Jerry A. Stevens
Retired General Conference Worker/Ponderer of Our Changing Times
As she looked upon the exquisitely beautiful panorama rewarded by her ascent of 14,000-foot Pikes Peak in Colorado in 1893, Katharine Lee Bates gazed upon the sea-like expanse overlooking the Great Plains, and was moved to pen her patriotic hymn poem America the Beautiful. Indeed, in that time of unlimited optimism for Americas bright future a little over a century ago now, the poet represented the collective voice of millions: America! America! / God shed His grace on thee, / And crown thy good with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea.
It still seems to many careful observers (including some excellent Bible students) the world over that God very intentionally raised up the United States of America to be a beacon of liberty to all the world, an exemplar of benevolence and tolerance. By any estimate of true blessings, the U.S.A. has shone out brightly among the entire roll of nations. Yet in our lifetimes, dear readers, something very sinister has been gaining a foothold in this signally favored land, and now is bringing in conditions that have long been feared. If your eyes have been open, surely you have sensed changes. Above all, this is a time, not to bash America for all its faults, but to be acutely aware of exactly where we stand in the prophetic time line of this worlds rapidly closing history.
On September 24, 1886, a Seventh-day Adventist religious liberty periodical known as American Sentinel was first published. In 1904 it became known as Liberty. I have subscribed to this important sentinel of Christian liberty ever since my baptism in 1977. Over the years I have felt impressed not only to subscribe but also to sponsor subscriptions on others behalf. Time is running out, friends. Thought leaders need to know what is coming upon the United States. For what is coming upon America will have immediate and profound repercussions on what is to come upon the whole planet, and that very soon.
Our own journal, too, happens to be American-based, but the present issue has been planned as much for the Adventist world church as it was for American Adventists. Well-informed members of the remnant church are keenly aware that both the Bible and the inspired writings of Ellen White describe the key role that the United States will play in the final movements of Earths history. To be uninformed or misinformed on the subject of America and its ultimate repudiation of religious liberty is to be, very likely, deceived, then lost. That ought to be a sobering thought for all of us to contemplate.
In light of such momentous considerations, this timely issue of ADVENTISTS AFFIRM might well be one of the very most important that we have ever published. Read it thoroughly. Read it carefully. Read it prayerfully. Most of all, I humbly implore you, my brothers and sisters, please read it!
Do you sense what I sense, more and increasingly more of late? The powers of Earth and Hell will manifest a terrifying, destructive activity. But the eye of faith will discern in all these manifestations harbingers of the grand and awful future, and the triumphs that will surely come to God's people (Ellen G. White, General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 28, 1893, emphasis mine).
With a sense of the urgency of the moment, then, we have lined up several authors who specialize in last-day events and who are intimately familiar with the double-pronged issue of the United States in prophecy and the demise of religious liberty the world over. A full seven of them are first-time contributors, but we are confident that you will be blessed by the use all have made of their extraordinary gifts.
We begin with Mark Finley, who provides a Biblical exposition of the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of Revelation 13. Pastor Finley sets forth a convincing case that also might satisfy those not of our faith.
Next, Samuel Koranteng-Pipim examines the question of whether SDAs need to revise their traditional view of the prophetic scenario painted in Revelation 13.
Edwin de Kock presents fresh insights into evaluating the traditional Adventist view of the United States as the prophetic two-horned beast.
James Standish addresses the topic: Do the Supreme Court decisions relating to religious freedom of the last 50 years fit in with the traditional Adventist prophetic scenario? Could Sunday laws occur under the American system?
Greg Hamilton follows with thorough coverage answering the question: Since America is now the only world superpower, do the international economic and political claims of Revelation 13 become more realistic?
Alan Reinach presents a combination Bible study/historical analysis. He addresses the questions, What does speaking as a dragon mean, and Could the United States abuse of individual rights in its history be a foretaste of the time when its lamblike gentleness is transformed astonishingly quickly into the terrifying countenance of a fire-breathing dragon?
Lewis and Richard Walton take a close look at what has happened in the world of civil liberties after 9/11, and what we might expect in the future.
Ed Reid traces the emerging political relationship between the U.S. and the papacyfrom Reagan's ambassador to the Vatican, to the Holy Alliance against Communism, to Cardinal Ratzinger's aid in Bush's recent election and where Benedict the XVI may take the relationship.
Nick Miller tells how an ancient conflict between medieval absolutism and moral relativism is mirrored in our political and cultural wars and how the Adventist sanctuary message shows a third way between legalism and liberalism. Where does the current debate over the Ten Commandments fit in?
Lincoln Steed provides serious food for thought for all Adventists in his coverage of subtle but ominous new threats to religious liberty.
We conclude this issue with a testimonial. Melissa Reid (whose father Ed was mentioned as another contributing author) writes of the necessity for us to be watchful in cultural/political issues that arise, including school vouchers, abortion, etc.
We are deeply thankful to all of our contributors for taking time out of their very busy schedules to share what you are now reading. As always, our earnest prayer is that you will be blessed as you thoroughly digest this vital information.
As I write, the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, is on the verge of disappearing from the map, a city of upwards of half a million souls, not to mention another million who only very recently lived in greater New Orleans. But on August 29, Hurricane Katrina was no respecter of persons. Haves and have-nots alike became so many homeless, jobless DPs (displaced persons) in a matter of hours, as catastrophic flooding overwhelmed levees designed to protect the below-sea level city. What wind and water did not annihilate, fire broke out to do its part in deepening yet further the already ungovernable destruction. As if to strike the ultimate deathblow to a city already reeling from mortal wounds, Hurricane Rita became a most unwelcome caller on September 23, largely undoing frantic efforts that had just been made to pump the water out of major portions of thoroughly bedraggled New Orleans.
Some have called the cataclysm the American tsunami, with obvious reference to the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004. Once nicknamed the Crescent City (describing its shape around the Mississippi River) and more recently the Big Easy (for its gentle pace of life and laid-back lifestyle), New Orleans by any appellation has been utterly ravaged by this hurricane.
On a personal note, for a brief time back in 1962, I sojourned in the Crescent City in an old mansion (converted into a boarding house) on St. Charles Avenue in the citys historic Garden District, and rode downtown via Canal Street on the quaint St. Charles Streetcar. I must now content myself to call to mind images of New Orleans as it then was. It will never be the same again, if in fact attempts are even made to rebuild it.
Just now I hear words forcefully echoing in the corridors of my mind, and I ponder how near we might be, truly, to the end of all things earthly. Over 100 years ago, Ellen White wrote of terrible calamities visiting the United States which show that the judgments of the Lord are falling on the world. The destruction of . . . cities is a warning to us to prepare for what is coming upon the earth (Ms. 72, 1902, in Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, p. 92). And the San Francisco Earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906 seems somehow so long ago that it is easy to relegate it to the trash heap of ancient history, instead of using it as a prophetic wake-up call for this very hour that we truly are in the midst of the last days, and have been for many years.
And this urgent work of preparation is not exclusively reserved for Christs loyal followers within the remnant church, as though they could somehow hoard their privileged knowledge for themselves merely. O awake, I pray you, awake! for you bear the most sacred responsibilities. As faithful watchmen, you should see the sword coming, and give the warning, that men and women may not pursue a course through ignorance that they would avoid if they knew the truth. The Lord has enlightened us in regard to what is coming upon the earth, that we may enlighten others . . . (Review and Herald Extra, December 24, 1889).
Let me say it again: The timing of this issue of ADVENTISTS AFFIRM could scarcely have been more providential. Maranatha, dear friendsthe Lord is coming! Therefore, comfort one another with these words. And as you are yourself comforted, warn a loved one, friend, or neighbor. Let all Adventists affirm the nearness of Christs coming.