Thinking About the Planet and Adventism and the Kingdom

I just disconnected from the Zoom meeting of the Faith and Reason Sabbath School class at the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church, led by Chuck Sandefur. The class is a weekly blessing, a point of stimulation and an opportunity for international engagement with a wide variety of other Christians.

Today we discussed the role of nature in Adventism. The presenter was James Hayward, Professor Emeritus of Biology at Andrews University and the author of Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Holy Writ.

During the conversation, a prominent question arose as to why the Adventist Church and membership generally seem not to be engaged in matters like conservation of nature, global warming, etc. The discussion time was way too short!

The issue stimulated a thought which I explore here.

First, a few chosen words of Jesus:

“But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 7:21

“And proclaim as you go, saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is [current tense] at hand.’” Matthew 10:7

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has [past tense] suffered violence…” Matthew 11:12

“The kingdom of heaven may be [current tense] compared…” Matthew 13:24

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand [current tense].” Mark 1:15

“Let the children come to me…for to such belongs [current tense] the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14

“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well.” Luke 4:43

“…and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom [current tense] of God and to heal.” Luke 9:2

“Heal the sick…and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has [past tense] come near to you.” Luke 10:9

“…behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Luke 17:21

“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:24

“The kingdom is like…” Matthew 13:31

The kingdom of heaven IS! Now! Present tense!

These texts are all cited because they indicate that the kingdom of heaven was considered by Jesus to be a current reality in his day. Kingdom matters were very transactional in those moments. When Jesus said it was hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom, he wasn’t talking about a future event a few thousand years down the road in some unforeseen second coming. He was talking about right then! It was hard for that person to make the right decision right then!

People were relating to the kingdom of heaven day by day as Jesus described it to them. It was immediate. It was among them. Their reactions to and decisions about the kingdom were in the moment. The kingdom of God was an alternate reality (to use a term currently in vogue!). The kingdom of God had different norms, different values, different human relationships, and different objectives.

To be certain, Jesus also talked about a coming kingdom. He promised future events as well. But those events were culminations, not beginnings, not life as we know it.

From the evidence in the Gospels, it seems safe to say that Jesus was announcing a kingdom that started then and there and goes down in time until there is a different kind of arrival of the kingdom. The kingdom is now and the kingdom will arrive in a different manifestation at some time in the future. But it is the same kingdom! It’s already here! It already exists. It was there in the day of Jesus and it is now in our time. But who can see the kingdom? How is it recognized?

I fear that we have been too focused on proclaiming that future manifestation of the kingdom and not nearly focused enough on the kingdom that is already among us. We have preached too much about getting ready for some future event, and too little about demonstrating the nature and values of the kingdom now. We have been too focused on three symbolic angels instead of being real angels of the kingdom now.

I contend that it is actually more important to be a living demonstration of citizenship in the current kingdom of God than it is to preach about a coming future kingdom of God. The first is real and observable. The second is abstract and theological.

When we enter the current kingdom of heaven, our whole value proposition changes. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described a set of values and behaviors that were counterintuitive to the hearers. His ideas cut across cultural and societal norms. His examples elevated the ideals of the new kingdom above law and regulation. He went straight for the heart.

Those ideals of the kingdom are still at odds with cultural and societal and political norms. It is the grace-driven, Spirit-powered transformation of humans that demonstrates the kingdom of heaven, not theology or prophecy. Theology and prophecy are abstract, cold, and dry. Transformed Christians are real and warm.

So, back to the subject at hand, Adventists may generally not be so interested in nature conservation and global warming because we are so focused on the abstract future kingdom instead of the real kingdom of heaven now. And, we can apply that analysis to many other aspects of the Adventist mission and life.

I’ll go even further. What the world desperately needs to know about the kingdom of heaven now is not apocalyptic thinking. What the world needs now (do I hear a song? You might want to listen. Skip the ads.) is demonstrations of the values of the present kingdom of God. It needs those counter-cultural manifestations of what the kingdom of Jesus is really like. In the midst of international hatreds and struggles among people groups, the world needs to know what the kingdom of Gods looks like. That would be different! That would be powerful! That would cause people to take a second look!

This text is quite far out of context, but I like the words: “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees…” Revelation 7:3


Edward Reifsnyder is a healthcare consultant. He and his wife, Janelle, live in Fort Collins, Colorado and seem to be enjoying each other’s company while hiding out from the coronavirus.

Photo by Nagy Arnold on Unsplash


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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you for addressing this topic.

From my earliest memories, at the teachings of my parents, as well as Scripture, I have been aware of the vital diversity and importance of God’s natural world. In fact, it has been the study of a lifetime, and no greater teacher could ever reveal the majesty of the Creator Himself than his creation.

My husband and I own a small plot of woodland which several years ago had certified as a Wildlife Habit. Several criteria had to be met such as suitable living conditions (snag trees, brush, we even have a den), nesting material, and of course food (plantings and supplemental) and water (stream). It is an honor to be able to provide a safe refuge for animals and restore conditions for native plants, including prescribed yearly burnings.

Sadly, I have been called a “liberal tree hugger” at church on more than one occasion. Hey, I’ll own it and take it as a compliment, tho it wasn’t given as such. Everything is political these days, and truthfully, I feel sorry for those who always side with Big Ag, Big Oil, and Big Corp. over nature, because I know that on my land there is life, there is food and medicine growing in case of emergency. These things used to be taught in our church. Perhaps those were just the “hippy days”, a time past, of edible/medicinal plants, survival skills, and carob for chocolate.:wink:


The kingdom was there in Christ’s Day because Jesus the king was there.

If the king is in our heart, His kingdom is here now…in us.

The three angels are the Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him…Is the problem our focus or the fact that we give the three angels lip-service rather than focusing on a comprehension of their importance?

I read recently that many who go forth under the banner of the First and Second Angels’ Message will reject the Third Angel’s Message. That got me wondering why?

The First and Second message are historically true. They are facts that have been confirmed by their fulfillment. But the Third Angel’s Message is a message that requires faith as its fulfilment is upon us…It has not been fulfilled. The Mark of the Beast has not been implemented. Thus, perhaps the gist of that statement is warning us that those who proclaim the First and Second Angels’ Messages are not going forth by faith, but by sight. And a lack of faith keeps those who are going by sight from believing the substance of things yet unseen?

It is easy to believe in a historical Jesus. It is more difficult to have and sustain an indwelling Jesus. And it is even more difficult to believe what Jesus says about things that are yet to come. But as Jesus declared the kingdom of Heaven was here when He was here among us, and as He proclaims that He will dwell in us, He also declares that He will have us dwell with Him in His literal kingdom, which is end result of His coming in the first place and indwelling us thereafter. But of what good are the former two encounters with Jesus if the third encounter does not happen?

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Thanks so much for your thoughts, Ed. I think you’ve clearly articulated a real issue with Adventist apocalyptic mania.

However, I would say that the Adventist problem with realizing the present reality of the kingdom is not just the focus on future apocalyptic events. It’s also rooted in a gospel that has little to do with the idea of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, and everything to do with “the plan of salvation” for individuals after death.

This is the gospel often heard in Adventist and evangelical churches: that Jesus as my personal savior died on the cross to pay the price for my sins, and now I can have a personal relationship with a personal savior who will give me assurance of salvation, some vague idea of personal and spiritual growth, and bring me to heaven when he returns. While some of this is part of the gospel, this is simply not the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus, the apostles, and the early church proclaimed. It is more of a semi gnostic escape from the world, and/or a psychologizing of the gospel.

The gospel of the kingdom of God was the announcement that the king had arrived and was revealing to Israel and to the world what it looks like when God becomes king… what it looks like when God takes charge. Jesus revealed this through his life, what he taught and did, and through his death and resurrection. When God takes charge the outsiders are welcomed and brought inside, the poor, the weak and the sick are cared for and healed, sins are forgiven, abuses of power and authority are confronted, and power under to serve is held up as the highest value and as the clearest picture of God and his purposes for human beings, rather than the power of the sword over humans to enforce the will of the powerful.

This is the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus’s death and resurrection shows that God vindicated Jesus and his faithfulness to his divine calling of bringing the presence of God and his restorative new creation to this world, and has appointed him as the true lord and ruler of the world. God’s rule/new creation has now broken into this present creation, and we are all beckoned by his Spirit to now follow king Jesus in the restorative work and purposes of his kingdom… in this present age. Faith is aligning ourselves with Jesus in his present kingdom project.

And, that partnering with him now is what points forward to the age to come, when he will reveal the fullness of the restoration that he is inspiring his followers to bring into the world now. That means that what we do now, also counts with God for the future. As Paul said in light of the promise of resurrection, “Always abound in the work of the lord, because your labor in the lord is never in vain.”

As one prominent theologian put it, “ Jesus is coming, so plant a tree!” I like that!



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Thank you Edward Reifsnyder for writing about the Christian-Adventist relationship and ecology. I want to complement other factors that possibly contribute to an indifference to global warming and environmental-ecological issues that sadly exists in the Church.
We lack a spiritual relationship with nature or the environment, even though nature is the second book of Creation. The Bible does not give us a specific plan of action on how to deal with environmental problems, much needed for legalists and literalists, “attached” to the Old Testament. If the Bible had explicitly linked caring for the environment to obedience to the law, particularly the 10 commandments, we would not be writing (Sari Fordham., Edward Reifsnyder, and the undersigned) this article.
That may explain the misunderstanding and who knows if the distortion of the biblical concept of stewardship and the dominion of nature, which appears in Genesis 1:26. Many (including Adventists) Christians have taken the verse from the first chapter of Genesis literally and totally out of context, where it says that we must have “dominion over the earth.” They have used it to justify a relationship of harnessing the earth’s resources and using them as they see fit, regardless of the environmental consequences.
We do not understand the concept of stewardship with respect to nature. We apply human criteria in that relationship, we don’t really respect it. Our relationship with the environment is not one of stewardship. We have the conviction that man must have with nature a relationship of administration and human and not spiritual management. We consciously or unconsciously believe that we must take advantage of nature for capitalist-industrial-technological development, at the cost of destroying the environment or depleting our natural resources. And the worst thing is that many people of God’s people have unconsciously the (religious) belief that we have permission to do with the world what we want. (Arthur Rosenfeld).
That is why we are so passive and as a general rule, in our Churches we do not even preach or discuss issues related to global warming, climate change, human actions that affect and destroy the environment.
God envisioned a mutually beneficial harmonious relationship for both parties: human beings, flora, fauna, nature. Of course, sin sabotaged the divine plan. However, God and his son Jesus Christ, due to the fact of sin, did not give us permission to manipulate and destroy the environment that we have achieved, by action or omission, causing global warming, pollution, damaging the life of flora and fauna. , creatures made by God.
Today ecology, a secular science rejected or ignored by Christians (including Adventists) legalists-literalists, recognizes that man and nature are intimately interconnected, to the extent that, if we violate, harm and plunder the planet, it is affected the climate, ecosystems and the life of many species are affected. We are digging our own grave.
God’s people are no stranger to this. Some are absent and indifferent to environmental damage because that struggle does not correspond to Christians and in their Laodicean conformism they do not identify with nature or have empathy for those who fight for it, because they are “impious” “uncircumcised” “socialists”, or leftist extremists led by Pope Pancho to impose the Sunday law "

In practice, the relationship between spirituality and the ecology of the environment is neither seen nor understood. We do not cultivate spirituality towards the environment or nature. We do not open our hearts and minds to the Spirit of Christ developing in us a spiritual virtue towards ecology. Lacking that virtue leads us to self-sufficiency, pride, the vanity of thinking that we are the only thing that really matters and, therefore, ignoring and not respecting nature and its creatures.
Cultivating with God that spiritual virtue towards ecology will make us more responsible for our consumption habits, our food, the conservation of our green spaces, eliminating dependence on fossil coal, using renewable energy and natural sources. It will make us responsible for caring for the earth, preserving the environment, the species and the human race will hopefully live a piece of heaven on earth.

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Why do we not take notice or concern? Its our theology! At one with the world you live in, heresy! Look at the many indigenous peoples who embraced the natural world and sought to live in harmony, what do we call them…heathen or some such derogatory term. I don’t believe people have truly embraced the life and teachings of Christ. Ever heard of a Life of Christ seminar series? But we do have Prophecy Seminars!!


AMEN! I’m in total agreement with you. I think it’s the “love of money” that is the motivation of so many who refuse to fight against climate change. And why our church isn’t 100% behind the ecology movement is beyond my understanding. Was it Jesus who said, “Occupy till I come”?


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