Waiting for the End – Faithfulness in Uncertainty

A gentleman walked in on a Revelation Seminar I was conducting, in the small country of Cyprus where I minister. At the end we had the opportunity to interact. “Does Revelation say what will happen to Cyprus?” He asked.

I knew where he was coming from. Cyprus is located in the eastern Mediterranean, a volatile neighborhood. Syria is almost a stone’s throw away. The existence of potentially high quantities of natural gas and oil in the area has raised the level of antagonism. The man wanted some assurance for the future.

I explained that Revelation is not so much about individual countries as it is about the development of the battle between good and evil, as it unfolds in human events. We parted on a good note. He didn’t come back.

Desire to Know the Future

The human mind is fascinated with the future. We want to know what lies ahead. Part of it might have to do with curiosity. More importantly it has to do with fear and power. Not knowing what lies ahead creates a sense of uncertainty, which in not always welcome. Fear. By contrast, knowledge is power. If we know what lies ahead, we can prepare for it.

If one peruses popular psychic prophecies or horoscopes (the internet is full of them), or God forbid, one was to consult a fortune teller, the info about the future is much more apt, tangible, personal, and intended to satisfy human curiosity. This is the reason that even though such foretellings have proved consistently to be off the mark, people return to them again and again, and put their trust in what this or that psychic has predicted.

The Biblical Outlook

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Biblical apocalyptic prophecy such as we find in Daniel and Revelation was not written to satisfy human curiosity. While it does highlight major events in human history, its main goal is to assure believers of the final triumph of God and His people. It focuses more on the big picture and less on the individual person.

This outlook becomes clearly evident in the story of Daniel and his three friends, under study in this week’s lesson. Captives from Jerusalem in Babylon, a distant and enemy land, they have favor with God and find it with Nebuchadnezzar too.

Daniel 2 is the first major prophecy where in dramatic circumstances God reveals to Daniel Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, thus saving the four young men and many others from death. The dream, is one of the most important apocalyptic prophecies in the Bible and outlines the flow of history from the time of Daniel right until the Second Coming of Jesus.

Yet, this prophetic assurance of the ultimate triumph of God and His people does not prevent an immediate predicament. Soon thereafter, Nebuchadnezzar decides that he is not too happy with God’s description of how the future will unfold. Instead of the anticipated four kingdoms, he decides that he wants his own kingdom to last forever and commands a golden image to be set to highlight the point, gold being the metal in his dream that depicted his kingdom. Not only that, but everyone is ordered to worship this golden image.

This turn of events puts Daniel’s three friends on the spot (Daniel is somehow not present in these developments), since their faith in God does not permit them to worship the image. They are brought before Nebuchadnezzar and their life is put on the line. While, ultimately, they are rescued by direct Divine intervention, their ordeal highlights this tension between assurance for the final outcome of the great controversy on the one hand, but uncertainty about the immediate future on the other.

The book of Daniel seems to oscillate between this assurance for the ultimate future, but uncertainty about life here and now. The prophecy of Daniel 2, is followed by the parallel prophecies of Daniel 7 and 8, the assurance of the coming Messiah in Daniel 9, and the more obscure but similarly assuring prophecies of Daniel 10-12. All end in the triumph of God.

Interspersed in between are the incident of the golden image (Dan 3), Nebuchadnezzar’s temporary madness (Dan 4), Belshazzar’s downfall (Dan 5), Daniel’s condemnation to the lions’ den and subsequent rescue, again through Divine intervention (Dan 6), and Daniel’s heartfelt worry about the fate of temporal Jerusalem (Dan 9). All these involve a sense of temporary helplessness.

Uncertain Times Ahead

This tension between present uncertainty and ultimate triumph exemplified in the book of Daniel well reflects the situation we face as Adventist Christians today.

On the one hand, we believe we know the main developments that lie ahead. And we have the assurance that Jesus will soon come to bring to an end the current miserable state of human affairs. This fills us with hope and assurance. We know how the “game” will end.

Conversely, in a more immediate context, certain aspects of the future seem uncertain. We face unprecedented challenges. How can we keep our youth enthused, excited about the Adventist faith? One might even add, how can we keep ourselves excited? I am a fourth generation Adventist, my children fifth. Nobody a hundred years ago expected that we would still be on this earth in 2018! Are we in danger of losing the urgency of our message?

Today the Adventist Church is more diverse than ever. How can we remain united despite our differences?

And beyond our Church there is the situation in the world. I remember the time when Communism appeared as a menacing threat. I remember the collapse of Communism and the euphoria that swept western societies. Many truly believed that a safer and more stable world was dawning. Today, nearly 30 years on, we know that this has not happened, and neither is it likely to. Politically, the world is becoming increasing destabilized. Religious fundamentalism is also growing. Like the gentleman who visited my Revelation Seminar, fear is growing. What lies ahead?

The simple answer is, we do not know what lies ahead in the immediate future. Today, perhaps as much as at any time in the past, we are called to live by faith. For the big picture, for the final outcome of things, we have assurance. Victory is assured. But for the everyday realities, for what is ahead of us tomorrow, or the day after, we have to live trusting in God and working for the best. We have to live by faith.

Faithfulness the Key

And in faithfulness. In turbulent times in the history of the people of God, the only anchor is faithfulness to God. Such can carry us through any circumstance. It was such faithfulness that led Daniel to prayer: “Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven” (Dan 2:17-18).

It was faithfulness that kept the three young men resolute: “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’” (Dan 3:16-18).

And it was a budding faith that returned Nebuchadnezzar from madness to kingship: “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Dan 4:34).

Faithfulness then is the element that can see us through in these turbulent times.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8697

Faith is a difficult word. Trust is much clearer. With trust, death has no fear.
The three worthies had no fear of fire,nor Daniel of lions orPaul of the axe. I had a three minute preview. It is a very quiet sleep. Read the Psalms for every chapter of Revelation that troubles you.

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Unity is easy when approached with acceptance of differences and agreement on a few major points. If unity is required on many points that require full support, unity is more difficult if not impossible. Here is where movements break apart when they become too demanding on cultural and detailed fine points of doctrine. Paul simplified the new tenets of faith saying “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” When we complicate faith with many fine points of theology as absolutely essential for fellowship, dangerous waters lay ahead.

The feet does appear to follow the Image pattern of B-MP-G-R. More time of human existence is located in the feet then the rest of the image. Although Babylon was represented as gold for wealth and display, the 21 century offers more luxury than could be dreamed of in 600 BC. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate our standard interpretation. Maybe, the iron and clay represent common elements indicating a world wide human civilization not ruled by a single person, but rooted on the earth. Making it as large as the earth.

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Tom:
TRUST–
“I trust” is a very powerful statement.
A couple of years ago in a Sunday School class we were talking generally about the
Nicene Creed wording.
Most of the statements begin "I believe…"
We discussed the idea of changing those to "I TRUST…"
Faith=Believe=Trust.
As you alluded to “Trust” is a concept that adds a new dimension to the concepts.

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No downward control in that concept!!

I believe one of the main problems with our Church is that we believe we have all our ducks in a row. I believe the history of the Biblical narrative AND the history of the SDA Church shows that truth is progressive. How many of the twelve understood the significance of what was happening from Jesus’ experience in the garden of Gethsemane through Jesus’ death on the cross? They were certainly close to the end of His life here on earth, but did they understand the significance of what was transpiring near and to the end of His earthly ministry?

What about our SDA pioneers? Jesus was coming in the 1800’s, right? They knew that to be truth. When that didn’t happen they prayed and studied and discovered more truth!
I am suggesting that we should NOT be waiting for the end, believing we have sufficient knowledge of and experience with our Savior. There should not be faithfulness in uncertainty, but rather certainty in the faithfulness of the promises of our Savior and a heartfelt desire to know more and more of Him and trust that there will always be MORE to know of HIM, and to rely on the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead us step by step through the end times. It could just be…we DON’T have all our ducks in a row!

There are Churches that believe Jesus is a God created BY GOD. There are churches that believe in a co-eternal, coequal God consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. My SDA Church? We have people that believe one or the other of those propositions, or some other variation.

No, I don’t believe we are ready for the second coming of Christ. We don’t need to wait, but to earnestly pray for and receive the comforter Jesus promised to lead us to a clearer understanding of Him…and the end times!

if we follow the progression of “truth” as you have defined it, an actual untruth, then more of that would be discovering more untruth wouldn’t it? I’m confused.

Try to look at what I am presenting this way…

  1. Did the Hebrews have truth in the scriptures given to them? Yes. Did they believe they understood what God was telling them? Yes. Did they correctly understand the prophecies given pointing to the first coming of our Savior? No.
  2. Did the reformers starting with Luther and all the others including John Knox, one of my forbears, have all their ducks in a row? I believe you would agree with me here, they did not.
  3. I believe you will agree with me in point 1 and 2. But here in point 3 you are likely to become very uncomfortable. For more than a year, I used to get online and defend Ellen White, who I believe WAS inspired by God. One day when defending her online to an atheist regarding her 1856 vision using the standard EG White defense of a conditional nature to Bible prophecy, I hit that send button and immediately wished I hadn’t. I saw something that didn’t work.
    If you look at Matthew 24 verse 36 you will see JESUS plainly states that ONLY the FATHER KNOWS the day and the hour of the second coming. That means that there is NO POSSIBILITY of a condition that changes the date of the second coming. That means EG White’s 1856 vision doesn’t work. But…I believe it does. That requires a change in our eschatology. So I’ll stop here. If you don’t consider me to be a total heretic, I will explain to you what I think the solution is. If not, you have to reconcile Jesus’ words with EG White. I’m going to pick Jesus, and still believe EG White was inspired of God…but did NOT have all the truth…just like the ancient Hebrews…and the reformers.

Man’s “truth” is many times just trying to be “more right” than the other guy instead of just following what the Word says, plainly. Some Hebrews missed those words about the the first coming and some Adventists missed those about the second coming. Jesus came the first time according to the prophets. It was truth. Some Hebrews missed it. The second coming in the 1800’s wasn’t untrue because Adventists weren’t ready, it didnt happen because God wasn’t ready. Millerites made stuff up. Later Adventists doubled down on that untruth and built a doctrine on it.
Some Hebrews missed a truth. Adventists created an untruth based on a previous untruth and called it an exclusive “pillar” of their club.

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Paul62
Your’e an interesting guy. You seem to have an agenda concerning Adventists being untruthful. You say " Later Adventists doubled down on that untruth and built a doctrine on it."
That’s a rather broad statement that I believe you have no way of verifying, so I’m going to consider that an ‘untruth’. There is no ‘creed’ in the SDA Church concerning many of their doctrines. From the inception of the SDA Church until this day there is still quite a spectrum, if you will, of beliefs on who God is, for example. This is quite the opposite from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Roman Catholic Church, both having very concrete positions on this issue.
So, I’m already weary of reading your negative critique of SDA’s and would like you to share some of your ‘truth’ with me. Time for you to play my game.
Show me from scripture who God is. Who is the Father…who is the Holy Spirit…who is Jesus…from scripture, please.

I’m just trying to figure out how one comes to the conclusion that Jesus coming in the 1800s was a “truth” that didnt happen and then more prayer and study became “more truth”, that being 2300 years instead of mornings and evenings, the sanctuary doctrine and the investigative judgement which the Adventist church has never proven from the bible since its inception with some guy having a “vision” while walking through a corn field.

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Paul 62
Well now, I know why you have avoided answering my comments. You are on a mission and even have a fan club…3 likes already. Congratulations!
I would be interested in what you have to say. The sanctuary doctrine and the investigative judgement are not my forte. As you say, ‘mans’ truth is many times trying to be “more right” than the other guy.
I hope it is the LORD that has shown you what you see…and not just your agenda to prove these doctrines as false. I believe you would have your hands full if you challenged one of the SDA scholars on this subject. But as I say, not my specialty. Nevertheless, please proceed.
I have recently witnessed a debate between a man trying to prove on the one hand that the Sabbath was given to the Jews exclusively vs. the SDA position that the Sabbath was given to mankind. I find that it is very difficult to PROVE anything in the Bible…because as you say people just want to believe they are right. They will twist and turn scripture to fit what they WANT to believe and then in a most unchristian way denounce the opposing position. I have found that quite often the weak point in any undeniably correct position is often the basic assumption behind that position. I will not exempt you from doing the same thing.
Again trying to PROVE a belief is difficult. It takes the Holy Spirit to show us truth.

My personal focus in scripture is on who God is and eschatology. Recently the LORD has shown me a remarkable four verses in the Revelation in which four heavenly and one earthly witness declare Jesus to be God. I see this as not just irrefutable proof, but an amazing discovery that no one has seen in the last two thousand years. I don’t understand how people JUST DON’T SEE WHAT THE LORD HAS SHOWN ME! This even reads the same in the Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation! That’s right…in the very translation designed to deny Jesus is God, there are still four heavenly and one earthly witness declaring JESUS TO BE JEHOVAH GOD, in just four verses in the Revelation!
I posted this on YOUTUBE on a couple of Simon Brown’s websites, (he has hundreds of postings denying Jesus is God), and YOUTUBE rewarded me, in less than a day, with a permanent suspension of my account. Not only did they delete my comments there…everything I have ever posted is gone…forever. Makes one wonder…
Have I drifted off the topic here? I don’t believe so. Again, I am telling you, it is unlikely that you can PROVE anything.
I will read carefully what you have to say. Give it to me slowly and completely, and I will take it to the LORD and do some of my own research.
God bless you,
Randall Smith

I will just stay with what I believe is truth.
Jesus. Is. My. Lord. And. Savior.
I accept and believe in His death and resurrection for my sake. Let’s just agree, in faith, that which is important as brothers in Christ. Amen?

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Paul 62,
As your brother in Christ, I would think you would be interested in the amazing testimony of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, a plague angel and the Apostle and prophet John ALL testifying that Jesus IS God in just four verses of the Revelation! IS JESUS GOD has been an ongoing controversy of who JESUS IS for the last two thousand years. I’m offering IRREFUTABLE PROOF that Jesus IS GOD.

I see a hint of what you like to call believing what you want to believe …no matter what scripture says…AND I can’t understand any reluctance to be wary of knowing more and more about our Savior. I believe that will be an ongoing process for all eternity!

Nevertheless, I think there was a misunderstanding here. I wasn’t asking you to tell me about Jesus, but rather to present your arguments for debunking the investigative judgement and the sanctuary doctrine. AND I would be especially interested in what YOU believe concerning these issues and end time events.
I’m not trying to be a smart ass here, I really would like to see…what you see. I’ve found this to be valuable in the past. I may not agree with you in totality, but I sure am not so arrogant as to say I have all the truth… and you don’t.

The sanctuary and the investigative judgment are the pillars of the SDA church. Why is it that they are not your forte? Are you SDA?
And to claim that you have discovered something in Revelation that no-one in the last 2,000 years has discovered is patently whacky. Have you read everything that everyone has ever written about Revelation? There is every likelihood that thousands have discovered what you claim to have discovered.

milton007

Pitching in for Paul62? I didn’t say I was unaware of the sanctuary doctrine or the investigative judgement. I was indicating that I am no expert on those subjects. There are SDA’s that study those doctrines in depth, and I am not one of those people. So, this should be easy for you…And I don’t like to play cat and mouse. If you would like to step in for the now silenced Paul 62 and demonstrate to me the fallacy of said SDA doctrines, from scripture, …please do. I’m not interested in people making bald faced statements about ANY doctrine and/or Church WITH NO SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT! So if you have something to offer go ahead. AND, I would very much appreciate after your supposed debunking your view of viable alternatives. Hey, I’m willing to listen and learn, I hope you are also. But the tone of your comment isn’t to promising. As far as my claim that the LORD, not me, has shown me something that hasn’t been seen in the last two thousand years…well I believe that. Why? Because this proof of Jesus being God is so conclusive AND so unique, (there is nothing quite like this anywhere in scripture) that if anyone HAD seen this in the last two thousand years…THERE WOULD BE NO DEBATE OVER IS JESUS GOD!! So calling me wacky without seeing the scripture is just more nonsense. I’m weary of listening to and reading nonsense. Write something…ANYTHING of some value that you can share confidently…from scripture.
Time is short, brother. So if you have something OF SUBSTANCE to say about the SDA doctrines of the sanctuary service or the investigative judgement please do. Or if you have any interest in seeing how the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, the Apostle John and a plague angel all testify that Jesus is God in just a few verses of the Revelation, I’d be happy to share that with you.
The Revelation in Greek means ‘disclosure of truth’, and in verse 1 chapter 1 it is plain that GOD has given this “to show His servants what must shortly come to pass”.

  1. I don’t see any value in calling someone "wacky"or any other form of name calling. That is really quite juvenile at best and offensive to people that like to see something of value posted…at worst.
  2. Posting comments THAT CAN’T BE BACKED UP WITH SCRIPTURE is at best, unproductive. I don’t see that as uplifting Christ…OR CHRISTIAN!

Yes I do something to offer.
The IJ theory stands or falls on the pivot of the year-day theory, a theory that hundreds have used over the past millennium to set a date for the coming of Christ. Of course, none of their date-setting came true. Their year-day theory, in practical terms, has been a dismal failure. In other words, the IJ theory is also a dismal failure. Hebrews 9 is clear. Jesus entered the holy places to sit down with His Father before the Book of Hebrews was written, long before 1844.
Secondly, you missed the point of my comment about your claim to have a special insight from the Book of Revelation. You claim exclusive knowledge, something that no one else has discovered. In order for that claim to be true you would need to show that you have read everything on the Book of Revelation that everyone has ever written. I doubt that you have done that. The point is someone else may have discovered the same insight, someone you are unaware of because you haven’t read everything about it. I think your claim is illogical, unfounded and extravagant.

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