1844 and the Future of Adventism


(Spectrumbot) #1

This is the third article in a (somewhat) annual column I write on October 22, 1844. You can read the previous ones here and here.

In these articles, I usually delve briefly into the nuts and bolts of the arguments used to bolster 1844 and then offer a brief reflection. This year, we’ll revisit arguments on Daniel 8 that I discussed in a debate with Clifford Goldstein on Adventist Today.

In the article “A Response to Clifford Goldstein on the ‘Little Horn’ of Daniel 8,” I explore how the Adventist interpretation of the “little horn” as a Roman power (medieval papacy) fails the basic test of biblical hermeneutics.

Previously, I had been more tentative about seeing Antiochus IV Epiphanes as the “little horn” in Daniel 8. I now believe that the textual evidence points to this Seleucid king as the fulfillment of Daniel 8.

I summarize the main arguments below; interested readers should download the full-length article with detailed analysis of these arguments:

1. Daniel 8 deals with events specifically related to the Jews

a. In Daniel 8:1, the book goes from Aramaic (2:4–7:28) back to Hebrew;

b. While the animals in Daniel 7 are unclean, Daniel 8 has a ram and a goat drawn from the sanctuary service;

c. The vision culminates with the desecration of the Jewish temple under a certain “little horn” rising from the goat which attacks the “beautiful land,” i.e., Jerusalem;

2. The “little horn” is Greek

a. Daniel 8 focuses on the actions of Greece for most of the chapter (15/27 verses);

b. The greatest power in Daniel 8 is the goat with the “great horn”, followed by the ram (Medo-Persia) and then the “little horn”;

c. This Greek “little horn” rises from the “four [Greek] horns” which, in turn, arise from the “great horn,” i.e., “Alexander, the Great” (Daniel 8:9, 23–24);

d. The “little horn” rises in the time of the “posterity” of one of the “four horns,” i.e., one of Alexander’s four generals (cf. acharith, Daniel 8:23; cf. 11:3);

e. The “little horn” desecrates the sanctuary in Jerusalem for 2,300 evenings-mornings which contextually refers to the tamîd/daily cycles of temple sacrifices (Daniel 8:13);

f. After a period of roughly 1,150 daily cycles, the sanctuary would be restored / and reconsecrated (2,300 daily cycles could be meant as well)

3. The “time of the end” in Daniel 8 is not the eschatological end

a. The “time of the end” (l’moed qets; et qets) in Daniel 8 occurs alongside the unsealing of the book of Daniel, the set up of the “abomination of desolation” in the temple, which coincides with the “posterity” of the four Greek generals (Daniel 8:19, 23, 26; 11:3, 35);

b. The unique expression qets hayamim, “end of days” occurs only in Daniel 12:13 and points to the eschatological end (Daniel’s resurrection)

4. Rome does not meet the requirements of Daniel 8

a. Only Medo-Persia and Greece are named;

b. Rome does not become a world power as a “little horn” but as a massive kingdom;

c. When Rome defeated Greece in 64 BC, it did not desecrate the Jewish temple but allowed the Jews to worship peacefully;

d. The Jews rebel politically against Rome and Jerusalem is destroyed in 70 CE;

e. After Rome destroyed the temple in Jerusalem (Matt 24:15), it was never restored as required by Daniel 8:14

In sum, the traditional understanding of papal Rome in Daniel 8 is untenable. The chapter clearly focuses on how the Jews suffered under Greece and its descendants for a short period of time after which the temple was restored and re-consecrated.

Scholars unanimously interpret the desecrations of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BC as fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 8. Even the Jews understood it so as we read in the book of Maccabees. Because I hold to a 6th century BC date for Daniel, I believe that the attacks by Antiochus IV Epiphanes on the Jews represent one of the most spectacular fulfillments of Daniel’s prophecies.

Despite the compelling textual and historical evidence for a Greek “little horn,” Adventists are virtually isolated in seeing Rome in Daniel 8. Why is this so important for us? Because accepting that Daniel 8 predicts a 2nd century BC, Greek “little horn” instead of Rome essentially destroys Adventism’s “prophetic” rise at the end of a 2,300-year period in 1844.

Isn’t it ironic that we have put so much emphasis on the papacy in Daniel 8 that we have turned it into the very reason for our own existence? The thing we detest is what gives us existential meaning; without the papacy in Daniel 8, there’d be no Adventism.

More recently, faced with the textual difficulties of defending the 1844 biblically or perhaps a lack of interest in the biblical languages, some “systematic theologians” have argued that 1844 and the Investigative Judgment (IJ) can be defended, just as long as we suspend the need to do serious exegesis and focus on how the theological method of the Adventist pioneers makes perfect sense, never mind that pesky biblical text.

Proponents of this approach call exegesis “amateurish” in favor of more sophisticated understanding of Adventist theology based on “canonical” hermeneutics, that is, the idea that the entire Bible points unequivocally to the Adventist understanding of prophecy. They consider isolated biblical books as unreliable, inconclusive and at times undecipherable, but a collection of these same unreliable texts, a “canon” is reliable, as long as you approach it with the right Adventist presuppositions.

In other words, instead of worrying about the vagaries of ancient biblical Hebrew and Greek, the intention of the author or how original audience understood him, all we need to do is to superimpose an Adventist macro-narrative of the IJ over the biblical text and it works!

This “system” has the clear advantage of confirming everything we already know about Adventist theology. Talk about a “methodology” based on forcing on the text massive presuppositions, deductive fallacies and circular reasoning.

I recently got a call from a friend. He had been studying the Bible on his own and had come across so much that was wrong with Adventism. His main complaint: the Investigative Judgment and 1844.

We recently met for lunch. Since our initial phone call he had been on a steady diet of fasting, praying, watching YouTube videos, and reading anti-SDA materials. Dale Ratzlaff’s name soon came up: Ellen White is a fraud, the Sabbath is salvation by works, the SDA Church is a cult.

Attempts by his local pastor to bring him back to “the fold” were unsuccessful. He has since left the church altogether; he feels it has failed to provide satisfactory answers to many of his questions.

He and I continue talking, he’s a smart guy with a law degree and is a successful business owner. As a New Testament scholar, I’m trying to convince him to take his quest for answers slowly before he gets further into the slippery slope of unfettered doubting and agnosticism.

My friend’s story is a casebook example of what lies dormant in the minds of many Adventists. As a fragile house of cards susceptible to the softest breeze, the Adventist belief system built on the shaky ground of 1844, the infallibility of Ellen White and marred by perfectionistic tendencies is just too fragile to stand serious questioning.

This encounter with the “former Adventist” mind leaves me puzzled. Why are we failing to convince many bright minds in our midst of the strength of our prophetic interpretations?

We can no longer keep 1844 unscathed from biting, and at times, valid criticism. The internet has democratized Christian apologetics; hundreds of videos and sites exist attacking it, many of them with perfectly good arguments. The denomination has not dealt with the issue honestly.

In this year’s Annual Council, dressed as a pioneer and sporting a long beard, Ted Wilson preached a return to our old ways. Among appeals against “worldliness” in dress and worship music, Wilson criticized current revisionism of 1844: “There may be others who de-emphasize the distinctive Christ-centered doctrines of the Bible, criticizing God’s prophetic timetable including the pivotal ending of the 2,300-day prophecy in 1844 … however, there are many of you in the church who are resisting these attempts … and you are not alone. The pioneers faced these issues, but just as He was with them God is with you today.”

I wonder if Wilson is fully aware of the difficulties we face on this front.

Such protectionism of 1844 was once echoed by a former director of the Biblical Research Institute who said that without 1844, there’s no reason for Adventism to exist. Even Adventist historian George R. Knight seems to agree when he writes: “If Adventism’s apocalyptic big picture isn’t valid, the most sensible thing is to shut up shop, go home and do something meaningful with our lives” (The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism, 54).

How fragile Adventism must look when viewed against this 1844-or-nothing approach.

Why do we continue to push ourselves into this corner? Continuing to insist on the prophetic construct of 1844 and the Investigative Judgment is not going to answer the “relevance” question for Adventism moving forward. It spells missiological disaster, ecclesiastical cynicism, and further erosion of our credibility before the larger Protestant world.

When I started dealing with the issues of this foundational Adventist belief of 1844 several years ago, I did so with trepidation. What would happen if we were to remove this “pillar” of the Adventist faith? How damaging could this be?

I have since been convinced that it’s not a very solid pillar at all. In my first piece I mused whether 1844 is a “pillar of faith or mortal wound” to Adventism. I continue to think it’s the latter. It no longer suffices to blindly appeal to what we have always believed as infallible.

We need to stop singing “Give Me That Old Time Religion” and switch to “My Faith is Built on Nothing Less.” We need to find ways to heal a prophetic emphasis that continues to speak to conspiracy theorists, perfectionists, and mentally unstable fanatics.

Nearly a decade ago, I was the “singing evangelist” for a Revelation Seminar series being held in a large church in my area by a retired, RV-abiding, KJV-only type evangelist. He ordered hundreds of KJVs printed on old font, cheap paper with an ominous hourglass being held by none other than the divine hand on the cover.

I was shocked when he pulled out Daniel 8:14 on the first meeting; the support staff was puzzled as well. Sadly, I hear this “take it or leave it” presentation of Adventism is quite common in evangelistic meetings across the Midwest. Seems like there’s no need to be apologetic about the strategy if we’re right; either accept it right away or be done with it.

What happened to a simple emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ? Surely this alone should be enough reason for Adventism to exist! Maybe that’s just not sensational enough to convince people to join our ranks? Maybe it’s not “juicy” enough for our Revelation seminars?

How hard is it for us to simply accept that God, in his sovereignty, raised up the Adventist church to shine a light on this wonderful promise made by our Savior. With Christians of every age, we’re called to proclaim this blessed hope:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1–3

Let’s not truncate this “sure word of prophecy” with a questionable interpretation that only serves to advance an Adventist agenda.

André Reis, Ph.D., has degrees in theology and music and recently completed a doctorate in New Testament specializing in apocalyptic literature. He has been a pastor, theology teacher and church musician, having published articles and book chapters on theology, church history, worship and music. His upcoming book The Day of Atonement in the Book of Revelation is a revision of his doctoral dissertation. He lives in Orlando, FL with his wife and three daughters.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9129

(Darrel Lindensmith) #2

Not true in the least


(Darrel Lindensmith) #3

It fails the basic test of hermeneutics only of which arbitrarily demands natural explanations to
a priorily ruling out predictive prophecy as mythical. THIS, I fear is the “basic test of biblical hermeneutics” that hides behind various popular interprations


(Darrel Lindensmith) #4

This Greek “little horn” rises from the “four [Greek] horns” which, in turn, arise from the “great horn,” i.e., “Alexander, the Great” (Daniel 8:9, 23–24);
The “little horn” rises in the time of the “posterity” of one of the “four horns,” i.e., one of Alexander’s four generals (cf. acharith, Daniel 8:23; cf. 11:3)
[/quote]

“the great horn was broken; (Alexander) and for it came up four (masculine) notable ones Alexander’s generals) toward the four winds (Female/neuter) of heaven.”

[Dan 8:9 ] “out of one of them (Female/neuter) came forth a little horn,” NOT OUT of One of the Four Horns (masculine) but out of four Winds (Feminine) or “directions

“toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.. In other words, a power from the WEST. Obviously “Rome.”


(jeremy) #5

i’ve heard this gender argument that links the little horn in v.9 to the four winds, instead of the four horns, in v.8 before…i’m not sure i’ve heard andre’s side refute it well…


(André Reis) #6

Anyone interested in the full argument should download the full PDF linked in the blog and below. Trying to refute the summary alone is bound to repeat arguments that have already been addressed.


(George Tichy) #7

Thank you André for exploring such a difficult theme. It’s always (good) food for thought. I can already foresee how it is going to motivate a deep and healthy conversation here.


(Billman) #8

You are quite right there. They cannot be unanimous as a number of Adventist scholars don’t agree. Their pay checks depend on it.


#9

Don’t you luv the smell of Economic power in the morning…no whips, no instruments of torture or burning in our church. We use economic power to achieve ensure church staff and clergy are behind every policy we make!


(George Tichy) #10

Not André’s pay checks. He can be as honest as he needs, he does not have to bow down to any pay check from the Denomination.
@areis74 @David1


#11

Andre Reis raises a good point, when he asks" Why are we failing to convince many bright minds in our midst of the strength of our prophetic interpretations? " Let’s consider the three basic SDA interpretations regarding the little horn of Daniel 8:9-11 below, in the light of George Knight’s statement: “If Adventism’s apocalyptic big picture isn’t valid, the most sensible thing is to shut up shop, go home and do something meaningful with our lives” ( The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism , 54).

1844-1980. SDA’s generally accepted Daniel 8:9-11 applied to Rome, the crucifixion of Christ, and the destruction of the earthly temple. The identity of the daily remained for a better day for a final answer.

1980-2002. SDA’s generally accepted Dan. 8:9 applied to pagan Rome, while verse 11, or verses 10 and 11, applied to papal Rome. The daily of Daniel is applied to Christ’s ministry.

2002-2018. The current SDA church position is that Daniel 8:9-11 applies to the Papacy only. Consequently it is considered a Papal host has not only overthrown the heavenly host, this host also controls the ministry in the MHP of the heavenly temple. The 2,300 days apply to the persecuting rule of the Papacy.

As neither the President nor anyone else is prepared to confirm which of the above interpretations, applies to FB 24 today; is it possible that none of our scholars evangelists or pastors are aware that none of these positions fulfil a strict application of the generally accepted principles of interpreting prophecy below. Or are they, (with a few exceptions), simply " slaves of the organization that employs them. " Henry Newman?

History confirms fulfilled prophecy.

When the plain Word of Scripture makes sense we should seek no other explanation.

When a latter Prophet provides an explanation of an earlier prophecy, we should accept the explanation provided by the latter Prophet.

Consequently, unless and until, there is general agreement regarding the principles of prophetic interpretation, and these principles are strictly applied, it appears men will continue to present their fanciful theories, irrespective of counsels such as the following.

When the books of Daniel and Revelation are better understood, believers will have an entirely different religious experience. — .FLB 346

Our people need to understand the oracles of God; they need to have a systematic knowledge of the principles of revealed truth, which will fit them for what is coming upon the earth and prevent them from being carried about by every wind of doctrine.–5T 273 (1885). {LDE 66.5}

Put away all fanciful theories. Let the truth stand out in its original power. {21MR 177.4}

His church is to be taught. Enfeebled and defective though it is, it is the object of His supreme regard. {21MR 177.5}

My brethren, the Lord will help you mightily if you will be guided by Him, and I am confident that you will be. May He help you now, just now, to receive and believe the testimony that comes to you.–Letter 279, 1904.

So What

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded largely, if not entirely, in accordance with the prophecies of Daniel 8:9-14 and the associated messages of Revelation 13 and 14. Messages that must go to the whole world " again " when the deadly wound, inflicted in 1798, is fully healed, cf. Rev. 13:3, 12. “ All the world marvelled and followed the beast ,” who " opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven ." vs.6, when he is "allowed" to " make war with the saints and overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations ." vs. 7; Dan. 7:21. John is very clear verse 7 of verses 6-10 applies to all " the saints ," (The SDA saints, as well as the saints in the fallen churches).

What is more important : Power and control associated with the endless discussion regarding the Ordination of Women, a non Fundamental Belief that has caused division in the church for decades. Or to be earnestly seeking to fortify the mind with the Fundamental truths of the Bible in order to stand through the last great conflict, and not be carried away by every wind of doctrine that is blowing in the church today? Time is short, but the Lord, in His mercy, continues to hold back the winds of strife in order that His people may heed His warnings and counsels to be ready to "prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." Rev. 10:11.

When this gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations a second time; then shall the end come. cf. Matthew 24:14.

The word of God was carried to the people; and all classes, high and low, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, eagerly studied it for themselves. Are we, in this last conflict of the great controversy, as faithful to our trust as the early Reformers were to theirs? cf. PK 625-627.


(Robert King) #12

“And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.” Daniel 8:9

Basic reading of this one verse excludes that it could ever be Antitochus IV Epiphanes(AE). He was not an exceedingly great king, which the same words are attributed to the Great horn just a few verses earlier which we know(maybe you don’t) was Alexander the Great. There is no comparison between the two at all and to say at this time in history with all that is know is beyond comprehension.

AE was one of 30 selucid kings and to say he was even greater than the founder of that name line is ludicrous.

'Satan will always cooperate with those who are willing to betray sacred trusts". RC201.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #13

A powerful statement, Let us be sure on the fundamentals. we are sinners all. Christ gift is saving Grace for all who will accept it. He shall return in Glory because what He has done not because what 144,000 have accomplished. Adventism insists on keeping the fraud of 1844 alive with their wish lists.


(Robert King) #14

It’s not unanimous but most do say it’s AE IV of contemporary times now, outside the remnant who are the only ones still applying historist interpretation of bible prophecy, excluding this outlier in the church or whatever he claims he is.


#15

If Daniel had written only chapter 8, the author might have a point. But being familiar with chapter 2 and 7, his arguments don’t hold.

All three chapters run parallel placing the activity of the little horn clearly into the time of the “fourth” kingdom, which has followed Greece and lasts until the end of time. To identify this fourth kingdom with the Seleucids is not convincing. Greece is brass and Seleucia iron? Greece a leopard and Seleucia a dragon monster? This can neither be proven historically nor biblically.

Christ Himself interpreted the fourth kingdom as still being future (Rome) when he spoke about “the abomination that makes desolate”, and this term clearly stems from visions where the angel elaborated on the small horn power of Daniel 8. So it cannot be Antiochus IV. Epiphanes.


(Leroy Gillan) #16

Praise the Lord, someone with theological degrees fully understands what I , a novice layman, discovered years ago. Dr. Andre asks, “Why are we failing to convince many bright minds in our midst of the strength of our prophetic interpretations?” Because we have created a MONSTER! We created colleges and universities. We created young people to think for themselves instead of being spoon fed by a bunch of previously spoon fed preachers and “teachers”.
As far as an Investigative Judgment is concerned. YES! The entire Bible is about an IV. But you and I are not the ones being investigated. God is on trial and always has been since the war in heaven. We claim 1844 started our message. I believe it did. Verse 7 says, “Fear (respect, honor, worship, God…” but we quickly go to the third angel’s message because we use it to scare people into joining the ‘remnant’ church. Ellen White was not inerrant in theology, but her ‘messages’ have all proven true.


(Sirje) #17

@DarrelL
…so, what you guys are saying is that within this symbolic depiction of empires - of goats and horns - suddenly a horn comes wafting on the west wind and divides itself toward the four directions (north, south east and west - which is where it already came from). It makes not sense contextually.

The overthrow of Antiochus was important enough to the Hebrews that they celebrate his demise to this day by a yearly celebration of Hanukkah.

All that aside, what you are also saying is that the Adventist faith is based on an ambiguous - at best- interpretation of where the little horn came from. So basically we are asked to make a decision that impacts our whole religious life on where the little horn came from - "CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY, WHICH IS IT -THE WIND, OR OUT OF THE HORNS. How totally superfluous that is.

The most important question the would-be Christian is to settle in his mind, is not “Who do you say that I am?” but “where, do you say, the little horn came from”.

Ridiculous!


(Robert King) #18

“The overthrow of Antiochus was important enough to the Hebrews that they celebrate his demise to this day by a yearly celebration of Hanukkah.”

Most certaintly. Yes to the Judeans he left an indelible imprint for ever to be remembered.


#19

Really? That’s a hard one to swallow.


(George Tichy) #20

EGW certainly predicted several things. I wonder if you can come up with some of them (predictions or prophecies) that were actually fulfilled. Any?