Corporate Identity and God's Blessing Church membership and leadership must unite to receive latter rain
By Ted N. C. Wilson
Luke tells us twice that the disciples were of one accord as they prepared for the outpouring of the early rain (Acts 1:14; 2:1). The fact that he would mention it twice suggests that unity within the church is a very important step in preparation for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There is an aspect to unity presented throughout Scripture that is seldom recognized or addressed in our church -- the role of corporate identity.
First of all, look at an example of corporate identification and then at two aspects of this phenomenon, which are crucial in the preparation for the latter rain:
First, the example: God made it absolutely clear that the Israelites were not to take any spoils for themselves in Jericho's fall and that the silver, gold, and the bronze and iron vessels were consecrated to the Lord (Joshua 6:18, 19). But Achan stole 200 shekels of silver, a wedge of gold and a Babylonian garment (Joshua 7:21). God's anger burned against Israel, and in the next military engagement, Israel lost 36 men and suffered a shameful defeat. When Joshua cried out, "Why, Lord?" the answer was short and to the point: "Israel has sinned" (Joshua 7:11). The whole nation suffered and men lost their lives because one Israelite disobeyed -- corporate identity.
Now, two illustrations that impact directly upon our plea for the latter rain:
First, when the 12 spies returned to give their report about the promised land, Caleb and Joshua were positive and said, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it" (Number 13:30). However, the 10 spies said they could not take the land because there were giants in it and they felt like grasshoppers. The nation believed the 10 and turned against their leaders who were positive that God would fulfill His promise and give the land to them. God's response? Back into the wilderness for 40 years. Moses, Aaron, Caleb, Joshua, and those who supported them had to return to the wilderness because of those who refused to believe God's Word -- corporate identity.
The second illustration takes us to the time of Jesus. Now the roles are reversed. The common people of Israel were flocking to see and hear Jesus. They were bringing their sick to be healed. There was a growing belief among them that Jesus was the promised Messiah but not so among the leaders. They were jealous of Him and plotted His death. During His trial, Pilate asked, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests responded, "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15).
Concerning the priests' attitude, Ellen White says, "Thus by choosing a heathen ruler, the Jewish nation had withdrawn from the theocracy. They had rejected God as their king. Henceforth, they had no deliverer. They had no king but Caesar. To this the priests and teachers had led the people. For this, with the fearful results that followed, they were responsible. A nation's sin and a nation's ruin were due to the religious leaders" (DA, pp. 737-738) -- corporate identity.
In the first illustration the leaders suffered because of the rebellion of the people. In the second illustration the people suffered because of the rebellion of the leaders. God deals with us individually when it comes to our own salvation. But God deals with His people as a corporate group when it comes to carrying out His instructions for the advancement of His work.
What is the lesson to be learned?
God deals with His church today as a corporate body. If we are to receive the latter rain power of the Holy Spirit today, the body and the leadership must be on the same page. God has been ready for years to give His people the latter rain. He has been waiting for us to get ourselves together. If we would only press together in seeking the promised power, pray for each other and stand united, shoulder to shoulder, the power would be given, the work would be finished quickly and we would enter the kingdom soon. It will happen and the glory will be given to God alone.
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church.
Questions & Answers Regarding Current Issues of Unity Facing the Church
The following document addresses issues raised regarding the unity of the church, the authority of the General Conference, and its relationship to other levels and entities of the world church in connection with the current discussion on ordination to the gospel ministry. This document does not address whether ordaining women is appropriate but rather clarifies and corrects arguments that have been used throughout the discussion. (Spanish Version)
1. Does the General Conference have authority to determine the criteria for ministerial ordination at the union level and below, or does the union conference have the delegated authority within its territory to establish such criteria, including gender? Decisions of the General Conference Sessions profoundly impact the church at all levels, including General Conference/division, union conference/mission, conference, and local church. While it is true that local churches approve candidates for baptism, and local conferences recommend to unions for approval all requests for ordination, none of these levels establish the criteria for baptism or ordination. A local church board determines who is going to be baptized; it does not determine the criteria for baptism. The 28 Fundamental Beliefs and the baptismal vows have been mutually agreed upon by the world church. This keeps the church unified internationally. In the same way a union conference has the delegated authority to approve candidates for ordination based on their satisfying the criteria for ordination established by the world church; it does not have the authority to ignore this mutually agreed-upon criteria. That is why the unions are not authorized to move forward unilaterally with ordination without regard to gender. If the church were to accept such a premise, there would be varying standards of ordination and criteria for ministry. Such a path would not likely end there. It would open the door to varying standards for baptism, church membership, etc. The issue here is not women’s ordination per se; it is which level of church organization has the constitutionally given authority to determine what qualifies a person for ordination. This can only be done by the General Conference in Session, or the General Conference Executive Committee, which acts between General Conference Sessions (General Conference Working Policy L 35).
Notice how the Church Manual describes the relationship between the various levels of church organization:
In the Church today the General Conference Session, and the General Conference Executive Committee between Sessions, is the highest ecclesiastical authority in the administration of the Church. The General Conference Executive Committee is authorized by its Constitution to create subordinate organizations with authority to carry out their roles. Therefore all subordinate organizations and institutions throughout the Church will recognize the General Conference Session, and the General Conference Executive Committee between Sessions, as the highest ecclesiastical authority, under God, among Seventh-day Adventists.1
The requirement for all church entities, including conferences and unions, to follow existing policies is made clear in the Bylaws of the General Conference: “Administrations of all organizations and institutions within a division’s territory shall be responsible to their respective executive committees/boards and operate in harmony with [the] division and General Conference Executive Committee actions and policies.”2 For the above reasons, the recent action taken by the Columbia Union Conference Constituency Session to approve ordination without respect to gender represents a violation of these policies.
2. Is the worldwide Theology of Ordination Study Committee, requested at the 2010 General Conference Session and established at the 2011 Annual Council, also studying the issue of the pastoral ordination of women? Yes. The process for studying the theology of ordination voted by the General Conference Administrative Committee was handed out and reviewed by the 2011 Annual Council. As the document explains, “each division is asked to request their biblical research committee [BRC] to make a study of the theology of ordination and its implications for church practices.”3 As has been consistently explained verbally and in writing, these practical implications involve many questions related to ordination, including the ordination of women. For example, in a letter from the Biblical Research Institute to all the division presidents and BRC directors sent on May 1, 2012, numerous issues and questions were listed that could be considered by the division study committees. A number of these items relate directly to the question of ordaining women as pastors, including “Does the Bible teach leadership role distinctions between male and female in ministry?”
The Biblical Research Institute has provided the necessary materials for the divisions to establish biblical research committees, and all 13 world divisions are in various stages of the study process. In addition, the General Conference Administrative Committee will be appointing a Theology of Ordination Study Committee, to which each division is invited to send representatives who will be able to represent the study done by their division on this larger, worldwide committee. A report of the worldwide study committee will be presented to the General Conference administration, which will report the findings to the 2014 Annual Council. This would allow any agreed-upon resolutions to be placed on the agenda of the 2015 General Conference Session. Further details of this process are available through the Adventist News Network:http://news.adventist.org/en/archive/articles/2011/10/10/process-timetable-unveiled-for-review-of-theology-of-ordination.
3. Was it constitutionally appropriate for the General Conference Sessions of 1990 and 1995 to discuss and vote on the issue of ordaining women to ministry? Yes. “The General Conference Session, and the General Conference Executive Committee between Sessions, is the highest ecclesiastical authority in the administration of the Church.”4The General Conference in Session can deal with matters of global importance to the Church as well as matters referred to it from the General Conference Executive Committee. The General Conference in Session is the final place of appeal in matters of difference among organizations.
“When differences arise in or between churches and conferences or institutions, appeal to the next higher constituent level is proper until it reaches an Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee or the General Conference Session. Between these meetings, the General Conference Executive Committee constitutes the body of final authority on all questions. The committee’s decision may be reviewed at a General Conference Session or an Annual Council.”5 The 1990 General Conference Session addressed a report and recommendations that were referred to it by the General Conference Executive Committee.
The 1995 General Conference Session addressed a matter that originated as a request from the North American Division (NAD) officers and the NAD union presidents. This request was processed through the General Conference Executive Committee and placed on the agenda for the General Conference Session.
4. Did the 1881 General Conference Session vote to authorize the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? No. However, a surface reading of the minutes of the session could leave a wrong impression. It was common to introduce motions at GC Sessions of the time with “Resolved.” In our day, it sounds as if it has been decided, but in fact it was merely the accepted way to place a motion up for consideration. Then it would be discussed by the delegates and put to a vote. The resolutions voted on and passed at the 1881 General Conference Session are clearly listed in the minutes as “adopted.” With regard to the ordination of women, the following resolution was presented for discussion: “Resolved, That females possessing the necessary qualifications to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian ministry.” Eight individuals are listed as speaking to this resolution prior to it being “referred to the General Conference Committee.”6 It is never listed as having been adopted, nor is there any evidence it was ever taken up again, either at this Session or at any subsequent GC Session.7
5. If female pastors have already been ordained by some organizations in China, why not allow the ordination of women to the ministry in other regions of the world? Women have and are doing a powerful work for God in ministry in China. They are serving as pastors and church planters. Of more than 6,000 pastors in China, approximately 4,000, or 70 percent, of them are women. While a few (currently, 20 women) have been ordained, we need to understand the complexity of the situation in China and the reality of life there. In China, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not have a formal church organization. There are no conferences or unions. There is no official Adventist Theological Seminary in China. There is no standardized ministerial training. Pastors typically are chosen from the members of a local congregation as they demonstrate a calling for ministry by teaching Sabbath school, lay preaching, and church planting. Chinese pastors, male or female, are usually ordained in one of two ways: either by the local congregation with the participation of Adventist senior pastors from their region, or by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement operates under the China Christian Council and is a nondenominational entity approved by the Chinese government.
Female Adventist leaders in China are not in agreement among themselves about the appropriateness of ordination: there is no uniform approach to the issue among the women who pastor Adventist churches in China. Some allow themselves to be ordained, some do not; while the large majority has not engaged in the discussion because women’s ordination has never been an issue among women pastors in China. While the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church acknowledges the fact of women’s ordination in China, it neither recognizes it nor endorses it. It doesn’t seek to initiate, guide, or control the process. The church in China functions in the context of its environment and with the limitations imposed upon it by the government where it exists. However, because of this anomalous situation, its practices with respect to the ordination of female pastors cannot be cited as a model for the world church.
6. Is the ordination of female pastors in China recognized by the world church? No. Ordination in China is not officially recognized by any entity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church outside of China. The document, “An Appeal for Unity in Respect to Ministerial Ordination Practices,” written and approved by all General Conference officers (25 persons) and division presidents (13 persons) worldwide, makes this clear:
… these ordinations were not authorized or conducted according to the policies of the Church. Nor are these ordinations approved or recognized/endorsed by the Northern Asia-Pacific Division. The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not have an officially organized structure in China that is comparable to other areas of the world. Government regulations do not permit outside involvement in church affairs within China. The practice, in China, of ministerial ordination for women is acknowledged as a reality that has arisen in China and is beyond the influence of the world-wide structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.8
7. How is General Conference policy determined, and how is it related to practice? What is the connection between decisions voted by the General Conference Executive Committee, the General Conference Session, and policy? Policy is thoughtfully developed, based on sometimes lengthy deliberations over issues both theological and practical, and recommendations made for consideration by duly appointed and elected representatives at these sessions and meetings of the world church. It is not accurate to assert that policy follows practice. It is more accurate to say that practice informs policy but that policy itself is based on Seventh-day Adventist principles found in Scripture and the writings of Ellen G. White. A recent example of how this process works in practice is the use of tithe. For several years, a committee at the General Conference has studied principles of tithing found in the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White. Based on this study and discussion, the committee has formulated recommendations for General Conference administration that have been refined, adopted at the Annual Council, and then included in the Working Policy.
However, certain policies cannot be acted upon at Annual Councils but only at a General Conference Session. These sessions, held every five years, address matters of global importance that impact the entire world Church, such as the election of world leaders (officers and department directors serving from the General Conference office and officers of divisions), revision and approval of Fundamental Beliefs, amendments to the Church Manual, amendments to the General Conference Constitution and Bylaws, appointment of the General Conference Auditing Service leaders and board, etc.
The General Conference Church Manual and General Conference Working Policy contain the decisions that define the operating procedures and relationships among the various levels of church organization (churches, local conferences, unions, and the General Conference with its divisions). The policies of the Church Manual are determined by General Conference Sessions and those of the Working Policy are determined by the General Conference Executive Committee at Annual Councils. Between General Conference sessions the General Conference Executive Committee is delegated to act on behalf of the General Conference Session. A General Conference Session is not prevented from establishing policy by virtue of having given to the Executive Committee that prerogative between Sessions. Membership on the Executive Committee includes General Conference and division officers; presidents of all the unions worldwide; as well as representation, recommended by divisions, from laity, pastors and frontline employees within each division.
8. Is it obligatory for all entities of the world church to be in full agreement with the General Conference model constitution and working policies, or are they permitted to be only in “general” agreement? The model constitutions and bylaws contain basic templates of language and concepts to be included in the constitution and bylaws of an organization such as a union or local conference. Some of the material in the model documents is optional. Other material, represented by bold lettering, is obligatory. The obligation for organizations to operate in harmony with General Conference Session and Executive Committee decisions is also shown elsewhere in theWorking Policy. No organization is able to claim an exemption from such obligation merely because it has not adopted such language in its constitution and bylaws:
Local churches, local conferences/missions/fields, union conferences/missions, unions of churches, and institutions are, by vote of the appropriate constituency, and by actions of properly authorized executive committees, a part of the worldwide organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Whereas each has accepted the privilege and responsibility of representing the Church in its part of the world, each is therefore required to operate and minister in harmony with the teachings and policies of the Church, and the actions of the world Church in the General Conference Executive Committee or in General Conference Session. While individual units of the Church are given freedom to function in ways appropriate to their role and culture, no part of the worldwide organization of the Church has a unilateral right to secede.9
9. What did Ellen White say about the authority of the General Conference? In the years preceding the reorganization of the church in 1901, Ellen White made several statements about the General Conference no longer being the voice of God because the General Conference president and his advisors were not willing to heed the messages from the Lord. An example of this is a statement in 1898: “It has been some years since I have considered the General Conference as the voice of God.”10 With the rapid growth of the church during these years, it was also clear that three or four leaders at the General Conference office in Battle Creek should not be making day-to-day decisions for fields half a world away. However, after the reorganization at the 1901 General Conference Session, Ellen White’s attitude was very different:
1909—“God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error that some are in danger of committing is in giving to the mind and judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of authority and influence that God has invested in His church in the judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the prosperity and advancement of His work.”11
1911—“God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for he who does this despises the voice of God.”12
10. What is the difference between unity and uniformity? The difference between “unity” and “uniformity” is in how these words end. They both start with “uni”—a Latin prefix meaning “one,” but it is what comes after that “one” that explains the oneness. Unity is “the state of being one, being united, as of the parts of a whole,”13 but uniformity is “the state or quality of being uniform,”14 that is, in form being one, but not in heart, mind, and soul.
As evidenced from the Creation account to the story of the Earth made new, God is clearly a God of diversity. He did not make only one kind of animal, plant, flower—or even human. Instead, He created the diversity that we see in the world around us.
But God is not the author of confusion, nor did He intend the world to be fragmented and divided. The purpose of Creation was to give Him glory, and the purpose of the Church is to point people toward God as revealed in His Word.
When Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one” (John 17:21, NKJV), it was in the context of purpose and mission for those who believed (and would believe) in Him. He pleaded with His Father to “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (vs. 17). Regarding mission, He prayed, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (vs. 18). Summing up the unity Jesus desires for His followers, He prayed, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me” (vss. 22, 23).
Our goal is to work unitedly toward the realization of the kingdom of God. This is accomplished as a worldwide body of believers by coming together in belief and practice.
Nowhere is this more evidenced than during every quinquennium when the worldwide church comes together in a General Conference Session to pray, worship, fellowship, and conduct the business of the church. It is here, with the input from a wide diversity of representatives from every part of the globe, that the voice of the entire church is heard. It is here where our statements of belief and practice are voted. It is these beliefs—based on the truth of God’s Word and the practices that outline how best to accomplish our mission—that guide us and keep us united as we move together in mission.
1 Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 18th ed., rev. 2010, p. 31.
9 From General Conference Working Policy, B 10 25 Structural Stability, p. 57.
10 17MR 216; this and similar statements can be found in LDE 50, 51.
11 9T 260, 261; this and similar statements can found in LDE 55, 56.
12 AA 164; also in LDE 56. For further reading, see George E. Rice, “The church: voice of God?” Ministry, December 1987, pp. 4-6, available at the Ellen G. White Estate: http://drc.whiteestate.org/files/4483.pdf.
The 17 million members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are united through the Holy Spirit in a common commitment to Christ and the truths of His Word, an urgent end-time mission, and a divinely inspired church organization. A threat to any one of these places at risk the unity of the church. It is for this reason that the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church affirms the Pacific Union’s action not to change their Constitution and remain in harmony with the world church. This represents a step in a positive direction. The General Conference leadership is seriously concerned, though, with the Pacific Union’s subsequent action to preempt the collective decisions of the world church regarding ordination. Unilateral actions contrary to the voted decisions of the global church seriously threaten the unity of the church.
The world church recognizes the vital role that women play in the life, ministry and leadership of the church and encourages their active involvement. Because the General Conference Administrative Committee has already voted and commenced the most comprehensive study in our history on the subject of ordination, which will include the study of the ordination of women, the action of the Pacific Union to grant Ministerial Ordination “without respect to gender” preempts the process voted for the current study of ordination theology and practices by committing the Pacific Union Conference to a particular outcome before the study-and-discussion process is completed. It also expresses a lack of trust in the integrity of the general process accepted and voted by General Conference administrators and personnel, division officers, and pastors and lay members from all the world divisions who serve on the General Conference Executive Committee, which includes the presidents of the 125 unions representing the world church, regarding how we approach common challenges.
Further, the action is contrary to General Conference Working Policy and sets aside the 1990 and 1995 decisions of the General Conference in Session respecting the practice of ordination. The action taken by the Pacific Union Conference represents a serious threat to the unity of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church, and thus, at its next meeting in October 2012, as indicated in another recent public statement by General Conference officers and division presidents, the General Conference Executive Committee will carefully review the situation and determine how to respond. In the spirit of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the officers of the General Conference appeal to all entities, organizations, and individuals, including the Pacific Union Conference, to refrain from independent and unilateral decisions and from implementing any such actions.
It is our prayer that the “oneness” Jesus prayed for in His great intercessory prayer in John 17, and that which the disciples experienced in Acts 2, will be manifest in His church today. We pray that the result of this “oneness” will be lives transformed by His grace, united in His love, and empowered by His Spirit to proclaim His last-day message in all of its fullness to a perishing planet, hastening the glorious return of our Lord.
Ted N. C. Wilson, President General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
G. T. Ng, Secretary General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Robert E. Lemon, Treasurer General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Battle Against Spiritualism Far From Over, Adventist Theologian Says Gayoba tells Bible Conference of pervasive influences in most of world
BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor, reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
Traditional cultures” of Africa, Asia and South America aren’t the only places where spiritualism can be found, Francisco Gayoba, president of the Adventist University of the Philippines, told delegates at the Third International Bible Conference on June 19, 2012. Spiritualist beliefs also surface in the most sophisticated realms, where “New Age” practitioners, knowingly or not, fall into similar practices.
In either case, the challenge for Seventh-day Adventist pastors and evangelists is to reach those coming from animist and spiritualist backgrounds not only in the context of their beliefs, but also discipling new believers away from mixing old practices with their new Christian faith.
Gayoba’s one-hour talk, which was very warmly received by the conference audience, noted the prevalence of spiritualist beliefs in many quarters.
“For those of us serving in traditional cultures, there has always been spiritualism,” he explained. “Spirits are the means of salvation for those in animism.”
EVERLASTING GOSPEL: “We need go have more adequate responses to animism and folk religions where spiritualism is deeply entrenched, so that we can proclaim the everlasting gospel to most of the people of the world today," Francisco Gayoba, president of the Adventist University of the Philippines, told delegates at the Third International Bible Conference on June 19, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. [Mark A. Kellner/Adventist Review]But, he added, the “framework of spiritualism continues in Roman Catholic theology, where the ‘soul’ unites with a body before birth and even continues on after death.” He said such thinking pervades much of Protestantism as well.
Hinduism and Buddhism share similar thoughts about souls living on after death and even reincarnating in other bodies, he explained, while some strains of Islam separate thought between the soul and the body. Chinese and African folk traditions share a concept that if the spirits of one’s ancestors are well respected, these spirits will offer blessing, with curses following for disrespect. African folk traditions spread to the new world via the African diaspora and show up in folk religions in the Caribbean, Haiti and Brazil, among other places.
Spiritualism and elements of animism will show up even in the halls of the educated, as Gayoba related from a conversation he had with a professor at the University of the Philippines, a public institution known for its atheistic bent: “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’m afraid of them.”
In Western cultures such as the United States, the journey into strange practices can be found among those who call themselves “spiritual but not religious,” Gayoba said, citing scholar Robert Fuller, who defined such people as “’eclectic seeker[s]’ ... choosing avenues of greatest comfort and effect apart from the structures of organized religion.”
How to resolve this? “We need to adapt our missionary methods,” said Gayoba, who noted that he had been taught mainly U.S.-style evangelism and had American-produced materials earlier in his ministry. “Adventists who take the Bible not only as the source of truth, but also of missionary methods, have models for such outreach,” he said, quoting an December 11, 1890 article in The Atlantic Canvasser by Ellen G. White: Paul “varied his manner of labor, always shaping his message to the circumstances under which he was placed.”
Outlining various approaches to those whose outlook is “high” or “science-based,” as well as those at the “folk religion” level, Gayoba said a three-pronged attack of addressing behaviors and rituals, then beliefs, results in a proper worldview, which he said is at the core of faith. However, more study needs to be done
“We study the Bible and theology, but we do not study cultures and context, especially those outside their own,” he said. For example, “evangelical[-styled] apologetics are likely to have little impact on those who have embraced the New Age.”
Gayoba concluded, “We need go have more adequate responses to animism and folk religions where spiritualism is deeply entrenched, so that we can proclaim the everlasting gospel to most of the people of the world today.”
Paul Ratsara, president of the church’s Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, whose early life in Madagascar exposed him to the animistic practices of his neighbors, said, “I think what Dr. Gayoba says is right on target. We need to study more the application of this topic. If we don’t address this, our witness will be weaker and our converts will be less loyal.”
Ratsara added his own conviction that having pastors and believers filled with the power of God, as outlined in Acts 1:8, is essential in establishing converts in the truth.
Wilson Meets Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Adventist leader promises prayer for peace of nation, all neighbors
BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor, reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, representing the world’s 17 million Seventh-day Adventists, met June 18, 2012, with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, the Hon. Danny Ayalon. The session included an appreciation for the more than 300 Adventist theologians, scholars and administrators visiting Israel since June 11 for the church’s Third International Bible Conference.
“We have known about the Seventh-day Adventists for a long time, and there is no doubt, I think, by anyone, that we share a common heritage and belief, and also a common destiny,” Ayalon, who served for four and one-half years as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, said.
MINISTRY MEETING: The Hon. Danny Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, left, presents a protocol gift to Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Nancy Wilson, who joined her husband on their first visit to Israel, looks on, at right. [Mark A. Kellner/Adventist Review]He added, “Certainly when we see the tumult in the world, and specifically in the Middle East, and specifically in the persecution of minorities, whether they are Kurds, whether they are Jews or whether they are Christians, this is something all of us have to fight for and defend, for human dignity and for all interests.”
Wilson and his wife, Nancy, are on their first-ever visit to Israel. Ayalon noted this and said, “It is a great pleasure and an honor to have you here. I hope there will be many more [visits] to come, because there is a lot to see here, and a lot to feel here.”
In response, Wilson said, “One of the very specific things about Seventh-day Adventists is that we are apolitical; we work with whatever setting we find to build up society, to introduce them to the beauty of God’s plan for the human race, physically, socially, mentally and spiritually. So we are very much involved with many educational (and) health oriented aspects, and of course with spiritual things, because in the end that is what really matters.”
Wilson said the Adventists who have been here will go home and “be good representatives for the kind of hospitality we have received” in Israel. He added, “The best thing we can do is pray for peace, that God will … touch the lives of people.”
Wilson continued, “We have been very well received in the country. To be in the [Israel] museum, to see that incredible stone that was uncovered … that mentions the House of David. Things like this … help our understanding of Biblical history. The Bible is our best tour guide, not only for the country, but also for life itself.”
Ayalon and Wilson exchanged protocol gifts, with the Adventist leader presenting a Hebrew translation of Patriarchs and Prophets, which tells the story of humanity from pre-Creation through the beginnings of the Old Testament.
Along with the Wilsons and Ayalon, Ambassador Bahij Mansour, the Foreign Ministry’s religious affairs department director; Biblical Research Institute director Artur Stele; Clinton Wahlen, BRI associate director and conference coordinator; and Tailor Made Tours president Josephine Zinder attended the meeting.
Biblical Anthropology Matter of Life, Death, Issues, Mueller says Bible Conference session focuses on New Testament approaches
The subject of Biblical Anthropology, even in a work as diverse and panoramic as the New Testament, may seem a bit dry, even dusty. But, according to Ekkehardt Mueller of the Biblical Research Institute, the issues debated and decided here are as relevant as today’s headlines – and tomorrow’s.
How we view life, he explained, “has multiple implications for everyday life.” Addressing scholars and administrators at the Third International Bible Conference in Jerusalem, Israel, he said biblical anthropology touches on “ethical issues such as abortion, religious practices as seen in various churches and world religions, [and] involvement or non-involvement in spiritualistic practices, etc.”
Mueller added, “According to Revelation, a crisis with regard to occultism and spiritualism is ahead of us.”
IMPORTANT SUBJECT: Ekkehard Mueller of the Biblical Research Institute asserted that a proper understanding of biblical anthropology is essential to dealing with issues of life and death. He spoke during the Third International Bible Conference in Jerusalem, Israel. [Mark A. Kellner/Adventist Review]In that context, then, how should Christians should view the nature of man – as one single being which perishes, or sleeps, at death, or as a dualistic being, where the spirit or soul continues to function after the death of the body?
Dualism, Mueller noted, traces its roots back into Hellenistic philosophy and even beyond. Monism, on the other hand, is rooted in the Scriptures. Müeller quoted Adventist theologian, and Andrews University president, Niels-Erik Andreasen as saying the “biblical formula of life and death rejects all possibilities that anything except the survivor’s memory of a person survives death.”
In his hour-long talk, Mueller noted four Greek words – from the New Testament’s chief manuscript language – that are challenging to scholars on both sides of the issue: sōma, or “body,” used 142 times in the New Testament; psyche, “soul” or “mind,” found 103 times; pneuma, literally “breath” but also used as “spirit” or “soul,” and found 379 times in the N.T., with 70 of those instances in Acts. The last word is sarx, literally “flesh” or “body,” but also “the nature of a man.” This word appears 147 times in the New Testament.
Each word presents issues of usage, Mueller admitted. “We have noted that most of [these] terms have broad meanings and we must be careful to choose a translation that does justice to [the] text and [the] context. Sometimes, these meanings are overlapping.”
However, despite the different words being used, the many arguments for and against monism and dualism, and even with some Bible verses seeming ambiguous , “we need to stand on solid ground,” he asserted.
“We need to maintain our position on the non-immortality of the soul and the resurrection at the Second Coming,” Mueller added. “We need to share it, and I guess we need to get involved in more research to clarify how disputed texts are not opposed to the overall teaching of Scripture, but fit into it and even enhance it.”
Andy Lampkin, a professor of religion and ethics at Loma Linda University, liked Mueller’s emphasis “on the importance of biblical anthropology for practical questions facing the church as a whole and [also] church members.”
He said questions of “abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research” all flow from this topic, and that Adventists need to “reflect very carefully” on these questions “as they relate to healthcare.”
-- Mark A. Kellner, News Editor, reporting from Jerusalem
Israel’s Adventists Receive Wilson Warmly G.C. President visits special Sabbath worship at Jerusalem’s YMCA
BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor, Adventist Review, reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
W APPOINTMENT IN JERUSALEM:Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, left, speaks during Sabbath, June 16, 2012 worship for the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Israel Field, in a combined service held at the Jerusalem International YMCA. Standing, right, is translator Pastor Oleg Elkine.ith a festive air familiar to Israeli celebrations, Seventh-day Adventists in this nation – a tiny group in a small land – gathered to welcome Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president, and his wife, Nancy, to Sabbath worship on June 16, 2012.
“It is a privilege to be here in this wonderful city,” Wilson said to hundreds of Adventists who came from all over Israel to the worship service. The congregation featured Israelis, Ethiopians, Russians, Moldovans, Filipinos and others, a veritable United Nations-class gathering of believers.
“What a privilege it is to walk where Jesus walked,” he added, reflecting on five days of study tours to Nazareth, Galilee, Qumran and the Dead Sea. “But we have the privilege each day of walking with Jesus!”
Fresh from addressing theologians and scholars on the need for a Bible-based “revolution” in Adventist education, Wilson assured the congregation that while he was here to attend the conference, “I wanted to meet you, too.”
He added, “I am convinced this city–and every city–needs the precious message of Jesus and His salvation. In this city, the message should be pronounced. We need to be united … especially in the Adventist Church in Israel, with so many nationalities in this place.”
BELIEVERS GATHER: Hundreds of Seventh-day Adventists, from Israel, Russia, Ethiopia, Moldova and other lands, crowd the Jerusalem International YMCA to hear Pastor Ted Wilson, General Conference president, on Sabbath, June 16, 2012. [PHOTOS: Mark A. Kellner/Adventist Review]The Sabbath morning worship followed the pattern of many Adventist services around the world, with the added flavor of songs in Hebrew and announcements and preaching translated into Russian, spoken by many in the congregation. Both Wilson and Pastor Julio Mendez, secretary-treasurer of the Israel Field, relied on Pastor Oleg Elkine to render their English into Russian, although Wilson – who spent two years as president of the Euro-Asia Division, offered more than a few sentences in Russian as well.
In his message, Wilson commented on what happened here some 2,000 years ago, and its relevance for today.
“In this very special place in the world, Jesus told Nicodemus that unless one is born again, one cannot see the kingdom of God,” he explained. “This is what we need and what every person in Israel needs.”
Following the service, a steady stream of church members pressed close to greet Wilson or stage a quick picture. Mobile phones and sophisticated cameras jostled for space as, one after another, the requests were made and smilingly granted.
Wilson is due to meet with Israeli officials on June 18; his visit will conclude on June 21.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the text, as prepared for delivery, of the sermon preached by General Conference president Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson at the Third International Bible Conference in Jerusalem, Israel, on Sabbath, June 16, 2012.
It is a distinct privilege to speak to such a group of dedicated, committed spiritual educators and leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide. This Third International Bible Conference has been meticulously planned and presented. It has been, and will continue to be for the next few days, a wonderful blessing to each of us focusing on Biblical anthropology in its various settings.
What will you take from this Bible conference when you return? What inspiration and motivation will animate your teaching and your preaching? How will you encourage your students to understand the times in which we are living? How will the presentations and the fascinating on-site visits motivate you to challenge young people to be part of the greatest mission outreach this earth has ever known? How will the presentations focus your attention on the soon second coming of Jesus Christ? What spiritual insights from this Bible conference will convict you to unreservedly proclaim the beauty of Christ and His righteousness and show the magnificent portrayal of that with a renewed zeal and interest in the sanctuary service which demonstrates what Christ has and is doing for us right now? What heavenly convictions will grip your soul in helping young people and all others in your circle of influence to wholeheartedly return to the Seventh-day Adventist roots of strong, convicting Bible study under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
God has called you as spiritual leaders on Seventh-day Adventist college and university campuses for a special purpose at this time in earth’s history. He calls you to stand firm for God, Biblical authority, the Seventh-day Adventist Biblical message of a coming judgment and the wonderful provision of Christ and His righteousness. He calls you to turn people back to the true worship of God at a time when permissiveness and political correctness have become sad substitutes for the Word of God. This is really what the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 are all about and he calls you to proclaim those messages with great clarity and heavenly love. You have been endowed by God Himself with bright intellects. He calls for you to prepare students for the final cry that will go out to this world just before that climactic day of Christ’s soon coming!
Because of this, I call on you as spiritual leaders to lead a positive revolution on your campuses--a revolution back to the Bible with an historicist position and with an historical-biblical approach. Lead your students and campuses back to the Bible with a convicting “Thus saith the Lord” not only in the classroom but on a personal Bible study level. Lead your students to humble themselves before God and pray for revival and reformation which is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Lead your students back to the Bible through all appropriate methods including the program, “Revived by His Word,” recently initiated at the 2012 Spring Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee where world leaders committed themselves to personally study the Scriptures more intently and encourage all our church members to read at least one chapter of the Bible a day until the next General Conference session essentially reading the entire Bible through. Lead students to a Christ-centered, Biblical approach of understanding who we are as a unique people chosen by God to proclaim a last message of hope and salvation in Christ through Mission to the Cities as well as to the rural areas since judgment is near.
The judgment is coming and coming fast. The world around us is crumbling. World leaders are no longer able to control political events. The economies of this world are on a razor-edge precipice of ever-present, impending disaster. Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and ferocity. Social and moral decay are everywhere including the fast advancing societal pressure of unbiblical advocacy of same sex marriages and homosexuality. Love the sinner and hate the sin. Stand firm for the Biblical position on this subject. Ecumenical efforts towards ultimate compromise and reduction of religious liberty and freedom of conscience are increasing. Be leaders in defending religious liberty but avoiding any compromising ecumenical activity. You have been called to lift up Christ, His righteousness and salvation, His Holy Word, His three angels’ messages, His sanctuary service, His judgment and His soon coming. This is the time to plead with the Holy Spirit for the latter rain and the power to fulfill Romans 12:2 as God-fearing theology and religion professors who rely completely on God and His Word and to instill that in your students. That marvelous text the Phillips translation puts this way, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold…..” You have been called to proclaim on your campuses and elsewhere the message of hope and Holy Spirit power all centered in Christ and His plan of salvation, righteousness, judgment and heavenly deliverance.
The judgment is not something to fear if you know and completely rely on your Advocate and your Judge----Jesus Christ. In taking your students back to the Bible, let them see the magnificent plan of salvation interwoven throughout Scripture and most notably portrayed in the sanctuary service.
What must it have been like to be part of God’s people centuries ago in this very part of the world on the Day of Atonement? Actually, we don’t have to wonder. Today, we are part of God’s people and we are in the Day of Atonement. I invite you to look at the marvelous passage of Hebrews 4:14-16 which says, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The plan of salvation is so simple that a child can understand it and so profound we will be studying it throughout eternity. Christ, the ruler of the universe, came to this earth as a humble human, lived a perfect life in spite of all the temptations faced, bore our sins, died for us on the cruel cross that we may live, gave us His robe of righteousness, rose to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, intercedes for us as our High Priest in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, and will soon return to take us home.
One of the most graphic explanations of this eternal life-giving plan is the sanctuary service. Recently, I have grown under the conviction that we need to preach and explain much more about the sanctuary and its services. I hope you, as trained Biblical experts, will do so in the classroom. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a unique and full perspective of the sanctuary which is crucial to our theology and understanding of our uniqueness as a people. It is bound up with our relationship to Christ, our Righteousness and Redeemer. The Great Controversy, page 488, emphasizes the importance of understanding this precious atoning work indicating, “Satan invents unnumbered schemes to occupy our minds, that they may not dwell upon the very work with which we ought to be best acquainted. The archdeceiver hates the great truths that bring to view an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful mediator. He knows that with him everything depends on his diverting minds from Jesus and His truth.” It is so important to understand why God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, used the sanctuary to graphically portray His soul-saving work. We believe in the Trinity--Christ has always existed and always will exist as part of the Godhead. Arianism or anti-Trinitarianism is one of the attacks of the devil to discredit Jesus and take away His authority for creating this earth and re-creating a new heart thereby nullifying the incredible impact of the sanctuary service.
When the Israelites were in the Sinai Desert, not far from here, God said in Exodus 25:8-9, “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.” It has always been His plan to dwell among us. By giving us a “pattern” of what exists in heaven He accomplished two things: 1) He explained in the simplest form the plan of salvation; and 2) He provided a visual sign of His presence with His creation.
When Christ ascended to heaven He was not only the “Slain Lamb” but became also our “High Priest” and “Mediator.” He was uniquely qualified to do this after having offered Himself to die for us so we might have eternal life through His blood and grace. II Corinthians 5:21 beautifully explains this by saying, “For He (the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin (Christ was perfect) to be sin for us (taking our place for our sins), that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Christ’s justifying power to make us righteous through His sacrifice).”
Christ is actively participating in the literal heavenly sanctuary that is in the center of heaven as a vital part of the plan of salvation. Hebrews 8:1-2 affirms that, “We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.” Hebrews 8:6 indicates, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” Hebrews 6:19-20 affirms the heavenly ministry of Christ in the sanctuary showing that, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 9:24 underscores Christ’s marvelous work for us saying, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us….”
Our focus should not simply be with the objects and mechanical features of the sanctuary and its services but should be on how the sanctuary impacts us personally as we face Christ’s coming. The sanctuary points to Christ’s righteousness and His plan to save us. It shows to the universe God’s incredible redemptive rescue plan for a world hijacked by the devil.
The sanctuary message holds the ultimate spiritual answer to the two extreme positions on either side of the Gospel road -- “cheap grace” on one far side and ”legalism” on the other far side. Seventh-day Adventists have been accused of being legalists—promoting righteousness by works. Nothing could be further from the truth! As we understand our need for revival and reformation in these last days, let us realize that the foundation of revival and reformation is nothing less than a full and correct acceptance of Christ and His all-encompassing righteousness based completely on the truths of the Bible. The voices of Seventh-day Adventists should be the strongest in proclaiming that salvation is through Christ and Christ alone! The two great provisions of salvation—justification and sanctification—cannot be separated for they constitute the fullness of Christ, Our Righteousness. Steps to Christ, chapters 7 and 8, explain this relationship so dynamically.
At times, there seems to be confusion about justification and sanctification and how they relate to each other and our salvation. Some promote justification to the exclusion of sanctification and arrive at what has been termed “cheap grace.” Others focus almost exclusively on sanctification and arrive at what has been termed as “perfectionism” or legalistic salvation by works. But God’s all-encompassing righteousness as beautifully portrayed in the sanctuary service involves the completeness of both justification and sanctification. It is His plan, not ours. I appeal to each of you as spiritual leaders to stay in the center of God’s will and truth. Do not be tempted by the devil to drift into either the right-side or the left-side of the ditch. As the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy advocate, keep your eyes focused on Christ and Him alone.
We need to feature the sanctuary and its meaning in a powerful way. Every child, every student and every adult should fully understand the powerful message God is sharing through the sanctuary message. The Great Controversy, page 488, says, “The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects and be able to give an answer……”
Events now taking place, point to the fulfillment of the prophecies in Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation and Christ’s soon second coming.
What a time to be spiritual leaders in the classroom, on the campus, and in the church and to be part of God’s remnant church proclaiming His three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12 which portray Christ’s righteousness and an appeal to turn back to the true worship of God and to identify ourselves with His Biblical truth as explained in the sanctuary service!
We are coming to the close of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. I urge you to use in your classrooms the incredible, heavenly-inspired book, “The Great Controversy.” I believe fully in the message of that book which is based on Biblical prophecy. This year and next, by God’s grace, Seventh-day Adventist members around the world will distribute approximately 175 million copies in various versions including my favorite, the classic version. Websites and addresses listed in these books will point to further Biblical truth, Bible studies, contacts for Seventh-day Adventist media outlets, the full version of the book, and many more truth-filled resources. God will use this project to increase the circulation of many more Spirit of Prophecy and other truth-filled books. Ellen White said that The Great Controversy was the one book she wished circulated more than any other book she had written. The Great Controversy has much to say about the sanctuary and its services and how they apply to us as God’s remnant church. I plead with you to reread that book, have your students read it, and then encourage them to distribute it with loving care.
This is not the time for half-hearted faith: it is time to plead with the Lord for genuine revival and reformation which can only be produced by the Holy Spirit. This is not some legalistic initiative but is centered in Christ and Him alone. The sanctuary service and Christ’s ministry as portrayed in the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 call us to humbly accept Christ’s righteousness as we face His judgment and soon coming. This message has been entrusted to Seventh-day Adventists as His last-day remnant church. It is a heaven-born call of Holy Spirit power portrayed in passages such as Joel 2, Acts 2, and Hosea 6 that will empower the proclamation of salvation by faith in Christ. The sanctuary service shows us in detail this marvelous plan of justification and sanctification.
The three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 point us to the sanctuary understanding of Christ’s relationship to His people. The first angel’s message proclaiming the everlasting gospel and that the hour of God’s judgment has come is a special announcement turning people back to the true worship of God----the Creator who made everything and is worthy of our worship. We worship Him today on the seventh day, the Sabbath, because He asked us to and because it is a memorial of His creatorship. As a human being, He kept the Sabbath in this very place. His precious message of creation in six literal, consecutive, days of recent origin is the basis of our worship on this Sabbath. This precious Biblical truth of a recent literal creation has come under fierce attack by unbelieving secularists and humanists and is even being dismissed by some who claim to be Seventh-day Adventists. In essence, evolution is not a science; it is a false form of religion and a part of spiritualism. A definition of spiritualism is found in The Great Controversy,page 554: “Spiritualism teaches ‘that man is the creature of progression; that it is his destiny from his birth to progress, even to eternity, toward the Godhead.” As spiritual leaders on the campuses of Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities around the world, through God’s power, hold firmly to a literal recent creation and reject theistic evolution and general evolution theories. I call on you to be champions of creation based on the Biblical account, reinforced so explicitly by the Spirit of Prophecy and as voted by the world Seventh-day Adventist Church at the 2010 General Conference Session. The position of a theistic evolutionary or pure evolutionary religion, theology or Bible teacher in a Seventh-day Adventist university, college or academy is an oxymoron. It can’t really exist and shouldn’t. This is not only the case for religion teachers; it is the case for any teacher of any subject in our Seventh-day Adventist system. Be loyal to God’s Biblical truth, not just because you are employed by the church, but because you believe it with all your heart. It is that important to God’s ultimate mission.
God created us in a literal sense and this is closely tied to God’s salvation demonstrated in the sanctuary service showing His power to re-create in us a new heart through His righteousness and ministry of justification and sanctification.
Our church has long held to the Historical-Biblical method of interpreting scripture allowing the Bible to interpret itself--line upon line, precept upon precept. However, one of the greatest attacks against the Bible, creation, prophetic understanding, the sanctuary message and many other Seventh-day Adventist Biblical beliefs is from the Historical-Critical method of explaining the Bible which is influenced by the unbiblical approach of “higher criticism” which is a deadly enemy of our theology and mission. This approach puts an individual above the plain approach of the Scriptures and gives inappropriate license to decide what he or she perceives as truth based on the resources and education of the critic. Reject this approach which is self-centered and inspired by the devil……this approach does not lead people to trust God and His Word but will destroy your own understanding as a Seventh-day Adventist theologian or religion teacher regarding correct Biblical theology and the precious mission of the Advent movement. Without a literal understanding of God’s creative and saving power, our understanding of the sanctuary service makes no sense.
The primary emphasis of the first angel’s message is about the judgment of all who have ever lived and are living. This judgment in heaven is taking place right now and is part of the entire plan of salvation based upon Christ’s work for us on this earth and in the heavenly sanctuary.
God gave Moses the vision for the earthly sanctuary. It would remind the world of Christ’s death on the cross for our sins, the ultimate transference of sin to Satan, and how Christ would handle the sin problem through His righteousness and judgment.
Hebrews 8:1-2 says about Jesus that, “We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” The descriptions of the sanctuary furniture and structure in Exodus 25-28 and in Patriarchs and Prophets, Chapter 30, are fascinating.
Everything about the sanctuary reminds us of Christ, His ministry and His perfection: golden walls, silver sockets, court of fine linen, brazen altar representing Christ’s shed blood, laver of Christ’cleansing power, showbread as the Bread of life, seven-branched candlestick as the Light of the world, and altar of incense showing God’s presence with a fire that He kindled and the prayers ascending to Him for forgiveness. Its horns were touched with blood from the sin offering and also sprinkled before the veil showing the transference of guilt from the person to the sanctuary's.
The curtain between the Holy and Most Holy Places did not reach the ceiling so the incense drifted into the Most Holy Place over the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant where the symbolic service of atonement and intercession took place connecting heaven and earth.
The Most Holy Place had the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments, a golden pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded showing God’s constant interest in our lives and His care for our needs. The Ark’s Mercy Seat was protected by two golden cherubim angels with a wing stretched out while the other was folded in reverence and humility. This represented the reverence with which heaven regards the law of God and great interest in the plan of redemption. This is what the judgment is all about--our deliverance through the blood of Jesus--our humble submission and confession to Him recognizing our need of forgiveness and the deliverance that He offers at the judgment. Above the mercy seat the Shekinah glory gave the physical manifestation of God’s presence.
The holiness of the sanctuary and of God’s presence and power is profound. Just as He was in the earthly sanctuary He is now in the heavenly sanctuary and also here with us today through the Holy Spirit. That is why reverence in His presence is so important.
As Patriarchs and Prophets, page 349 says, “Thus in the work of Christ for our redemption, symbolized by the sanctuary service, ‘mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’ Ps 85:10.”
The sanctuary service demonstrated God’s plan of redemption through the blood of Christ. A sinner at the door of the tabernacle placed his hand on an animal’s head, confessing his sin symbolically transferring that sin to the innocent sacrifice, and then he would kill the sacrifice. Normally, the blood was then sprinkled by the priest before the veil in the Holy Place showing the transference of the sin to the sanctuary on a daily basis. Once a year, the Day of Atonement service removed the accumulated sins during which the high priest entered the Most Holy Place to cleanse the sanctuary of sin.
Two goats brought to the door of the tabernacle--one slain as a sin offering for the people with the blood being brought into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled on the mercy seat representing Christ’s blood shed for us--the other goat, the scapegoat representing Satan, would have the high priest place his hands on the head of the scapegoat confessing the accumulated sins of Israel thus transferring the sins from the sanctuary to the scapegoat. It was led into the wilderness to die showing that Satan will ultimately bear the final penalty of sin through death putting an end forever to sin.
At Christ’s death on the cross on that momentous Friday afternoon, the priest at the temple in Jerusalem was about to kill the evening sacrificial lamb. When Christ died, the curtain separating the Holy Place and Most Holy Place was, as Matthew 27:51 records, “rent in twain from top to the bottom.” The sacrificial lamb escaped from the priest’s hands. In Desire of Ages, p 769, we read, “The great sacrifice has been made . . . . A new and living way is prepared for all. No longer need sinful, sorrowing humanity await the coming of the high priest. Henceforth the Saviour was to officiate as priest and advocate in the heaven of heavens.”
After His resurrection, Christ rose to heaven and began interceding as our High Priest resulting in what we read earlier in Hebrews 4:16 which says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” This was the life-saving result of the cross and the nails.
Hebrews 6:19 tells us that He entered “into that within the veil” in the Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary doing His work of mediation for eighteen centuries and then, according to the prophecy of Daniel 8:14 which states, “unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed,” He entered the Most Holy Place to begin His final work of judgment and ministry on our behalf. According to the time prophecy of the 2300 days and using the day/year principle of the Bible, this great work in the literal Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary began in 1844.
The Great Controversy, page 486, explains that, “At the time appointed for the judgment--the close of the 2300 days, in 1844---began the work of investigation and blotting out of sins. All who have ever taken upon themselves the name of Christ must pass its searching scrutiny.”
This is a vitally crucial belief that has been attacked. Those who do not understand or believe in the 2300-year prophecy ending in 1844 do not understand the true basis for the sanctuary service nor understand one of our fundamental Biblical beliefs that make us who we are. This belief has been wonderfully substantiated by faithful Seventh-day Adventist Biblical scholars and has been plainly confirmed by the Spirit of Prophecy. If individuals do not accept this tremendous Biblical belief then they also destroy their confidence and belief in the Spirit of Prophecy. Our beliefs are grounded upon the Bible using the historicist approach and the Historical-Biblical methods of understanding Scripture and substantiated by the Spirit of Prophecy. I believe and I hope you do, too, that the Spirit of Prophecy is one of God’s greatest gifts to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is a direct fulfillment of Revelation 12:17.
We are now living during Christ’s final work of sanctuary cleansing--the Day of Atonement and the judgment. The sanctuary doctrine and the judgment are important theological reasons why Seventh-day Adventists are engaged in the Gospel commission and a worldwide mission to proclaim the three angels’ messages.
Soon Christ will return and ultimately place the final penalty on Satan. The blood of Jesus Christ, our Sacrifice, on the cross and the ministry of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, in the heavenly sanctuary, have but one purpose: that you and I and all who submit to Him, including the thousands of students for whom you are responsible, have the wonderful privilege to confess our sins and accept Him as our Saviour, thus being made right with God and then grow to become more and more like Christ Who provides eternal life--all through Christ’s ministry on the cross and in the heavenly sanctuary.
The Great Controversy, page 489, speaks to us today declaring that, “The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross . . . . We are now living in the great day of atonement.” Since we are in the Day of Atonement, we should be leaning on Christ even more than ever allowing Him to prepare our hearts for revival and reformation. Continuing on we read how, “There must be deep, faithful searching of heart. The light frivolous spirit indulged by so many professed Christians must be put away. There is earnest warfare before all who would subdue the evil tendencies that strive for the mastery. The work of preparation is an individual work . . . . Solemn are the scenes connected with the closing work of the atonement . . . . The judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above.”
Given the judgment that is taking place in the heavenly sanctuary and that we are in the Day of Atonement, what a comfort it is to have the righteousness of Christ to work in us and through us! What an encouragement to know that we have a High Priest who knows our needs and carries our sorrows and has made a way of escape. That is why we can identify so closely with Paul’s marvelous and victorious declaration in Hebrews 10:19-23 which says, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an even conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful!”
What a message of hope for Seventh-day Adventist theologians and religion teachers to carry to the classroom, to the campus, and to the world! It is a revolutionary message based upon the great Word of God! Professors, theologians, teachers--lead this positive Biblical revolution on your campuses showing that Christ is interceding for each of us and is faithful to bring us into a right relationship with Him for eternity if we will humbly submit to His righteousness and grace.
Today, will you take a deep interest in what Christ is doing for you and your students in the Most Holy Place as we prepare ourselves and the world, through the Holy Spirit’s power, for Christ’s soon coming in the clouds of dynamic glory? Will you renew your acceptance and your proclamation of our Creator, Sacrificial Lamb, Redeemer, High Priest, and coming King to face the judgment through His blood, merits, mercy and grace? Will you lead this spiritual revolution on campus back to the Bible? If so, would you join me in quietly standing to your feet just now in commitment to Him and His Holy Word as we pray?
International Bible Conference Opens In Israel Adventist Theologians, Scholars, Leaders gather for discussion and study.
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor, reporting from Nof Ginosar, Tiberias, Israel
A Artur Stele, a general vice president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and director of the movement's Biblical Research Institute, addresses delegates to the Third International Bible Conference, Nof Ginosar, Israel, as night fell on June 11, 2012.total of 304 Seventh-day Adventist theologians, scholars, and church leaders gathered June 11 in a kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to begin a 10-day conference on theological issues. The third International Bible Conference, sponsored by the world church's Biblical Research Institute (BRI), began at the site of ancient Gennesaret, and will conclude in Jerusalem on June 21.
"The hope we have is what makes this conference so special," said Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president, in brief remarks during an outdoor plenary session on the shores of the Galilee, known in Hebrew as the Kinneret. Cooled by a soft evening breeze, delegates listened thoughtfully as organizers sketched the plans for the coming days of study tours and meetings.
Noting a "resurgence of spiritualism" in today's world BRI associate director Kwabena Donkor said the "doctrine of humans," a subject also known as Biblical Anthropology, is "a very important issue" for the Adventist movement. "The issue of epistemology hinges on this topic," he said.
BRI director Artur Stele, also a general vice president of the world church, opened the conference with a plenary address. "Exploring the nature of anthropological dualism should be our work," Stele asserted, adding that a proper understanding of the nature of humans "touches on the relationship between a man and a woman" and on "the relationship of humans to modern technology."
Stele added, "we need to explore the significance of Biblical Anthropology and how it impacts all of our doctrines." Adventists are called to address the "challenge of world religions that are basically dualistic" in their view of man, he reminded the delegates.
Barry Oliver, president of the South Pacific Division, addresses delegates to the Third International Bible Conference in Nof Ginosar, Israel, on May 13, 2012. [PHOTOS: Mark A. Kellner/Adventist Review]"We have a treasure," Stele said of the Adventist viewpoint, "why don't we share it more actively? It demonstrates the beauty of the character of God."
The delegates, coming from all 13 of the church's world divisions, were also welcomed by Mrs. Josephine Zinder, president of Tailor Made Travel, herself a Messianic Jewish believer in Jesus. "Something is happening, the whole world is rushing here" to Israel, she observed, expressing her delight in the major conference sponsored by the Adventist Church
The first three days of the event, while including plenary lectures and daily devotionals, largely focused on showing delegates much of the land where Jesus of Nazareth walked, taught and healed. Visitors saw -- and sailed on -- the Kinneret, and visited the traditional "Mount of Blessing" where thousands once heard Jesus proclaim the eight beatitudes. Delegates also visited archaeological sites such as Bethsaida and Chorazin, traditional sites for the feeding of the 5000 and the miraculous catch of fish, and viewed the headwaters of the Jordan River in the the Rift Valley which extends from this region through Egypt and south into East Africa.
Morning devotionals beside the lake were also featured in the Galilee portion of the event. Euro-Asia Division president Guillermo Biaggi and South Pacific Division president Barry Oliver called delegates to personal connection with the Lord who once walked the shores of Galilee. Oliver reminded delegates that God, in the person of Jesus, "has been one with us and [has been] one of us. Experiencing His presence is dependent on seeking His Person, and that can only be done through the Lord Jesus Christ."
Adventist Educators, Scholars Join in Commitment to Biblical ‘Revolution’ Response to Wilson’s Jerusalem Sermon is Strong and Supportive
BY ADVENTIST REVIEW staff
Speaking to a June 16, 2012, congregation of more than 300 Seventh-day Adventist educators, theologians, and administrators, Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president, called on educators to “to lead a positive revolution on your campuses -- a revolution back to the Bible with an historicist position and with an historical-biblical approach.”
His message (see sermon text) also stressed the importance of the Adventist understanding of the sanctuary service, which, he said, holds the ultimate answer to the two distortions of Christian belief, legalism or “cheap grace.”
A CALL TO REVOLUTION: General Conference president Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson addresses more than 300 educators, theologians and administrators at the Third International Bible Conference in Jerusalem, Israel, on June 12, 2012. In his sermon, Wilson called on educators to “to lead a positive revolution on your campuses -- a revolution back to the Bible with an historicist position and with a historical-biblical approach.” [PHOTO: Mark A. Kellner/Adventist Review]Delegates to the 10-day conference strongly affirmed the president’s challenge.
“I believe that his call is timely,” said Leslie Pollard, president of Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. “On campuses everywhere we have an opportunity to make an impact on young lives. Oakwood University accepts this challenge.”
Said Frank Hasel, theology department dean at Schloss Bogenhofen Seminary in Austria, “Ted Wilson’s message was not aiming at political correctness but had the heartbeat of a person who deeply cares for the spiritual health of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. As a theologian, teacher, and dean I was encouraged to be a person who . . . will foster a deeper love for the Bible, igniting a positive spiritual revolution that receives its power from the living Word of God.”
Hasel continued, “There’s a need to strengthen trust in God’s Word, rather than to undermine its authority or to question distinctive Adventist teachings through historical-critical methods.”
According to Ellen G. White Estate associate director Cindy Tutsch, Wilson’s sermon struck a responsive chord: “I appreciated Ted Wilson’s challenge to look to the Scriptures to find authoritative answers to questions of cosmology,” she said. “His emphasis on the sanctuary as the key to unlocking a deeper understanding of Jesus, including the relationship of the sanctuary to other Christ-centered doctrines, needs wider proclamation!”
Gilbert Wari, West-Central Africa division president and board chairman of Babcock University, pointed to the historical continuity of Wilson’s message with classic Adventist statements: “This sermon, based on the teaching of the Sanctuary, has reminded me and repositioned the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its mission to the world as understood and preached by the Adventist pioneers.
Others put Wilson’s remarks in the context of the entire Third International Bible Conference, which brought the leaders to Jerusalem. With its theme of the “doctrine of human,” speakers have zeroed in on the Bible’s view of humankind being as made in God’s image.
“So many of our institutions have pursued ‘academics’ and financial strength at the expense of spirituality,” said Gordon Christo, education secretary of the Southern Asia Division, based in Tamil Nadu, India. “Even if all other objectives of the conference aren’t realized, if the administrators and theology teachers retain their dedication to this cause, we will have achieved a lot. This conference is leading us all back to the Bible.”
Josef Szilvasi, a professor at the Hungarian Adventist Theological College, saw the challenge in personal terms: “As a believer, pastor and theologian, I’ve taken a message that encourages me to seek and teach the truth in a time of relativism,” he said. “I dedicated myself to uplift Jesus and trust Him as my justification and sanctification.”
Adventist Review columnist Hyveth Williams, a professor of homiletics at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, also underlined the very personal manner in which many listeners responded to the 50-minute message: “[Pastor] Wilson’s sermon inspired me to recommit to teaching and preaching our Biblical truths to empower future pastors to be great—not just good—preachers.”
Adventist leaders from many different parts of the world assessed the importance of Wilson’s call to action: “The times we are living in demand our faithfulness to God’s Word,” said Ricardo Gonzáles, president of the Universidad Adventista de Chile. “In order to make a difference in the life of people we, as Seventh-day Adventists teachers, are to be the first ones to proclaim salvation in Christ. The Lord has called us to stand firm in the truth of His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. As an educator, I want to accept the challenge to tell my students and colleagues that Jesus is right now undertaking an important element of the plan of salvation in heaven. And as a leader, I want to nurture this biblical ‘revolution’ on my campus.”
Added Francisco Gayoba, president of Adventist University of the Philippines, Silang, Philippines, “The challenge is how to not only explain to our students the biblical foundation of key Adventist doctrines, but also to make it relevant, so that they can see that the key doctrines are interconnected as a whole. Our task is to show not simply that the teachings are biblical but “present truth”, God-ordained truth that needs to be proclaimed at this crucial time in history.
One of the handful of local church pastors attending the conference saw the connection between the president’s call and his own preaching: “I really appreciated [Pastor] Wilson’s sermon this morning as he talked about affirming the place that the Word of God has in our lives as leaders and as members and followers of Christ,” said Mike Troxel, pastor of the University Parkway Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pensacola, Florida. “It was very heartening to hear him speak about the biblical truths we hold dear as Seventh-day Adventists--part of our identity and mission. To have him articulate that so strongly from the pulpit today at this conference of scholars was so encouraging from the top leader of our church. I felt very affirmed in the things I’m preaching and teaching as a pastor in my local church. This was powerful for me.”
To Gerald Klingbeil, an associate editor of Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, Wilson’s “call to a Scripture-based hermeneutics that understands the importance of the sanctuary message and places it within the context of a literal recent six-day creation, narrated in the first chapters of Genesis, is not only sorely needed—it reminds us of the power and passion of the Creator God who is waiting to take His people home. I want to go home!”
Lael Caesar, also an associate editor, said Wilson, “has called on Seventh-day Adventist theologians and biblical scholars to lead a back-to-the-Bible revolution framed by a global evangelistic consciousness, grounded on sound biblical interpretation and doctrine. Because the Holy Spirit is our leader in this work on both Adventist and secular campuses, I believe God will grant Pastor Wilson’s desire and give glorious success in that revolution.”
Continuing with four more days of study tours and, principally, seminars and breakout sessions on the main theme of the doctrine of humanity, the Bible Conference will conclude on the evening of June 20.
-- Reported by Bill Knott, Ed Zinke, Lael Caesar and Gerald Klingbeil; written by Mark A. Kellner