This year marks the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the Seventh-day Adventist church. In honor of this event, General Conference president Ted Wilson addressed the members of the world-wide organization’s executive committee at the Seventh-day Adventist Tabernacle in Battle Creek, Michigan, the city where Adventists officially incorporated. In his Sabbath, April 13 sermon, Wilson emphasized that they “should have been home by now,” and asked why they should celebrate any more anniversaries when they “could be in heaven”. He further asked the members if they had been “as faithful to God’s commands and counsels as they might have been.” Wilson reminded the congregation that God had called them to a unique message and mission, and he asked them how long they, like unfaithful Israel, would keep breaking their promises to God.
Wilson chided members for failing to be faithful in carrying out the work of declaring the Adventist gospel—the Three Angels’ Messages—to the whole world so the end could come. He then challenged them to proclaim those messages, to “reap the results from The Great Controversy Project”, and to commit to enter New York and other cities with their new “Mission to the Cities” project. Moreover, he reminded them that members should be fully utilizing the “right arm of the Gospel,” the organization’s comprehensive health message.
Wilson reminded his flock that the Seventh-day Adventist church is “uniquely intended for this movement”, and its special message will not pass to another group. “You and I are part of the final church God has prepared.” He also assured them that “the General Conference will continue to stand firm for God’s truth as the overall supervising body of God’s worldwide work. It will not lessen its strong guiding and nurturing role over all Seventh-day Adventists worldwide until the very events of history occur when ultimately religious persecution prevents organizations from functioning. The General Conference, by God’s grace and His power, will not be decentralized, neutralized or sidelined.”
Unpacking the language
Wilson’s scold, suggesting that members have not been faithful to God, and his assignment of guilt for not being “home by now” are both taken directly from Ellen White’s declarations that God has delayed Christ’s return because Adventists have failed to do their work. She wrote in The Desire of Ages, pp. 633-34, “By giving the gospel to the world it is in our power to hasten our Lord’s return. We are not only to look for but to hasten the coming of the day of God. 2 Peter 3:12, margin. Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned, and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory.”
In 1900 she put guilt-inducing pressure on her flock with these words: “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69).
Three years later she wrote in the General Conference Bulletin, dated March 30, 1903, “I know that if the people of God had preserved a living connection with Him, if they had obeyed His Word, they would today be in the heavenly Canaan.”
The fact is, Seventh-day Adventism was born out of a failed prophecy that Christ would return on October 22, 1844. When Adventist leaders refused to admit they had sinned by date-setting, they devised an alternative explanation for the failed date: Jesus moved on that date from the heavenly holy place into the most holy place and began the investigative judgment in which Christ determines who of those who profess Him have truly repented of all their sins and thus are worthy to have their sins placed on Satan the scapegoat and carried out of heaven into the lake of fire.
The founding Adventists soon added a belief in the Sabbath as the seal of God, Sunday-worship as the mark of the beast, and a mandate to tell the world their unique “gospel”: the news that the three angels of Revelation 14:6-10 carry the last message for the world. In a nutshell, this is the message: The first angel calls everyone to remember that God is the creator, and everyone is to worship Him on the seventh day, the day He created to be the Sabbath. The second angel announces that Babylon, “apostate Protestantism” and the Catholics who have caused the whole world to drink the wine of false Sunday worship, has fallen. The third angel declares that anyone who worships the beast or his image (by worshiping on Sunday) will receive the mark of the beast. These three angels’ messages are the Adventist gospel. It is this call to come out of Sunday worship and to join the remnant church that is the work the Adventists have not finished, and Jesus, according to Ellen White and Adventist theology, will not return until His people have finished the work.
As a true Adventist, Ted Wilson is consistent in scolding his flock for still being here to celebrate 150 years of existence. He knows that Adventists are losing their sense of urgency; they’re beginning to question when or if Jesus’ soon return will happen. So he’s reminding them what “inspiration” has told them: Jesus will return. There will be no other last day remnant church or message. Adventism is the new Israel. They have disobeyed and are still wandering in the figurative wilderness, but the day is coming when the Sunday law will be passed, and the Adventists will finally be silenced by religious persecution.
Before that awful day, they must finish the work. They must reap the fruit of their recently completed Great Controversy Project, which entailed the world organization disseminating millions of copies of White’s flagship book, The Great Controversy, in various editions and in all the major world languages. They must throw themselves into their current project to conduct evangelistic meetings in the major cities of the world, not only presenting the Adventist message but also training lay evangelists to continue the local work after the evangelists and programs leave.
Significantly, Wilson reminds his flock of White’s instructions: they are to use the “right arm of the Gospel”, their “health message”, to garner interest and entice people back to hear the Adventist message. They are to use health screenings, vegetarian cooking schools, community heart health classes, and health food stores and restaurants to introduce people to Adventism.
Wilson’s message is urgent. Adventists should feel embarrassed by their corporate failure to finish the work. Jesus has not yet returned because they, Seventh-day Adventists, have failed to preach the Three Angels’ Messages to all the world and they have thus far failed to reproduce the character of Christ—perfect law-keeping—so Jesus can return.
Wilson assures his flock that the General Conference itself will not be “decentralized, neutralized, or sidelined”—in spite of many Adventists’ deviation from proclaiming historic Adventism. He will not let them off the hook; they have one reason to exist: to finish the work so Jesus will come back.
Wilson’s most powerful tool is the shame he can generate by reminding his beleaguered flock that they have failed God. They have prevented His return, and only they can make it happen. Ellen White summed up this Adventist dilemma in 1909 when she wrote, “If every soldier of Christ had done his duty, if every watchman on the walls of Zion had given the trumpet a certain sound, the world might ere this have heard the message of warning. But the work is years behind. While men have slept, Satan has stolen a march upon us” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 29).
Adventism’s corporate guilt is the burden Wilson carries as its president. He needs his faithless flock to pick up the burden and help him carry it into glory.
For further reading, the source link to the Adventist Review article by Mark Kellner can be found here: “No More Anniversaries, Wilson Says in Spring Meeting Sermon”.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://blog.lifeassuranceministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/ColleenTinker08.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Colleen Tinker, the editor of Proclamation! magazine, and her husband Richard left Adventism in 1998 with their two sons, Roy and Nathanael, who were in grades six and ten. They have co-led the Former Adventist Fellowship Bible study at Trinity Church in Redlands, California, since 1999. Colleen, a graduate of Walla Walla University, is a former high school English teacher and also the former managing editor of Adventist Today magazine. She is also a small-group discussion leader for Trinity Women’s ministries. Colleen became the stepmother of Roy and Nathanael in 1989, and in 2008 she adopted them. Romans 8:15-17 has assumed new depth and significance for her and Richard since she and her sons chose to claim each other legally and permanently. She and Richard share their office with Rocky the sheltie, and they love having a new granddaughter.[/author_info] [/author]