Last Generation Theology, Part 4: Biblical Perspectives: Will Believers Live Without God?

Share It :

google+
More
Last Generation Theology, Part 4: Biblical Perspectives: Will Believers Live Without God?

Note from Author: All Ellen White references in the article are referenced from the book: God’s Character and the Last Generation, and not directly quoted from the original sources.

In the previous article, we have established on biblical grounds that the identity of the 144,000 is a symbolic number signifying the multitude of believers. Let’s now clarify a major LGT claim and common misconception: that during the last days the special group of believers expected to reach sinless perfection (the presumed 144,000) will have to live without the help of the Holy Spirit and without the intercession of Christ. Do the Bible and Ellen White support this idea? Let’s look at these issues one by one.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Christ’s Sanctuary Activity

 

Will Believers Live Without the Holy Spirit During the End of Time?

 

The idea that there will be a period of time from the closing of probation until the second coming when the Holy Spirit will be withdrawn from the earth and everyone, including believers, is a cause of deep concern for some Adventists. This belief is based on a narrative woven from Ellen White quotes:

 

All fornicators will be outside the City of God. Already God’s angels are at work in judgment, and the Spirit of God is gradually leaving the world. The triumph of the church is very near, the reward to be bestowed is almost within our reach, and yet iniquity is found among those who claim to have the full blaze of heaven’s light.[1]

 

The days in which we live are solemn and important. The Spirit of God is gradually but surely being withdrawn from the earth. Plagues and judgments are already falling upon the despisers of the grace of God…. The agencies of evil are combining their forces, and consolidating. . . . Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones.[2]

 

The restraining Spirit of God is even now being withdrawn from the world. Hurricanes, storms, tempests, fire and flood, disasters by sea and land, follow each other in quick succession.[3]

 

The time is at hand when there will be sorrow in the world that no human balm can heal. The Spirit of God is being withdrawn.[4]

 

The wicked have passed the boundary of their probation; the Spirit of God, persistently resisted, has been at last withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble…. So when the irrevocable decision of the sanctuary has been pronounced and the destiny of the world has been forever fixed, the inhabitants of the earth will know it not. The forms of religion will be continued by a people from whom the Spirit of God has been finally withdrawn.[5]

 

All these statements speak about the gradual withdrawing of the Holy Spirit from the earth, and this has been interpreted by LGT proponents to mean that the Holy Spirit will not be available to anyone during the last days.

However, the statements suggest that the Holy Spirit is withdrawing from the wicked ones, from those who refuse Him. This is a divine manifestation of respect for the choices of His creatures. The believers, however, will continue to have His support until the end as the Spirit continues to work on their transformation into the image of God.

Ellen White states that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit in the last days is to help the believers as they go through the dangerous times during the seven plagues:

At that time the ‘latter rain,’ or refreshing from the presence of the Lord, will come [the Holy Spirit], to give power to the loud voice of the third angel, and prepare the saints to stand in the period when the seven last plagues shall be poured out.[6]

The help of the Holy Spirit during the last days is also exemplified in the parable of the ten virgins[7] where the five wise virgins had abundant oil, which represents the Holy Spirit. We will not be earning our victory by becoming sinless in order to withstand the evil during the end days. The Holy Spirit will continue to be with us and will lead us victoriously through the final crisis.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Cleansing of the Sanctuary and the Day of Atonement

Will Believers Live Without Christ During the End of Time?

The similar LGT idea that the last generation will have to live without the intercessory work of Christ after the closing of probation is based on some Ellen White quotes and the belief that the pre-second coming judgment and the apocalyptic sealing are two separate events. Let’s look at each of these two aspects.

Ellen White on the Last Generation

In “What is the State of the Last Generation,”[8] Ranko Stefanovic notes that two quotes from Ellen White’s Great Controversy are often used to support the idea that the last generation of believers will live without the intercessory work of Christ. The first quote is found in chapter 24 entitled “In the Holy of Holies,” which tackles the Great Disappointment in 1844. The quote is a warning to those who had expected Christ but were not ready for His return:

Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. … While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people on earth.[9]

 

Stefanovic suggests that the point of Ellen White’s chapter is to clarify the misunderstanding of the Millerites concerning the Sanctuary and October 22, 1844. The end of the preparation for Christ’s Second Coming, of which she speaks in the quote above, marks the close of probation and of the investigative judgment. Thus, while it is true that Christ’s ministry of intercession will cease prior to His Second Coming, this will happen only after the destiny of all humankind has been determined.

 

White’s second statement is in chapter 39, entitled “The Time of Trouble,” which speaks about the rising of Michael during the final and troubling days of earth:

 

Jesus ceases His intercession in the sanctuary above … mercy no longer pleads for the guilty inhabitants of the earth.[10]

 

[Every] case has been decided for life or death. Christ has made the atonement for His people and blotted out their sins.[11]

 

When He leaves the sanctuary, darkness covers the inhabitants of the earth. In that fearful time the righteous must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor. The restraint which has been upon the wicked is removed, and Satan has entire control of the finally impenitent. … Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose.[12]

 

The events described here will usher the believers into what White refers to as the time of Jacob’s trouble. Just as Jacob wrestled with his sins, so will the believers wrestle with their faith and assurance of salvation and forgiveness under the pressure of Satan’s accusations:

 

They are fully conscious of their weaknesses and unworthiness. Satan endeavors to terrify them with the thought that their cases are hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be washed away.[13]

 

White mentions similar ideas when she discusses the encounter of Joshua with God’s angel in the vision of Zechariah:

 

They are fully conscious of the sinfulness of their lives, they see their weakness and unworthiness, and as they look upon themselves they are ready to despair. The tempter stands by to accuse them, as he stood by to resist Joshua. He points to their filthy garments, their defective character. He presents their weakness and folly, their sins of ingratitude, their unlikeness to Christ, which has dishonored their Redeemer. He endeavors to affright the soul with the thought that their case is hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be washed away. He hopes to so destroy their faith that they will yield to his temptations, turn from their allegiance to God, and receive the mark of the beast.[14]

White resembles his time of trouble to a “furnace of fire” that will purify the believers:

[it] is needful for them to be placed in the furnace of fire; their earthliness must be consumed, that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.[15]

Clearly, this trial would not be necessary if the believers have already reached sinless perfection. The believers themselves are aware of their state, which is not one of sinlessness. Yet they are sealed and covered in the blood of Christ and preserved for eternity.[16] While the believers are secure through the righteousness of Christ, the process of transformation more into the likeness of God continues through the time of trouble until glorification.

RELATED ARTICLE: Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary

Once again, while White does mention that the intercessory ministry of Christ will have ceased before this time of trouble, it is because this aspect of Christ’s work on behalf of humanity is no longer needed since all cases have been decided. Yet nowhere does Ellen White suggest or imply that the believers will live without the presence or the help of God.

 

Throughout her writings, Ellen White has often urged believers to overcome sin and become perfect in character like Christ.[17] We ought to aim for moral perfection, and not allow our human weakness and sinful tendencies to shadow what God has promised He can accomplish in us. However, this standard is not a special one expected only from the last generation but is the standard for all Christians of all times and can only be achieved through Christ’s work of justification and sanctification in our lives.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Called, Chosen, Faithful –Introduction: Searching for a Model of Salvation

At the same time, White has repeatedly stated that we will never reach sinlessness on this earth, as exemplified in the following:

 

As long as Satan reigns we shall have self to subdue, besetments to overcome, and there is no stopping place, there is no point to which we can come and say we have fully attained.[18]

 

We cannot say, ‘I am sinless,’ till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body. But if we constantly seek to follow Jesus, the blessed hope is ours of standing before the throne of God without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; complete in Christ, robed in His righteousness and perfection.[19]

 

When the conflict of life is ended, when the armor is laid off at the feet of Jesus, when the saints of God are glorified, then and then only will it be safe to claim that we are saved and sinless.[20]

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary

Stefanovic concludes that White’s statements, read properly in their context, are in harmony with the Biblical teaching that believers living in the end-time are not expected to achieve sinless perfection. Perfection, in the Bible, does not means sinlessness; it means “a total commitment and loyalty to God that reflects His character but that allows for the possibility of incidental and accidental weaknesses and mistakes.”[21] Through the work of the Holy Spirit, our character will be brought more into the likeness of Christs during our entire lifetime on earth, until our glorification at the Second Coming when sin will be eradicated fully from the universe.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Remembering the Reformation: The Holy of Holies

The Sealing

Also, relevant to the question of whether believers will live without Christ during the last days is a discussion on the biblical concept of sealing. In “Misinterpreted End-Time Issues: Five Myths in Adventism”[22] Jiri Moskala notes that the Bible speaks of two seals:

  1. The seal of the gospel
  2. The apocalyptic seal.

The seal of the gospel is mentioned in Ephesians 1:13, 14 and takes place when someone gives their life to Christ, accepting His sacrifice. At that moment, the believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit for the second coming of Christ:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13,14).

After hearing the gospel comes belief, then the sealing of the Holy Spirit, who is a guarantee of our salvation. Think of it like a down payment guaranteeing the full payment, which will take place at the end of time. In Ephesians 4:30 this seal is mentioned again as Paul urges Christians to “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Interestingly, the word esphragisthete appears only two times in the New Testament – in these two verses. Both times the verb is in a past tense, showing that it is not a future experience, but an action performed by God when a person accepted Christ. Since it is an act of God, it involves no uncertainty.

Ellen White seems to be in harmony with this biblical teaching as she writes:

Oh, that the youth and children would give their hearts to Christ! What an army might then be raised up to win others to righteousness! … Do not many of them [parents] think that the minister should take the burden and see to it that their children are converted and that the seal of God is placed upon them?[23]

 

RELATED ARTICLE: The Gospel in the Sanctuary

The second seal is the apocalyptic seal, depicted in Revelation and placed upon the believers not with the purpose of redemption, but of protection. As the seal of the gospel, the apocalyptic seal is an act of God, but it is meant to enable the followers of Christ to go through the events of the end time. It stands in contrast with the mark of the beast and ensures that the last plagues will not touch those sealed.[24] While different in purpose and time, these two seals are equally important for the believer, marking the beginning and the end of the spiritual journey on earth. However, if the gospel seal can be broken – should the believer reject Christ – the apocalyptic seal cannot be broken. When will this sealing take place?

RELATED ARTICLE: God’s Last Day Church

According to Ellen White, the apocalyptic sealing will take place when the Sunday law will be enforced and people will have to make a clear choice between only two alternatives: to worship God or worship the beast. Here are a few statements to that effect:

This is the test that the people of God must have before they are sealed. All who prove their loyalty to God by observing His law, and refusing to accept a spurious sabbath, will rank under the banner of the Lord God Jehovah, and will receive the seal of the living God. Those who yield the truth of heavenly origin and accept the Sunday sabbath, will receive the mark of the beast.[25]

 

[W]hen the decree shall go forth enforcing the counterfeit sabbath, and the loud cry of the third angel shall warn men against the worship of the beast and his image, the line will be clearly drawn between the false and the true. Then those who still continue in transgression will receive the mark of the beast…When Protestant churches shall unite with the secular power to sustain a false religion, for opposing which their ancestors endured the fiercest persecution, then will the papal sabbath be enforced by the combined authority of church and state. There will be a national apostasy, which will end only in national ruin.[26]

 

Sundaykeeping is not yet the mark of the beast, and will not be until the decree goes forth causing men to worship this idol sabbath. The time will come when this day will be the test, but that time has not come yet.[27]

Some people believe that at any point before the closing of probation they might be called into the pre-Advent judgment. But the closing of probation cannot take place before the apocalyptic sealing since people will still have a choice to make. Instead, the judgment must come after the apocalyptic sealing, which will be a corporate event taking place after this final test of loyalty–the Sunday law.

Just as Revelation 7 portrays the same group of people described from two different perspectives (see article 3), Moskala argues that the closing cases of the saints living during the end-time and the apocalyptic sealing are one and the same event described from different perspectives.

RELATED ARTICLE: The End Times and Salvation

Returning to the issue of living without the intercession of Christ after the closing of probation, it is true that Christ will cease this ministry, for the case of each person will have been decided and therefore there is no longer any need for intercession. Those who are saved are sealed with the apocalyptic seal after passing the Sunday test of loyalty and can no longer be lost.

However, this does not automatically imply that believers will live without the help of Jesus, or that Christ will be absent from His people. Even though we are sealed for salvation, we will continue to live through Christ, and it will be His righteousness, not our own sinless perfection that will carry us to the end.

We need not worry about having to reach sinlessness in order to go through the seven last plagues when evil is no longer restrained, for our protection during will come from God, and He will take us to the end victoriously. Our dependence on God must rely on His promise to be with us always, and our faith must continue to grow until our glorification at the Second Coming.[28]

Read the rest of Adelina’s series on Last Generation Theology

______

Notes.

[1] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1962), p. 431; emphases supplied.

[2] White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1948), p. 11; emphases supplied.

[3] White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1901), p. 408; emphases supplied.

[4] E White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1943), p. 277.

[5] White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1911), p. 614-615.

[6] White, Early Writings (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1945), p. 86.

[7] Matthew 25:1-13.

[8] Ranko Stefanovic, “What is the State of the Last Generation,” in God’s Character and the Last Generation, edited by John Peckham and Jiri Moskala (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2018), p. 220-235.

[9] White, The Great Controversy (1911), p. 425.

[10] Ibid., p. 613.

[11] Ibid., p. 613-614.

[12] Ibid., p. 614, 649.

[13] Ibid., p. 619 in 230.

[14] White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1889), p. 473.

[15] White, The Great Controversy (1911), p. 621.

[16] See White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 (1889), p. 475-476.

[17] See White, Early Writings, 71; White, The Great Controversy, p. 623; White, Child Guidance (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1999), p. 477; White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1962), p. 506; White, The Desire of Ages (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2005), p. 311.

[18] White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1 (Battle Creek, MI: Review & Herald, 1868), p. 340.

[19] White, “Abide in Me,” Signs of the Times, March 23, 1888, p. 178.

[20] White, “The Whole Duty of Man,” Signs of the Times, May 16, 1895, p. 2.

[21] Ranko Stefanovic, “What is the State of the Last Generation,” p. 233.

[22] Jiri Moskala, “Misinterpreted End-Time Issues: Five Myths in Adventism,” in God’s Character and the Last Generation, edited by John Peckham and Jiri Moskala (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2018), p. 226–252.

[23] Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1980), p. 188.

[24] Revelation 7:2-3; 9:4, 13:16-17; 14:9-11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4.

[25] Ellen G. White, Letter 11, 1890, quoted in Ellen G. White Comments, in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, ed. Francis D. Nichol, vol. 7 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1957), p. 976; emphasis added.

[26] Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1946), p. 234-235.

[27] Ellen G. White, Manuscript 118 (1899), quoted in Ellen G. White Comments, in Nichol, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 977.

[28] Corinthians 15:50-57; Philippians 1:6; 3:12-15, 20, 21; 1John 3:2-5; Jude 24, 25.

Share It :

google+
More

About the author

Avatar

Adelina Alexe is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts, and meaningful conversation. Her special research interests are narrative theology and hermeneutics.