Problems with Adventist futurism

False excitement damages the church's image and message

Commentary | Ángel Manuel Rodriguez

False excitement damages the church's image and message

There is among some Seventh-day Adventists an obsession with prophetic speculation. The present time of relative peace and waiting is disturbing to them, leading them to reinterpret apocalyptic prophecy along futurist lines.

In the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, they find predictions related to some of the contemporary nations of the Middle East and even identify prominent political and religious leaders as specific fulfillments of prophecy. In doing so they commit two errors about which church co-founder Ellen G. White has alerted us.

1. A misapplication of prophecy. By misapplying biblical prophecy they reach wrong conclusions. How does this happen? In her Manuscripts Release Volume 1, she explains: "Some will take the truth applicable to their time, and place it in the future. Events in the train of prophecy that had their fulfillment away in the past are made future, and thus by these theories the faith of some is undermined."

This statement rejects the introduction of futurism into Adventist prophetic interpretation, through the reapplication of prophecies, and suggests two points about those who would try to do so:

First, they have forgotten that the adversary is constantly at work on human minds. Therefore, Bible students should be wary of personal interpretations of prophecy. Second, they ignore the Lord's past leading of His people in the interpretation of prophecy. They detach themselves from the rest of the body of Christ by coming up with their own personal interpretation of biblical prophecies.

2. Emotional Excitement. A false sense of excitement will damage the image and message of the church.

There are some who, when studying not only prophecy but the Bible more generally, "have a burning desire to get out something new and strange to present to the flock of God," White wrote in a manuscript. 'The rebuke of God is upon all such teachers," she said.

When this becomes known outside, the church's reputation is damaged. White also wrote, "it is the desire and plan of Satan to bring in among us those who will go to great extremes -- people of narrow minds, who are critical and sharp, and very tenacious in holding their own conceptions of what the truth means . . . . Through the work of a few of this class of persons, the whole body of Sabbath keepers will be designated as bigoted, pharisaical, and fanatical. The work of the truth, because of these workers, will be thought to be unworthy of notice."

When it comes to eschatology the Scripture provides only an outline of eschatological events; it is dangerous to try to fill in every gap. Our eschatology should be placed within the soteriology of the New Testament, emphasizing the hope as its primary content.

Ángel Manuel Rodriguez is the director of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Biblical Research Institute. This Commentary first appeared in BRI's Reflections newsletter and is reprinted here with permission.