March 22-23, 2019 God’s Character and the Last Generation Conference, Part 2

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March 22-23, 2019 God’s Character and the Last Generation Conference, Part 2

Editorial Note: Over the past few years there has been an increase in tensions and debate within the NAD regarding “Last Generation Theology” or LGT. This news piece documents the response of some laypeople and ministers to this tension over soteriology and final events. The presentations described below were a part of a two-day conference entitled “God’s Character and the Final Generation” held on March 22-23 at the Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. While the organizations and individuals involved in this event do not necessarily represent the position of The Compass Magazine, or the author of this article, we believe it is important to document the ongoing conversation in the church regarding this issue.

Presentation #5: Living Without a Mediator, Dr. Gerard Damsteegt

The Millerites mistakenly thought that the sanctuary mentioned in Daniel 8:14 was the earth, its cleansing involved the Second Coming of Christ, and as a result, were greatly disappointed when Jesus did not return in 1844. Still, further study yielded new insights, and early Adventists discovered through Daniel 8:17 that the sanctuary in verse 14 is connected to the time of the end. In 31 AD Christ began His intercessory ministry in the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary,[1] and in 1844 Jesus entered the Most Holy Place and began the final phase of His ministry.[2]

 

The cleansing of the sanctuary since 1844 has had two dimensions: the cleansing of the literal temple, which is the sanctuary in the literal New Jerusalem and is occupied by Jesus the King and Priest,[3] and the cleansing of the spiritual sanctuary, which is the church and is occupied by the Holy Spirit.[4] According to Crosier, there is a connection between the two:

 

As Christ prepares the place, the Spirit does the people. When he came to his temple, the sanctuary, to cleanse it, the Spirit commenced the special cleansing of the people.[5]

 

God’s people need cleansing because they must be prepared for the pouring of the latter rain and for receiving the seal of God. White writes:

 

Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of God fully.[6]

 

In 1844 God’s people were not ready for the latter rain because they held to errors like not keeping the Sabbath, infant baptism, use of tobacco, alcohol, tea, coffee, and eating unclean foods. They also wore jewelry and were mistaken about biblical teachings concerning Godhead, tithe, hell, the immortality of the soul, Christ’s ministry as High Priest, atonement, justification and sanctification, righteousness by faith and overcoming sin.

 

In Acts 3:19-21, Peter indicates that the return of Christ depends on our conversion and the restoration of things. This restoration is stated by White in the following terms:

 

When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.[7]

 

Damsteegt concluded:

 

Christ’s Second Advent takes place when all truth is restored and practiced among God’s remnant people. Then they reflect Christ’s character.

 

At the end of time, the three angels’ messages will produce believers who keep the commandments and the faith of Jesus. These are both crucial and interconnected, for it is through Jesus that we can keep the Law. We must have faith in Jesus to receive the faith of Jesus.[8]

 

We now live in a time of probation in which we can get ready for the return of Christ by purifying our character. White cautions that

 

[m]any are deceiving themselves by thinking that the character will be transformed at the coming of Christ, but there will be no conversion of heart at His appearing. Our defects of character must be repented of, and through the grace of Christ we must overcome while probation shall last. This is the place for fitting up for the family above.[9]

 

Our self-control can be strengthened with help from Jesus,[10] and the Holy Spirit can help us “resist our natural inclinations and tendencies to be wrong, and weed out … every un-Christlike element.”[11] The refining of our character will take places through the outpouring of the latter rain, which is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.[12] Only when we receive this do we become fitted for translation.[13]

 

After Christ finishes His intercessory work as High Priest, forgiveness will no longer be available to human beings and His wrath will be poured in the seven last plagues,[14] but those sealed by God are protected and go through this period without sin and without remembrance of their sins, despite Satan’s attempt to deceive and discourage them.[15]

 

Presentation #6: Humanity and Divinity Combined, Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick

 

On their own human beings cannot accomplish anything, yet in Christ they can experience change of heart. Both God and humans have a part to play in their salvation, and humans “can become partakers of divine nature,” affirmed Kirkpatrick, citing Philippians 2:12, 13:

 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

 

Cooperation between divinity and humanity is key in this process.

 

White’s references to the natural heart suggest that the heart is initially neither totally evil, nor totally righteous,[16] but that it trends downward.[17] God gives the believer a new nature, but the believer has a part to play, too.

 

Through Christ, and Christ alone, the springs of life can vitalize man’s nature, transform his tastes, and set his affections flowing toward heaven. Through the union of the divine with the human nature Christ could enlighten the understanding and infuse His life-giving properties through the soul dead in trespasses and sins.[18]

 

The natural heart needs to be daily subdued and, as we continue to cooperate with God through the power of God, we are changed.

 

The Son of man is fully qualified to be the originator of a humanity that will blend with divinity by partaking of the divine nature. He offers to make us golden threads in the web of humanity. He would have us act our part by co-operating with Him in healing the springs of life which have been perverted, and setting them flowing in sanctified channels.[19]

 

White states that,

 

Christ on the cross not only draws men to repentance toward God for the transgression of His law—for whom God pardons He first makes penitent—but Christ has satisfied Justice; He has proffered Himself as an atonement.[20]

 

Here Christ’s justification is not just forensic, it is more than a declaration, since we are “made penitent;” we are being changed in the process. Christ and the Holy Spirit are both interceding for us[21] though only Jesus is our mediator.[22] Jesus reconciles us, and the Spirit works “upon our hearts, drawing out prayers and penitence, praise and thanksgiving.” These are not just forensic actions; they are transformative actions.[23]

 

Some teach that human nature is so tainted by sin that even our good deeds need forgiveness and we cannot transcend our condition. The statement of Ellen White often cited in support of this is the “corrupt channel statement” from Selected Messages, which reads as follows:

 

The religious services, the prayers, the praise, the penitent confession of sin ascend from true believers as incense to the heavenly sanctuary, but passing through the corrupt channels of humanity, they are so defiled that unless purified by blood, they can never be of value with God. They ascend not in spotless purity, and unless the Intercessor, who is at God’s right hand, presents and purifies all by His righteousness, it is not acceptable to God. All incense from earthly tabernacles must be moist with the cleansing drops of the blood of Christ. He holds before the Father the censer of His own merits, in which there is no taint of earthly corruption. He gathers into this censer the prayers, the praise, and the confessions of His people, and with these He puts His own spotless righteousness. Then, perfumed with the merits of Christ’s propitiation, the incense comes up before God wholly and entirely acceptable. Then gracious answers are returned.”[24]

 

Yet this statement is often misunderstood. For how can we be hopelessly embedded in our sinful condition when John 17:14 states:

 

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Likewise, John writes in 17:17:

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 

If even truth cannot sanctify us, how then can we be sanctified?

The concept of original sin is often described as humanity’s infection with sin. However, this is not biblical language and does properly describe our fallen humanity. Christ’s human nature was “fallen but not corrupted,”[25] and corruption could only happen in Jesus through disobedience. According to White, Jesus endured more than anyone ever could, yet He overcame:

All that was possible for man to endure in the conflict with Satan, Christ endured in His human and divine nature combined. Obedient, sinless to the last, He died for man, his substitute and surety, enduring all that men ever endure from the deceiving tempter, that man may overcome by being a partaker of the divine nature.[26]

 

This experience of partaking the divine nature and overcoming sin should be our goal.

 

Through connection with Christ we, even in our fallen humanity, can achieve true holiness.[27] There is a distinction between evil and guilt. Evil does not always involved choice (for example, animals causing evil), but guilt can only arise from moral evil and therefore is only possible in humans. To say that “even when we are not willfully sinning our human nature needs forgiveness” is a category error. Our nature does not need forgiveness, for condemnation only arises from willful actions. LGT theology’s emphasis on the possibility of victory over sin through Christ is not only biblical, it is liberating and hopeful.

 

Presentation #7: End Time Soul Winners, Norman McNulty, M.D.

 

McNulty’s introductory statements emphasized the connection between proper evangelism and correct theology with reference to Ellen White’s call for high standards of truth and obedience.

 

The standard should not be placed so low that those who accept the truth shall transgress God’s commandments while professing to obey them. Better, far better would it be to leave them in the darkness until they could receive the truth in its purity.[28]

 

Our lack of involvement in evangelism is sometimes an excuse for unfaithfulness or lack of surrender. If we feel like the church is not ready to receive people, we will hesitate in reaching out. But “evangelism, rightly done, is the final and vital piece of Last Generation Theology,” said McNulty, quoting Rev. 14: 6, 7 and Matthew 24:16. After the Gospel will be preached as a witness to all nations, the end shall come.

 

It is important to note that evangelism is not only a proclamation, it is also a demonstration.

 

In order for the Gospel to be rightly demonstrated, we need to have a right understanding of what the true Gospel is, so that we really can believe that we can be like Jesus, through His grace and strength, so that when we share Jesus with others they are not hearing simply about Jesus, they are interacting with Jesus through us. That is what will lead us to the end of all things,

 

…said McNulty. When the latter rain is poured out the world will see, through the character of the last generation, what it means to be like Jesus, and will be drawn to Christ. Thus, part of character perfection is being a soul winner as Jesus was.

 

Furthermore, by allowing the perfecting work of the Holy Spirit upon our character, we can hasten the return of Christ. Commenting on Acts 17:31, which speaks about God having “appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained,” White states:

 

By giving the gospel to the world, it is in our power to hasten the Lord’s return. We are not only to look for but to hasten the coming of the day of God. Had the church done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned, and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory.[29]

 

Some of our church member’s attitudes towards evangelism are fruitless. Thus, silent witnessing is fooling yourself; it is ineffective evangelism as opposed to proper evangelism which issues an invitation to follow Jesus. Waiting until the loud cry to get involved in evangelism is “like saying ‘I’ll surrender my life to Jesus when the Sunday Law is passed,’” and the mentality that evangelism is not your gift betrays the lack of Christ in your heart.

 

However, it is equally true that without love for people in your heart, we cannot do effective evangelism.

 

If you try to share with others our faith and you are annoying, obnoxious, and hard to dialogue with, they are not going to want to have anything to do with our faith,

 

…said McNulty.

 

We can only win people to Christ when the fruit of the Spirit reproduces Christ’s character in us. The love of Jesus in our hearts will compel us to share Him, as White states:

 

When self is emerged, love springs forth spontaneously.[30]

 

Christ’s method alone[31] will yield results, and by reproducing His character and approach, we will demonstrate the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

 

The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within – when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance.[32]

 

In conclusion, McNulty expressed his confidence in the “future of Adventism and the followers of God throughout Christianity [as] a revivalism of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.”[33]

RELATED ARTICLE: God’s Character and the Last Generation a Book Review by Adelina Alexe

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

______

Notes.

[1] Hebrews 8:1, 2.

[2] Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 251, 253, 260

[3] John 14:2, Heb. 8:2, 9:11.

[4] 1 Corinthians 3:17, 6:19, Ephesians 2:20-22

[5] Crosier, “The Law of Moses,” Day-Star, Extra, Feb. 7, 1846.

[6] Early Writings, p. 71.

[7] Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69.

[8] Galatians 2:16.

[9] Adventist Home, p. 319.

[10] Child Guidance, p. 466.

[11] In Heavenly Places, p. 347.

[12] Acts of the Apostles, p. 55.

[13] Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 187; Evangelism, p. 701.

[14] Revelation 14: 9-11, 16.

[15] Great Controversy, p. 620.

[16] Christ Object Lessons, p. 56.

[17] Counsels for the Church, p. 162; Child Guidance, p. 302; Desire of Ages, p. 649.

[18] Selected Messages, p. 341.

[19] Signs of the Times, March 8, 1899, par. 10.

[20] Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 341.

[21] Romans 8: 26, 27, Hebrews 7:25.

[22] Galatians 3:19.

[23] Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 344.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Manuscript 57, 1890.

[26] Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 342.

[27] Signs of the Times, October 1890.

[28] Selected Messages, Book 3, p. 259.5.

[29] Desire of Ages, p. 633.

[30] Christ Object Lessons, p. 384.

[31] Ministry of Healing, p. 143.

[32] Christ Object Lessons, p. 384.

[33] See Great Controversy, p. 464.

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About the author

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.