SILVER SPRING - General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson took the pulpit Friday night at the North American Division Year-end Meeting laying out again the key components of his presidential vision. Elder Wilson's sermon was as notable for what he did not say as for what he said.
North American Division president Daniel Jackson gave a brief introduction, joking that he was being asked to welcome Wilson to his own home. Then Jackson quickly exited the stage and Wilson took over.
Elder Wilson wondered aloud, as he began his remarks, what attendees of this year's meetings would take away that would revitalize their personal experience. "Will you take with you a burning desire for Revival and Reformation?" Wilson asked. "Will you take with you a dynamic conviction that we are at a crucial juncture of the proclamation of the Three Angels' Messages?"
"Tonight I want to focus on what probably is the unique message that has been given to the Seventh-day Adventist Church to proclaim," Wilson said. For the next forty-five minutes, he laid out his understanding of the Three Angels' Messages, quoting liberally from Ellen White's The Great Controversy throughout. "God's word for these last days of history," Wilson called the messages.
Wilson argued that a correct theological understanding would drive a correct approach to mission. "Seventh-day Adventist theology and mission are inseparable," he said. He added his contention that the three angels' messages are the most important messages Adventists have to share. "They are our theology and our mission," he said, "and the reason for God's wonderful Remnant Church."
Wilson sprinkled the message with what have become familiar talking points during his tenure as president. The first came around seven minutes into his sermon when Wilson asserted that the first angel's message that the hour of God's judgment has come includes a call to recognize God as creator: "The one who created this earth recently, in six literal days," capped off by the seventh day Sabbath, Wilson intoned. "That literal seven-day cycle has never been broken since the creation of this world," he said.
Next, Wilson focused on the Sabbath-Sunday divide that Wilson argued would separate God's people from the others. "During the time of trouble that is coming, and immediately preceding the Second Coming, the seventh-day Sabbath will be the central issue of the Great Controversy," Wilson said. He went on to add that in addition to keeping the Sabbath, worshiping God as creator also requires "willingness to reject false theories about the origin of life, such as evolution or theistic evolution." Here, Wilson pivoted to focus on another recurring theme that has marked his presidential agenda. "It is impossible to believe in evolution or theistic evolution and say that God is creator of heaven and earth and all the life they contain," he announced. "The two concepts simply do not mix." Wilson then stated his view that evolution is not a science, but "a false form of religion - not only a religion, but also a part of spiritualism, which will play a major, negative role in the final events."
Discussing the second of the three angels' messages, Wilson stated that Babylon as described in Revelation refers to all those churches that did not heed the warning message first given in 1844, and that teach the theological errors passed down through the church of the Middle Ages. Intense anger and fierce opposition will result from exposing Babylon, Wilson predicted.
The message of the third angel, Wilson said, is based on the prophecy of the preceding chapter, Revelation 13. The beast, Wilson said, represents the Apostate Church, which will negatively affect Adventists' religious liberty. He was referring to Adventists' ability to worship freely on Saturday, and predicted that, in accordance with Bible prophecy, that ability will be diminished. This will happen because religious entities will take control of governmental powers, and the Apostate Church will have free reign, he said. Wilson referenced several statements in The Great Controversy to bolster his assertions.
"The Mark of the Beast, which is the observance of any day other than the seventh-day Sabbath is an institution that clearly sets forth the authority of the Beast because the Sabbath is God's mark of his authority," Wilson said.
"One church boldly boasts that she has changed the seventh-day Sabbath, instituted at creation, from Saturday to Sunday," Wilson said, making a reference to the Catholic Church.
Wilson warned that laws will be instituted that will require citizens' observance of Sunday as Sabbath, and gave several reasons why this would take place: moral decline, natural and man-made disasters resulting in financial trouble and pressure brought on governments by religious leaders. Sabbath-keepers will be imprisoned and persecuted, he said. "We don't like to talk about this much, but it's coming." Enactment of Sunday laws in turn will lead to "national and international ruin," Wilson said, adding, "And it is coming!"
When it appeared Wilson could not get much more somber in tone, he turned his attention to Adventists themselves, saying that some would defect to the side of the opposition. "As the conflict between truth and error intensifies, a sad dividing takes place within God's church." With some poignancy, Wilson described the bitter enmity that would arise between defectors and their former brethren, once again underscoring his predictions with quotations from The Great Controversy. "It's not very nice stuff to read," he quipped.
Wilson turned next to offer messages of encouragement from the initiatives that have marked his administration, most notably, "Revival and Reformation," and "Hope for the Cities." Wilson punctuated the reports with anecdotes of conversion that he used as examples of the Holy Spirit's movement.
Wilson closed his remarks with the account of a cloud coming on the horizon, about half the size of a man's fist, growing larger and brighter. A large Harry Anderson painting of the Second Coming came onto the screen behind him with the words, "Are you ready?" He asked the audience to commit to the great task of becoming ready for Jesus' return and invited all to stand in silent commitment. He asked all those who stood (which appeared to be all those in the audience) to seal their commitments with a short, Wilson emphasized "short" prayer of commitment. He closed with prayer of his own.
If any watching expected Wilson to address the ordination of women, one of the key issues at these meetings, those expectations went unfulfilled. References to any of the meetings' agenda items were strikingly absent from Wilson's remarks. Instead, he focused on the topics that have been his administrative centerpieces since his first presidential sermon at the 2010 General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5614