Should Adventism Dangle on Cliff’s American Edge?

On February 3, 2023, Clifford Goldstein, editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide, wrote an article in the Adventist Review titled “America in Prophecy? More Than Ever, Thank You.” It was an attempt to critique an essay I wrote for Spectrum titled “An Even Greater Controversy,” in which I questioned some Adventist prophetic speculation about the future of America. I am grateful that Goldstein has taken the time to engage my views, so in the spirit of conversation, I have decided to respond to his critique.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Well, here’s some fodder for conversation. I find Crossan’s educated interpretation of John’s Revelation far more credible than anything our church has ever cooked up. And the USA is not there at all, nor is any of the rest of America (North or South America).

Click the link to read the preview, which includes the prologue and most of the first chapter. Heady stuff.

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Perhaps a good starting point would be to point out that historicism as a method of interpreting Revelation is not a necessary or even reasonable approach. That is, assuming that (in light of hindsight of two thousand years of the end not occurring) the symbols and sequence of the nightmarish apocalypse must span the course of history, it is the task of the interpreter to identify those events and connect them to the “visions”. Of course, this approach is dependent on the idea that the author was actually able to predict the events of the future.

I would suggest that the book of Revelation was written during the time of the Jewish wars, specifically the 3.5 year (1260 days) war known as the Bar Kochba Revolt, 132-135 CE. It is an overtly Jewish text and outlook, including Jewish symbolism, temple allusions, a destroyed Jerusalem, and war imagery. It was likely a Jewish apocalypse originally describing the horrors of the war with a promise that the city and temple would soon be restored by Yahweh who appears in his OT aspect as the war god. The few allusions to Jesus are likely the result of a later Christian editor; the text reads perfectly well with those few phrases excised.

If it can be recognized that the book was written to people during a crisis and was meant to be understood by the recipients as an unveiling of the behind-the-scenes preparation of Yahweh to restore and redeem his people (the Jews), the foolishness of trying to read the United States and the Papacy into the text could be put to rest. The only future prediction was the expected imminent restoration of Jerusalem and the temple, which of course never occurred. It was a failed prophecy.


The Adventist perspective has always been more Jewish than Christian on almost every biblical subject. “God’s people” are all spiritual Israel; and, Christians are a continuation of the Old Covenant simply morphed into the New Covenant, with all OT requirement for belonging to “God’s people” in tact. Adventism has never clarified how Jesus made a difference to our standing with God other than being a concrete example for Christian behaviour.

“God has a people” is the backdrop to the story of Israel; and God has a people now (a remnant) - both based on obedience. The OT “special people” were in Israel - the “end time” special people came from New England. Basically, OUR GOD IS TOO SMALL.


I have long wondered why so many Adventists are so certain of EGW’s predictions. Even the book 27 fundamental beliefs give no real specific fulfilled predictions. Which after 150 years you would think something would come up.
Here is a quote from the book:
2. The accuracy of predictions. Ellen White’s writings contain a relatively small number of predictions. Some are in the process of being fulfilled, while others still await fulfillment. But those that can be tested have been fulfilled with an amazing accuracy. Two instances that demonstrate her prophetic insights follow.

a. The rise of modern spiritualism. In 1850, when spiritualism—the movement that touts communication with the spirit world and the dead—had but just arisen, Ellen White identified it as a last-day deception and predicted its growth. Although at that time the movement was decidedly anti-Christian, she foresaw that this hostility would change, and that it would become respectable among Christians.14 Since that time spiritualism has spread worldwide, gaining millions of adherents. Its anti-Christian stance has changed; indeed, many call themselves Christian spiritualists, claiming that they have the true Christian faith and that "Spiritualists are the only religionists who have used the promised gifts of Christ, by which gifts they heal the sick, and demonstrate a future conscious and progressive existence."15 They even assert that spiritualism "gives you the knowledge of all the great systems of religion, and still more, it gives you more knowledge of the Christian Bible than all the Commentaries combined. The Bible is a book of Spiritualism."16

b. A close cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics. During Ellen White’s life a gulf existed between Protestants and Roman Catholics that seemed to preclude any cooperation between the two. Anti-Catholicism raged among Protestants. She prophesied that major changes within Protestantism would bring about a departure from the faith of the Reformation. Consequently, differences between Protestants and Catholics would diminish, leading to a bridging of the gulf separating the two.17


While it may be clear to 99.9997% of the world’s population that a national, or perhaps even global, “Go to Church on Sunday or Die” Law is unthinkable, this fact, in and of itself, dovetails precisely with Adventist eschatology and the prediction that the “end times” would be reminiscent of the days of Noah, in that despite having been repeatedly warned, most people “do not see it coming “.

The point being that the two views are so widely divergent that no rational conversation is possible between them.

Thus it seems there’s not much to talk about until such time as Jesus finishes up whatever tasks he’s working on in heaven and returns to settle the question, once and for all, in EGW/SDA’s favor…or not.

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The care factor of this portion of the population to a global “Go to Church” on Sunday law is approximately 0, give or take some rounding. (Apologies I can’t be more precise @NY_G_PA2


Here is the crux of the interpretive problem…they looked for a nation that fit their religion and found it in America. It was actually a reading of Revelation through there own religious lens and context that they read into the biblical text. That’s commonly called eisegesis. In this case it could be called newspaper eisegesis. This is what historicism ends up amounting to. It should have died with William Miller. Instead, the SDA pioneers extended his own interpretive errors through their reformulations. It was an erroneous method then that led to erroneous interpretive results. It still does.

We shouldn’t because we would just be repeating their error…in methodology and interpretive results. New wineskins are needed in which to pour new wine. Read the text not as if it’s written to us and our context. Read Revelation in the context of who it says it was written to…the seven churches in 1st c. Roman Asia. They were the primary audience, just as the Galatian churches were in Galatians, and the Roman tenement churches were in Romans, etc. The primary questions are then, what was their context? What did the letter mean to them? What was the message intended for their time and circumstances? And more. These are exegetical questions, trying to draw information and answers out of the text in its original context, not ours. Once that is dealt with, then we can see how it speaks to us today as the secondary audience.

Clifford Goldstein either has no clue regarding this, or is such an ideologue that he just doesn’t care, because such an interpretive direction will undermine his and the denomination’s predetermined views. We should not continue to repeat such faulty methods.



CG’s downplaying of the results from European intrusion into the Americas must take place to support his/SDA thesis. Of course that idea would support a ‘God’ who saw little value in non-essential peoples. I think it is time to say it was a racist/bigoted belief that is still being perpetuated by many with in the church today.


actually it’s not…the “author”, or prophet, is simply tasked with describing what is shown in vision…that’s it…whether he or she actually understands what is seen is neither here nor there…understanding is the prerogative of a future, unknown and likely unexpected, vision, possibly seen by a future prophet, and often coming only after the prophecy is fulfilled…we know that Daniel didn’t understand all of what he wrote…there’s no reason to believe that John understood all or anything of what he wrote, either…

as for anyone outside of Daniel and John, it’s doubtful whether anyone understood the 490 yr prophecy of Daniel in Christ’s day (Jesus’ reference to “the time is fulfilled”, at the beginning of his ministry, is a bit cryptic - it seems to have purposely conflated the kingdom of grace with the kingdom Christ knew his listeners were expecting - and certainly isn’t dispositive)…it’s unlikely that anyone understood or was expecting a fulfillment of the 1260 yr prophecy during the French Revolution (or during any previous centuries)…we know no-one understood Daniel’s 2300 yr prophecy in 1844…and whether anyone understood the four horses of the apocalypse, or the seven seals, or the seven trumpets in terms of when they started isn’t a meaningful question…

correct prophetic interpretation seems to be a retrospective exercise, through the visions of a future prophet…it doesn’t seem to guide the Church while it’s happening…

in fact this is how we know the imminent restoration of Jerusalem and the temple was a failed interpretation…the prophecy has nothing to do with this failed interpretation - it isn’t a failed prophecy because the interpretation can be seen to be a failure…it stands intact regardless…

in the case of the several visions recorded in Revelation, some, at least in terms of adventist eschatology, are believed to have been fulfilled, although they unfolded over centuries, and again, were likely not understood as they were unfolding…but some are believed to be unfolding now, with a completion time still in the future…a number of the visions in Revelation are dynamic trends, occurring over vast time frames…they aren’t necessarily specific events that we can peg a fulfillment on, or say proves they’re false…

both these prophecies are still unfolding, and in the process of fulfillment…the best we can say now is that we can see the outlines of their fulfillment in a way that couldn’t be seen in egw’s day…

Thanks for that. I have Crossan’s other book, The Historical Jesus and am anxious to read this one.

I believe it’s a fallacy to think that all religious fervour must exist in churches.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Your efforts to challenge the level of thinking that has been used in Adventist circles is a message that is very timely. Please keep it up!


First off: We’re in a post-pandemic world where people are still trying to put things together. The Adventist Review looks around, and decides it has nothing to publish than (checks notes) a rebuttal to a two-year old Spectrum article. I can think of no better argument against the Review’s relevance.

But let’s focus on this Goldstein line: “Of course, that’s the immediate issue: were the pioneers right?”

The answer is that it doesn’t matter, because the SDA Church doesn’t teach what the pioneers taught.

The pioneers didn’t believe in a “lamblike beast who speaks like a dragon,” because that’s not what Revelation 13:11 says. It says the thing is just a beast, full stop, which happens to have two lamb-like horns.

The pioneers actually read that verse correctly, and believed in a beast with a thin veneer of Christianity. They said America was already speaking as a beast in the 1850s, because of the US tolerating slavery. Don’t believe me? Here you go:

“In appearance he is like a harmless lamb but when he raises his voice in acts of authority his dragon-like character is revealed. This is a two-faced hypocritical beast that first appears with mildness and equity but has the fierce prompting of a dragon heart. The institution of slavery most clearly reveals the dragon spirit of this hypocritical nation.” –J.N. Andrews, 1857 (page 144 / page 10 in the PDF; there are numerous other quotes in there as well.)

Which brings me back to Admiral Ncube’s original premise: “Why are we not allowed to be as contextual as our pioneers?”

Because the SDA Church went full-on Fundamentalism in the 1920s, and turned the pioneers’ original teaching upside down. Now it’s “America is the greatest, most freedom-loving country ever! Someday it’ll change when a National Sunday Law happens after some ill-defined calamity, and it’ll all be the Pope’s fault,” and has been for the last 100 years.

The pioneers missed Manifest Destiny in their own time, there’s no doubt of that. But if they were around and still being contextual today, I feel like they’d explain “relatively uninhabited” with this:

If it’s “relatively uninhabited,” it’s because the beast from the Earth made it so. But it’s not comfortable to point out that just maybe those numbers, slavery, and Jim Crow aren’t “lamblike” actions, so we don’t.

I don’t anticipate seeing this explanation in an official SDA publication any time soon. Or ever, really.

(I’m not even saying the pioneers were necessarily right, but at least it’s internally consistent. That’s more than I can say for the last 100 years of “National Sunday Law, someday, because reasons! So stay afraid.”)


Christopher Columbus never reached the North American continent. The continent started to be explored by Europeans a few years later, possibly beginning in 1497 with Giovanni Caboto (although I don’t think it’s clear that he reached the mainland - many think he explored Newfoundland island).


Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, both North and South America are named after Christopher Columbus’ friend, Amerigo Vespucci Genocide of indigenous peoples occurred both in North and South America. The Europeans considered the Native people to be less human, maybe that is why they considered the USA to be lamblike. By the way, John Harvey Kellogg an early adventist who was later excommunicated, organized Race Betterment conferences in Battle Creek.


If anyone is paying attention to the TV presentation of The Curse of Oak Island they’re pulling out artifacts carbon dated 11th and 12th Century - British coins and military buttons, as well as ancient pottery, and indictions of silver and gold in underground water samples. The biggest surprise is that some of the rock carvings and cobblestone rudimentary roads go back to ancient Europe and the Nights Templars. If this pans out, someone was here long before Columbus and perhaps even Leif Erikson.


‘Ignoring shifts in geographic relevance dangles Adventism’s witness on an irrelevant edge.’

This is so profound…thank you for a compelling article, which is nonetheless, level-handed, rather than ideological ranting.


All of this talk of end time persecution brings back memories.

About 60 years back I was a kid in Adventist Boarding Schools in Central Africa. Much of our Pathfinder and Orientation skills were developed with a view of ‘running to the mountains’. In the process we rather enjoyed roaming at will on Sabbath afternoons. We ended up as fit little tykes and wondered how these evil oppressors would find us since It was a long way from Rome. Further, we imagined the surprise they would get when these normally docile pack of kids gave them a pasting. :grinning:

A few years later ‘Preparation for the final Crisis’ was published along with seminars for the secretive few. I recall these youngsters on the verge of nervous break down. Needless to say while some bought into this narrative - those people are now nowhere to be seen. :heart_eyes:

Fear stories are not sustainable.
There may not have been a name for Spiritual Abuse back then, but we knew it when we saw it.


You are, of course, assuming that the author’s (apparent) claim is true; that he saw something in his head and wrote it down. Of course, he could have simply composed a tract using a familiar genre of the time. I wonder if you think the author of the Apocalypse of Enoch likewise “saw” that which he described? Or are the only authentic apocalyptic writings the ones you deem “inspired”?

Again, this is assuming that his claim of actually receiving a mystical communication was true.

Allow me to point out some facts.

  1. The apocalyptic genre was in vogue from the second century BCE to the second century CE.
  2. The themes of all of them were the same; that Yahweh was taking note of the suffering of his people and was about to rescue them from oppression. Apocalyptic is an unveiling of that which is happening behind the scenes.
  3. Apocalyptic is characterized by symbolism to obscure the message from the occupying foreign forces, but meant to be understood by the “insiders”.
  4. The genre always aimed at the here and now with the prediction of imminent deliverance.

The Apocalypse of John (Revelation) is clearly within this literary style. It was written in a carefully constructed chiastic structure (See Kenneth Strand “Perspectives on the Book of Revelation” Andrews University Library, or Bart Willruth "The Chiastic structure of Revelation, Andrews University Library). It bears all the elements of a planned piece of literature.

I would ask, Which is more likely; that a book written in a style common at the time, and in a carefully laid out structure, was simply a literary composition? Or that the writer just happened to receive mystical communication and that it came to him in the common style of the time and in an identifiable structure? Which is more likely; That the author knew what he was writing? Or that he was clueless and just wrote down something which meant nothing to himself or his recipients? Which is more likely; That the author was writing about current events and a hoped for outcome? Or that he was writing about things which would happen many centuries thereafter?

You clearly wish to always reach for the mystical, miraculous, and frankly impossible rather than to use Occam’s Razor and view the book as one normally composed and dealing with current events. Or, to put it another way, if it can be explained as a religio-political piece of literature dealing with actual current events, why would one choose to view it as the result of mystical communication aimed over the heads of both the author and his audience to fortell the far distant future? In that second scenario, using the Uriah Smith method, one scans history in search of anything which might conceivably be shoehorned into a claimed fulfillment, limited only by imagination and a wish to find the culmination in one’s own time and movement (narcissistic interpretive methodology).

Perhaps correct methodology would be to examine events current with the time of authorship which could explain the theme and symbolism.


This article , in my view illustrates perhaps a deeper concern, which is expressed in the following question?
What is the source of origin of Seventh Day Adventist prophetic interpretation ?

Perhaps I could expand extend the question further: What is the source/ origin of Seventh Day Adventist teaching period. Did we get our views from EGW, James White, Uriah Smith et al or have we investigated the scriptures carefully and individually, to ensure that our final opinion is consistent with Biblical facts?.
A responsible Biblical researcher, may welcome the opinions of pioneers in any subject, but this does not remove the solemn responsibility of searching all scripture intelligently, prayerfully ,unbiasedly allowing the Bible to be its own interpreter.
The modern tools which we have ,should make Biblical research a fascinating quest into the word of God to discover what God intends for us to learn, change, modify or perhaps even discard, not only in doctrine but in prophetic interpretation and practice.
If it is indeed the case that we choose to be dogmatic, re-emphasizng only the views of pioneers, we do ourselves a disservice and are surely not honouring God.
Could it be perhaps that many in our church somehow have an innate sense or perception, that our cherished traditional views may not hold up to deeper Biblical investigation and hence are still determined to keep them no matter the cost or the circumstances?
Could it be that , for example the historical,and social contexts in which the pioneers lived helped to shape their views and make them accurate and relevant for their time, but possibly not universally applicable to all generations?
I am on the view that in depth Biblical study and research go hand in hand. I believe the archaeologists drive for relics and accurate incontrovertible data from the past can serve to confirm our understanding of history . Similarly the scholar or researcher who may use modern tools cannot fail to be impressed with the accuracy of Biblical prophecy of itself, when viewed from linguistic, social, economic, scientific and even moral perspectives. God does not change and His truth- the facts of the past, present and future will not change either. Our task is to ascertain them and be responsible , humble and mature enough to embrace these facts!