standing at the head of the rank and file, leading the Lord’s flock. But when the shaking does its work, the above statement is clear this will no longer be the case.

Again the evidence is decisive that Ellen White sees the end-time shaking as the means whereby a church once filled with apostasy, corruption, deception of almost every kind, and led by persons trusting to human wisdom, will be purged of all these elements.

Let us again bear in mind that according to Ellen White’s teachings, the true and faithful at this time will be perfectly victorious over all sin. Such statements as the following make this point clear:

I saw that none could share the “refreshing” unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action (29).

Those who come up to every point and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation (30).

Not one of us will ever receive the seal of God while our characters have one spot or stain upon them. It is left with us to remedy the defects in our characters, to cleanse the soul temple of every defilement. Then the latter rain will fall upon us, as the early rain fell upon the disciples upon the day of Pentecost (31).

Now is the time to prepare. The seal of God will never be placed upon the forehead of an impure man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of the ambitious, world-loving man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of men or women of false tongues or deceitful hearts. All who receive the seal must be without spot before God—candidates for heaven (32).

Are we seeking for His fullness, ever pressing toward the mark set before us—the perfection of His character? When the Lord’s people reach this mark, they will be sealed in their foreheads. Filled with His Spirit, they will be complete in Christ, and the recording angel will declare, “It is finished” (33).

Many similar statements could be cited (34). What these passages prove conclusively is that the end-time shaking does not purify the true and faithful. They have to be pure by the time the shaking and sealing begin. (Let’s be clear, of course, that we’re talking about the true and faithful who are within God’s church at this time, as distinct from those soon to be called out of Babylon.) So when we read Ellen White statements speaking of how “the shaking must soon take place to purify the church” (35), it should be obvious she is talking about the visible church being purified through the removal of its disobedient, apostate majority, not the purification of the true and faithful which has to occur before the final shaking starts.

To put it simply, individual purification is accomplished before the shaking. Corporate purification, by contrast, is accomplished by the shaking. While it is true some Ellen White statements speak of a shaking and sifting that had already begun in her day (36), it is clear from the statements we have considered that the final, ultimately decisive shaking is still future. This is how she can say that “the shaking must soon take place to purify the church” (37), and in another statement describe “the mighty sifting soon to take place” when “the mark of the beast will be urged upon us” (38). Obviously this ultimate testing time is yet future for the people of God.

An author we have quoted frequently, who holds very much to the negative outlook on the church’s future which this series is reviewing, writes at one point:

What happens where there are a few people and they do not go along with what the majority of the church wants to do? Who gets their way, the minority or the majority? (39).

The implication of this question, in context, is that the faithful minority is inevitably going to be cast out of organized Adventism because the persistently unfaithful ones have the majority. Sadly, this is the voice of finite logic and human reasoning, which divine power and providence is fully capable of disproving. A statement like the above is really no different from those statements by believers in evangelical Adventism—often called the New Theology—that because they’ve tried for years without success to overcome sin, total victory must be impossible. It is truly shameful for one holding to conservative Adventist beliefs in so many areas to depict human circumstances as apparently beyond the capacity of God to circumvent and overrule.

What may seem logical for the majority to do on account of numerical strength can easily be confounded by God’s intervention, as the army of Sennacherib learned the hard way (II Kings 19:35). Nothing can be clearer than the statement we cited earlier which speaks of “a mass of professors” being purged “out of the church,” who “go out from us because they are not of us” (40). Again, these are not faithful believers ceasing to be faithful, but rather, professed believers giving up their profession, which exists by virtue of their membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Ellen White describes just how many sins can lurk beneath the veneer of one’s profession:

As Jesus views the state of His professed followers today, He sees base ingratitude, hollow formalism, hypocritical insincerity, pharisaical pride and apostasy (41).

And again, describing what so deeply troubles the sighing and crying saints “in the midst of Jerusalem,” she writes:

They lament and afflict their souls because pride, avarice, selfishness, and deception of almost every kind are in the church (42).

Putting the above two statements together with the one which speaks of false professors being purged “out of the church” (43), we can clearly see that while gross apostasy and sin have either captivated or paralyzed the church’s great majority before the shaking, this faithless majority will find itself outside the church once the shaking is finished.

We must remember that even those who have embraced any number of heresies currently prevalent in various segments of the denomination, still profess—by virtue of their membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church—to have faith in the third angel’s message, in the words of one Ellen White statement quoted earlier:

As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but who have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position, and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light, and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side (44).

Our Fundamental Beliefs as a church continue to uphold the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 (45); thus anyone holding membership in the denomination can rightly be held accountable for faithfulness or the lack thereof to this profession on their part. Again, the above statement—like others we have considered—does not describe faithful believers relinquishing their faithfulness, but rather, professed believers lacking obedience and sanctification, whose unity with the world and its spirit causes them in the end to choose the easy, popular side in the controversy. The wording of this and other statements we have studied truly makes it difficult to understand them as meaning anything except that these apostates will stop claiming to be Seventh-day Adventists.

It may be hard to imagine highly placed church officials, whose entire lives and careers have been bound up with organized Adventism, willingly withdrawing from the fellowship of the church. But it has happened before. Witness the experience of such as D.M. Canright, L.R. Conradi, and W.W. Fletcher, each of whom held high administrative posts, but whose doctrinal heresies caused them willingly to leave the church. And the pressures of the last-day conflict—the polarizing of views, the taking of sides, and unprecedented global persecution—will vastly exceed anything in our history or present circumstances.

For the unsanctified, cultural and social ties will be powerless to keep them in the church in the face of these constraining threats. For most people, at least in the developed world, it isn’t hard to profess to be a Seventh-day Adventist just now. But the day will come, in the words of one friend of the present writer, when the name Seventh-day Adventist will be what people say when they hit their thumb!

From Militant to Triumphant

The following inspired prediction gives a detailed chronology of the final transformation of the church militant into the church triumphant:

As trials thicken around us, both separation and unity will be seen in our ranks. Some who are now ready to take up weapons of warfare, will in times of peril make it manifest that they have not built upon the solid rock; they will yield to temptation. Those who have had great light and precious privileges, but have not improved them, will, under one pretext or another, go out from us. Not having received the love of the truth, they will be taken in by the delusions of the enemy, they will give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. And will depart from the faith. But on the other hand, when the storm of persecution really breaks upon us, the true sheep will hear the true Shepherd’s voice. Self-denying efforts will be put forth to save the lost, and many who have strayed from the fold will come back to follow the great Shepherd. The people of God will draw together, and present to the enemy a united front. In view of the common peril, strife for supremacy will cease; there will be no disputing as to who shall be accounted greatest. . . . The love of God, the love of our brethren, will testify to the world that we have been with Jesus and learned of Him. Then will the message of the third angel swell to a loud cry, and the whole earth will be lightened with the glory of the Lord (46).

Notice in this passage the seven consecutive steps leading to the emergence of the church triumphant:

1. Trials thicken around the church, producing both separation and unity. We see this happening already. The fact that Ellen White says this will be seen “in our ranks” makes it clear the “ranks” here described refer to the church militant—containing both wheat and tares, faithful and unfaithful, open as well as secret apostasy.

2. Some who are now ready to take up weapons of warfare will make manifest their lack of conversion, and thus, under the pressure of the final crisis, yield to temptation. What a sober warning this should be to those conservative Adventists who presently wield weapons of spiritual warfare against apostasy in the church! Such warfare on our part is most assuredly necessary, but if we fail during present moments of relative peace to build godly character, with total and practical consecration, all our zeal will be in vain. Each of us, including the present writer, need to contemplate this point with thoughtfulness and prayer.

3. Those who, for whatever reason, have failed to receive the love of the truth, will depart from the faith. Quite obviously, “departing from the faith” in this context means departure from the visible church, since the statement says these persons have failed to build on the solid Rock, have not improved their precious privileges, and have thus not received the love of the truth which they profess. Thus, as with previous statements, this cannot refer to faithful believers surrendering their faithfulness, but rather, professed believers surrendering their profession and thus leaving the church.

4. The storm of persecution will then break upon the faithful—those remaining in the church.

5. Self-denying efforts will be put forth to save the lost, which will result in the reclaiming of many former members.

6. The people of God will then draw together, divisions will cease, and the enemy will be faced with a united front.

7. The message of the third angel will then swell to a loud cry, and the whole earth will be lightened with God’s glory—His character revealed through His triumphant, victorious people.

Two other Ellen White statements offer a similar picture of what will happen when the church is purified:

When the reproach of indolence and slothfulness shall have been wiped away from the church, the Spirit of the Lord will be graciously manifested. Divine power will be revealed. The church will see the providential working of the Lord of hosts. The light of truth will shine forth in clear, strong rays, and as in the time of the apostles, many souls will turn from error to truth. The earth will be lighted with the glory of the Lord (47).

The fear of God, the sense of His goodness, His holiness, will circulate through every institution. An atmosphere of love and peace will pervade every department. Every word spoken, every work performed, will have an influence that corresponds to the influence of heaven. Christ will abide in humanity, and humanity will abide in Christ. In all the work will appear not the character of finite men, but the character of the infinite God. The divine influence imparted by holy angels will impress the minds brought in contact with the workers, and from these workers a fragrant influence will go forth to all who choose to inhale it. The goodly fabric of character wrought through divine power will receive light and glory from heaven, and will stand out before the world as a witness, pointing to the throne of the living God. Then the work will move forward with solidity and double strength. A new efficiently will be imparted to the workers in every line. Men will learn of the reconciliation from iniquity which the Messiah has brought in through His sacrifice. The last message of warning and salvation will be given with mighty power. The earth will be lightened with the glory of God, and it will be ours to witness the soon coming, in power and glory, of our Lord and Saviour (48).

The next installment in our series will consider the principle of conditional prophecy, and to what extent it applies to the inspired predictions of the church’s future on which our study has focused.



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The atheist who found God

I thank God for the biblical Seventh-day Adventist movement and message. If it were not for these, I am sure that I would not be a Christian. I am also certain that I would not be alive today. The message of Jesus through an understanding of prophecy, the true character of God in the Great Controversy, a complete system of truth and gospel message through the sanctuary, and much more about our message convinced me God is real. Not only is He real, He is personal. Not only is He personal, He has a specific plan for this world and my life (and yours). If you have ever had any doubts about our message, I can assure you, you will find nothing else like it anywhere. You will not find anything as broad, deep, wide, intimate, personal, sensible, reasonable, convincing, relative for our times, or as loving as the wonderful picture of God we see through the Advent message. What a privilege that God has revealed Himself to us in these times from Scripture in a way unlike any other age in history. I did not have the privilege of being raised in a Christian home. Having the last name “Peppers” as well as having firey red hair wasn’t a very positive combination in childhood. Though often the butt of many jokes, the tables turned as I got older. In high school, I was the small-town celebrity. I became a star in the football world and was the first ever in my town to receive a football college scholarship. By my senior year, I weighed 265 pounds, bench-pressed 450, leg-squatted 700, and leg-pressed 1,800 pounds. One of the strongest and fastest players in the whole state, I was recruited by dozens of major universities. Academically in the upper 10% of my class, I was a top student.

At that time, a particular verse accurately described my life: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
 Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24). 

Though I was glorying in my wisdom, might, and later riches, I was not the least bit satisfied with life. Though I had a bright future ahead and had everything that people said you needed to be happy, I was miserable. Though I was popular, I was lonely. It seemed like no matter how high I climbed up the ladder of success, something seemed missing. I began to drink with the other guys in high school, and drinking soon went from weekend fun to a daily need. By the time I was in tenth grade, I became known as the school drunk. I would bring bottles of liquor to school and drink when the teacher turned her back. I was making a real mess of my life. However, my football coach sat me down one day and appealed to me not to throw my life away. For the next two years, I became that model student and player mentioned above, though I was still empty on the inside.

During my senior year in high school, two things radically changed my life. The first was a knee injury that ended my high school football career. Playing the biggest rival of the season, the college I wanted to attend sent recruiters to watch me. The field was soaked due to a rainstorm, and I stepped into a mud-hole that twisted my knee and tore my ACL in half. Lying on the field, I knew my high school career was over. All my hopes began going down the drain in an instant. Life can change in a moment, and the things you trusted in the most can crumble. When that happens to you personally, where do you turn?  Do you have something greater than yourself to lean on? 

The second thing was my parents’ divorce. After twenty years of marriage, my father decided that he wanted out. I was 16, and my sister was 11. When he left, my mother became very emotionally unstable. She often took heavy medications just to numb her pain. She would come home from work, change her clothes, and then go out till late at night looking for my father. We stayed at home or went to friends’ houses. One day, I came home to find her lying on the couch half conscious. Her speech was slurred, and she could barely open her eyes. I called my dad to ask what to do. He came over, talked to her, and left again claiming to go get some medicine. When he didn’t return after a long time, I called an ambulance.

After rushing her to the hospital and pumping her stomach, it was discovered that she had taken 25 sleeping pills. Because of her emotional pain, she tried to commit suicide and never wake up. I believe now that God spared her life that day. Later, my dad confessed that my mom told him when he was at the house she had taken the pills, but he left her there hoping she would die. He wanted her out of his life so that his life would be easier. At this point, I became so angry that I told him I never wanted to see him again except to spit on his grave. I was broken and confused. I sank into a deep depression that took a miracle to escape. It’s very real how the things we count on in this life to be forever will rapidly or slowly dissolve. It’s a certainty that nothing this world offers is certain or for keeps. Yet, there is a God whose love and promises never fade. They are there fresh every day, no matter how bad our circumstances may be. I didn’t know that  truth then, but I would soon discover it.

After recovering from my knee injury, I pursued my dream of college football. I played for two years at a large university in Missouri. It was a great disappointment and nothing I had imagined it would be. All the glory I gained through my earthly might, wisdom, and riches left my heart empty. I wanted something more, but I didn’t know how to find it. I began to study various philosophies and religions to no avail. After a long search that led me to more emptiness, I became deeply depressed again. Most days took all the energy I had to get out of bed. Nothing brought peace to the pain I was experiencing. It seemed that life had no purpose, and I didn’t want to live.

I had everything the world said I needed to be happy: money, popularity, women, education and more, but I was miserable. I became violently angry and bitter toward my family and everyone else about my life’s circumstances. I began to drink again which quickly reignited into a heavy habit. Angry and depressed, I questioned how a God of love could allow me to experience such negative things. That thought I could not get away from. If He really cared about me, why would He allow these unfortunate circumstances? Attending a state university, I was majoring in Geo-Archaeology, so I took several courses in anthropology and evolution. I read some seemingly convincing articles that led me to reject any concept of an existing God. I embraced atheism hard. For the first time in my life, I believed that there was no moral restraint, life was random, and we were just here by chance.

Following this mindset, I thought I had found freedom, but it was only temporary. Like Solomon of old, “I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure.” I did anything I thought would bring a thrill. Those things cannot be mentioned here. It was pleasurable for a season as sin is, only until it had sunk me into such a hole that I could not escape. I hated any thought of God. I railed and cursed Christians to their face. I laughed at them and scorned their church services. I hated them. At a time when my mother started attempting to reach out to God to begin putting her life back together, I told her all the reasons why God didn’t exist. I would beat up my little sister telling her there was no God to help her, even holding a knife to her throat on many occasions. I influenced many people away from God during those four years of misery. I really hit the bottom of human existence. I was without hope to the uttermost--but thank God that we serve a Christ who can save those to the uttermost those who come to Him.

Reaching the epitome of despair, I hated my family, the world and myself. I convinced myself that I would be better off dead than alive. I planned to commit suicide, but I wanted to do it in a way that would make my family feel responsible and guilty for the rest of their lives. I thought to write a letter stating that it was their fault before going through with it.

As I contemplated for a few weeks a suicide method, another strange (divine) thought began to fill my mind. “Why not study the Bible?” I did not hear a literal voice but just a faint thought that I could not shake away. “Why in the world would I study the Bible? I don’t believe that nonsense. It’s just a book of fairy tales.  I’m an atheist!” However, as I thought more about it, I developed a plan. I would study it, prove there is no God or purpose to life, and then commit suicide. That would solve every problem for others and me.

So, I sat down to study the Bible – to prove it wrong. Only I had not taken  one factor into account: God. My uncle, who was a new Adventist and the only one in my family at that time, gave me some Amazing Facts Bible study guides. I had told him over a year ago not to give me any more literature. I was an atheist and wanted none of it. He had respected my wishes up to that point, but after I made the agreement with myself to study the Bible, he told me that he was “impressed” to give them to me. I was astonished. How could that be? It didn’t matter though. I was determined to go through with my plan. I took the studies and went home.

In my college apartment, I pulled out an old Bible that my grandmother had given me years ago. I had kept it only because I cared about her. I also pulled out those guides and began to go through them. What I found greatly troubled me. I began to see credible evidence that God exists. I saw archaeology that confirmed the Bible’s historical accuracy, but even more so, I saw how prophecy confirmed the inspiration of scripture from God. It revealed that He is the God of the future as He unfolded world history through the ages before it even happened. I began to realize that if He was able to know the rise and fall of world empires through centuries, I could trust Him to guide my life.

I realized I had to make a decision. Either I would believe that the Bible was the word of God or reject it despite the evidence. I went to my atheist college professors asking them to give an answer to the prophecies that I had studied, but they didn’t know what to say. They could not refute the evidence I had discovered. I then made my decision to believe. After accepting that the Bible was truly inspired, I began to read the Gospels. Never in my life had I heard such words of purity and hope. Jesus became to me everything that I had looked for my whole life: peace, joy, and love. Oh, how I wanted Him more than anything, but I didn’t think it was possible because of all my sin. How could He love me? Panicked that I was too far gone for Him to accept me, I began to pore over the scriptures to find hope. God led me to a verse that changed my life forever: John 6:37 – All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. This was the assurance I needed that He would never cast me away as long as I was willing to come to Him. I was overjoyed. Right there, I knelt down and invited Christ to forgive me for my sins, accepted Him as Savior and Lord, and received a new heart from Him. It was the greatest moment of my life. I sensed that weight of sin lifted away, and I was as light as a feather.

Immediately, my life changed. With Christ living in and through me, having justified me and beginning the process of sanctification, He gave me immediate victory over tobacco, alcohol, pornography, and many, many other things. I was truly free in Christ – not free to continue in sin, but free to live victoriously in Him. I began to witness to everyone around me telling them what Jesus had done for me. I felt like the demoniac whom Jesus healed and sent home to share the good news. Most thought I was crazy. All of the atheists I worked with laughed at me, scorned me, or threatened me. They attempted several times to get me fired from my university job, but God intervened each time. When my college graduation was on Sabbath at 10:00 am, and I chose to go to church instead of my graduation, my whole family ridiculed me. However, I desired to be faithful to the One who was so faithful to me while suffering on the cross for my sin and now lives to make intercession for me. How could I honor myself above the time dedicated to worshiping Him? He was and is my best friend. No one on this earth can take His place in my heart. I spent hours in prayer and Bible study with Him every day. The more time I spent with Him, the more real He became.

After graduating from college, I attended the Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. During my last semester in college, I was so broke that I had to get food assistance. I wanted so badly to attend AFCOE that I prayed for weeks. After working a humanly impossible miracle in one day, God placed $5,000 in my hand to attend. I couldn’t believe it, but it happened. My father also said that he would never support me to go to AFCOE, but he later purchased a car to get me there. God uses the most unlikely means to accomplish His will so that we always know and remember it was His power and not our own. What an awesome God we serve!

Since AFCOE, God has taken me places I expected never to go. I have been to over a dozen countries as a missionary, a Bible worker, an evangelist, an AFCOE teacher for five years, and now pastor. I thank God that He has used me to lead several hundred people to accept Christ and join His remnant church. It has been such a joy to help others experience the Christ that has done so much for me. I never thought it possible to have such hope, but through Christ, all things are possible! I can truly say as in Jeremiah 9:24 that I am no longer glorying in anything of my own except that I understand and know Him.

In 2009, God tested my faith severely as I was diagnosed with cancer. This was one of the greatest challenges of my life. My life hung by a thread, but God once again miraculously intervened. Humanly speaking, I should be dead, but I know that God has a plan greater than death. He is the life and the resurrection. The full cancer story is one that will have to wait until another article. However, He has carried me completely through two types of cancer in two years to be cancer-free today. God taught me so much through that ordeal, and I learned to trust Him even more. Trials will always increase our faith when we are willing to trust Him in the good as well as the bad. They are opportunities for His glory to shine when we ask Him how He can be glorified rather than why it is happening to us.

As the gospel of John, if I were to write everything that Jesus has done for me, it would fill a whole book. These aren’t even all of the main things, but heaven is a place where every story will be told. I am so thankful for the Seventh-day Adventist church, a church of truth and love. It is God’s end-time, remnant church of Bible prophecy. Our message is solid, pure, and Christ-centered.  God is waiting only for each of us to allow Him to fulfill that message in our life. He is faithful and will do it. I have no doubt of this. Though the church will pass through the fire of the end times, she will come out clean and free of spot when Christ comes. His image will be completely restored in those who cooperate with Him, and we will reflect His character on this earth before He returns and for eternity. We must never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us not be doubtful, but believing. The greatest hope we have is of Christ’s soon return. The only thing that will matter in that day is what He has done in your heart today and every day from now till then. Everything else will be a flash in the pan including your bank account, reputation, and pride. The bottom line will be if we trusted Him enough to allow His character to become ours. We will either have a new one fit for the new earth, or the old one that will perish with the old earth. Behold, He stands at your door today – what is your answer? Will you open only the front door, or every door in the heart to Him? Will you surrender every area of your life to Him just now and live every day as though He were coming today? 

Young earth, no gap interpretation biblically valid

In "Outline of proposed theories for Genesis 1:1-2", we looked at the five major interpretations of Genesis 1:1,2. Seventh-day Adventists have historically understood these verses as the Young Earth-No Gap position. The Seventh-Day Adventist Encyclopedia sums this position up by stating: “on the first day of the Creation week . . . He [God] brought into existence the matter that composed the earth and that He proceeded immediately with the work of the six days.”[1] Keeping this in mind, we will see if the Young-earth, No Gap interpretation is a valid one.

I. "In the beginning"

The first question to answer is in the beginning of what? Is the word “beginning” in reference to a specific time or event that is knowable in Scripture? Is “beginning” an intangible time eons ago? Or does it refer to the “absolute beginning” of the world, or universe?

Lexical Considerations

“In the beginning" (Hebrew- re’sheet[2]) has four basic meanings. They are:

  1. Chief[3] (chief place,[4] chief leader[5]), Leader[6] (President,[7] Prince,[8] Ruler[9]),
  2. Principle[10] (of anything[11]),  Best[12] (Best of its kind[13]),
  3. Head[14] (of man or beast[15]), Top[16] (of mountain,[17] peak[18] highest place,[19] summit[20]),
  4. First[21] (at first,[22] first place,[23]  first part[24]), Beginning[25] (primary motion from rest[26]), commence[27]

The definition that fits the context the best is number four. This meaning defines the initiation of a process or first part of something; whereas the first three describe qualities or positions of something, someone, etc. Genesis 1:1 could have been written “at the first God created,” “at the start God created,” or “at the commencement God created . . .," etc. Re’sheet does not have the meaning of “in time(s) past,” “in ancient time,” “in past ages,” etc. If Moses had wanted to use a Hebrew word that refers to a time before creation week, he had the choice of using: 1 ) Ri’shown--former, formerly, before, aforetime, old time, foremost; 2 ) Gohlahm--ancient time, anciently, of old; 3 ) Shilshowm--idiom for 'in times past', times past, past, beforetime. Because Moses did not use any of these words, and because re’sheet doesn’t carry the lexical meaning of “ages past,” “in times past,” etc., we can know Moses was trying to convey a specific time that is knowable to us.  A point of interest in this discussion is the Good News Translation of Gen. 1:1-,“In the beginning, when God created the universe.”  In our next article[28] we will see that “heaven” and “earth” do not refer to the creation of the universe,[29] “time,” etc.[30] In summary, “beginning” (re’sheet) has a lexical meaning of a point in time or first part of something that is knowable. It does not denote a point in time followed by a gap or space (primary motion from rest implies the motion continues without stopping). It also doesn’t designate between an “absolute beginning”[31] (whatever this means) and “beginning.”

Comparative ConsiderationsRe’sheet is used 51 times in the Old Testament. A comparative word study is in harmony with the definitions given above. In Scripture, re’sheet defines the starting point of a process, time period or first part of something. For example:

  1. Beginning or First part of a kingdom, reign, year, nations[32],
  2. Beginning or First part of yearly produce, livestock, offerings. . (dough, corn, sheep, offerings, wine[33]),
  3. Beginning or First part of moral or physical attributes (wisdom, sin, strife,[34] strength, might[35]),
  4. Beginning or First part of a thing, man, etc.[36] (in contrast to “the end”- Is. 46:10).

The Old Testament reveals that re’sheet is not used as a nebulous or unknowable word. Rather, it delineates a specific point of time that can be measured or understood from the context or other passages. The context of Genesis one is the “filling“ and “forming” of the earth and heavens. Therefore, “beginning” is directly related to the subsequent actions of God in Genesis one and two.

Grammatical Considerations Grammatically, the opening word bere’sheeth (a form of re‘sheet) is in the “absolute state”[37]and the opening phrase is an independent clause.[38] (For detailed discussion of the grammatical, syntactical and stylistic considerations of Genesis 1:1,2, please see Gerhard Hasel's “Recent Translations of Genesis 1:1,” The Bible Translator 22, 1971[39]). Verse one is not dependent on verse two, but rather two (and three) are dependent on verse one. Some modern translations have misdiagnosed this, and begin with the phrase “when in the beginning” (NJV, NEB, NAB, CEB, NRSV). These versions imply that the “beginning” is something that happened long before verse two. Dr. Hasel has shown that bere’sheeth should be translated “In the beginning” and that it “has the support of word studies, grammar, Masoretic pointing and accentuation.”[40] If Moses wanted to say the “heavens and earth” began ages ago (Active-Gap Theory- occurring after verse 1), he would have used the construct state and the first phrase would have been a “Dependent clause” (“when in the beginning . . .”). As we will note in the Syntactical Considerations, verses two and three also begin with the linking word “and” (“AND the earth was without form . . . AND God said, ‘Let there . . .’”). This unifies the first three verses together in time- which rules out the Passive-Gap Theory (which proponents say happened after verse 2).

Contextual Considerations

“Heavens and the earth were finished”-

Genesis 2:1 says, “thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.”

When the Hebrew word “finished” (kalah) is used in the O.T., it references a process (building, construction, numbering, prophecy, etc.[41]) that continues uninterrupted from its commencement. In other words, the word “finished” stands in opposition to “beginning” like book ends of a process that once started, progresses until finished with no gaps or lulls. In reality, this is the summary statement of the creation account, not Genesis 1:1.

“Generations of the heavens and the earth”

Genesis 2:4 says- “these are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created....” The Hebrew word for “generation” (toh-l’dohth) has the meaning of: a genealogy,[42] family history or lineage,[43] family connected by birth,[44] successive generations, etc.[45] The Bible uses this word with family lineages, in which the line goes back, unbroken until the beginning. Examples of this are Jesus' lineage in Luke 3, and the generations of Adam in Genesis 5.[46] Dr. Richard Davidson comments, “The chronogenealogies of Gen 5 and 11 have indicators that they are be taken as complete genealogies without gap[s] . . . tight interlocking features make it virtually impossible to argue that there are significant generational gaps.”[47] In a similar way, the chronogenealogy of Genesis 1 contains interlocking features (“evening and morning . . . first day“) that vitiate gaps or spaces. In the Old Testament, the first generation of a genealogy is followed directly and contiguously with the second. To be consistent, the first generation (of “heaven and earth”) would be followed consecutively and contiguously with the events and days of creation. Therefore, once the heaven and earth are created (Gen. 1:1), their “family line” would continue with the next “generation” following directly.

Syntactical Considerations

The syntax of Genesis 1:2 contains “three noun clauses, which all describe the state of existing contemporaneously with the action expressed in Genesis 1:1. In other words, verse two describes the state of the earth during the time when the activity of verse one was ended and that of verse three began.” (emphasis mine)[48] In Hebrew, verse two begins with the word “and” (Hb.- waw), and it is in the copulative form.[49] According to Dr. Hasel, when “the noun [is] in an emphatic position followed by the verb [it] leads to a meaning that may be rendered[50]- 'And (as far as) the earth (is concerned it) was . . .'"[51] Hebrew scholar D. Kidner concurs that verse two is connected to one, “By all normal usage the [second] verse is an expansion of the statement just made, and its own two halves are concurrent.”[52] What this means is that there is no gap (of time) between verse one and two; verse two is simply a description of the earth created in verse one. Verse three also begins with the word “and” (waw- copulative), so that “just as verse 2 is connected to verse 1, so also there is a link between verses 2 and 3.”[53] Dr. Hasel concludes his remarks on the syntax by stating- “The author of the first verse of the Bible expresses the idea that ‘in the beginning’ . . . God created ‘heaven and earth‘. . .  this created world was in a condition described in verse 2. Next God transformed this condition into the one presently existing.” (emphasis mine)[54] This is confirmed by another exegete- “Genesis 1:3 begins with another conjunction, so we know it is part of the continuing action. . .[55]

Stylistic Considerations

Stylistically, Genesis 1 is characterized by the consistent use of short sentences: “And God saw that . . . was good” (1;4,10,12,18,25,31);’ and there was evening and there was morning, . . . Day one” (1:5,8,13,19,23,31). The implication of this stylistic uniqueness militates against a syntactical construction of verses 1-3 that makes these verses into a long and complicated sentence structure.”[56] Verse one contains a single short phrase and “verse 2 consists of three noun clauses.”[57] Therefore, the brevity of the phrases in verses one and two are consistent with the rest of the chapter, belonging to a “series of characteristically short sentences.”[58] While verses one and two may not begin with the distinctive “and God saw,” or “and God said,” etc., they still have the same short cadence.

One argument against Genesis 1:1,2 being included in the creation week, is the formula- “And God said . . . Day one,” “And God said . . . Day two,” etc. The contention is that all the days begin with “And God said,” and conclude with “day one,” “day two,” etc., therefore verses 1,2 are not “within that framework”. There are several reasons why Genesis 1:1,2 don’t fall within this pattern, and why we shouldn’t insist on this “formula” as applying:

  1. Verse 1 gives us a reference point (“beginning“)- so that we know WHEN God speaks (v. 3). If verse one began- “And God said. . .”- we would not know at what point in time He began His work.
  2. Verse 3 begins with “and”- which links verse 3 with verse 2. Verse 1 doesn’t start with “and,” since it is not continuing an activity- it is initiating one.
  3. The “planting of a garden” (2:8), the creation of a “mist” to water the ground (2:6), etc.- do not fall within the “formula” of chapter one- since they are within the complementary chapter 2.
  4. Ps. 33:6 says the “heavens” were made by the “word of the Lord.” As for the earth- they were made “by the word of God” (Heb. 11:3). These verses show us that God spoke the “heavens and the earth” into existence. Therefore, the alleged “formula”-  “God said. . .” was still followed, even if we don’t know this from Genesis 1. (more on this in the next article)
  5. God “covered the earth with the deep” (Ps. 104:6) and “strengthened the fountains of the deep” (Pr. 8:28). The “deep” (including the “waters”) was created in a way not expressed in Genesis 1.
  6. The following were not specified within the “pattern” of “and God said. . . Day one”- yet were created during the first week: 1) The “springs of the sea” (Job 38:16), 2) commanding “the morning” (Job 38:12), 3) Causing “the dayspring” (Job 38:12), 4) “forming the mountains” (Amos 4:13), 5) “creating the wind” (Amos 4:13[59]), 6) “builds spheres in the heaven. . . arch of the earth” (Amos 9:6, A.R.V.[60]), 7) calling for “the waters of the sea” (Amos 9:6), 8) forming “the light, and darkness” (Is. 45:7), etc. These and other passages show that we should not limit our understanding of creation to the alleged “pattern” of Genesis one- “and God said. . . Day one, etc.”.

In light of the lexical, grammatical, syntactical, contextual, comparative and stylistic information, the evidence points to the creation of “heaven and earth” at the “beginning” of the first day of the creation week. The above findings confute the idea that Genesis 1:1 refers to an “absolute beginning,” “ancient beginning,” “primordial beginning,” etc. The focus of Genesis one and two is the creation week, therefore “beginning” (re’sheet) is directly linked (in space and time) and related to the information that follows.

II. “Created”

Lexical Considerations The word “created” (bara) in Genesis 1:1 has two primary meanings:  1 ) To create,[61] bring into existence,[62] bring forth,[63] cause to exist (that which had no existence),[64] produce into being,[65]  and 2 ) to form,[66] to build or fashion,[67] to shape,[68] to engrave, cut out,[69] etc. The meaning that is in harmony with the context is number one, since the “earth was without form and void” (verse 2). The “shaping,” “building” and “forming” would take place on days two through six. It was the creative act of “causing to exist” that which had not previously existed, that Genesis 1:1 is referring to--creatio ex nihilo.

“Created” (bara) and “made” (asah) The fourth commandment has been used to support God creating the “heavens and the earth” on the first day of creation. It reads, “for in six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Ex. 20:11). The passage seems to affirm that God “made” the heaven and the earth DURING the “six days” of creation. Critics of this understanding assert that since the word “made” (asah) is different that the word “created” (bara) in Genesis 1:1[70]they cannot be conflated. However, this fails to take into consideration the nuanced differences and similarities between these two words. In Gen. 2:3, “God created (bara) AND made (asah)” the heavens and the earth. Therefore, bara (“created”) and asah (“made”) are used in harmony with each other.

Like bara, asah has two general meanings: 1 ) To make out of pre-existent matter,[71] to form- fashion,[72] modeled,[73] fabricated,[74] etc.; and 2 ) A General word, to perform an act--doing,[75] acting,[76] working,[77] do mightily,[78] bring about,[79] etc. Some lexicographers state it this way, “asah” is a “very general word- like ‘do’ and ‘make’ in English.”[80]  In the fourth commandment, God is referring to ALL His created works involving the earth and heavens. Therefore, He uses a word that applies to His activity in general. God “molded” and “formed” man, and animals (Gen. 2:7,19) out of pre-existing material, but He “created” other things (Light, trees, etc.) by His word. Therefore, “asah” does not stand in tension to “Bara.“ Rather, was the best general word God could have used to include those things created from nothing, AND those from pre-existing material (man and animals).


From our brief survey, we have seen that the evidence points towards the creation of the “heaven and the earth” on the first day of creation. At this point we can summarize the following: 1 ) “Beginning” (re’sheet) is a knowable point of time at the first day of creation, 2 ) God created the world out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) in the recent past on the first day of creation, 3 ) this understanding is in harmony with the fourth commandment which includes “heaven, earth, sea and all that is in them,” 4 ) the popular geologic dating results are not in harmony with the Biblical record, so they must be revised to correlate with Scripture. In the next article, we will look at the three elements that God created in the “beginning” of the first day (verse 2)- “heaven,” “earth” and “water” (including “the deep”). In the final article we look at why any of this is relevant.

[1]    “Creation” in the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, ed. Don F. Neufield, 35

[2]  The specific Hebrew form of resheet used in Genesis 1:1 is B’resheet

[3]   Jastrow, Hebrew-English Dictionary, Samuel Pike, Hebrew Lexicon, William Osborn, English-Hebrew Lexicon, W.H. Barker, Hebrew Lexicon, Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[4]   Samuel Pike, Hebrew Lexicon

[5]   Josiah Willard Gibbs, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[6]   Jastrow, Hebrew-English Dictionary, William Osborn, English-Hebrew Lexicon, William Duncan, English-Hebrew Lex.

[7]   Jastrow, Hebrew-English Dictionary

[8]   Mitchell & Davies Hebrew/Chaldean Lexicon

[9]   William Roy, Hebrew-English Dictionary

[10]   Samuel Pike, Hebrew Lexicon, William Roy, Hebrew-English Dictionary, Jastrow, Hebrew-English Dictionary, Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew-English Lexicon, Thomas R. Brown, Lexicon, W.H. Barker, Hebrew Lexicon

[11]   William Osborn, English-Hebrew Lexicon

[12]   Thomas R. Brown, Lexicon

[13]   Josiah Willard Gibbs, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[14]   Jastrow, Hebrew-English Dictionary, William Roy, Hebrew-English Dictionary, Samuel Pike, Hebrew Lexicon, William Osborn, English-Hebrew Lexicon, Josiah Willard Gibbs

[15]   W.H. Barker, Hebrew Lexicon, Mitchell & Davies Hebrew/Chaldean Lexicon

[16]   Samuel Pike, Hebrew Lexicon, W.H. Barker, Hebrew Lexicon

[17]   William Roy, Hebrew-English Dictionary, William Osborn, English-Hebrew Lexicon

[18]   William Roy, Hebrew-English Dictionary

[19]   Josiah Willard Gibbs, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[20]   Mitchell & Davies Hebrew/Chaldean Lexicon

[21]   Samuel Pike, Hebrew Lexicon, William Osborn, English-Hebrew Lexicon, W.H. Barker, Hebrew Lexicon, Thomas R. Brown,  Lexicon, Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[22]   Samuel Pike, Hebrew Lexicon, W.H. Barker, Hebrew Lexicon

[23]   John Parkhurst, Hebrew Lexicon

[24]   John Parkhurst, Hebrew Lexicon

[25]   Jastrow, Hebrew-English Dictionary, Samuel Pike, Hebrew Lexicon, Josiah Willard Gibbs, Hebrew-English Lexicon, Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew-English Lexicon, Mitchell & Davies Hebrew/Chaldean Lexicon, John Parkhurst, Hebrew Lexicon

[26]   Thomas R. Brown, Lexicon

[27]   William Osborn, English-Hebrew Lexicon

[28] “in the beginning” does not refer to the “beginning of the universe,” the “beginning of time,” etc.  A thorough refutation of this idea can be found in Ferdinand Regalado’s article- “The Creation account in Genesis 1: Our world only or the Universe?” (Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 13/2, Autumn 2002)

[29] See also -

[30] The Institute for Creation Research has written- “No other cosmogony, whether in ancient paganism or modern naturalism, even mentions the absolute origin of the universe. . . the concept of the special creation of the universe of space and time itself is found nowhere in all religion or philosophy, ancient or modern, except here in Genesis 1:1. . . this  verse records the creation of space (“the heaven”), of time (“in the beginning”), and of matter (“the earth”) . . .”


[32]  Gen. 10:10; Jer. 26:1; 27:1; 28:1; 49:34; Deu. 11:12; Nu. 24:20

[33]  Nu. 15:20, 21; Neh. 10:37; Deu. 18:4; 1 Sam. 2:29; 2 Ch. 31:5

[34]  Pr. 1:7; Mic. 1:13; Pr. 17:14

[35]  Gen. 49:3; Deut. 21:17; Ps. 111:10; 78:51; 105:36, Jer. 49:35

[36]  Job 8:7; Job 42:12; Ecc. 7:8; Prov. 8:22




[40]   Hasel, Ministry, Op. Cit.

Dr. Hasel notes: “Moses could not have used any other construction to denote the first word as in the absolute state, but he  could have opted for a different construction to indicate the construct state. . . [the] Vulgate, Aquila, Theodotion, Symmachus, Targum Onkelos- All place the first word of the Bible in the absolute state- - and an independent main clause. . .  [furthermore] The Masoretes (who supplied the Hebrew text with vowels and accents, Placed the first word in Genesis with a disjunctive accent tiphha- construing it as an absolute.

[41]  Ex. 39:32- Tent of the Congregation                                                         2 Chr. 4:11- Huram finished the work that he was to

Ex. 40:33- Moses finished the work                                         2 Chron. 7:11- Solomon finished the house of the Lord

1 Ki. 6:9- So he built the house and finished it                                   Dan. 12:7- all these things shall be finished

1 Ki. 7:22- so was the work of the pillars finished

[42]   William Wallace Duncan, Hebrew and English Lexicon

[43]   Edward Mitchell and Benjamin Davies, Complete Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Josiah Gibbs, Hebrew-English Lexicon, Jastrow, Hebrew-Aramaic-English Dictionary

[44]   Edward Mitchell and Benjamin Davies, Complete Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon

[45]   Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon

[46]  Other genealogies would also include: Gen. 6:9- the generations of Noah, Gen. 10:1- the generations of the sons of Noah, Gen. 11:10- the generations of Shem, Gen. 11:27- the generations of Terah, Gen. 25:19- the generations of Isaac, Ex. 6:19- Levi, according to their generations, Nu. 3:1- the generations of Aaron, Ru. 4:18- the generations of Pharez, etc.


[48]   Hasel, Ministry, Op. Cit.

[49] Hasel, “Recent Translations of Genesis 1:1,” The Bible Translator 22, 1971

[50]   Hasel, Ministry, Bible Translator, Op. Cit.

[51]  N.H. Ridderbos, “Genesis 1:1-2,” (Oudtestamentische Studien 12, 1958), 231

[52]   D. Kidner, Genesis, p. 44

[53]   Hasel, Ministry, Op. Cit.

[54]   Hasel, Bible Translator, Op. Cit.

[55] Rich Deem,

   “And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light‘. . . every thought is begun with a conjunction, so we know that all        of this is part of the continuing action.”

[56]   Hasel, Ministry, Op.Cit.

[57]   Hasel, Ministry, Op. Cit.

[58]   Hasel, Bible Translator, Op. Cit.

[59] Quoted in E.G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 414

[60] Quoted in E.G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 414

[61]  John Parkhurst, Hebrew-English Lexicon; William Roy, Ibid, Mitchell & Davies, Ibid; Brown-Driver-Briggs, Ibid

[62]  Thomas Brown, Hebrew Lexicon

[63]  William Roy, Hebrew-English Dictionary

[64]  William Roy, Hebrew-English Dictionary

[65]  John Parkhurst, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[66]   John Parkhurst, Ibid; William Osborn, Ibid; Josiah Gibbs, Ibid; Brown-Driver-Briggs, Ibid; Samuel Pike, Hebrew Lexicon

[67]  William Roy, Ibid; Mitchell & Davies, Ibid; William Duncan, Ibid; Brown-Driver-Briggs, Ibid

[68]  Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew-English Lexicon; Jastrow, Hebrew-Aramaic-English Dictionary

[69]  Josiah Gibbs, Hebrew-English Lexicon; William Duncan, Hebrew-English Lexicon; William Duncan, Ibid;  Jastrow, Ibid


[71]   John Parkhurst, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[72]   John Parkhurst, Hebrew-English Lexicon; W.H. Barker, Hebrew Lexicon

[73]   William Roy, Hebrew-English Critical Dictionary; W.H. Barker, Hebrew Lexicon

[74]   William Osborn, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[75]   Jastrow, Hebrew-Aramaic-English Dictionary

[76]   W.H. Barker, Hebrew Lexicon; John Parkhurst, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[77]   William Roy, Hebrew-English Critical Dictionary; John Parkhurst, Hebrew-English Lexicon; Josiah Gibbs, Lexicon

[78]   Brown- Driver- Briggs, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[79]   Brown- Driver- Briggs, Hebrew-English Lexicon

[80]   John Parkhurst, Hebrew-English Lexicon