September 11, 2001, was my generation’s Pearl Harbor. I was awakened by my grandfather who exclaimed in his native tongue that New York was in chaos. I turned on the television in my room and I saw a strange sight. I saw one of the Twin Towers with a gaping hole with smoke coming out of it and I was perplexed that the other tower was missing. In my attempt to make sense of what was happening, Tower One collapsed right before my eyes. I was interning at a record label at that time and called my boss, and he said to me not to show up for work. And so for the next week, I was at home, commerce shut down. Later, my boss said something profound, “God is coming soon.”
A gaping sense of a lack of purpose in my life had been growing inside of me and September 11 placed it at the forefront of my mind. I started to attend Bible studies at a local church and learned the pillars of our faith in a deeper fashion. For much of my life, I was ambivalent and borderline hostile towards the Spirit of Prophecy and now I was open to actually reading Ellen White’s writings on my own volition.
A pastor I was studying with; pointed out what was stated in volume 9 of the testimonies, ironically starting on page 11. In volume 9, page 11, Ellen White described tall buildings from New York; that appeared indestructible but “these buildings were consumed as if made of pitch. The fire engines could do nothing to stay the destruction. The firemen were unable to operate the engines.” As I read those words, I felt a new purpose as opposed to fear filling my heart. Jesus is coming soon! And I want to do my part to finish the work.
I was part of the great youth/young adult revival that happened in the aftermath of September 11. A revival that spontaneously happened in the public campuses in Michigan, to a small Sabbath School in Loma Linda University, to youth-led Bible studies in local churches in Southern California, to young preachers, preaching with boldness on the beautiful shores of Oahu. This grassroots movement spawned ministries, vast worldwide youth conferences, and online ministries that are still with us to this day.
The movement was inspired not because of fear, but a sense of purpose, feeling that it was our moment to be the army of youth to finish the work. I began to consume in great quantity every book I could find from the Spirit of Prophecy, and study the Bible with the devotion I once had for hip-hop culture and the Los Angeles Lakers. The youth group that I was part of coalesced into a ministry conducting revivals in local churches in the area. I left my coveted internship at the record label, and with my background in history, and my one year of law school, I started to present end-time events and Bible prophecy in different churches with my friends.
The aftermath of September 11 was swift. Airport security changed overnight; no longer could you meet your loved ones or send them off at the gate. Congress passed the Patriot Act that gave the federal government wide latitude in electronic surveillance of private citizens. President Bush initiated a War on Terrorism that expanded to the invasion of Iraq. Events appeared and followed each other in rapid succession. A Bible worker once confided to me that they could not perceive the world lasting for more than five more years.
In 2005, Benedict XVI was elected the 265th Pope. End-time preachers began to imply that he was the last Pope because his name is a derivative of “Benediction” (a prayer of blessing typically signifying the end of a religious service). In 2008, when President Bush was interviewed on a Catholic Television network and asked what he sees when looking into the Pope’s eyes, President Bush emphatically said, “God!” With Bush’s evangelical base of support, along with the ecumenism promoted by the Papacy, Revelation 13 looked like a distinct reality.
2008 was an ominous year. A pastor who specializes in end-time events began to preach that individuals had “visions” of tornadoes leveling an Adventist University because of their apostasy. Another end-times preacher predicted that an economic collapse was imminent and another preacher piggybacked on this assertion to tell people to sell all that they had for missionary causes because soon our money would be worthless.
The Great Economic Recession did happen in 2008, it looked as though the U.S. free-market system would be destroyed and possible government intervention could nationalize the economy to control buying and selling. I remember those days clearly thinking that martial law was imminent.
In 2013, the first Jesuit Pope was elected, and as social media was now the dominant mode of communication, increasing chatter that this Pope would bring the world together for the Mark of the Beast grew incessant. Every movement of this Pope was a clue that a fulfillment of prophecy was right before our eyes.
On February 25, 2014, Pope Francis addressed the congregation of prominent evangelical Pastor Kenneth Copeland, in regards to the need for reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics. The ominous declaration that the Protestant Reformation “is over” rang loudly in this worship service. The following year, on September 24, 2015, Pope Francis became the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress. This historic address with prophetic implications was a popular topic in our pulpits.
On June 26, 2016, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. End time preachers began to see this case as an attack on one of the “twin-institutions” given by God in creation. It was declared that marriage had now been corrupted by the state and that the Sabbath would be next.
In 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States because of strong evangelical support, in some circles of conservative Adventism; this was seen as a possible fulfillment of “Apostate Protestantism.” Four years later, Joe Biden was elected the second Catholic president in United States history, and panic fills my social media feed of how the Sunday Law is imminent via the so-called great reset and climate change.
In chronicling this timeline of events, it is clear that we have often utilized current events to fit into the urgency of the prophetic fulfillment of Revelation 13 and the final crisis. Many of the events that transpired have prophetic significance as reminders that our prophetic message is true. However, when we rely solely on current events and making outlandish statements that the Sunday Law is imminent, we begin to bring forth self-inflicted great disappointments that will cause precious souls to turn away from our message.
We are currently in a historic global pandemic. Certain Seventh-day Adventists are asserting that the COVID-19 crisis will lead to the final crisis. However, as a teacher of American History, I would like to point out that the United States has been guilty of more grievous violations of our civil liberties, than those some Adventists claim to be currently suffering. During the Civil War, President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and any dissent toward the federal government could lead to imprisonment or deportation to the South. During World War I, the federal government imposed censorship and imprisoned those who spoke against the war. During World War II, the federal government imposed strict rationing of goods and services, censorship of the media, and the forced imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese American citizens, some of which were Seventh-day Adventists. My point is that we lose perspective when we attempt to interpret the significance of current events without the context of history.
I am not denying that some of these events have prophetic significance, but there is an overemphasis of current events in our discourses and our messages, and a lack of the message that will actually usher in Christ’s return. We can talk about mask mandates, economic shutdowns, forced vaccinations, the latest activities of the Pope, boogeymen secret societies pulling the strings at the top, the latest activities of evangelical Christians, and have clever slogans to sell T-shirts like “It’s Over!” that generate views for end-time preachers but one thing is missing in many of our messages, and I have been guilty of this as well.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we have a message to give to the world which is the three angels’ messages (Revelation 14:6-12). In order for the end to come, we must preach this gospel to the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14). And what is this message? The pen of inspiration gives the answer. She writes:
“The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.” [emphasis added]
What is this most precious message? She adds:
“It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent.” [emphasis added]
She also warns the church,
“Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family.”
What is the significance of justification through faith in the last days? She emphasizes:
“This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angels’ message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.” [emphasis added]
Thus, without this message being preached in our prophetic message, there will be no latter rain or loud cry.
The message of justification through faith, which is simply that Jesus seeks to forgive and forget our sins, and give us the power to live sanctified holy lives is the message of emphasis. In regards to our end-time message, she adds: “The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love.” Thus, the missing piece of the puzzle of our prophetic message is simply, the everlasting gospel.
In presenting our prophetic message, Ellen White adds:
“The shortness of time is frequently urged as an incentive for seeking righteousness and making Christ our friend. This should not be the great motive with us; for it savours of selfishness. Is it necessary that the terrors of the day of God should be held before us, that we may be compelled to right action through fear? It ought not to be so. Jesus is attractive. He is full of love, mercy, and compassion. He proposes to be our friend, to walk with us through all the rough pathways of life.”
Scaring people of the urgency of the hour will not lead to conversion, but the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice and mediation on our behalf.
I pray that we who are in the ministry (both lay and professional) really get it together. There is too much emphasis on the headlines and not enough on the message that will bring us home, Christ and His Righteousness. Otherwise, as the world falls apart, we will still be on a prophetic treadmill. Some of you may think I am a sell-out or gone into apostasy, that’s fine. I know what and whom I believe. And it is my desire to emphasize the correct message so we can call people out of Babylon and into the remnant fold.