Those following the commentary on Revelation 13 day by day know that I agree with the larger picture of Revelation 13 as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This may not be a popular picture in today’s world, but it does provide a penetrating analysis of many of the ills of the western world and also of the source of much conflict between nations and religions. So although that message has its problematic elements in a post-modern world, it is a message that cannot simply be discarded, but needs to be shared at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way. The message about a broken Christian system did not come to Adventists out of pride, arrogance or self-importance. It originated in careful study of Scripture. And as such it cannot be ignored.
I would, however, point out that it is a dangerous message for Adventists (and others) to carry. Any message that offers a criticism of others, however true, can easily draw out the worst aspects of the human condition in those who proclaim it. The message that in some way those who proclaim are better or wiser than those being proclaimed about plays to our inner drive toward pride and self-importance. In whatever setting such a message is proclaimed, it is critical that the proclaimers be drenched in the spirit of Jesus first or the message can bring out the worst in us. Preaching the Papacy is dangerous for human beings, when it happens it must be driven by the Spirit of God and not by our own passions and prejudices.
Not only so, unless the message is shared as part of a larger biblical balance, it can have an unhealthy impact on those who hear it. When it is shared in a disproportionate way, as if this teaching were the primary message of the Bible, it produces unbalanced people who then go out and damage others as well. Unless bathed in prayer and self-sacrificing love, a message of confrontation can be cruel and abusive and even confusing to those who hear it. Like Jesus, the message of judgment must be delivered with “tears in the voice.” I know from painful experience how difficult this can be. It’s time that Adventists talk more openly about this issue and its impact on us as a people.