BUT - God “hath appointed a day”
Acts 17:31 “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Does this verse point to a specific day, which God has appointed for Christ to return or is it a conditional prophecy? First, we must understand that the day “in the which he will judge the world,” is not the time of the pre-advent judgment. Revelation 10:7 calls the pre-advent judgment, “the days of the voice of the seventh angel.” The plural form, “days,” indicates a period of time, not a specific day in time. The “day, in the which he will judge the world,” is the same as the “day of the Lord” mentioned in 2 Peter 3:3-12; it is the Second Coming of Jesus.
2 Peter 3:3–12
3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.
“Had the church of Christ 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.”1 The preaching of the gospel is the appointed work for the church to do, and we have been preaching the gospel in our churches every Sabbath for more than a century and a half. Why has Jesus not come? What is the matter? We have been preaching and preaching and preaching, and still, Jesus has not come. As previously mentioned, the pastors are being exhausted, trying to satisfy the demands of those who already have heard and accepted the gospel invitation. Luke 10:2, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few.” The few laborers that do exist are too busy caring for church members.
In America, we use the expression, “Are we preaching to the choir?”. Some other nations use a different expression to say the same thing. They say, “Are we knocking on doors that are already open?”. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Jesus spends His time knocking on closed doors. We are expected to follow Jesus’ example and do likewise. Instead, we have been wasting far too much money, talent, and time knocking on doors that are already open. As a result, millions of people have gone to their graves lost, only to wake up in the second resurrection—at the end of the millennium to face eternal death.
On May 25, 2011, the Honorable Bharrat Jagdeo, president of the nation of Guyana, gave the keynote address a Guyana Conference business session. Regarding the mission of the church, his remarks were surprisingly accurate, especially when one considers that he is not a Christian. President Jagdeo is a Hindu. Portions of his address were printed in AdventistWorld magazine, August 2011, edition. Quoting from that issue, “Preaching to the converted once a week won’t transform the community, Jagdeo reminded session delegates. ‘Jesus’ life was characterized not just by prayer, but by service,’ he said. ‘So we need not just to pray in beautiful edifices, but go into the communities where the people are.’”2
Is it possible that a Hindu man, the president of Guyana, understood what it takes to spread the gospel better than we do? His statement was very much on target. I wish our example had been as good as his statement.
Jesus says in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lordis upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”
Mark 2:17 tell us, “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Calling “sinners to repentance” is the single, most important thing that we can do.
Because of their unbelief, the Israelites had to wander in the desert for 40 long years, and the adults died in the desert. Their children were permitted to go into the promised land. What does this say about the belief of the Adventist people when we have been wandering for more than 170 years since 1844. That is more than four times longer than the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Are we more than four times worse than the unbelieving Israelites?
The only thing that God asked the Israelites to do was to act in faith by obeying His instructions to enter the promised land. By obeying God, the Israelites would have entered the earthly Canaan land 40 years sooner, but they would have still died on earth. The thing which God is asking the remnant church to do today is to preach the Three Angels’ Messages to the entire planet with the help and power of the Holy Spirit. By doing that, we will get to enter the heavenly Canaan land, where “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4. There, Jesus will tell us “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:21. We have nothing to lose of eternal importance and everything to gain if we exercise faith through obedience to His commands. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and all the angels are waiting to help us to quickly do the work which He has asked us to do.
The next few quotations from Ellen White are quite profound.
Why has the Lord so long delayed his coming? The whole host of heaven is waiting to fulfill the last work for this lost world, and yet the work waits. It is because the few who profess to have the oil of grace in their vessels with their lamps, have not become burning and shining lights in the world. It is because missionaries are few.3Review and Herald, (March 27, 1894, paragraph 14).
For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord’s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.Manuscript 4, 1883
We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ’s sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action.4Letter 184, 1901
We have been charged with the crime of “insubordination” against God! Fortunately, God’s warnings and charges against us are also His expressions of His love and patience. His greatest desire is to see us repent and obey. He does not want to wait so long to return and take us home. In 1849, less than 4 and a half years after the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844, Mrs. White wrote the following in Broadside 2, paragraph 13, published January 31, 1849, “I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the most holy place was nearly finished, and that time can last but a very little longer...”5
Jesus longed for the Second Coming to occur shortly after 1844. To be blunt about it, we were just not ready to tell the world about Jesus, and we were not prepared to meet Him either.
Regarding the conditional nature of the prophecies of Christ’s return she penned the following, found in Evangelism, pages 695 and 696:
“The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me. It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the Word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and the threatenings of God are alike conditional.
“God had given to His people a work to be accomplished on earth. The third angel’s message was to be given, the minds of believers were to be directed to the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ had entered to make atonement for His people. The Sabbath reform was to be carried forward. The breach in the law of God must be made up. The message must be proclaimed with a loud voice, that all the inhabitants of earth might receive the warning. The people of God must purify their souls through obedience to the truth and be prepared to stand without fault before Him at His coming.
“Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward.”6Evangelism, pages 695 and 696
How long will time last after the messages of truth have gone to the entire earth? There will be no delaying of the very last events.
It [the coming of the Lord] will not tarry past the time that the message is borne to all nations, tongues, and peoples. Shall we who claim to be students of prophecy forget that God’s forbearance to the wicked is a part of the vast and merciful plan by which He is seeking to compass the salvation of souls? — The Review and Herald, June 18, 1901.”7
The critical point for us to remember is obvious. How soon Jesus returns, depends to a large extent, upon you and me.
Questions for Consideration
- How might I be behaving like the Israelites in biblical times?
- How can I behave less like the faithless Israelites that wandered the desert for 40 years?
- When should I start spreading the 3 Angel’s Message? What can I do to help spread it quickly and thoroughly?
- In what ways can I help others to find Christ?
- Ellen White, The Desire of Ages: (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898) 633-634.
- Barbara Savory, “Guyana’s President Lauds Adventists,” Adventist World, August 2011. 3-4.
- Ellen White, The Review and Herald, March 27, 1894, par. 14.
- Ellen White, Evangelism: (Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946) 696.
- Ellen White, Broadside 2, January 31, 1849, par. 11.
- Ellen White, Evangelism: (Washington, D. C: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946) 695-696.
- Ellen White, Review and Herald, June 18, 1901, 1.