A pastoral letter and appeal from the Seventh-day Adventist world church president
During these past weeks, we have had such unusual situations around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed many lives and disrupted daily life worldwide as we know it. Violence and hatred continue to exhibit themselves in unconverted hearts as evidenced by devastating bombings in places like Afghanistan. Oppression and lack of religious liberty are demonstrated in many places, including Burundi. Terrorism shows its ugly presence and affects innocent lives in random places around the world. Massive human migration and displacement have been the result of political, safety, and economic instability. Fires, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, and devastating floods in places around the globe periodically wreak havoc in increasing intensity.
On a worldwide basis, human relations have become frayed and interpersonal understanding undermined by bigotry, anger, and frustration. Recently, various events have led to anger and death against unarmed African-Americans, culminating with the horrific, senseless, brutal death of a handcuffed, unarmed African-American by a police officer. Senseless acts like this can take place in various situations around the world. Those perpetrating such reprehensible treatment of fellow human beings must be held responsible according to established laws. The cycle of hatred and brutality must cease. However, this will happen only when people submit their lives and actions to God. All Seventh-day Adventists worldwide are urged to earnestly pray for families who have lost loved ones in malicious killings, as well as from natural disasters, COVID-19, and more. Let us seek to bring peace and healing to broken hearts and fragmented communities.
In and of ourselves, we tend toward reaction and exacting retribution. It is only as we humble ourselves before the Lord that He can take control of our lives and bring us into living lives in accordance with His Holy Word. As Paul indicates in Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Paul is telling us to focus on our relationship with God because only He can work in us through His righteousness to justify and sanctify us, making us more and more like Him. This is God’s work and it is vital as we approach the end of time and Christ’s soon coming.
All the disastrous things that are happening around us remind us that we are living in the last days of earth’s history just before Jesus’ second coming. He predicted that disasters and great problems would happen at the end of time. He said in Matthew 24:4-14, “… Take heed that no one deceives you, for many will come in My name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Romans 1:29-32 lists many characteristics of those who do not allow the power of God to control them. These are individuals who are “… being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whispers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”
How should we respond to all this sin and evil activity around us and the horrific acts of violence against human beings in our local areas and on a global basis? God gives very direct counsel on how to counteract these despicable acts of hatred and animosity. He gives us as Christians — followers of Jesus Christ Himself — careful and direct instruction through Paul in Romans 12:9-21, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another, with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer, distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
As Seventh-day Adventists, let us stand up for biblical truth, for eternal principles, for that which is right, and for those who are broken-hearted, captives, blind, and oppressed. In doing so, we will be following in Christ’s ministry found in Luke 4:18 with the spiritual objective of pointing people to the Lamb of God who can save them and change them into new creatures as indicated in 2 Corinthians 5:17 in preparation for His soon coming.
Let us remember that in the near future, religious oppression will come to all true Bible believers who identify with the characteristics of God’s last-day people found in Revelation 12:17, “ … the dragon [Satan] was enraged with the woman [God’s church], and went to make war with the rest [remnant] of her offspring [God’s last day people], who (1) keep the commandments of God and (2) have the testimony of Jesus Christ” — which in Revelation 19:10 tells us is “the spirit of prophecy.” God will nurture His people through His righteous power as they show the above two characteristics which includes the keeping of all the commandments of God including the fourth commandment to keep the seventh-day Sabbath holy … all through the power of God and not of ourselves.
We know that this stalwart adherence to God’s instructions will elicit a terrible reaction on the part of those who are opposed to God’s law and the fourth commandment, resulting in persecution, violence, and anger against those who follow God rather than man-made days of worship. This persecution will be unyielding and severe. In The Great Controversy, by Ellen G White, we read, “Conscientious obedience to the word of God will be treated as rebellion. Blinded by Satan, the parent will exercise harshness and severity toward the believing child; the master or mistress will oppress the commandment-keeping servant. Affection will be alienated; children will be disinherited and driven from home. The words of Paul will be literally fulfilled: ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’ 2 Tim 3:12. As the defenders of truth refuse to honor the Sunday-sabbath, some of them will be thrust into prison, some will be exiled, some will be treated as slaves. To human wisdom all this now seems impossible; but as the restraining Spirit of God shall be withdrawn from men, and they shall be under the control of Satan, who hates the divine precepts, there will be strange developments. The heart can be very cruel when God’s fear and love are removed” (p. 608).
My dear fellow church members around the globe, as we now proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14:6-12 in Total Member Involvement, calling people back to the true worship of God in revival and reformation and receiving the seal of God, the keeping of His seventh-day Sabbath as opposed to the mark of the beast which is keeping a spurious, false day of worship, we will draw unbelievable opposition. God will protect and care for His people as they also proclaim the fourth angel’s message in Revelation 18:1-4, calling people out of Babylon and confusion to the true worship of God and allegiance to Him as opposed to allegiance to human-oriented religious activity that is focused on tradition rather than on the Bible only.
As we consider the adverse reaction to presenting full Bible truth, let us stand for those today who are being maligned and treated with disrespect, showing them the love of Christ. Let us remember that our religious liberty and rights will be curtailed and we will be the ones facing great difficulties. Many of us will face the same type of unfair and derogatory treatment as is being experienced by many today, but we will rely completely on Christ for our every need and will still show the love of Christ to our oppressors—all through the Holy Spirit’s power. God will see us through.
By God’s grace, let us stay faithful to Him and His truth as we help those who are facing a variety of difficulties, so that we can point them to Christ, His Word, His righteousness, His sanctuary service, His saving power in the great controversy, His Three Angels’ Messages, His health message, His last-day mission to the world, including the need to plead for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s soon second coming.