Why I No Longer Believe in Last Generation Theology

Growing up in the Adventist church, I was exposed to a brand of Adventism promoting what has been identified as Last Generation Theology (LGT). We were taught that those in the church who disagreed with LGT were in apostasy. It was much later, while studying in the seminary, that I discovered LGT didn’t enter Adventism until the 1930s. It was introduced by Adventism's premier theologian during that period, M.L. Andreasen. The concept is not new, however. I have also learned that the Pharisees had their version of LGT. They firmly believed that if Israel kept one Sabbath perfectly, the Messiah would come immediately. That is why they wanted to get rid of Jesus when he broke their Sabbath rules.

LGT proponents like to cling to one particular quote by Ellen White. She writes, “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69). When I view this quote now, without an LGT bias, it becomes clearer that Ellen White is not necessarily talking about sinlessness, but setting aside our differences and being loving, just like the disciples in the upper room before the Holy Spirit was poured out. Jesus says the end will come when the gospel reaches everyone (Matthew 24:14). He also says that everyone will know we are his disciples when we love each other (John 13:35).

The focus of LGT is character perfection. From an LGT point of view, Jesus hasn’t returned because he is waiting for a generation that is sinless in order for God to prove that his law can be kept perfectly. LGT teaches that God is depending on us to vindicate his character. If we could demonstrate to the watching universe that God’s law can be obeyed, nobody would have an excuse. We would prove Satan wrong! God would be reasonable in his expectations. I now see this as blasphemy. Jesus fully vindicated God’s character on the cross. God is love. We cannot take Jesus' place and fulfil that role.

Instead of partying with my peers, I spent most of my teenage years trying to be perfect. I tried to have only pure thoughts, and to conquer my temper and other character flaws. After all, God was relying on me to overcome sin! I didn’t want to delay his coming any longer. I also knew that the time was coming when “probation" would close and we would be without a mediator. I had to be sinless by then. Much later, I was relieved when someone pointed out to me that we will always have a Savior. At that point, there may be no more switching of sides (requiring a mediator, see Revelation 22:11), but our sins are covered by Christ’s blood until the end when we are on God’s side.

Although this theology did spare me from the consequences of a typical teenage rebellion, LGT can be just as (if not more) harmful emotionally and spiritually. Even though we were told that we could overcome sin through Christ’s power, the focus was not on Jesus. I focused on my behavior. How was I performing? Isn’t that what the whole universe was supposedly focused on? Every time I messed up, I knew I would be lost unless I repented and started again from scratch. That was not a joyful Christian experience. It was miserable! I desperately wanted to be perfect so that I could be a part of the Last Generation.

I now see Christianity as a relationship. Because God is love, he created us for a relationship with him. That is our purpose. It is why we exist. Since we are born on a rebellious planet, God's primary objective is to win our hearts. He wants us to trust him. However, when we give God our hearts, we still have the weaknesses of the flesh. Even though our hearts are in the right place, we still mess up. When we fail because of the flesh, we do not lose our salvation. We haven’t turned our back on God. We love God. We want to do what is right, and when we get a new body at the resurrection (without any weaknesses), we will not be rebelling in heaven. It’s because God has won our hearts. We trust him. We love him.

It’s like a marriage (a biblical metaphor for our relationship with God). I am not a perfect husband. I make mistakes that hurt my wife (not physically). However, because I love my wife, I am sorry when I mess up. I don’t want to hurt her. When I mess up, I am still married to her. I haven’t turned my back and walked away. We are still in a relationship.

The only way to lose your salvation is to deliberately turn your back on God and walk away from him. He will never leave you. Even if you reject him completely, he will try to win your heart again.

I am convinced that we will never be perfect. We don’t have to be. When we are in a relationship with God, our sins are covered by Christ’s blood until the end. If God has won our hearts, we will get a flawless new body when Jesus comes. That is when our new hearts will finally be compatible with our bodies because our bodies will also be new.

Am I trying to make excuses for sin? Not at all. In fact, the harder I tried to overcome sin, the more I failed and became discouraged. Now I find that when I focus on my relationship with Jesus, the sins that seemed so appealing before, start to lose their power in his presence. It’s miraculous.

Sam Millen pastors the Luray Seventh-day Adventist Church in Virginia, in the Potomac Conference. He grew up in Australia, moving to the US to study for the ministry at Andrews University. He and his wife Angie have a six-year-old and two-year-old twins.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5941

This is worth reading it again!

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This is a great article as it provides the one key element that LGT proponents simply cannot defeat, the fact that there is no evidence of any perfect person. Any attempt to be perfect will either lead to paranoia and despair or lead to one changing their definition of what perfect means.

Thank God that this theology of LGT is as weak as it is. Few believe in it, but those few still have influence and that should be countered.

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I have been attending two SDA churches in our San Diego, CA area where both churches and the pastor are strongly urging the sinless perfectionism belief for the “final generation”. They are following closely in the footsteps of Robert Wieland and Donald Short’s thesis expressed in “1888 Re-examined”. The basis for this thesis is that since 1844 when Christ supposedly entered the “most holy place” of the heavenly sanctuary, He is offering a different experience for the final generation that was not available prior to 1844, the experience of the blotting out of sins. This “blotting out” differs from the mere forgiveness of sin offered in “holy place” prior to 1844. Now since 1844 Christ is performing a “special atonement” which when He begins to decide the cases of the living saints offers a blotting out of the entire sin nature of the believer and he or she will become as sinless as Christ was on the earth. This group they call the 144,000 which they feel is a literal number. Some believe that perfection must be attained prior to receiving the “latter rain” and some believe that the “latter rain” will bring perfection to the characters of the believers. There are other corollaries to this soteriology such as the sinful nature of Christ, strict vegetarianism, strict health reform, dress reform, and “living without a mediator in the heavenly sanctuary”. When I was a young self-supporting missionary in Guatemala and Central America, perfectionism was the prevailing emphasis. Two of my fellow missionaries, an older couple named Leonard and Clara Heibert were both practicing celibacy. The strange part is that they were able to raise up churches in areas where it had been impossible in the past. But in their proselytising to their credit they did not mention much about perfectionism. Today there are vibrant SDA churches in Guatemala thanks to the selfless efforts of these two saints of God. They were totally self supporting and they never took a dime from the Union headquarters there. Leonard would work as a private contractor for the Forestry Service in the US during the summer months and earn enough to support their missionary efforts in Guatemala the rest of the year. They are both resting in the grave now awaiting His glorious return. It was my privilege to have known them. They treated me like a son and were like the Christian parents that I never had.

While this may have been the soteriological and eschatological views of the early SDA believers prior to 1888, this extreme perfectionist view gradually began to fade when the controversy over Justification by Faith and the meaning of imputed righteousness began to be discussed at the Minneapolis GC meeting in 1888 by Jones and Waggoner and in the writings of Ellen White. Ellen White matured in her later years after 1888, but the majority of the leading theologians did not. Even Jones and Waggoner eventually drifted into the perfectionist camp as described in Jones’ booklet, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, and Waggoners’ book, Glad Tidings.

It was not until the 1970s that the issue of imputed righteousness and original sin and Adventism"s place in the Protestant reformation heritage was openly discussed by Desmond Ford and Robert Brinsmead. Today there are generally two soteriologies vying for dominance within Adventism, the Abelardian view espoused by the late Graham Maxwell and the Lutheran view espoused the “evangelical” Adventists who espouse the Protestant evangelical view represented by Des Ford and Robert Brinsmead. The aging Des Ford is to this day is not allowed to take any preaching invitations in any of the Australian SDA churches and Robert Brinsmead, also an Australian, is no longer an Adventist. From my personal observations here in Southern California, the churches are mostly presenting either the Last Generation Theology of Wieland on the one hand or else the Maxwell view of salvation on the other hand. The evangelical Protestant view is very seldom represented either from the pulpit or from the membership.From my viewing of the Adventist laymen’s self supporting TV station “3ABN” I see that they are tending towards the traditional 1844 perfectionism of the final generation teaching. But then they may want to describe their eschatology themselves. But this is my impression. I have not watched the Hope Channel long enough to evaluate this outreach effort of the denomination.

It’s really sad that the LGT heresy is infecting the SDA in San Diego. Apparently the tactics of disguising the old wolf in new clothes is successfully deceiving some people.

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Parable of the wedding feast…Come new, come dirty, come as you are…But come to Jesus now.Without reservation. Grace is sufficient.

It’s as simple as that.

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Concerning the blog, it’s right on. Thankfully, I don’t remember being subjected to this sort of theology or ignored it. I have taken many theology courses (graduate) at LLU. I learned many good ideas from Maxwell, but don’t follow the moral theory of Christ he is accused of teaching. I adhere to the biblical substitution theology that most of Adventism teaches.
I am horrified that you put Wieland and Short in the legalist category. I have been drawn to their theology because of their more open salvation, that is Christ died for all people from “the foundation of the world.” And “it’s harder to be lost than to be saved.” Their belief is in an objective legal justification from birth–Christ died for their sinful state, therefore we need not worry about lost children.
Their’s is a gentle, loving, and caring theology of love. I know, I spent three days at an 1888 conference and hours of notes. I heard nothing of the things you are saying. I think this is a false witness by you or your church teachers there.
It’s easy to listen to the negative or someone’s ideas of the theology who is at heart a perfectionist, but it may not be true. It just sounds way off to what I know about these men. I knew Robert Weiland personally and he was one of the most loving Christians I ever met. I part ways with the group because of their emphasis on the sinful nature of Christ. They have some good reasons for this, but my study does not support it,

True Rohan…the pure Gospel is never enough for the groups with extra Biblical knowledge and “light”. There is always “stuff” added…usually lots of it. Soon the Gospel is barely there, and it becomes 99% about “them” and the “special knowledge” that is not available to Christians.

The Gospel is available to all…no special decoder rings needed.

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Yep, no secrets unsealed required.

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Should be countered? So if I believe that perfection of a sinless life can be had with the help of my Savior, my belief should be countered? With what, your belief? Of, the belief of the majority? I should have no influence on anyone except providing the Gospel to the needy. I have many strong and firm beliefs. I believe E.G. White was assigned by God through the Holy Spirit to shine a smaller light onto a bigger light. I believe God did raise up a group of people that has become the Seventh Day Adventists and we are special in the sense of our determined faith not that we deserve any more that any other Christian but rather more service is expected from us who God raised for a purpose, His purpose. I believe in the fundamentals and that rules need to be followed. I believe there is nothing written between the lines of the Bible that needs interpretation, those spaces were left for us to write in our commitments. There is more but what else is there you feel I need to address besides trying my best for perfection? I am open to biblically correct comments and suggestions but counteracted, to over the top for me. God Bless, Brother Tim

Rohan my brother, you watch Pastor Bohr? I do but He is not the only Pastor that says with God’s help we can do it. But good to see you and God Bless, Brother Tim

Good to see you again too, Tim! Yes sometimes I watch Pastor Bohr’s sermons. Many thoughts and opinions! I enjoyed Doug’s Landmarks of Prophecy series most recently. So powerful and I absolutely love how he emphasized the centrality of the Cross to every aspect of our salvation and faith.

It makes absolute sense that we try to be a Christlike as we can! I try to do my job as well as I can, why would I try for less in my Christian life? We have vastly different opinions of what exactly this entails, but in principle we agree.

ikswezdyr,
A thoroughly researched and documented biography of E J Waggoner will show the pantheism in Glad Tidings and many of Waggoner’s other articles. The 1972 edition of Glad Tidings was edited by Robert Weiland to exclude most of the obvious pantheism sentiments. It you read R. Weiland’s book “In Search of the Cross”, you will see that he takes a very similar mystical view of the cross as Waggoner does in his post-1888 theology. Also in common with Waggoner, R. Weiland teaches that our Lord had a sinful human nature and that the final generation can be and will be as sinless as the Lord was.This perfectionism view is called “Last Generation Theology”.

Also Wieland’s teaching confused the pleading and calling of the Holy Spirit (prevenient grace) to all men, with the infilling and baptism of the Holy Spirit of the believer. Only the believer is “in Christ” personally and unto personal justification. The unbelieving world is offered eternal life “in Christ” if they believe in the atoning sacrifice the Lord made for “all” and for the “many” Rom 5:15. The whole world was not personally saved at the death of our Lord on the cross. Rather, because the Lord substitutionally died for the sins of the whole world, the individual person is only accepted by God when he as a repentant sinner personally puts his trust in the death of Christ for his sins and calls upon His name in faith. I think that Jack Sequerra has a similar view as Wieland that since Christ supposedly mystically took our “sinful flesh” then all humanity was mystically all crucified at the cross because all humanity was contained the flesh of Christ. The Pauline legal categories are ignored in this mystical view of how sin was supposedly contained in Christ’s flesh and thus sin was expiated for the whole world. The Pauline view is that the sins of the world were legally imputed to Christ on the cross. The Sequirra / Wieland view is that sin was actually in Christ’s flesh and thus when He died all the world and all the sin of the world died with Christ. The Pauline phrase, “In Christ” means legally substitutionally placed upon Christ. It does not mean physically “inside of Christ’s body”.

Notice Romans 5:18-19

“Therefore as through one man’s offense judgement came to all men resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”

Paul is saying that “justification unto life has come to all men” but notice that Paul places their personal justification in the future tense when he states in verse 19, “many will be made righteous.” In the Gospel we proclaim the good news that “all” have been saved and justified at the cross “in Christ”, but also proclaim that to be personally justified, all sinners must personally be “in Christ” to receive the benefits of the vicarious death and imputed righteousness of our Lord by personally believing the Gospel, repenting of our sins, and being baptized for the remission of our sins. Thus when the evangelist proclaims the Gospel, he proclaims that “all” have been saved “in Christ” by Christ’s death on the Cross, and then urge “all” to believe the good news. Those who do not believe are not saved because they call God a liar; they do not believe and hence blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.

Robert J. Wieland had a special affection for The Glad Tidings, which was Waggoner’s commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. This was first published in the Signs of the Times in 1898-1899 as a series entitled “Studies in Galatians.” It was repeated in the Review and finally published as a book in 1900. In 1972 it was reprinted by the Pacific Press Publishing Association after Wieland had editorially removed some of the pantheistic statements.

The myth that The Glad Tidings of 1900 represents the 1888 message has been promoted by the advertising on the back cover of the 1972 reprint. Here Waggoner’s 1888 lectures on Galatians are virtually identified with his 1900 commentary revised by Wieland. This myth seems to suggest, “Do you want to know all about the 1888 message? Then read The Glad Tidings!”

Froom fostered a similar myth when he proposed that some of the works published after 1888 presented the light that began to break at the 1888 conference. Froom, of course, did not originate this myth. A. G. Daniells apparently felt that Waggoner’s 1891 studies on Romans, or even his pantheistic book, The Everlasting Covenant, were the same as the light of 1888.

Elders R. J. Wieland and D. K. Short have said:

" . . . the message of 1888 was neither a restatement of the doctrines of Luther and Wesley, nor a mere re-emphasis of the teaching of the Adventist pioneers; but that it was rather a more mature conception of the ‘everlasting gospel’ than had ever been perceived by any previous generation of human beings, a preaching of ‘righteousness by faith’ more mature and developed, and more practical than had been preached even by the Apostle Paul." —A Warning and Its Reception, p. 50.

That is an astounding statement. Few of us would be as bold as Wieland and Short in saying that the 1888 message was in advance of Paul, but often the idea has prevailed that the Advent message must contain something more than was preached by the great apostle. We should remember that the people at Galatia, Colosse and Corinth thought the same way. Of course, if the last-day message is to be beyond what Paul offered, we would not really expect that that message could be proved by the greatest New Testament writer. And if not by the greatest New Testament writer, then certainly not by the lesser ones.

Elders Wieland and Short, were earnest men who have been involved in the 1888 agitation for the past twenty years, though in a different sphere. We are all indebted to 1888 Re-examined, the same as we are indebted to Dr. Frooms’s Movement of Destiny. But Wieland and Short have been searching for a righteousness by faith far in advance of Luther, or even more developed than the apostle Paul. Small wonder that their theory is entirely contrary to Paul and Luther. Say Wieland and Short:

“Abraham was not accounted righteous when he was not righteous. His faith was accounted to him for righteousness. . . . Abraham’s faith, being genuine, was righteousness. . . .”—A Warning and Its Reception, p. 222.

" . . . justification by faith is a ‘declaring’ what is now a fact—the contrite soul is delivered from the power of known sin." —Ibid., p. 227.

This is contrary to Paul’s doctrine of God justifying the ungodly and the uncircumcized (Rom. 4:5, 10, 11). God does not declare the believer righteous because the repentant sinner himself is righteous. No! No! God declares him righteous because He finds that the believer’s Substitute is righteous. And as anybody who has read Luther knows, he was forever refuting the idea that the righteousness which is of faith is some quality within a man. There is a world of difference between saying that “righteousness is of faith” and “righteousness is faith.” Faith is not righteousness (See:TC, vol. 5, p. 438). There is no merit in faith, but there is merit in the righteousness of Christ.

Wieland and Short’s statement reads just like it comes right out of the Council of Trent, or remarkably parallel to the thought of Cardinal John Henry Newman in his celebrated Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification (see Present Truth Magazine, volume 47).

Robert Wieland believed that the final generation of Adventists would reach a condition of sinlessness prior to the second Advent because Adventists supposedly had a more mature understanding of the gospel than the apostles did.

The times when you see in the Bible Paul actually stepping in to counter an idea was when people were adding false requirements to salvation. That truly upset him as it attacked the very heart of what Christianity was. This is why LGT is so dangerous. It creates a situation of impossibility that either requires that the person make up their own definition of what “sin” is or drive themselves insane from the sheer stress.

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As I read your material, you have put a great deal of study into it, but it is still complicated. to the average person. Because we are all subjective, I would suggest that you and I have found in this message pretty much what we wanted to. I have found it best to not follow one individual or group entirely but to take from them fresh ideas that are biblical and answer some questions I might have. Their salvation teaching is biblical. Knowing Jack Sequeira and his wife and family as close friends, I find their lives to be among the best Christians witnesses I have known. Jack knows the Bible so well, he seems to have it memorized. His reasoning is logical. I am sure he does not believe in perfectionism and is disliked by those who do. Weiland’s emphasis was on love in the last days and nothing else. This is what I got from Wieland as well.

None of this teaching adds anything to salvation. We are saved by Christ alone. I don’t think you understand what you are talking about.

So telling someone each generation has to be more perfect than the last in order to be saved doesn’t add anything to salvation? Telling people that Jesus won’t come back until we are perfect doesn’t add anything to salvation?

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Are you becoming a member of the APA?
(Adventist Perfection Advocates…)

Certaimly not although I do know how to cite APA and MLA format.

“Perfection is Fruit” is how I understand this issue, and it leads me to disagree with most people’s ideas. If ‘perfection’ is the ‘goal’, then the pilgrim is headed for disaster in many ways . . .discouragement, faith issues, etc. But if ‘perfection’ is the ‘fruit’ of Spiritual Exercise leading the person to partake of the divine nature then it comes in due course without any subsequent correlation to salvation. Being saved has occurred long before the perfection is reached. EGW speaks of perfection but it’s never the goal, although all of us would like to be perfect, and we know that the saints in heaven will have it.

Here are some quotes speaking to this subject:

“The mind will strengthen by dwelling upon elevating subjects.” T2, page 408;

“There are many who think that it is impossible to escape from the power of sin, but the promise is that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. We aim too low. The mark is much higher.” R&H, 7/12/1892;

“By study, contemplation, and prayer, God’s people will be elevated above common, earthly thoughts and feelings, and will be brought into harmony with Christ and His great work of cleansing the sanctuary above from the sins of the people.” T5, page 575;

“The more we dwell upon our own imperfections, the less strength we shall have to overcome them.” R&H 1/14/1890;

“Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for His blessing, will not obtain it. How few have ever had their souls drawn out after God with intensity of desire until every power is on the stretch.” GC page 621;

“As we partake of the divine nature, hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong are cut away from the character, and we are made a living power for good.” R&H, 4/24/1900;

“The contemplation of him who loved us and gave himself for us, will make the life fragrant, and give power to perfect a Christian experience.” R&H, 4/4/1912;

“Man 'came from the hand of his Creator with symmetrical character, endowed with such capacities for improvement that, combining divine influence with human effort, he might elevate himself almost to an angel’s sphere. Yet, when thus elevated, he will be unconscious of his goodness and greatness.” T4, page 340

“God’s purpose for us is that we shall be partakers of the divine nature. Only thus can we overcome the evils that beset us. It is by beholding Christ that we are made partakers of his nature. Keeping him ever in view, we are changed into his likeness. thus we gain strength to overcome as he overcame.” R&H, 9/3/1903

“We must be much in communion with God. Prayer in secret, prayer while the hands are engaged in labor, prayer while walking by the way, prayer in the night season, the heart’s desires ever ascending to God,–this is our only safety. In this manner Enoch walked with God. In this manner our Exemplar obtained strength to tread the thorny path from nazareth to Calvary.” R&H, 11/8/1887;

“His humanity made prayer a necessity and privilege. He required all the stronger divine support and comfort which His Father was ready to impart to Him. . .” T2, page 202.

“FRUIT” is how I view perfection after studying this issue. And it ripens through time and effort invested with the Father in prayer, study and meditation (God’s way). This past year I have fallen in love with the Father through prayer and meditation. Jesus, of course, has a special place in my heart that words fail to describe.

These quotations and others I have found, encourage me, and prompt me to spend more time with God in Spiritual Exercise. It has become my “ONLY” work; all else is fruit. (see MySpiritualExercise.com for more on this subject.)

“Those who have trained the mind to delight in spiritual exercises are the ones who can be translated and not be overwhelmed with the purity and transcendent glory of heaven.” T2, page 267.

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