Article by columnist David Qualls published on GreatControversy.org Dec. 10, 2003
QOD 2003 Annotated Edition Series
A Response to Ministry's “Questions on Doctrine: Then and Now”
In the August 2003 edition of Ministry magazine, there appears a most interesting article by Woodrow W. Whidden entitled, “Questions on Doctrine: Then and Now.”1 In this article we are told that, “Andrews University Press recently released a new edition of the groundbreaking 1957 book, Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine.” The author describes how Questions on Doctrine (QOD) “proved to be one of the most controversial publishing events in the history of Adventism.”2 We hope that republishing QOD does not become the second most controversial.3
Whether that occurs or not remains to be seen. The article's author assures us that the new edition comes complete in its original form, but with new features added. These include “an introduction, annotated footnotes, and an updated bibliography by well-known Adventist historian and writer George R. Knight.”4 Knowing that many Adventists will be disturbed by the reintroduction of QOD, Whidden offers that “Knight has sought to honestly and fairly review the controversial countercharges the book generated.” He describes how Knight purportedly “has pulled no punches,” especially in dealing with the two main issues that propelled QOD into the annals of infamy: (1) the atonement being completed at the cross, and (2) the human nature of Christ. While Whidden's declaration may disarm the concerns of some, caution is in order. Whidden writes from the standpoint of one holding sympathy for certain far-reaching theological positions promoted by QOD—as we shall see.
The Ministry article continues by describing the key background issues and personalities surrounding the initial publication of QOD, at one point acknowledging that certain of the book's answers, “proved to be seriously disturbing for many Seventh-day Adventists.” Whidden next turns his attention to the most prominent voice that had been raised in opposition to the fatally flawed book: that of M. L. Andreasen.
Whidden concedes that Andreasen's “distinctive views on the atonement and the humanity of Christ did seem to represent a certain consensus within Adventist thinking…[and that] many considered his views to be solid Adventist orthodoxy.”5 Interesting concessions—and understatements, these! Regretably, Whidden neglects to follow up on them. Although he doesn't “go there,” QOD represented a whole new direction for the church, one many identified as impossible to reconcile with core Adventist belief.
Whidden gives a brief summary of Andreasen's theology of the atonement, explaining it thus:
The core of Andreasen's theology is that the atonement involved three essential phases. The first consisted of Christ's sinless life of perfect obedience to God's law; the second was His death on the cross where ‘Christ finished His work as victim and sacrifice.’6 While these first two atonement phases were certainly foundational to Andreasen's teaching on the atonement, it was the third that contained the essential focus of his theology, and Andreasen had laid it out in clear and unmistakable language: ‘In the third phase Christ demonstrates that man can do what He did, with the same help He had. This phase includes His session at the right hand of God, His high priestly ministry, and the final exhibition of His saints in their last struggle with Satan, and their glorious victory.’ This third phase, Andreasen said, is now in progress in the sanctuary above and in the church below. Christ broke the power of sin in His lifework on earth. He destroyed sin and Satan by His death. He is now eliminating and destroying sin in His saints on earth. This is a part of the cleansing of the true sanctuary.7
So far, so good. But the above view and its implications are irreconcilable with the New Theology, which is why Whidden moves inexorably to critique the “last generation” concept.
The author continues with an analysis of Andreasen's atonement theology, focusing on the aspect of the human nature of Christ and how that relates to Andreasen's “last generation” concept.
Much of this analysis is correct. The author accurately pinpoints the key issue that has divided Adventism since the 1950s: the question of which human nature Christ took when He was upon this earth—the nature of Adam before he fell, or his nature after his fall? Andreasen contended for the position that had prevailed in Adventism for a century—the post-Fall nature.9 On the other side, the small group of church leaders in the 1950s intent on changing the church's theology (so as to improve its image), were exerting every means at their disposal to introduce views that would please their new evangelical friends. Andreasen correctly recognized that the sinful human nature of Christ (post-Fall nature) is key to a complete understanding of the gospel, the cleansing of the sanctuary, and the final atonement as they relate to the culmination of the great controversy. The QOD authors realized that the same issues were key to evangelical acceptance. The church was thus headed for collision between these two conflicting purposes.
We now turn to a brief examination of Ellen White's understanding of this pivotal issue. Was Andreasen correct or are the QOD apologists correct concerning the human nature of Christ and the associated issues of the atonement and last generation?
In Ellen White's comments on the Sermon on the Mount, she sums up the importance of our understanding concerning Christ's humanity as follows,
If we rightly understood the above paragraph, the argument would be over. There would be no need for further discussion; this paper would be complete. Consider what it tells us.
First, the use of the ladder metaphor should not be missed. What is a ladder useful for? To enable a person to reach a place that they are otherwise incapable of reaching were it not for the ladder. How does the person reach that otherwise unreachable place? By climbing one step at a time. What happens if the person climbs partway up the ladder and then decides that the ascent so far is sufficient; that they will be satisfied with the attainments they have already achieved? Do they reach the top-rung destination? Clearly, the answer is no.
Second, what idea is Ellen White emphasizing by her statement that “if that ladder had failed by a single step of reaching the earth, we should have been lost”? In unambiguous language, Ellen White forcefully drives home the point that Jesus must come in a humanity that is like ours. Christ reaches us “where we are.” The ladder rests on the earth; not on an insulated, shock absorber-outfitted platform above the earth. He “took our nature”; His “humanity reaches us”; He was made “‘in the likeness of sinful flesh.’” This isn't simply speaking of the effects of sin. The fleshly desires of sin pulled at Jesus, else He could not have been “tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Note the following,
Clearly, the message is that we sinful humans have no excuse. Christ had no advantage over us. He had nothing that we cannot also have. We note that the “effects of sin” that Christ took upon Himself were not limited to the physical and mental aspects. The third dimension of “moral worth” leaves us with no other conclusion than that He took upon Himself those aspects of morality and spiritual weakness that we have to struggle against.
Returning to our previous passage above, we recognize a third point: the ladder reaches to the gate of heaven, it does not come short. It does not take us partway there and leave us to complete the journey on our own. Nor does it excuse our not making it all the way to the “threshold of glory.” And this brings us to our next point.
Fourth, Christ overcame; He was victorious. Not in Adam's nature, but in our fallen, sinful flesh. He condemned sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3), in sinful, human flesh where sin holds its ultimate power. Does He offer the same victory to us? Does He expect the same from us? Unquestionably, according to the quoted passage above, the answer is a resounding yes. “He took our nature and overcame, that we through taking His nature might overcome.” This two-way exchange is a most profound truth. We can partake of His Divine nature and thus overcome as He overcame. Jesus offers a unique promise to the seventh and final church on earth, that last generation, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in my throne, even as I also overcame” (Revelation 3:21).
Finally, the passage above lays out a grand truth and high calling. “He bids us by faith in Him attain to the glory of the character of God.” So this is what it is all about. Indeed the ladder does reach all the way to the “very threshold of glory.” None need be left behind. God's ideal for us is lofty, nevertheless it is attainable through the grace of God. Jesus has shown us the way; He provides the power; He gives us the strength; He will fight our battles if we will but cooperate with Him. “All His biddings are enablings.”12
Summing it all up, the passage ends with the sentence, “Therefore are we to be perfect, even as our ‘Father which is in heaven is perfect.’” “Therefore…” In other words, because (a) Christ came in our fallen, sinful, human nature, and (b) Christ overcame in that fallen nature, and (c) He had no advantage over what is available to us, and (d) He willingly gives us Divine aid in helping us to gain the victory that He won for us, and (e) He bids us to exercise faith and to attain to the glory of the character of God, therefore, (f) He calls upon us to be perfect.
Unmistakably, Mrs. White links the human nature of Christ with the kind of victory that will bring perfection to God's people. The ladder reaches from the lowest to the highest with not a single rung missing. This is a message of hope for the weakest of God's saints. No one need be discouraged by the high calling of God, for there is no depth to which that ladder has not reached. “The very essence of the gospel is restoration.”13
The Desire of Ages (source of the above passages) stands among the most forthright statements of Mrs. White in relation to the nature, purpose, and meaning of the life of Christ. It was the pinnacle of her views of the Savior and His work in our behalf. It may be more difficult to determine the context of some originally unpublished writings by Mrs. White, but this, being prepared for the widest circulation, speaks with great clearness to the issues at hand.
Continuing with the Ministry article, Whidden describes Andreasen's views as set forth in the chapter, “The Last Generation” in the book, The Sanctuary Service.
While it seems that Whidden makes some effort to treat Andreasen's theology in a fair and accurate manner, here he has slipped. In my reading of the chapter (by Andreasen) under discussion, I did not come away with anything that suggested that “Satan was not definitively and conclusively defeated at the Cross.” To the contrary, Andreasen states that “When Christ died on the cross… Satan was defeated.”15 In the face of Christ's perfect life right up to and including the cross, “Satan was baffled.”16 And again, Satan “knew that when Christ died without his having been able to make Him sin, his own doom was sealed.”17 Surely if Satan realized this, then the heavenly intelligences realized it even more.
What Andreasen does say is that Satan, while knowing of his complete and utter defeat at the cross, refused to accept it. Just as when Job proved him wrong after he had opportunity to take away everything of value to Job, Satan would not accept the defeat, but went back to God and demanded more power to afflict God's faithful servant. Andreasen points out that Satan did not give up in his efforts to fight against Christ. He might have been defeated by Jesus, but he was not going to give up easily. He now went to make war with the remnant of her seed (Revelation 12:17).
Whidden seems to miss the point that Andreasen is making. That is, God takes the opportunity afforded him by Satan's unreasonable obstinacy and makes of it one last demonstration to the entire universe of His love, graciousness, mercy, and power to effect change in the lives of sinful, erring humans. This final demonstration is to be carried out in the last generation upon the earth when man is at his weakest and Satan is at his strongest.
Interestingly, Satan does not give up even after all of this. At the end of the Millennium, when God openly reveals to the universe the whole history of the great controversy18 and when Satan joins the entire universe in confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He was right after all (Philippians 2:10, 11), still he stubbornly persists in his rebellion. Within a short time of his bowing before the universe in defeat, he rallys himself and then persuades that countless throng of the wicked to make one last desperate attack upon God and His people so as to take control of His government. Once more, God has to demonstrate His power. This time, it is final. Satan is truly defeated and destroyed in the fire.
And so, we begin to understand why most Seventh-day Adventists have never seen anything wrong in Andreasen's views as set forth in the chapter “The Last Generation.” What it says makes perfect sense and agrees fully with the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy writings! No problem here.
Nevertheless, Whidden continues,
We will consider the issues raised in this paragraph further on in this document. We will suggest answers to certain questions posed by the Ministry article. But now we turn our attention to the crucial issue of the atonement. How does Whidden see the QOD view versus the historic Adventist view as set forth by Andreasen?
In his section titled, “Where are we now?” Whidden offers this observation:
Unfortunately, he misses something crucial. The QOD author's changed terminology drained away the significance of Christ's work in co-operation with us now, and in a slide back to the pre-1844 understanding, put the emphasis back onto a truncated, essentially forensic view of salvation.
We take issue with Whidden's characterization of the “first disagreement.” There were and are differences over terminology. However, there is substantial difference that goes well beyond a simple quibbling over terminology.
The QOD sympathizers and apologists clearly want to restrict the atoning act to the cross, thus aligning themselves and the Adventist Church (they hope) with the broader evangelical world. In their minds, any mention of atonement beyond the cross is to be interpreted as a distribution of the benefits of the act of atonement achieved at the cross. Using this terminology, they can then appear to remain within the bounds of authentic Adventism while in reality, they are (we hope unwittingly) denying its very essence. For a profound and well-written article on the significance and meaning of the issue of the Final Atonement for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, please see Dennis Priebe's, “What is the Final Atonement,” available at http://www.dennispriebe.com/documents/What%20is%20the%20Final%20Atonement.html.21
A few quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy will suffice to show that atonement is an ongoing action at present and that it was not completed at the cross:
These quotes clearly demonstrate that the current work of atonement, not just an application of the sacrificial atonement of the cross, but an ongoing atonement in heaven, is the crucial truth to be understood for this time. This is present truth. In fact, Christ's people will not be prepared for His coming until this truth is seen and understood. “When this grand truth is seen and understood…” Satan knows this and he is attempting to lead us down a path that will hide this truth from God's remnant. Unfortunately, QOD moved us significantly along that path toward a view of the atonement that has left us bereft of the power of this message.
The Ministry article notes the QOD author's second disagreement over Andreasen's Phase Three of the atonement.
Whidden rightly points out the significant disagreement between the QOD authors and the views of Andreasen over the issues involving the final atonement and the “final generation.” But, contrary to his assertion there is a real difference concerning the meaning of the atonement disagreement over Andreasen's Phase Three. We mustn't miss this. Whidden makes a significant observation in noting that the QOD authors leveled their attack at the final atonement/final generation view, by striking at the undergirding truth of the human, fallen nature of Christ.
We deal with the issues raised in the above section later as we answer questions posed by Whidden.
Continuing, Whidden summarizes as follows:
These are indeed two crucial points. If we get them wrong, we are liable to misconstrue the whole of our theology.
It is quite clear that the authors of QOD and their modern-day sympathizers have a view of these two vital issues that is out of harmony with Inspiration and with historic Adventism. This has been well demonstrated in various works such as Ralph Larson's, The Word Was Made Flesh,29 and J. R. Zurcher's, Touched With Our Feelings,30 as well as numerous other articles, books, and other material. Also noteworthy for especially addressing the overarching theological implications is Dennis Priebe's book, Face-to-Face With the Real Gospel.31
An article that should prove pivotal in any discussion of the nature of Christ is Kevin Paulson's, “The Lower and Higher Natures: The Key to Resolving the Adventist Christology Debate.” http://www.greatcontroversy.org/reportandreview/pau-lhnature.php332 available on this website. Paulson's article brings together all relevant Ellen White statements from both sides of the discussion showing that a beautiful harmony emerges once we allow Inspiration to be its own interpreter.
In his book, Zurcher makes the following important point.
History is not on the side of the changed nature of Christ view propounded by advocates of the New Theology. Nor is Ellen White found in support as the following section shows.
Here are just two examples of such statements from Mrs. White:
Even if we were to concede (we don't) that Christ's human nature was somehow closer to the QOD view than to the historical Adventist view, Inspiration still refuses to let us off the hook. Leaving off for the moment the discussion of what her view on the human nature of Christ was, clearly she allows nothing short of complete victory as the Divine expectation—the same victory that Christ was able to achieve. This indisputable fact alone should cause the QOD apologists to stop dead in their tracks. At the same time, it should provide courage to those who seek power over sin in this life.
Whidden then closes the Ministry article with some perspective and several questions intended to serve as “suggestions for further study.” His primary difficulty seems to be with Andreasen's last generation concept as it relates to the final atonement and the perfection of the remnant. In his words, “While there are still those who advocate Andreasen's last generation version of ‘final atonement’ (through the sinless perfection of the remnant), I would like to raise the following questions.” (We've numbered the questions for ease of discussion):
These are the questions he is asking. Are there some answers?
Taking the above questions one at a time, we examine the first question, “Where in Scripture or in the writings of Ellen White do we find this theology explicitly laid out?”
“Explicitly laid out”? Frankly, this seems like a strange question coming from a learned theologian of Whidden's caliber. If the bar were set this high for other areas of theology, we would be in trouble. For example, Whidden himself staunchly (and rightly) advocates a position for the doctrine of the Trinity (the co-eternal, co-existent, three persons of the Godhead) in his co-authored book, The Trinity.37 In this book, Whidden and his co-authors go to great lengths to carefully build their case using various Bible passages, grammatical structures, historical analysis, and other methods. Do I hold him to the same standard in his presentation of the Trinity as he demands for the “final-generation” theology? Should I require him to produce from Scripture and Ellen White where his theology is “explicitly laid out”? The fact is, he relies on the same method in his exposition of the Trinity doctrine that I would use in proving the “final-generation” theology, that is, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, rightly dividing the word of truth, and allowing the full weight of Inspiration's consensus to emerge (Isaiah 28:10; 2 Timothy 2:15).
We've already provided some material above to demonstrate the reality of what some have preferred to call the final generation theology, but let's look at yet more evidence…
Consider the following texts:
Let's note several things from the above passages.
This special, designated group of people stand through the great “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time” (Daniel 12:1). They are “wise” and they “shine as the brightness of the firmament.” They “turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
This same group stands through the time when the mediating ministry of their Great High Priest ends; when He pronounces, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still… and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Revelation 22:11). They remain faithful and true even as Christ ends His forgiving intercession; when the “temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from His power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled” (Revelation 15:8).
They are among those of whom it is spoken, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). The time for repentance and confession of sin is now over. The antitypical Day of Atonement is in its closing scenes. The sanctuary has been cleansed, its record of sin removed and placed on the head of the scapegoat (Satan). He is about to be led into the wilderness. Leviticus 16.
We would expect that the events of antitype would follow the same pattern as the type. The first few chapters of Leviticus describe the daily service of the sanctuary. But in Leviticus 16 a description of the Day of Atonement is given. Here we see that a special work of cleansing occurs to effect atonement, a final atonement. Note the passage,
Moving to the antitype, we recognize that the great Day of Atonement began in 1844 (Daniel ch. 7; 8:14). The temple is being cleansed and it is being measured in that day of investigative judgment (Leviticus ch. 16, Daniel ch. 7, Revelation 11:1).
It is interesting to compare the items receiving atonement on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:33 to the items being measured (judged) in Revelation 11:1. The following table demonstrates this.
As the antitypical Day of Atonement enters its closing scenes, God's people have confessed and put away their sins. Their iniquity has been purged; their sins blotted out. The temple has been measured—God's people have been judged (Revelation 11:1; Daniel 7; 8:14). Staying true to the typical sanctuary service, all of this must be accomplished before probation ends; before the sanctuary closes its doors forever. Leviticus 16; Revelation 22:11; Revelation 15:8.
Once again the biblical data supports the idea of a last generation who will be cleansed of all sin and will be then prepared to stand before a holy God without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27). The at-one-ment is now complete. No sin separates between God and His people (Isaiah 59:2) for they are without fault before Him (Revelation 14:5).
It is noteworthy to point out that according to Revelation 10:7, “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished.” And what is this mystery? “God would make known what is…this mystery… Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). In other words, only in the last generation, just before Jesus comes, will the revelation of Christ in human lives be complete. Which is why, even though all promises to the seven churches are given to the overcomers, only the Laodiceans are promised an overcoming experience that duplicates that of Jesus Himself (Revelation 3:21).
Peter describes the characteristics of God's faithful in that last generation,
John describes the last generation of the faithful as follows,
It seems that all the Bible is in agreement on this. But there is more.
Revelation describes the sealing of the 144,000 (last generation) in this way,
Who does the sealing?
What is involved in the sealing work of the Holy Spirit?
The following quote from Mrs. White sums it up with unmistakable clarity,
Notice the sequence: “Filled with His fullness…perfection of character…Lord's people reach this mark…they are sealed in their foreheads…Filled with the Spirit…Complete in Christ…‘It is finished’ [close of probation].”
These are just a sample of the passages from both the Bible and Ellen White that conclusively reveal that those who receive God's end-time seal will have gained complete victory over sin. We ask, do not the Scriptures and the writings of Ellen White in fact teach the “last generation theology” that Andreasen echoes?
But Inspiration says more…
This is an obvious reference to the prophecy in the book of Zephaniah,
Compare this with the experience of Jesus,
Revelation reveals that the experience of Jesus will be duplicated by the experience of His followers in that last trying hour. The last prophetic church (Laodicea) has a unique promise given it,
There is no cheap grace here, only the most expensive variety, that which cost the sacrifice of Christ our Lord.
Mrs. White calls our attention to those who will be “fitted for translation,” (the last generation), comparing their experience with that of Enoch:
Notice how she ties together three concepts, (a) fitting up for translation, (b) Enoch represents this group, and (c) their soul temples must be cleansed, an obvious reference to Day of Atonement language.
Here we see where she ties together character perfection with bringing glory to God as did Enoch (the prototype of those who are translated at the Second Coming). See also Maranatha, pp. 71-72. But of course, there's more:
Here we note several things, (a) Christ ceases His intercession, (b) He ceases His work as mediator, (c) those righteous living through this time must have spotless robes and characters purified from sin, (d) there is to be a special work of purification and cleansing prior to the close of the sanctuary. The more we read from Inspiration the more we find that Andreasen's theology was right on the mark.
In the book of Job, God asks Satan, “Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8) In the book of Revelation, God declares that there is a whole group of Jobs at time's end. “Here they are,” He says; “These are My faithful, patient, enduring, saints.” They “keep the commandments of God,“ and they have “the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
Revelation mentions the “patience” of the saints. This reminds us of what James says, “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job…” (James 5:11). And his admonition to “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:8). Job vindicated God's character by his patient, enduring faithfulness. Similarly, God's patient, enduring saints at the end of time will vindicate God's character.
Enoch, Job, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus Himself are forerunners of those who are overcomers in Revelation's final generation. Just as Christ is the forerunner and firstfruits of those who will be resurrected to life eternal, so He is a forerunner of and example for those who will overcome as He overcame (Revelation 3:21). Because of His victory and example, the last generation will have victory. Christ ultimately wins in the end because of what He did while on this earth and because of what He does through His people in earth's last generation. Jesus is at the center; He is the Author and Finisher, the focus of the last generation and of the whole universe as He is vindicated in His faithful remnant.
All of these have one thing in common. Enoch, Job, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus were more interested in vindicating the character of God than in saving their own lives. In the case of Moses and Jesus, and arguably the others as well, they were willing to give up their own salvation in order to save others. This is the experience of the last generation. They are more interested in vindicating God's name, His character than even in having their own names in the book of life.
Revelation's first angel tells us to “Fear God, and give glory to him” (Revelation 14:7). One way we glorify God is in how we take care of our physical health, “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Jesus tells us that we “are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). So we see that Revelation portrays a people who give glory to God in their witness, their works, their life, their character. God is vindicated by His faithful people at the end. Mrs. White says it this way,
Notice that the last message of mercy to the world is a revelation of God's character of love. How is this revelation given? By God's people manifesting in their lives what enabling grace can do in and for them. By their good works, deeds, and holy life.
Scriptures are replete with the concept of God's glory being synonymous with character. It also says much about the saints bringing glory to God by His empowering them to fruitful, righteous living. For example, Moses asked God to show him His glory. God's response was to show him His character (Exodus 33:18-19; 34:6-7). In Romans 3:23, Paul parallels sin and coming short of God's glory, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Ephesians 3:16-21 speaks of God's glory being revealed in the lives of His saints because of what God is doing in their lives, while Philippians 1:11 declares God is glorified by the fruits of righteousness in the lives of His followers, “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
The Bible predicts that the whole world will one day be filled with the glory of the Lord (Numbers 14:21; Psalms 72:19: Isaiah 40:5). The remarks from Numbers and Isaiah are especially powerful, since God places His own honor on the line: “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Numbers 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” (Isaiah 40:5).
“As truly as I live,” and “the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” are the best guarantees one could ask for! God's last generation will bring glory to Him. Revelation 18:1 proclaims that “the earth was lightened with his glory.”
The evidence for Andreasen's last generation theology is found throughout the record of Inspiration. The question is, what are we going to do with this knowledge? Some want us to ignore the evidence, others would have us re-interpret it while they offer up alternative views; views that fit in with the prevailing current in the fallen churches around us. What are we going to do? God is waiting, longingly waiting for His beloved people to get serious; to allow Him to fulfill His promises in them.
The writings of Ellen White clearly teach that God's last generation people are called upon to vindicate God's character before the world and that this involves perfection of character.
The sacrificial atonement would be “of no avail” without the Holy Spirit doing His part to glorify God by reproducing in humans the “very image of God.” And how is it that God is honored? “In the perfection of the character of His people.”
Could it be written any more plainly?
Whidden and the QOD sympathizers should not take up a case against Andreasen. In reality, their quarrel is with Scripture and with the writings of Mrs. White. Yet here is what such statements say:
We ask, are the above passages from both the Bible and the writings of Ellen White “explicit” enough? Is there not enough evidence to take Andreasen's final generation theology very seriously? Is there not enough light on this subject to cause us to admit the bankruptcy of the QOD sentiments touching the above issues?
Moving on to Whidden's second question, “Do Scripture and Ellen White clearly teach that God has made the ultimate success of Christ's atoning work dependent upon the perfecting experience of the ‘remnant’?”
What the author of this question may not realize is that God's mercy is being questioned here. If God is not dependent on the perfecting of His end time saints, then He will have to close up the sanctuary with or without them. An attitude on God's part of “Ready or not, here I come,” is the only alternative, for it is abundantly clear in Inspiration that those who will be translated must be spotless in character, without sin in the sight of a holy God with no benefit of a mediator to forgive sin. The next section establishes this fact from Inspiration.
The Most Holy Place ministry of the atonement is now complete. God's people must have overcome every sin for there is no atonement available at this time. Christ's atoning work must be accomplished by the perfecting of His saints.
When is Christ able to come? “When this work shall have been accomplished.” What is this work? “A special work of purification, of putting away of sin.” When is this work performed? While Christ is making “intercession“ in the heavenly sanctuary; while the atonement is taking place.
How can we miss the plainness of this?
It is abundantly clear. First, the preparation during the atonement phase, then the saints live without an intercessor; without a mediator. They must be spotless, having obtained complete victory. How could it be stated any more clearly?
Having established that God's last generation must be cleansed of all sin and have perfect characters, we look at the second aspect of Whidden's question, Is God “dependent” on His last generation to vindicate His character? We saw these passages above, but it is worth repeating.
The evidence given here and elsewhere throughout this paper is coercive and more than adequately answers Whidden's question number two. Inspiration undeniably affirms that God has made the ultimate success of Christ's atoning work dependent upon the perfecting experience of the remnant, an experience that He longs to impart to His people.
The third question in the Ministry article states, “Is there not solid Bible and Ellen White evidence for the claim that Christ has fully vindicated God's demand for perfect obedience by His own life and work?”
We do not dispute the fact that Christ has fully vindicated God's demand for perfect obedience. Christ is the only human whom God can point to as a perfect example from His birth to His death. All other humans have sinned and come short (Romans 3:23). But there is one potential vulnerability for God. Satan can make the claim (whether true or false makes no difference to him) that Jesus, being both God and human, had some sort of advantage over others. Indeed, we hear echoes of this argument today.
If Satan could make this accusation stick, he could claim the victory. He could say, “Jesus was the only one who could really keep God's law. What do you expect? After all He was both God and man.”
The only answer for God is to produce a whole group of humans who keep God's law and, like Jesus, do it under the most trying of circumstances. Christ promises the last church the ability to overcome just as He overcame (Revelation 3:21). We should not miss this point.
Our God is not in the business of leaving any questions unanswered in the great controversy. He will meet all possible objections. We need only look at the life of Job for an example of this.
So while the perfect, sinless life and sacrifice of Christ should fully answer all questions (and ultimately it does), God will go the extra mile. He is very patient and long-suffering towards His finite creatures who do not fully comprehend His character versus the character of sin. God will not bring this controversy to an end until all questions have been answered. There will be absolutely no room for any doubts as to God's character, His requirements, or His power to give weak, sinful humans the ability to be in complete harmony (at-one-ment) with Him.
Which brings us to the last generation. Satan has been marshalling all the deceptive powers of hell to hurl at God's last generation people. He has nearly 6,000 years of experience on his resumé. He is pulling out all the stops in his endeavour to cause God's people to miss the mark; to fall short; to let God down.
On the other hand, God has unleashed the power of vital truths recovered, re-activation of the gift of prophecy as a special guiding light to His remnant, and the promise of Divine aid itself; all to enable His faithful in the last momentous showdown to come off more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). God's people will bring glory to God by His demonstrating His redeeming power in their lives.
When Satan threw everything he could at Job, God was proven right. When Satan throws everything at the last generation, God is again proven right before men and angels. Satan has exhausted his claims; he has been allowed to give it his “best shot” and he has failed miserably. Like Job, the last generation vindicates God's claims and His character. God will prove that He can empower a whole generation of His faithful saints and that He is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24).
Whidden's fourth question asks, “Would it not be more appropriate to suggest that Christ vindicates His Father in the Most Holy Place phase of the ‘great controversy’ by demonstrating that the Trinity has been completely consistent with its nature of infinite love in the disposition of the cases of every human being?”
The wording selected by Whidden signals something. The final atonement has been underway in the heavenly sanctuary's Most Holy Place since 1844. Whidden, avoiding the term “final atonement” instead calls it “the Most Holy Place phase of the ‘great controversy.’” But it is better known to most Adventists as the “great Day of Atonement” or the “final atonement” or the “antitypical Day of Atonement.” These are, of course, terms that Ellen White and our pioneers used when referring to Christ's atonement process since 1844. Curiously, Whidden makes use of the term “great controversy” only here in his article.
Coupling the “final atonement” in the Most Holy Place period of Christ's ministry with the concept of the “great controversy” highlights the nature of the issues at stake and how God goes about resolving them. But the presently continuing atonement in Christ's heavenly ministry spotlighted by the great controversy tends to bring discomfort to those who have favored the QOD positions.
It is worth reminding ourselves that the New Theology has no true atonement phase with Jesus in the Most Holy Place, just a phase where the benefits of the already completed atonement are distributed. The New Theology has a truncated great controversy concept, one which is neither concerned to discover nor cares to explain any reason behind the delay of Christ's return. Inspiration spells out what that reason is—Heaven awaits a final demonstration in God's people of the power of the gospel to change people; to change people to the point that they can stand before God without fault (Revelation 14:5).
In any case, responding to the above question, we simply ask, Would it not be more appropriate for Christ to show His infinite love for humanity and to vindicate His Father's character of love by freeing His faithful at last from the power of sin? By bringing a whole generation of His people to the place where they would rather die than commit a wrong against Him? Revelation resounds with the victories of God's people over the worst circumstances in the history of the great controversy. This is heaven's triumphant hour. The Groom is coming to take His bride home to be with Him. His wife hath made herself ready and is clothed in spotless, white linen. God's character is vindicated. Satan's lies are silenced. As one person has put it, “God will demonstrate, not state, this incredible fact [complete at-one-ment] which Satan says can never happen.”63
We have certain expectations of judges on earth. We count on them to administer their cases in a fair, equitable, just, and hopefully merciful way. How God disposes of cases is how God saves people. He makes no arbitrary rulings in heaven's court. He does not clear the guilty by providing a covering for their unforsaken sin (Exodus 34:7). He is a complete Savior. His business is to separate sin and sinners; to save them from their sins (Matthew 1:21). That is what the whole atonement process accomplishes. Scriptures and Ellen White make this abundantly clear. God vindicates His character by demonstrating that salvation is complete; that sin is no match to his empowering love; that His faithful people will remain loyal under the fiercest of temptations and trials.
The final question asks, “Furthermore, could it be that we are all wrestling with a more foundational issue: (a) What is the role of human effort and accomplishment in the great plan of salvation? (b) How dependent is God on the successes of His professed followers for His own vindication?”
First of all, we want to make it abundantly clear that man's part in the salvation process carries no merit toward that salvation. Second, and this is very important, while we can do nothing without God, He will do nothing for us without our cooperation. That is not to say that He has done nothing before we were born or that He did not send us enabling grace to empower us to choose to cooperate with Him in the first place. But, in His great plan of redemption, God has so ordered it that He does nothing in our lives by way of applying His grace to our lives unless we meet the condition of cooperation. What does Inspiration say about this?
We might ask a very simple question, What does salvation mean? The angel announcing the soon coming arrival of Christ provides a simple, yet profound answer; an answer that would solve many a theological debate were we to take it at face value.
Salvation involves forgiveness.
Salvation involves sanctification of the Spirit.
While God is the One who empowers, we have a part in the great work of salvation.
As seen here, Scriptures clearly place human effort within the salvation process, while just as clearly revealing that human activity receives no saving merit. Next we will discover whether Ellen White is in agreement with the Bible on the issue of human effort in the saving process.
Here is some abundant good news:
The above passages provide conclusive evidence that human effort is a part of the salvation process; not for merit; but as a necessary condition. Could we thus say that God is dependent on human action? Surely it is by His own choice for God truly depends on no one unless He chooses to do so. Was God “dependent” on Job for vindication? Yes, but only by His own choice. Ultimately, God needs no one to vindicate Him. But in His great mercy and infinite wisdom, He sees this as the best way to win over the creatures He has made. This is the best way to resolve the whole rebellion problem and to make the universe a safe place once again. Who are we to question God's wisdom and methods?
For further study on the topic of human involvement in the salvation process, we refer the reader to Larry Kirkpatrick's book, Real Grace for Real People.71 This book deals with the role of human effort and accomplishment in the plan of salvation, and chapters 9-11 with the three positions commonly taken on the role of obedience.72
Again we ask, is the evidence in Scriptures and the writings of Ellen White “explicit” enough to debunk the New Theology that is espoused by QOD and its sympathizers? While seeking to avoid labeling anyone, we are left with little choice but to recognize that the five above quoted questions and other sentiments expressed in the Ministry article under discussion lead in the wrong direction. Unquestionably, the consensus of Inspiration strongly favors the views as set forth by our pioneers, by M. L. Andreasen and other faithful stewards of God's word.
One last quote from the Ministry article states,
In reply, we concur that the humanity of Christ is a central issue to all the discussion surrounding the QOD debates. We would add to that the significance and meaning of the atonement. What is abundantly clear, is that the proponents of QOD have ignored an overwhelming body of Scriptural and Spirit of Prophecy evidence that conclusively contradicts their thesis. As we have demonstrated above, the views that were historically Adventist that were so persuasively and profoundly brought to us by M. L. Andreasen and other faithful saints, are firmly grounded in the Bible and writings of Ellen White.
We believe that God's truth still stands, both “then and now.” And it will stand at its brightest in that last generation when God can say, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12). In that hour, God will at last be able to “present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments” (Revelation 16:7).
David Qualls is an active member of the Tulsa, Oklahoma Seventh-day Adventist Church. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist by godly parents, he turned his back on God in his teens, but by the grace of God returned to the faith of his youth with a strong desire to serve God and to help others prepare for His soon coming. He has served in several self-supporting ministries and currently resides near Tulsa with his wife, Ruth. Having earned degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, he currently works in the software development field for a large telecommunications firm. Taking an active interest in current theological issues within the Remnant Church, he desires to let God use him to spread the true gospel and to help others avoid being blown about by every wind of doctrine.
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