Salvation and the End Time

This week’s lesson explores how the concept of “salvation” intersects with the “end time.”

I must admit that I got to Friday’s lesson without a clear understanding of the author’s stance on the relationship between the two. Part of the problem may be that this quarter’s lessons are underpinned by the notion of a punctilliar arrival of the end time (today) rather than an overarching period of history inaugurated at the first coming of Jesus. This presuppositional lens colors the author’s conclusions at times with unusual shades.

For one, it took the author four days to finally get to the point when he says on Wednesday: “To be prepared for the end time, people must have assurance of salvation in the present… in order to face the future unafraid” (p. 34). And yet, the author seems torn between salvation by grace and salvation by obedience to the law when he writes that “our salvation comes not from anything we can do or from any creature merit but totally as an act arising from God’s own loving character,” while concluding the lesson by saying that the assurance of salvation is dependent on obedience to “God’s law” as well as on “the merits of Christ’s righteousness” (pp. 35, 36).

It is unfortunate that the lesson ended on this note. This point deserved a better treatment, especially for a denomination that puts so much emphasis on “keeping the law” as a prerequisite for salvation. Why can’t we simply say that we are saved “by grace” alone (Ephesians 2:5, 8) regardless of what Paul calls the erga nomou, the “works of the law”? (Cf. Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16). In our publications, should we “err” on the side of grace lest Adventists continue to believe that “keeping” the law actually “saves”? (I doubt the author could have taken this position without significant protest).

Further, the lesson needed to make it clearer that these realities, salvation and the end time are not interdependent: our salvation does not change based on whether we may think we live in the end time or not. Conversely, nowhere in Scripture is the eschatological end dependent on the church’s salvation. The Second Coming will occur only by divine fiat, without human input. (Again, I doubt the author could have explicitly taken this position without objection. It must be very challenging to write a Sabbath School lesson!).

This week’s lesson offers a good opportunity to discuss the uniquely Adventist notion that the church’s spiritual condition can hasten or delay the Second Coming. This is important because in all of mainstream Evangelicalism, only in Adventism are “salvation” and the “end time” so peculiarly intertwined. When the holiness movement of antebellum America stretched its hand across the gulf to clasp the hand of Millerism, the Advent movement was born. Out of the ashes of bitter disenchantment with a miscarriage of prophecy rises Adventist apocalypticism, a unique system of belief that finds in prophecy, history, and eschatological salvation its raison d’être.

Sadly, however, Seventh-day Adventism has proved to be fertile ground for the theological amalgamation that is apocalyptic perfectionism. Like a menacing “little horn” rising out of Adventism, perfectionism concocted an intoxicating elixir of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and eschatology (the doctrine of the end) sold under the alluring package of Last Generation Theology––with representatives in the highest echelons of the Adventist church. (Read my own experience with perfectionism here.)1

This problematic interpretation advocates that salvation involves reaching sinless perfection which, when achieved, triggers a sequence of events that expedite the Second Coming. “A perfect, sinless generation,” they say, “holds the key to the end time.” (Although the lesson’s author did not advocate for this position, he didn’t fully deny it either.)

But what does the New Testament say about the when of the end time and its impact on a believer’s salvation?

In a recent article, I explored how the “time of the end” in the book of Daniel is more fluid than usually allowed in Bible translations. For the New Testament writers the end time was “notoriously ambivalent.”2 “At some points,” writes Stephen Smalley, “the ‘end-time’ appears to extend over a very short period, and the climax seems to be imminent... at others the final day is apparently far removed.”3

Such imminence is seen in Matthew 10:23 where Jesus circumscribes the end time events to a geographical area smaller than Israel, predicts the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E. as a harbinger of the end (Matthew 24:15-28) and that Caiaphas would still be living at his Second Coming (Matthew 26:64). Not long afterwards, John writes: “Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18; the Greek term hora can apply to a moment or a period of time).

On the other hand, creating a timetable of the end time as a way to foster piety was frowned upon by the apostles; the eschatological end was not yet “in sight.” Paul warned the Thessalonians against being overly confident about the nearness of the end as if Jesus was already coming back (1 Thessalonians 2:2). In his last message to the disciples, Jesus called them to be his “witnesses” all over the world and avoid preoccupation with the end (Acts 1:6-8).

Our challenge is to guard against the notion that our eschatological salvation today calls for something different than it did for the primitive church. Today, millennia after the “last hour” had already dawned in John’s time, we are not held by different standards than were the first Christians. Our allegiance to the everlasting gospel of salvation by grace today unites us with the historical church who swore allegiance to the everlasting gospel in their time.

The salvation of believers in first century Philadelphia entailed “holding fast” to Jesus’ “word of patient endurance” because, He says, “I am coming soon” (Revelation 3:9-11, emphasis supplied). An invitation to patiently endure until the end (either of life or of time) seems particularly pertinent for end-time-minded believers such as ourselves. Christians reading this letter today should have a clear understanding of the tension between the now (“soon”) and the not yet aspects of prophetic fulfillment (we’re still here!).

The first coming of Jesus inaugurated “the final hour” of history and we are still called to be witnesses to that event. And while an awareness of this “final hour” is an important motivation for us to continue being credible witnesses for Jesus and “holding fast” to our salvation, such attentiveness should not degenerate into questionable apocalypticism dependent on dates and pre-approved historical fulfillments. Much less should the importance of the world’s “final hour” be obfuscated by the salvation-by-works emphasis of Adventist perfectionism.

Notes & References:

1. I explore one such fanatical movement here:

2. Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 51, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1989), 96.

3. Ibid.

André Reis has published articles and book chapters on theology, church history, worship, and music. He has recently finished a PhD in New Testament.

Photo by Niklas Rhöse on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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I have posted several times on Spectrum. Most churchgoers, even outside SDA, do not know/understand what the word “grace” means (or salvation & gospel)

Because of this ignorance/confusion (and other reasons) there is this fixation on “assurance”. So we hear some pastors/teachers throw to the audience the usual opiate 1 JN 5:13 and yet don’t explain how the verse applies/ is significant…because SDA presenters are so used to cut & paste proof text teaching methods.

Lack of competent biblical teaching results in fanaticism, confusion, paranoia, anxiety, and suffering. This article is just more evidence of these symptoms.

If church members/attenders are not taught correctly about the basic terms then 13 weeks of end time cut & paste doctrine/eschatology leads to all kinds of cognitive disorders including apathy & cynicism.

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That pretty much capsulizes Seventh-Day Adventism.


But Paul…think.
What % of SDA Sabbath school classes even get to Wednesday?


Maybe they should present this (the assurance of salvation) on day one.

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I imbibed my LGT straight up, no chaser, out of the books of Ellen G. White.

Shall we call Ellen White a “menacing ‘little horn’ rising out of Adventism?”


Did you ever consider that most Sevies have heard the same thing since cradle roll, all through elementary, academy, college…it’s the same thing over and over for decades.


Here’s another perspective…

Are we wordsmithing here (I know it is not a word) or really trying to learn from what Jesus told us? In spite of the actual words that the author may have used I come to a different conclusion. Our salvation does not depend on how perfectly we obey the law but on how sincerely we try to replace our imperfect and sinful tendencies in favor of God’s perfect Will for us. (I deeply know how challenging this is for me).

The Sabbath school lesson is a guideline that someone took the time and effort to share with you. Perhaps Colleen is indoctrinating you.

…and there is the problem. It’s all in HOW HARD WE TRY. It can never be hard ENOUGH. You get that in every SDA sermon. Can you think of any way you can do enough “to replace your imperfect tendencies”? At what point could you say, “I’m doing all I can - I have succeeded”? It’s a losing battle from the start. If it were possible someone should have accomplished it and, if the Adventist story is true, that one person would be in heaven now and the rest of us in that “lake” counting the hours.

We forget, “There is no one righteous, no not one.” Well, there was ONE - so how dos that change things for us? That is the question we need to be pondering.


You misunderstand Sirje, it is not about how hard we try, but about how much faith we have that He can change us.

Same result - not enough - apparently. If the “last generation” is to show perfection (through effort or faith), how does their perfection count for he countless who went to their graves imperfect? If it does in any way, we have made ourselves our own saviour. The last generation can 't have some higher standing in perfection than any other - and to what purpose. If it’s to bolster the faith of the rest of creation as to their confidence toward God - I think they got it at the cross; if not, it’s hopeless for them - and us.


You are probably right here (and I include myself)), but I would not get too hung up about “the last generation”, the only church that teaches salvation by the merits of others (e.g. Mary and the saints) is the RCC. At the end of time we will each stand individually in front of our Maker.

Sirje does have a point, I think, George. This is the bugbear, the occupational hazard, of being a Seventh-day Adventist, in my experience, as I was just saying here.

“The Last Generation” absolutely cannot be avoided if you are a Seventh-day Adventist—along with racism, abortion, sanctuary doctrine issues, integrity issues, discrimination issues, etc.,—it’s all on your plate at the same time.

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Agreed, wrong choice of words from my part (how sincerely we “try” vs we “believe”). But as far as the last generation of Seventh-Day-Adventists, we are no different than the first generation of Jews. The righteous will live by faith.

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Indeed, this week’s Sabbath School lesson well illustrates the Laodicean condition of the SDA church. It cannot have nor teach true assurance of salvation, cannot take part in preaching the everlasting gospel, and cannot rightly teach about Christian perfection because it does not teach the true everlasting gospel of righteousness nor does it teach the truth about God’s Law. But the truth about the law of God and the gospel of righteousness is coming out despite the church’s efforts to conceal it. You can read about it here: With this gospel, there is no conflict between the law and grace/gospel. That’s because it is the true everlasting gospel that will soon lighten the earth with its glory.

…faith in what - that God can make us perfect (He already has, legally); experientially? not in this lifetime. That is the point. If it takes only one to end this madness, Christ is our representative - the ONE. The just live by FAITH. Unfortunately, the word “faith” can be understood as both belief and trust. It can’t be belief since the “devil also believes”; so it has to be trust - trust in that Jesus is the first fruits of man’s salvation -accomplished. That may take more faith than a belief in flat earth or that our sabbath keeping will save us.


Well, maybe there’s a different way to look at it?

As I said to Chuck Scriven:

Cass, the notorious, incorrigible barger-in-er. :frowning:

Faith and trust that Jesus can replace the dead bodies we inherited from Adam with newly created ones, as long as we accept His spirit in us.