By Stephen Terry
my son was a teenager we would play a table top game called “Squad
Leader.” In this World War II based
game, we would maneuver markers representing squad sized units over a grid map
to accomplish objectives set by scenarios included with the game. If you accomplished the objective you won
that scenario. No matter what else you
succeeded in doing if you failed to accomplish the objective, you lost. The objective might be occupying a tractor
If I were the defender, I would disperse my forces widely rather than in heavy concentrations. When my son would come for the objective, he would see my scattered forces, and thinking he could win a quick victory would try to concentrate his forces to wipe out my units. This was all part of the plan. The men were expendable and every turn he spent attacking them was a turn he was not getting his units to the objective. At the game’s final turn when he had decimated my units but he realized that he could never make the objective, he would ask "What happened?” He had the superior force, so why didn’t he win?
I would ask him, “What was your mission?”
“To occupy the tractor factory.”
“Did wiping out my units accomplish that goal?”
“So what did you learn?”
“To stay focused on the mission.”
I have been a Seventh-day Adventist for 40 years, and I wonder the same things about my church. Are we staying focused on our mission? Do we even understand the mission of the church? Have we even realized that apart from our mission there is no reason to exist as a separate denomination? It is our mission that defines us as a church. It is our mission that gives us our marching orders in these final years of Earth’s history.
When I ask other church members about our mission I get a lot of different answers, sometimes accompanied with a lot of hemming and hawing. Sometimes I get the answer that it is to bring Jesus to the world. To which I then ask, “How is that different than other Christian denominations like the Baptists or the Nazarenes? Why should we do it as Adventists instead of just joining a Baptist church and doing it there?”
Usually by this time, people start to mention the seventh-day Sabbath. So I ask them, “OK. So why not join the Seventh-day Baptists then? Why are we different?”
Have we lost our sense of mission? I don’t think we have lost it altogether, but perhaps we have lost our focus on that mission. We look at the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, and this creates a realization in our hearts that we should be doing needs based ministry if we are to be saved, but is this true? We concentrate our forces for this like my son concentrated his to battle my units, but are we still remembering our objective? Will needs based ministry accomplish what we are here for? Indeed, what are we here for?
believe that the Seventh-day Adventist church is a special movement called out
by God for a unique end-time purpose.
While the lesson from the parable of the sheep and goats, or the Gospel
Commission found in the final verses of the Gospel of Matthew must be a part of
who we are as Christians, our purpose is more focused than that. Our purpose has its foundations in the books
of Daniel and Revelation. Daniel with
its symbolic beasts representing world kingdoms to be ultimately replaced by
“And he said to me, “For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” ” Daniel 8:14
Using the year
for a day principle of Ezekiel 4:6, William Miller calculated the beginning and
end of this period. He found it began
with the command to rebuild
his prophetic timeline was correct but not understanding that his understanding
of the event to take place was not correct, William Miller continued to set new
dates until his credibility was shattered beyond recovery. He did not realize that he had accomplished
the first stage of the unique mission of Adventism. Yet, just as John the Baptist heralded the
first advent of Jesus but did not experience the
Revelation 12:17 identified a people who would understand that message and would carry that message to the world. These people would have two identifying marks. “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 12:17 These were the people that would ultimately understand William Miller’s purpose and would continue the progressive prophetic timeline to the present day that Mr. Miller began.
Referring to themselves as “the remnant,” they early restored the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath of Exodus 20 to its importance. They preached the Ten Commandments not as a means of salvation but as a mirror that reveals our own sinfulness and our need for Jesus Christ. They also believe that the witness Jesus gave about Himself in the Revelation was true and witnessed to that truth. They also realized that the gift of prophecy would be found among them as they discovered from reading Revelation 19:10.
“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10
As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe that this prophetic gift was brought forth in the life of Ellen G White. While she had many detractors, as did all the prophets, she helped to focus the church and keep us on task for many years until her death in 1915. After that, her many writings have served to provide similar guidance. While much can be said about her ministry, it is beyond the scope of this sermon to deal with those issues. That is for other sermons. To learn more about the nature of her prophetic gift, I would suggest reading her writings and some of the excellent books written about her. Among her writings, I greatly enjoy the book “Desire of Ages” on the life of Christ. A recent book written about her ministry is “Escape from the Flames” by Alden Thompson. Both books are available new or used from Amazon.
Thus far we have the Seventh-day Adventist movement identifying itself with the remnant of Revelation 12:17. Keeping the commandments and having the testimony of Jesus, which Revelation 19:10 identifies as prophetic inspiration. This says who they are, but it does not reveal the “why” of their existence. What purpose does this movement have at this special time in the history of the Earth? William Miller opened the door to this special purpose when he preached that the judgment had come and Jesus was on His way. The failure of Jesus to appear resulted in such anguish it was referred to as “The Great Disappointment.”
Seventh-day Adventists find special guidance for this disappointment in Revelation 10:10-11.
“And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” Revelation 10:10-11
Although the experience was bitter, they were called again to take the message to the world. But how were they to explain the failure of William Miller’s message? The answer was provided by Hiram Edson who had a vision while crossing a cornfield on the way to a meeting of believers. In his vision, he saw that the sanctuary to be cleansed was not the Earth but the sanctuary in heaven. Like the annual Day of Atonement cleansing of the earthly sanctuary, the heavenly cleansing meant that the high priest entered the most holy part of the sanctuary to perform the cleansing.
The high priest in the heavenly sanctuary is Jesus ministering the blood of his sacrifice in the Holy of Holies.
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” Hebrews 4:14
This is the judgment phase of Christ’s ministry. This is the first part of the unique message to be brought to the world by the remnant people of Revelation 12:17. That message is found with the three angels of Revelation 14. Their message goes out immediately before the return of Jesus later in that chapter. Note the first message:
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:6-7
This message was begun by William Miller and continues to be presented today. Notice that it goes to essentially the same recipients as Revelation 10:11. The message has to do with time and the commencement of judgment. (“hour of his judgment”) William Miller identified the time as October 1844 but he did not understand that what was beginning was the judgment. Seventh-day Adventists refer to this event as the “Investigative Judgment.” Why? Because of the words of Revelation 22:12:
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Revelation 22:12
This is Jesus speaking. The reasoning goes something like this. If Jesus is coming with rewards then He must have looked into the records of all mankind before He returned. Therefore, we feel that the time of Jesus’ ministry before He returns is a period of investigation or “Investigative Judgment.” Makes sense doesn’t it? But this is only the beginning of the mission of the remnant people. In Revelation 14:8 we read the second angel’s message.
“And there followed another angel, saying,
is tied in with some serious symbolism.
In prophetic terms, a woman symbolizes a church a pure woman like the
woman in Revelation 12. Revelation 17
“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.” Revelation 18:1-5
We can see
from this passage from Revelation how serious God considers the sins of
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17-18
Jesus does not seem to be doing away with the law. In fact He states that the law will continue until “all be fulfilled.” Has all been fulfilled? Certainly not. Much remains to take place. The second coming of Jesus not being the least of what is yet to happen. So why then do churches teach that the law no longer matters? Perhaps it is because they have forgotten why they are here. Yet, once again, the people are not fooled, they are voting with their feet. Within their hearts they know this is not right and that a church with no standards is not really offering anything they cannot get elsewhere in the secular world.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that this commandment issue will become such a bone of contention between the pure woman of Revelation 12 and the impure woman of Revelation 16-17 that it will become an identifying mark between the two, a seal as it were. God’s mark or seal and the seal or mark of a false system of worship are mentioned in Revelation. It is the unique purpose to share the warning of the third angel’s message regarding this mark.
“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. Revelation 14:9-12
once again God’s people are identified as being commandment keepers and
maintaining their faith in Jesus. These
characteristics of God’s remnant people are mentioned so often in Revelation
that they must be significant. If we can
surmise that the key factor in identifying
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11
Notice that the commandment says to “remember.” Perhaps God knew we would forget. Notice also that the commandment says it is recognition of God as Creator. This is similar to the language of the first angel’s message of Revelation 14:6-7. That angel called people to worship God as Creator. Is there an issue over God as Creator in the last days? You bet there is. Our schools are often a battleground over the issue of whether or not we have a creator or are evolved from simple, unicellular organisms. Were we created with a special purpose, or is life simply a random throw of the dice without special meaning or purpose beyond our own will. The book of Daniel identified a conflict to come in the final days. He wrote of a “little horn” power that would arise.
“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” Daniel 7:25
wrote, this power would attack the law and would change time. Only one commandment has to do with
time. That commandment is the fourth
one. This is the sign or mark between
God’s remnant and the fallen system of worship represented by
This is the mission of God’s remnant people. We are to call mankind back to obedience and faith. We are to carry the unique messages of the three angels of Revelation 14 to the world. Time is short. Even the Devil knows it.
“Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” Revelation 12:12
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” 1 Peter 5:8
Now is no time to lose sight of our purpose. My son lost a game because he forgot the mission objective. We stand to lose far more than that if we forget who we are and why we are here.