The Case for Last Generation Theology, Part 8: The Great Controversy and God’s Vindication

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The Case for Last Generation Theology, Part 8: The Great Controversy and God’s Vindication

Like the issue of the atonement and its timing, the question of God’s vindication in the controversy with evil addresses the extent to which the accomplishment of the saving process as depicted in the inspired writings is unilateral or cooperative. The present article will address, from both Scripture and the writings of Ellen White, the central issue of the great controversy and the role played by Christ and by His people in settling this issue and vindicating God’s character.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: How are We Saved?

 

The Great Controversy in Scripture

 

Revelation chapter 12 offers the Bible’s encapsulated summary of the titanic struggle of the ages between good and evil. In a few short verses the Revelator reviews the war in heaven between Christ and Satan (verses 7-10), the Savior’s earthly sojourn from His birth to His ascension (verses 2-5), the trials and triumph of God’s faithful during the Dark Ages (verses 6,14-16), culminating in the dragon’s final assault on the remnant of the woman’s seed, “which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).[1]

 

In the middle of this chapter we find a clue as to the core of this conflict:

 

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accuseth them before our God day and night.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death (Rev. 12:10-11).

 

This passage calls to mind a story in the Old Testament—the encounter between Joshua and the Angel found in Zechariah, chapter 3.

 

And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment (Zech. 3:1-4).

 

We will consider this encounter more fully in the next article of this series. But perhaps the story most familiar to us, describing the response of a persevering believer to the charges of humanity’s great adversary, is the story of the patriarch Job, to which our series has already made reference:

 

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job: and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil (Job 1:1).

 

We know from this narrative how Satan accused Job of obeying God from selfish motives (Job 1:9-11), and how God permitted Satan to test Job with the loss of nearly everything—material possessions, his children, even his physical health—everything except his suffering existence, a nagging wife, and three associates who give new meaning to the adage, “With friends like that, who needs enemies?”

 

But twice in the early scenes of this story, we are assured that Job passed this great test. “In all this Job sinned not, neither charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22). “In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). However, perhaps my favorite declaration by this beleaguered saint—seemingly destitute of both human and divine comfort, his world quite literally in shards and ashes—are his words: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).

 

In each of these three Bible narratives—Revelation 12, Joshua and the Angel, and the story of Job—we find human beings accused by Satan regarding their faithfulness to God. Surveying the saga of the faithful in each of these experiences, we find such notes of triumph as God’s people vanquishing Satan “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:11), the removal of iniquity represented by the discarding of filthy garments (Zech. 3:4), and the declaration that through the unfolding trial of fidelity, the one being tested did not sin (Job 1:22; 2:10).

 

RELATED ARTICLE: The Cosmic Conflict

 

What the Bible is telling us—in both Old and New Testaments—is that throughout the struggle between good and evil, Satan has accused God’s people regarding their relationship to the divine requirements. Ellen White’s further elaboration on the issues of the great controversy is built upon this theme.

 

The Central Issue: Whether or Not God’s Law Can Be Perfectly Obeyed

 

From the outset, let us keep in mind the Biblical truth that unless obedience to the divine law is total, obedience does not exist. The apostle James is clear: “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Thus, when both Scripture and Ellen White speak of commandment-keeping, this cannot be mistaken for humanity’s frail best. Perfect obedience, made possible through imparted divine strength (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13), is God’s eternal standard.

 

Ellen White is clear that throughout the controversy between Christ and Satan, the central issue has been whether or not God’s law can, in fact, be obeyed:

 

In the opening of the great controversy Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed.[2]

 

On this earth, Satan sought to carry forward the work he began in heaven. He declared that man could not obey the law of God.[3]

 

After the fall of Adam, Satan insisted his argument had been won:

 

Satan had pointed to Adam’s sin as proof that God’s law was unjust, and could not be obeyed.[4]

 

After the fall of man, Satan declared that human beings were proved to be incapable of keeping the law of God, and he sought to carry the universe with him in this belief.[5]

 

For many years, those opposed to Last Generation Theology—in particular, those holding to the pre-Fall view of Christ’s human nature—have insisted that Jesus’ obedience was intended merely to prove that the first Adam need not have fallen, not that human beings born with fallen, sinful natures can live sinless lives. Such statements as the following from opponents of perfection theology have been typical in this regard:

 

The issue before the universe is not whether fallen men can keep the commandments of God faultlessly, but whether ‘man, as God created him, connected with the Father and the Son, could obey every divine requirement’.[6]

 

Listen, Satan knows that sinful men and women can’t live 100% perfectly obedient lives. He knows it as well as God does. The argument is not about fallen man. The argument, and Satan’s accusation, is against God’s law regarding holy creatures.[7]

 

The charge raised by the enemy in the great controversy was not whether someone already infected by sin could perfectly keep God’s law. Satan’s charge was that God’s law was not fair and just in the context of perfectly sinless beings. Christ’s perfect life and voluntary sacrificial death for us proved this claim to be utterly false.[8]

 

Jesus lived a victorious life, and it was sufficient to prove that Adam could obey God.[9]

 

One of the above authors also declares that “sinless behavior is possible only to a sinless nature.”[10] Such individuals often point to the following Ellen White statement in support of this claim:

 

Christ came to the earth, taking humanity and standing as man’s representative, to show in the controversy with Satan that man, as God created him, connected with the Father and the Son, could obey every divine requirement.[11]

 

Many have long insisted that the key phrase in this statement is, “as God created him,” thus implying that Satan’s charge regarding obedience to law concerned unfallen beings only. But when viewed in the light of the Ellen White consensus regarding the great controversy, Satan’s accusations, and the response of Christ and His followers—themes we will address in-depth as this article proceeds—the conclusion becomes more persuasive that the key phrase in this statement is, “connected with the Father and the Son.” This connection is to be restored in believers’ lives through conversion and sanctification. Ellen White thus observes:

 

When connected with God, and sincerely seeking His approval, man becomes elevated, ennobled, and sanctified.[12]

 

The Saviour took upon Himself the infirmities of humanity and lived a sinless life, that men might have no fear that because of the weakness of human nature they could not overcome. Christ came to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ and His life declares that humanity, combined with divinity, does not commit sin.

The Saviour overcame to show man how he may overcome.[13]

 

The law of God given from Sinai is a copy of the mind and will of the Infinite God. It is sacredly revered by the holy angels. Obedience to its requirements will perfect Christian character, and restore man, through Christ, to his condition before the fall.[14]

 

Moreover, while Ellen White is clear that Jesus did prove that Adam need not have sinned, He also came to prove that you and I need not either:

 

Satan represents God’s law as a law of selfishness. He declares that it is impossible for us to obey its precepts. . . . His (Christ’s) life testifies that it is possible for us to obey the law of God.[15]

 

Christ came to the world to counteract Satan’s falsehood that God had made a law which man could not keep. Taking humanity upon Himself, He came to this earth, and by a life of obedience showed that God has not made a law that man cannot keep. He showed that it is possible for man perfectly to obey the law. Those who accept Christ as their Saviour, becoming partakers of His divine nature, are enabled to follow His example, living in obedience to every precept of the law. . . .

Christ possessed the same nature that man possesses. He was tempted in all points like as man is tempted. The same power by which He obeyed is at man’s command.[16]

 

Satan declared that it was impossible for man to obey God’s commandments, and in our own strength it is true that we cannot obey them. But Christ came in the form of humanity, and by His perfect obedience He proved that humanity and divinity combined can obey every one of God’s precepts.[17]

 

Satan declared that it was impossible for the sons and daughters of Adam to keep the law of God, and thus charged upon God a lack of wisdom and love. If they could not keep the law, then there was fault with the Lawgiver. Men who are under the control of Satan, repeat these accusations against God, in asserting that men cannot keep the law of God.[18]

 

Christ’s humanity was united with divinity, and in this strength He would bear all the temptations that Satan could bring against Him, and yet keep His soul untainted by sin. And this power to overcome, He would give to every son and daughter of Adam, who would accept by faith the righteous attributes of His character.[19]

 

The Lord now demands that every son and daughter of Adam, through faith in Jesus Christ, serve Him in human nature which we now have. The Lord Jesus has bridged the gulf that sin has made. He has connected earth with heaven, and finite man with the infinite God. Jesus, the world’s Redeemer, could only keep the commandments of God in the same way that humanity can keep them.[20]

 

Christ came to this world to show that by receiving power from on high, man can live an unsullied life.[21]

 

Jesus revealed no qualities, and exercised no powers, that men may not have through faith in Him. His perfect humanity is that which all His followers may possess, if they will be in subjection to God as He was.[22]

 

By His own obedience to the law, Christ testified to its immutable character and proved that through His grace it could be perfectly obeyed by every son and daughter of Adam.[23]

 

Such statements as “Satan declared that it was impossible for the sons and daughters of Adam to keep the law of God,”[24] and that “through His grace it (the law) could be perfectly obeyed by every son and daughter of Adam,”[25] offer the clearest inspired evidence that the ability of fallen humans to keep the divine law lies at the heart of the great controversy. Note also how one of the above statements—addressed earlier in our discussion of the human nature of Christ—declares how “every son and daughter of Adam” must serve God “in human nature which we now have.”[26] Obviously the “human nature which we now have” is not the unfallen nature Adam had in Eden. Other of the above statements speak of “us” and “we” when speaking of humanity’s ability to be obedient through Christ’s power. Once again, Ellen White is clearly speaking of fallen beings.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: The Focal Point of the Great Controversy

 

Moreover, while it is true Jesus demonstrated that the sinless Adam need not have fallen, this could hardly have been the principal aspect of the moral example He came to offer. After all, untold myriads of unfallen beings have succeeded in living sinless lives. Ellen White points out how the very test failed by our first parents, involving the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given to all the other worlds God created. Recounting her visit to one of these worlds in vision, she writes:

 

Then I saw two trees; one looked much like the tree of life in the city. The fruit of both looked beautiful, but of one they could not eat. They had power to eat of both, but were forbidden to eat of one. Then my attending angel said to me, ‘None in this place have tasted of the forbidden tree; but if they should eat, they would fall’.[27]

 

In other words, why would the universe need yet another demonstration that unfallen beings had no excuse to fall? It was fallen beings who needed proof that in their condition, perfect victory was possible. It was thus in fallen human nature, with all its tendencies and desires, in which an example of sinless obedience was needed and provided.

 

Ellen White notes how, in the period after the Fall and before the Flood, Satan was still alleging his claim as to the impossibility of obedience to God’s law:

 

The holy life of Abel testified against Satan’s claim that it was impossible for man to keep God’s law.[28]

 

Satan was urging upon men the belief that there was no reward for the righteous or punishment for the wicked, and that it was impossible for men to obey the divine statutes.[29]

 

And now (through Enoch) God would demonstrate to the universe the falsity of Satan’s charge that man cannot keep God’s law. He would demonstrate that though man had sinned, he could so relate himself to God that he would have the mind and spirit of God and would be a representative symbol of Christ. This holy man (Enoch) was selected of God to denounce the wickedness of the world, and to evidence to the world that it is possible for man to keep all the law of God.[30]

 

In the time of Jesus this was still the issue, as Ellen White explains this was the principal motivation for Satan entangling the Pharisees with man-made addendums to God’s commandments:

 

Thus Satan worked to discourage the people, to lower their conception of the character of God, and to bring the faith of Israel into contempt. He hoped to establish the claim put forth when he rebelled in heaven—that the requirements of God were unjust, and could not be obeyed.[31]

The Defeat of Satan—A Work in Progress

Both sides in the Last Generation controversy agree that Christ defeated Satan at the cross. Ellen White is clear on this point:

 

By His life and His death, Christ proved that God’s justice did not destroy His mercy, but that sin could be forgiven, and that the law is righteous, and can be perfectly obeyed. Satan’s charges were refuted.[32]

 

Satan declared that human beings could not keep the law. Christ proved this statement false.[33]

 

So why, may we ask, has the controversy continued? Why has the world been compelled to endure two thousand additional years of unspeakable horror and tragedy? What remains to be demonstrated before the universe?

 

Ellen White tells us:

 

Yet Satan was not then destroyed. The angels did not even then understand all that was involved in the great controversy. The principles at stake were to be more fully revealed. And for the sake of man, Satan’s existence must be continued. Man as well as angels must see the contrast between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness. He must choose whom he will serve.[34]

 

The warfare against God’s law, which was begun in heaven, will be continued until the end of time. Every man will be tested. Obedience or disobedience is the question to be decided by the whole world. All will be called to choose between the law of God and the laws of men. Here the dividing line will be drawn. There will be but two classes. Every character will be fully developed, and all will show whether they have chosen the side of loyalty or that of rebellion.

Then the end will come. God will vindicate His law and deliver His people.[35]

 

We will address the subject of God’s vindication in greater depth later in this article.

 

Recent opponents of Last Generation Theology insist that Jesus totally settled the question of whether perfect obedience to the law is possible, making it unnecessary for a final demonstration of such obedience from the Last Generation saints.[36] But the following Ellen White statements are clear that Satan’s charge against God regarding obedience to His law continues to the present day, and that refuting this charge remains a work in progress:

 

All who break God’s commandments are sustaining Satan’s claim that the law is unjust, and cannot be obeyed.[37]

 

Those who live the life of a Christian are battling against the devil’s lie that man cannot keep God’s law.[38]

 

Exact obedience is required, and those who say that it is not possible to live a perfect life, throw upon God the imputation of injustice and untruth.[39]

 

Therefore he (Satan) is constantly seeking to deceive the followers of Christ with his fatal sophistry that it is impossible for them to overcome.[40]

 

The third of the above statements is especially significant in light of the following statement from a recent book attacking Last Generation Theology, which seeks to refute the claim of this theology that “any denial that humans can become absolutely sinless and perfect prior to glorification amounts to a denial of the power of God.”[41] But if, as Ellen White says, “those who say that it is impossible to live a perfect life, throw upon God the imputation of injustice and untruth,”[42] then it is more than a denial of God’s power to say such obedience is impossible for earthly beings. Put simply, the inspired pen is telling us that to deny such obedience to be possible is to accuse God of injustice and falsehood.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: An Unsettled State of Unbelief

 

What should be clear from the above statements is that Satan’s claim that God’s law can’t be kept is still operative in the great controversy and that God’s people are being counted on by their Lord to refute this charge through Spirit-empowered, perfect holiness.

 

Another statement is clear that the work of refuting Satan’s lies about God’s requirements is not the work of Christ alone, but of both Christ and all His followers:

 

Unselfishness, the principle of God’s kingdom, is the principle that Satan hates; its very existence he denies. From the beginning of the great controversy he has endeavored to prove God’s principles of action to be selfish, and he deals in the same way with all who serve God. To disprove Satan’s claim is the work of Christ and of all who bear His name.[43]

 

No Competition With Calvary

 

As with the “complete but not completed” view of the atonement discussed earlier in this series,[44] recent critics of Last Generation Theology insist that faithful Christians “confirm but not cause” the vindication of God’s character.[45] But this is not a theory the inspired writings support. Jesus’ exemplary life and sacrificial death certainly make the future victory of His saints possible, but Ellen White speaks of how the Christian “must be victor on his own account.”[46]

 

As was noted in our discussion of the atonement, the cross was indeed the point at which “the prince of this world” was cast out from his position as representative of Earth (John 12:31; see Job 1:6; 2:1).[47] But while the death of Christ made Satan’s final defeat and destruction inevitable (Heb. 2:14), Satan was not fully defeated then, as he is still doing his evil work.

 

Reference was recently made by one critic of Last Generation Theology to Satan the accuser being cast down (Rev. 12:10),[48] an event Ellen White says did take place at the cross.[49] Yet the Old Testament story of Joshua and the Angel demonstrates that Satan’s accusations against God, in the person of His saints, will continue up till the end (Zech. 3:1-4).[50] The fact that the saints are described in Revelation as overcoming Satan “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:11), makes it clear that Jesus didn’t do all the overcoming necessary. His victory on the cross was certainly the decisive one in the great controversy, but it wasn’t the last one, as the war between good and evil still persists.

 

Last Generation Theology has been accused in two recent books of teaching that “Satan was not defeated at the cross” and that “divine revelation and action are insufficient to win the great controversy.”[51] But another recent book, also designed to oppose Last Generation Theology,[52] in fact speaks correctly of Calvary as the “decisive victory”[53] and the “decisive battle” of the great controversy,[54] yet makes it clear that the war continues (Rev. 12:11-17).[55] Again the comparison with the Second World War comes to mind. The decisive battles that turned the tide against the Axis powers took place in 1942, but the war continued till 1945 with a series of uninterrupted—but very difficult—victories by the Allies.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Living in the Shadow of the Cross

 

Again, we stress that there is no competition possible between the various aspects of Jesus’ righteousness, nor between the events of Calvary and the needful closing events of history which Calvary made possible. Critics of Last Generation Theology imply this false notion of competition when they insist that “God Himself provides the full and sufficient means and grounds to vindicate His character. No additional work is necessary.”[56] One of these authors further insists that our salvation is “not won by our works or our contribution.”[57]

 

But it can’t be stated often enough that sanctification is not “our contribution” to salvation any more than justification is. The Bible is clear, as we have seen, that “God hath from the beginning chosen [us] to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thess. 2:13). Ellen White declares that “our sanctification is the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”[58]

 

What the Last Generation will accomplish during the final crisis is entirely dependent on the power provided by the death of Jesus on the cross. There is no competition possible between these two events. All the sanctifying power exercised by the saints in their struggle with sin comes from Jesus and the benefits of Calvary (Heb. 10:29; 13:12,20-21). As Ellen White says in another statement, “God gives the talents, the powers of the mind; we form the character.”[59] And our active part in this endeavor isn’t “our contribution” either, as the Bible declares regarding the Source of everything experienced by humanity: “For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee” (I Chron. 29:14).

 

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A prominent critic of Last Generation Theology has claimed that “according to LGT teaching, the last generation is charged with the work that Jesus has already accomplished on the cross: (1) He decisively and once for all defeated Satan.”[60] Decisively, yes. Once for all, no. We’re still here, and the war continues (Rev. 12:17).

 

Does God Need the Last Generation?

 

One leading critic of Last Generation Theology writes that the bruising of the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15) “was accomplished at the cross, where Jesus defeated Satan, the usurping ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).[61] The same book insists elsewhere: “It is Jesus (and not the last generation saints) who irrevocably, permanently, irreversibly, and irretrievably defeats Satan, vindicates God, and secures eternity for the entire universe.”[62]

 

But these assertions fail to consider the parallel between the first Messianic promise in the Bible and a verse in the New Testament about the future work of the church. In the original promise of salvation recorded in Scripture, God declared to Satan: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). But according to the apostle Paul, Christ isn’t the only One who is expected to bruise Satan. Writing to the church, Paul declares: “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20).  If Jesus had done all the bruising necessary, this promise by the apostle would be quite unnecessary.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Are Inauthentic Christians Responsible for the Rise of Atheism?

 

Ellen White echoes the words of the apostle Paul on the bruising of Satan by God’s people in the following statements:

 

The church will yet see troublous times. She will prophesy in sackcloth. But although she must meet heresies and persecutions, although she must battle with the infidel and the apostate, yet by the help of God she is bruising the head of Satan.[63]

 

God help us to take heed to ourselves or we shall certainly lose heaven. Little departures from right, little indulgences, seem a trifling thing at present; but Satan will lead us on a track that will separate us from righteousness and from God. We want not our ways but God’s ways. We want to strive with all the powers of being to bruise Satan under our feet and be sure that we are right with God, that we have a clear title to our immortal inheritance.[64]

 

One critic of Last Generation Theology states, “According to LGT, God needs the final generation of the faithful to ultimately defeat Satan and refute his lies. I am deeply disturbed by such assertions, because they go contrary to the teachings of the Bible and Ellen G. White.”[65] Along similar lines, E.J. Waggoner is criticized in the same book for his statement that God’s vindication is left to His children and that He has “risked His character with men.”[66]  A contemporary proponent of Last Generation Theology is criticized for teaching that the end-time saints “realize that everything depends on them. They realize that they could disgrace God’s throne.”[67]

 

RELATED ARTICLE: The Hour of God’s Judgement Is Come

 

Another critic faults Last Generation Theology because “it makes God’s victory in the great controversy dependent upon the fidelity of mere creatures.”[68]

 

But further investigation demonstrates that those raising the above objections to Last Generation Theology need to look more closely at the inspired evidence on this subject. Consider the following statements regarding the role God’s people are called to play in the great controversy:

 

We were brought into existence because we were needed. How sad the thought that if we stand on the wrong side, in the ranks of the enemy, we are lost to the design of our Creator.[69]

 

The following passage is even more amazing:

 

All heaven is represented to me as watching the unfolding of events. A crisis is to be revealed in the great and prolonged controversy in the government of God on earth. Something great and decisive is to take place, and that right early. If any delay, the character of God and His throne will be compromised.[70]

 

One is led to wonder if—as critics of Last Generation Theology claim—“it is Jesus (and not the last generation saints) who . . . secures eternity for the entire universe,”[71] why Ellen White so directly ties the perfecting of God’s people to securing the universe against another rebellion, as the following statements bear witness:

 

God, in His wisdom and mercy, tests men and women here, to see if they will obey His voice and respect His law, or rebel as Satan did. If they choose the side of Satan, putting his way above God’s, it would not be safe to admit them into heaven; for they would cause another revolt against the government of God in the heavenly courts. He who fulfills the law in every respect, demonstrates that perfect obedience is possible.[72]

 

God will accept nothing less than unreserved surrender. Halfhearted, sinful, professing Christians would spoil heaven, were they permitted to enter. They would stir up a second rebellion there.[73]

 

Without perfection of character no one can enter the pearly gates of the city of God, for if, with all our imperfections, we were permitted to enter that city, there would soon be in heaven a second rebellion. We must first be tried and chosen, and found faithful and true. Upon the purification of our character rests our only hope of eternal life.[74]

 

Without Christ, it is impossible for [man] to render perfect obedience to the law of God; and heaven can never be gained by an imperfect obedience, for this would place all heaven in jeopardy and make possible a second rebellion.[75]

 

Those who accept Christ as their Saviour, becoming partakers of His divine nature, are enabled to follow His example, living in obedience to every precept of the law. Through the merits of Christ, man is to show by his obedience that he could be trusted in heaven, that he would not rebel.[76]

 

The Bible on the Vindication of God

 

God’s need for vindication is affirmed by David following his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51:4), and repeated by the apostle Paul in the book of Romans:

 

God forbid; yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged (Rom. 3:4).

 

The first angel’s message declares: “Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come” (Rev. 14:7). Not only are the people of God being judged, but in their judgment, God Himself is on trial.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: The Unbearable Failure of the Last Generation Theology –The Law

 

God’s glory, according to the Bible, is His character (Ex. 33:18-19; 34:6-7; Rom. 3:23), and the Bible is clear that His glory is to be revealed before all the world (Num. 14:21; Isa. 40:5). Equally clear in both Testaments is that this glory will be revealed through God’s people (Isa. 60:1-3; Eph. 3:21; Phil. 1:11; Col. 1:26-27; Rev. 10:7; 14:7). The Bible even says this was the reason humanity was created in the first place:

 

I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;

Even every one that is called by My name; for I have created him for My glory (Isa. 43:6-7).

 

No wonder Ellen White wrote, as we have seen, that “we were brought into existence because we were needed.”[77]

 

One leading critic of Last Generation Theology tries to draw a distinction between whether Christ is the One who justifies God, or whether the final generation of saints does.[78] But the Bible clarifies that it is God acting through His people that accomplishes His vindication. The following Old Testament passage is quite clear on this point:

 

I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel caused to be profaned . . . Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I vindicate My holiness before their eyes (Eze. 36:21-23, RSV).

 

And how will this vindication of God through His people be accomplished? You shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to observe My ordinances (verses 25-27, RSV).

 

It is safe to say this vindication never happened in the experience of God’s ancient people, else the plan of salvation would have turned out much differently. This prophecy, therefore, remains to be fulfilled, in the experience of final victory by the Last Generation depicted in both the Bible and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, as our study will demonstrate.

 

Interestingly, Jesus Himself declared that His followers would do greater things than He:

 

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall He do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto My Father (John 14:12).

 

It would be hard to imagine anyone performing greater miracles than those done by Jesus, and certainly not exceeding the magnitude of sacrifice or suffering which He experienced. But the totality of inspired evidence is clear, as we will see, that God’s people—by His grace—will produce a demonstration of righteousness which will bring to an actual close the controversy whose victorious climax Jesus made certain.  In this sense, we can see how Jesus’ followers will do greater works than He.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Recent Attacks on the Character of God

 

The whole world, after all, did not witness the works of Christ while He was on earth. But the whole world will indeed witness the glory of God as revealed through His final generation. The Bible affirms this with such predictions as the following:

 

As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord (Num. 14:21).

 

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it (Isa. 40:5).

 

Both Scripture and Ellen White tell how this glory is to be revealed, and through whom:

 

Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee (Isa. 60:1-2).

 

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:18-19).

 

Ellen White on the Vindication of God

 

Ellen White declares, in one of her signature passages on the issue of God’s vindication:

 

But the plan of redemption had a yet broader and deeper purpose than the salvation of man. It was not for this alone that Christ came to this earth; it was not merely that the inhabitants of this little world might regard the law of God as it should be regarded; but it was to vindicate the character of God before the universe. To this result of His great sacrifice—its influence upon the intelligences of other worlds, as well as upon man—the Saviour looked forward when just before His crucifixion He said: “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” John 12:31,32. The act of Christ in dying for the salvation of man would not only make heaven accessible to men, but before all the universe it would justify God and His Son in their dealing with the rebellion of Satan. It would establish the perpetuity of the law of God and would reveal the nature and the results of sin.[79]

 

Notice how the above statement affirms that Jesus vindicated God’s character by His life and death. No one in the present discussion disputes this. But the Ellen White statements shown below, like the Bible verses considered above, are clear that Jesus didn’t by Himself do all the vindicating necessary. A recent book opposing Last Generation Theology maintains that “Jesus cleared God’s name (John 12:27,28)” at the cross.[80] Again, we all agree here. Yet Ellen White says, as we will see shortly, that God’s people are to clear His name as well.

 

Like the Bible, Ellen White is clear that the glory of God—His character—is to be displayed before the world in these last days:

 

From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places,” the final and full display of the love of God. Ephesians 3:10.[81]

 

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. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.

The light of the Sun of Righteousness is to shine forth in good works—in words of truth and deeds of holiness.[82]

 

While it has ever been God’s will for His glory (character) to be demonstrated before the world in every age (Eph. 3:21), the above statements are clear that this will be especially accomplished in the final moments of sacred history.

 

We spoke earlier about the experience of Job. Listen to what Ellen White says about how Job vindicated God’s character:

 

According to his faith, so it was unto Job. “When He hath tried me,” he said, “I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10. So it came to pass. By his patient endurance he vindicated his own character, and thus the character of Him whose representative he was.[83]

 

Now God waits for vindication through His end-time church:

 

Pray, pray earnestly and without ceasing, but do not forget to praise. It becomes every child of God to vindicate His character. You can magnify the Lord; you can show the power of sustaining grace. There are multitudes who do not appreciate the great love of God nor the divine compassion of Jesus.[84]

 

If there was ever a people in need of constantly increasing light from heaven, it is the people of God that, in this time of peril, God has called to be the depositories of His holy law, and to vindicate His character before the world.[85]

 

Let all remember that . . . angels are recording in the book of remembrance every word that vindicates the character and mission of Christ. Of those who testify of the love of God, the Lord says, “They shall be Mine . . . in that day when I make up My jewels.” Malachi 3:17.[86]

 

His heart of sympathy goes out to all earth’s sufferers, and with every one who works for their relief, He co-operates. As with His blessing health returns, the character of God will be vindicated, and the lie thrown back upon Satan, its originator.[87]

 

The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people.[88]

 

The cold heart is to be quickened and glow with divine love. It is to beat in unison with the heart of the Redeemer. The honor of Christ must stand complete in the perfection of the character of His chosen people. He desires that they shall represent His character to the world.[89]

 

New territory is to be added to God’s kingdom. New tracts of moral vineyard are to be cultivated as the garden of the Lord. The honor of the law of God is to be vindicated before the unfallen worlds, before the heavenly universe, and before the fallen world. The bitterest persecution will come, but when Zion arises, and puts on her beautiful garments, she will shine forth in the beauty of holiness.[90]

 

In light of the above, one is truly baffled by a statement like the following, from a leading opponent of Last Generation Theology:

 

It is important to note that nowhere in the Bible or in Ellen G. White’s writings is it stated that the last generation of the faithful will defeat Satan and that by living perfect lives they will finally vindicate God and cause the finishing of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary and the closing of the great controversy. This silence is eloquent enough for believers to abandon such thinking and not to speculate on this matter.[91]

 

Our series has already demonstrated the strong support in both the Bible (Lev. 16:10; 23:28-30) and Ellen White’s writings[92] for the connection between the cleansing of the sanctuary (whether on earth or in heaven) and the perfecting of Christian character which will cleanse the soul temple. The evidence set forth in the present article should likewise be clear that God’s vindication through the perfection of the character of His end-time church is plainly taught in both Scripture and the writings of Ellen White.

 

Conclusion: The Cross and the Last Generation

 

Once again, it should be clear that what the Last Generation of Christians will accomplish and what the cross accomplished are in no way in tension or rivalry with one another. The sanctification of believers in every age is as much the result of Calvary as is their justification (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 10:29; 13:12,20-21), and this is as true of the Last Generation as for all previous ones. Without the cross, there can be no perfecting of Christian character, at the end of time or otherwise.

 

Moreover, this article has shown that it is God who bruises Satan under the feet of His followers (Rom. 16:20), and it is God who vindicates Himself through their spiritual cleansing (Eze. 36:21-23,25-27). True, the saints will proactively cooperate with this grace-empowered process, but whatever they do is only possible because of God’s creative and re-creative power. The words of King David in his final prayer for Israel, cited earlier in this article, underscore this everlasting gospel truth:

 

For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee (I Chron. 29:14).

 

The next installment of this series will address a number of questions relative to the subject of character perfection and the Last Generation.

Click here to read the rest of this series on Last Generation theology.

______

Notes.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Bible texts are from the King James Version.

[2] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 761.

[3] Signs of the Times, July 23, 1902.

[4] The Desire of Ages, p. 117.

[5] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 252.

[6] Desmond Ford, “The Relationship Between the Incarnation and Righteousness by Faith,” Documents from the Palmdale Conference on Righteousness by Faith (Goodlettsville, TN: Jack D. Walker, Publisher, 1976), p. 33 (emphasis original).

[7] Steve Marshall, What’s the Difference? (Arroyo Grande, CA: Concerned Communications, 1979), p. 12 (emphasis original).

[8] Jiri Moskala and John C. Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 2018), p. 276.

[9] Ibid, p. 213.

[10] Ford, Documents from the Palmdale Conference on Righteousness by Faith, p. 28.

[11] White, Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 253.

[12] Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 339.

[13] The Ministry of Healing, pp. 180-181.

[14] Our High Calling, p. 138.

[15] The Desire of Ages, p. 24.

[16] That I May Know Him, p. 292.

[17] Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 314.

[18] Signs of the Times, Jan. 16, 1896.

[19] Review and Herald, Jan. 18, 1909.

[20] SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 929.

[21] The Ministry of Healing, p. 25.

[22] The Desire of Ages, p. 664.

[23] Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 49.

[24] Signs of the Times, Jan. 16, 1896.

[25] Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 49.

[26] SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 929.

[27] Early Writings, p. 40.

[28] Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 77.

[29] Ibid, p. 88.

[30] The Upward Look, p. 228.

[31] The Desire of Ages, p. 29.

[32] Ibid, p. 762.

[33] Signs of the Times, Sept. 24, 1901.

[34] The Desire of Ages, p. 761.

[35] Ibid, p. 763.

[36] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, pp. pp. 24,178,179,182-183,196-197,285.

[37] White, The Desire of Ages, p. 309.

[38] Signs of the Times, July 10, 1901.

[39] Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, p. 369.

[40] The Great Controversy, p. 489.

[41] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 276.

[42] White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, p. 369.

[43] Education, p. 154.

[44] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, pp. 192, 193,203,205,207,210-211,277; see also Martin F. Hanna, Darius W. Jankewicz, and John W. Reeve (eds.), Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2018), pp. 221-222.

[45] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 198.

[46] White, Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 33.

[47] The Desire of Ages, p. 761.

[48] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 195.

[49] White, The Desire of Ages, p. 781; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 973-974.

[50] Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 467-476.

[51] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 17; see also pp. 187,191,196; George R. Knight, End-Time Events and the Last Generation: The Explosive 1950s (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 2018), p. 31.

[52] Knight, End-Time Events, pp. 15-16.

[53] Hanna, Jankewicz, and Reeve (eds.), Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology, p. 28.

[54] Ibid, p. 30.

[55] Ibid, pp. 29-30.

[56] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 281; see also p. 183.

[57] Ibid, p. 281.

[58] White, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 908.

[59] Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 331.

[60] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 197.

[61] Ibid, pp. 182,186,196.

[62] Ibid, p. 207.

[63] White, Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 594.

[64] This Day With God, p. 27.

[65] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 195 (italics original).

[66] Ibid, p. 25.

[67] Ibid, p. 192.

[68] Ibid, p. 280; see also Knight, End-Time Events, p. 32.

[69] White, Signs of the Times, April 22, 1903.

[70] Manuscript 27, 1892.

[71] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 207.

[72] White, Review and Herald, July 21, 1891.

[73] The Upward Look, p. 197.

[74] Sermons and Talks, vol. 2, p. 294.

[75] Signs of the Times, Dec. 30, 1889.

[76] That I May Know Him, p. 292.

[77] Signs of the Times, April 22, 1903.

[78] Knight, End-Time Events, pp. 32-33.

[79] White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 68-69.

[80] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 186.

[81] White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 9.

[82] Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 415-416.

[83] Education, p. 156.

[84] Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 317.

[85] Ibid, p. 746.

[86] Our High Calling, p. 168.

[87] Christian Educator, Oct. 1, 1898.

[88] The Desire of Ages, p. 671.

[89] Signs of the Times, Nov. 25, 1897.

[90] Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 338.

[91] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 216.

[92] White, The Great Controversy, p. 425; Maranatha, p. 249; Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, p. 55; Review and Herald, Jan. 21, 1890.

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About the author

Kevin Paulson

Pastor Kevin Paulson holds a Bachelor’s degree in theology from Pacific Union College, a Master of Arts in systematic theology from Loma Linda University, and a Master of Divinity from the SDA Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He served the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists for ten years as a Bible instructor, evangelist, and local pastor. He writes regularly for Liberty magazine and serves as a script writer for the It Is Written television ministry and other media ministries within the church. He also serves as the leading webmaster of ADvindicate.com, where many articles by him and others can be found which address a variety of denominational issues. He continues to hold evangelistic and revival meetings throughout the North American Division and beyond, and is a sought-after seminar speaker relative to current issues in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He presently resides in Berrien Springs, Michigan.