Apocalyptic—Who Needs It?

Editor’s Note: This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Waco Siege that occurred from February 28 to April 19, 1993. Throughout the weeks, we have been sharing on the website the articles that appeared in the May 1993 edition (vol. 23, no. 1) of Spectrum concerning this tragedy.

How seriously should Adventists take apocalyptic books like Daniel, Revelation, and The Great Controversy? Apocalyptists, after all, are embarrassing to have around. David Koresh tried to precipitate Armageddon by his confrontation with the U.S. Government. David Mould mounts a billboard campaign against the pope, charging the Vatican with trying to change the U.S. Constitution. John Osborne chastises official Adventism for its ecumenical stance toward other Christians. Date-setters become increasingly active as the year 2000 approaches. Survivalists buy homes in the wilderness for the time of trouble.

These developments embarrass the main-line church. We may even wish to revise our apocalyptic stance. Aren't we triumphalistic in seeing ourselves as the one true church? Hasn't the Sabbath/Sunday issue, so relevant when The Great Controversy was written, become obsolete in today's secular society? Haven't Adventists erred in focusing on the pope while neglecting to take a stand against oppressive dictators of the 20th century? Shouldn't we concentrate on the modem "beasts" of ethnic hatred, oppression of minorities, and abuse of the eco-system? Perhaps apocalyptic, with its sensationalism, represents an immature stage of Christianity. Perhaps we should replace it with the gospel of love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

I suggest that we look to Jesus for enlightenment on these issues. He is central not only to the gospel, but also to the apocalyptic. As an apocalyptic figure, he ushered in the end time by setting up his kingdom. He stood under a death decree and felt the persecuting wrath of a "union of church and state." In Gethsemane, he endured the time of trouble, and on the cross, he drew to himself the plagues of scorching sun, darkness, and earthquake. He experienced death, resurrection, and translation. He stands in the tension between the gospel and apocalyptic. What might Jesus say to enthusiasts?

Should we precipitate the final crisis? Jesus tried to win his enemies by love. He did not precipitate the crisis—it was forced on him. Jesus would have told David Koresh to lay down his sword.

Should we fraternize or confront? Should Adventists fraternize with Christians of other faiths? Or should we denounce them as Babylon? Jesus feasted and fraternized with Pharisees such as Simon and Nicodemus. He was frank, but spoke the truth in love. Ecumenism is not a sin if the truth is not compromised. Jesus did not denounce the religious leaders of his day before his arrest. Bashing the pope at the present time is premature. The pope is not currently trying to change the U.S. Constitution. The encyclical to which David Mould refers merely asserts the right of workers to observe their day of rest. (Adventists fought for the same right.) The document has nothing to do with enforcing Sunday-worship upon non-believers.

Should we set dates? For 2,000 years, every date set for the end of the world has failed. Apocalyptists have supplied hundreds of rationales for the Lord to come by a certain date (the end of a millennium, the 120 years of Noah, a generation from the Falling of the Stars or the establishment of Israel), but God has ignored them all. "History overwhelms apocalyptic"—time keeps marching on in spite of efforts to stop it. Jesus not only refused to supply a date, but forbade others to do so (Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:6, 7).

Should we flee to the mountains? (An Adventist paper advertised, "three-bedroom ranch, excellent for the time of trouble; all modem conveniences." But is a home that receives mail, telephone, and other services hidden?) Now is not the time to be isolated from the world, but to penetrate the world with the gospel. Now is the time of Global Mission (Matthew 24:14).

But apocalyptic should not be rejected because enthusiasts have abused it. Abuse does not cancel use. And detractors can distort as well.

Aren't we naive to see ourselves in prophecy? Sects often see themselves as the fulcrum of history—the stone that strikes the image, the 144,000 on Mount Zion. Are Adventists naive to see themselves as "the remnant," the one true church? Though we are a small subdivision on the Christian landscape, we do have the remnant message and proclaim the last warning to the world—the three angels' messages.

Shouldn't our concept of "antichrist" be relativized? Though history has seen many oppressors, the sequence of powers listed in Daniel 7 still holds. Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin are gone; communism is crumbling; but the Papacy still grows in power.

Isn't Sabbath/Sunday an antiquated issue? Whether one agrees with The Great Controversy scenario or not, the biblical picture of the final conflict has to do with worshiping God or an anti-God power (Revelation 14:6-12). Also, in a violent world, the pressure for a religious solution is increasing. The Religious Right is eager to legislate such a solution. Furthermore, the three angels' messages are exceedingly relevant to a world that has forgotten its Creator.

Isn't the gospel enough? Some theologians would like to center all theology on the cross. But Christian theology must have two foci—both the first and second advents of Christ. If we have only the cross, we are of all people the most miserable (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). God gave apocalyptic to dramatize the struggle between good and evil, to arouse the world to its danger, and to inspire the hope of ultimate victory. In his apocalyptic discourse, Jesus told the signs of his coming—signs that in every age have produced a sense of urgency to prepare for his coming.

How then shall we live? The purpose of apocalyptic, as with all scripture, is to inspire a life oriented toward Christ and his coming (Matthew 24:42). At the end of his apocalyptic discourse (Matthew 25) Jesus spelled out just what this life is like. Surprisingly, it is not something heroic. It consists of being filled with the oil of the Spirit, developing one's talents in service to God, and caring for the needy and oppressed. Apocalyptic demands nothing more—nothing less.

Further reading on the Waco tragedy: Fundamentalism Is a Disease, a Demonic Perversion, April 8, 2018 Futuristic Highs at Mt. Carmel, April 4, 2018 One of David’s Mighty Men, March 28, 2018 The British Connection, March 14, 2018 Apocalypse at Diamond Head, March 7, 2018 God, Guns, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, February 14, 2018 The Making of David Koresh, February 7, 2018 Paradise Lost in Waco, February 5, 2018 We Didn't Start the Fire but the Tinder was Ours, January 31, 2018 New TV Series Premieres for 25th Anniversary of the Waco Tragedy, January 24, 2018 Beware of Wolves Disguised as Sheep, June 8, 2017 Death of a Branch Davidian Friend and Other Memories, April 19, 2014 Branch Davidians (and Adventists) Revisited in The New Yorker, March 30, 2014 My Trip to Waco, December 27, 2012

This article was written by Beatrice Neall for the May 1993 issue of Spectrum.

Image: SpectrumMagazine.org

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8685

Well said Beatrice!

The world and the church needs “the gospel of the kingdom.” As Beatrice said the gospel has two focii - the first advent and the second advent. Christ founded his eternal kingdom on this planet in rebellion in his ministry, death and resurrection and will bring it to fruitition when he comes again.


I know there is some wiggle room in interpretations, but THAT his not what I Cor.15 says.

The story didn’t end on the cross. There was a RESURRECTION - and there is our hope; not in the apocalyptic war where we end evil.


Thank you! Good to hear from you. I have found the British authors having the best focus on the Gospel_… Graham Maxwell, Edward Heppenstall, Des Ford, Stott, Wright, Packer, M.L. Jones, Bruce. It is a shame that Adventists Have such a grip on physical health and then scare the pants off on end times.


i agree…first of all, the only way to make sense of the cross is in its biblical sense, which means extricating it from the escapists sentimentality in which modern evangelicals frame it, and placing it full square in the context of the sanctuary…this shows that the cross is all about separation from sin, which really amounts to endless self-denial, given our genetic bent towards sin…paul’s point in 1Cor 15:17-19 is that self-denial for its own sake, which may include the persecution he was so familiar with, is not a recipe for happiness…

however, when for the joy that is set before us - the apocalyptic of christ’s second coming, which for the saved ushers in everlasting life and happiness - we endure the cross, despising its shame, Heb 12:2, we are lifted from any feeling that our choice to take up the cross of christ is a mistake…

the bottom line with apocalyptic is that it seems to be a magnet for unbalanced minds and conspiracy theorists…but when properly understood, the only people who can seriously object are those who know they are unprepared…

Only if we give credence to mental images of the bible authors’ representation and symbols on their interpretation of the “last days events.” Let us not forget what happened to God’s “everlasting covenant” on “flesh circumcision.” It now is considered a “spiritual circumcision.” Should Daniel and Revelation be considered as spiritual “end time events?”

It depends on how a “spiritual end-time event” would present itself. If it would be invisible, like preachers everywhere calling down fire and brimstone metaphorically, then all well and good. Who cares if invisible fire and brimstone should fall? Let them preach to their heart’s content.


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James, Right on! Let them earn their pay.


Doug Batchelor is promoting his Prophecy Seminars via DVD.
Our church has begun the series – 2 a week for several weeks.

I doubt there will be much interest [even though there is a huge banner
out side on the lawn, and many went door to door hanging announcements
on the local community door knobs]
Reason I say this is the Baptists have their view of Daniel and Revelation. Some
of the other nearby churches have their views of Daniel and Revelation.
Since they have THEIR TRUTH and know it, why hear the SDA slant to Daniel
and Revelation.
Except our hand bills sometimes look more SCARY!

Of course it does allow our church pastor to REPORT – 1 Evangelistic Effort for
2018. CHECK!! CHECK!! and report how much it cost to do so.


four people i know who are new in my church all came in through a prophecy seminar…there are several others, as well, whom I don’t know personally…would these people be adventists today without the prophecy seminars…i doubt it…

these seminars do work…they may not be for people who’ve grown up in the church, who’ve heard it all before…but almost everyone is curious about the future, at least to some extent, and the fact that Daniel and Revelation can be explained in terms of historical events does interest people…

i’ve heard the jehovah’s witnesses’ and mormon take, which I don’t find convincing at all, in addition to parts of Revelation explained in the united church…the advantage of the adventist version is that it’s thorough and comprehensive…it doesn’t skip over entire chapters…it explains the past, the present and the future…and if you accept the premises, especially the year-day principle, it does add up…

i think the essence of adventism is apocalyptic…i don’t think we are what we are without it…

The fact is, these seminars work less and less in developed countries… research has revealed the trend of sharply diminishing returns. Besides which, Jesus and the good news gets buried as an addendum to the scary beast puzzle piece assembly of historicism and headlines. Additionally, it seems that this often attracts conspiracy theorists and other imbalanced people to the church… at least this is what I’ve personally experienced and heard from many others over time.

We keep downplaying the connection between our apocalyptic views and those of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. The idea of a special, faithful, remnant group, who alone has secret prophetic knowledge, being persecuted by a governmental conspiracy is at the heart of both. I don’t think the spawning by one of such pathology in the other is a coincidence.




Wow…didn’t realize this amount of money was being spent on this. Do you know what the “non-Dougs” make? He’s part of the top tier, I’m guessing.

This doesn’t surprise me at all. In my 25+ years as a Sevie, I can probably count on one hand (and have digits left over), the number of new adults who were baptized into the church. I saw a few “backslidders” get rebaptized.

I think that the internet has been a real antidote to the teachings of Scientology, LDS, SDA, and JW’s. So easy now to get info. It certainly offers more facts so the person can make an informed decision.


The word is out on DBAF. Apparently he’s not the only one making bank…

Doug’s been busy building his Cal Temple…

That’s quite a building project. They still need 3.5 million, although 80% of the money has already been raised.

Have you sent your donation yet, Paul?:sunglasses:

Well by the looks of things they don’t need my $. Was just down there last summer and noticed Adventist Health is building a new temple near there also. Business is good it seems.

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when it comes to other people – We are a "people of the Book."
But too much we are a people of the "Book of Daniel."
But too much we are a people of the “Book of Revelation”.
We forget there are 64 other Books in the Bible Library.

Teaching people HOW to live in Jesus, in newness of life is focused
on very little.
Especially when we have 28 Bible doctrines to go through so they can
be baptized and become members at the same time.

Revelation 1:1

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

Revelation 21:7
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

Revelation 22:6
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.

Revelation 22:16
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.