In this time of global crisis it is important to have a clear understanding of our identity and purpose. This article is for such a time as this. It is abridged from ExecutiveCommittee.adventist.org/newsletter/.—Ted N. C. Wilson, president, General Conference.
Is our church just one more church? What sets us apart from the rest of Christianity? What justifies our existence?
God answers these questions. He sees us in the context of the great controversy: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
This statement defines our identity and purpose. But can’t the rest of the Christian world claim the same thing? Yes, in part, but not in its entirety—and that small margin makes all the difference.
We are a church that presents the whole truth. Many churches lead people to Jesus. But if the great truths for this hour are excluded, it’s an incomplete gospel. The Bible should always be presented as a whole. Deception is mixing truth with error, and more subtly, not telling the whole truth. We can guard against this by refreshing our origins, identity, message, commitment, and mission from our homes, pulpits, and classrooms.
We are not just another church. We are the final movement God raised in a prophetic time, with a prophetic message centered on Jesus and His grace to restore the whole truth and prepare the world for His return.
“Seventh-day Adventists have been chosen by God as a peculiar people, separate from the world,” wrote Ellen White. “By the great cleaver of truth He has cut them out from the quarry of the world and brought them into connection with Himself. . . . The greatest wealth of truth ever entrusted to mortals, the most solemn and fearful warnings ever sent by God to man, have been committed to them to be given to the world.”¹
The apostle Paul said the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). For that purpose, God called Israel (Deut. 7:6-9; 14:2; Isa. 60:1-3) to be His special people. He did not leave it to them to choose how to live, how to worship, and how to evangelize, but He gave specific instructions.
Unfortunately, ancient Israel failed; but God’s plan didn’t end. At the precise prophetic moment something big happened in heaven, something “as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross”²—God opened the books. The world had to know.
A PROPHETIC BIRTH CERTIFICATE
For that, God raised a people from disappointment—prophesied by Jesus in His vision to John centuries ago (Rev. 10:5-11)—to a sacred appointment, to restore all the light of His truth, presenting “with a loud voice” the three most solemn messages of love ever given (Rev. 14:6-12).
That disappointment was the birth certificate of the true people of God. If the last church hadn’t arisen from a disappointment during the prophetic moment by studying Daniel’s prophecies, it could not be the true church. When our pioneers diligently studied the Scriptures to discern what had happened on October 22, 1844, they situated themselves by faith where Jesus is ministering.
Shortly thereafter God gave the gift of prophecy to this people, thereby defining the two outstanding characteristics of the end-time remnant: those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 12:17; 19:10). These two components appear together in Scripture, and they define the true people of God (Isa. 8:19, 20).
In Ellen White’s first vision, God clearly established the rise, course, and destiny of this movement. If the truth of the heavenly sanctuary is not understood, the plan of salvation is not fully understood.
BEWARE OF DISTRACTIONS
Certain distractions and dangers can undermine our identity, purpose, and mission as a remnant.
To stop presenting present truth. The everlasting gospel was the plan of salvation presented to Adam and Eve. There is also present truth within the context of the everlasting gospel. What is the present truth for this hour? The truths centered on the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, where Jesus ministers today.
To focus only on social justice and humanitarian aid without leading people to Jesus and the full gospel message. Many secular entities do excellent social work. But social aid and social justice are not our final mission as a church. Passages in Micah 6, Isaiah 58, and James emphasize the help we should offer others. Jesus Himself did good works, but His mission was not just to relieve suffering, but to save the human race. He lived His religion—showing love and compassion within the context of His mission. It is important to help people with their temporal needs, but we cannot stop there. We need to lead people to the foot of the cross and the full Advent message.
To imitate other denominations in their liturgy, music, and growth methods. For Israel, imitating others had catastrophic results (Num. 22-24). Some seek ideas from sources that deny great biblical truths, then apply those methods in our churches. What motivates us to adopt the worship style and growth methods of churches the Bible describes as “Babylon”? God never suggested that Israel adopt the methods or worship style of the surrounding nations to reach them.
To emphasize an existentialist Adventism in which discipleship is separate from doctrine. If we speak only about the Master and His virtues but do not teach what the Master asks us to teach, how good can we actually be as disciples? How can new believers teach others the truths they did not learn?
When preaching ceases to be prophetic, doctrinal, and Christ-centered and is based only on grace, it leads to personal conformity and satisfaction, where genuine revival is impossible. A gospel of grace produces liberalism; a gospel of warning produces fanaticism. We are neither fanatical nor liberal. We are disciples who receive and accept the grace to live in commitment.
OUR GOD-GIVEN RESPONSIBILITY
Do we grasp the responsibility placed by God on us in these last days of the great controversy between Christ and Satan?
Wrote Ellen White: “In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the Word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import—the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.”³
What a privilege and responsibility! We know how things will end. One last generation will stand firm and love the Lord so much that it will obey Him. They will be sealed for eternity, established in all biblical truth so they cannot be moved. That generation will participate in wonderful things—the latter rain and the completion of God’s work. The earth will be illuminated with the glory of God (Rev. 18:1).
My prayer is that we will be that last generation. Maranatha.
¹ Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 7, p. 138. ² Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 489. ³ E. G. White, Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 19.