Monthly Archives: April 2014

Stages of Surrender

I have to confess that I used to suffer from a very significant disease. You might not have noticed it by looking at me, but if you had lived with me for awhile you probably would have. It has a very special name, and it’s called grandparent-deprivation syndrome. Some of you probably have it too. That is when you have adult children who are married, but you don’t have grandchildren. For a number of years my wife and I were in this condition. It can be quite serious.

One day I was returning home from Florence, Italy, and took a short hop to Frankfurt, Germany. There I got on a 12-hour flight to Los Angeles and sat down in an aisle seat in the center block of seats on a 747. A short while later I saw an older gentleman coming up the aisle, holding the hands of a 2-year old blonde girl who wsa walking in front of him. They came up the aisle, stopped right next to me, and he said, “Sir, you just have won the prize! You get to sit with this young lady for the next 12 hours.” I rather suspect he was trying to deflect a negative reaction, but all I could think of to respond was to rub my hands together and say, “Oh goody!” The whole trip the two of us were making up games and doing all sorts of fun things. It was at that moment that I realized I was suffering from Grandparent Deprivation Syndrome (GDS). And there was only one possible cure.

Knowing this the excitement was great in our home a couple of years ago. We got a call from our oldest daughter asking if we could connect on Skype that night, She said she had a very important announcement. I thought to myself, “I know what this announcement is! She’s going to have a baby, awesome!” As the day went on my wife and I got more and more excited. Then the Skype call came through. Our daughter and her husband were there and she said, “Are you ready for the announcement?” I said yes! And she said, “I was just awarded my counseling license!” Yeah, awesome. I tried to look excited.

Around a year ago, however, we had another Skype call and this time it was the announcement we were waiting for. My daughter and her husband were going to have a baby! That announcement changed our lives. My wife started going on the internet every day to relearn the whole process and see what size the baby must be at each stage. It was all pretty exciting stuff! I was suddenly seeking out other grandparents and discussing their annoying pictures at great length. Everything was changing. Then on April 6, 2014, the baby was born. Six pounds nine ounces and twenty and a half inches long. His name is Julien Johann Clouzet.

But why am I telling you all this, beside the fact that I am now one of those annoying grandparents myself? There is an important spiritual lesson in all this. While Julien was born at a certain size he was not at that size three months before. And he has not stayed that size in the days and weeks afterward. He is eating and eating and growing an growing (great diet program for mom!). Every day he is a little bit bigger. Every week there are features there that were not there before. When it comes to babies, both before and after they are born, it’s all about growth, it’s all about development.

You see, growth is wired into everything in life. If a plant or a creature is alive and healthy, it’s going to grow in some way. It is the same way with spiritual life. In Mark 4:26-28 (NIV) Jesus told a parable. It’s unique to Mark. He said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain–  first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” It doesn’t take long to figure out that Jesus isn’t telling this story so we can know more about plants.

Notice a few things here. First there’s development. A healthy person never stays in the same place. A healthy person is always growing in some way. If they are no longer growing physically then they are growing mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. When it comes to spiritual things (the kingdom of God) there is growth, development, and change. The parable tells us that spiritual life is developmental, but there is a second piece to it. Spiritual growth is does not arise from human effort. You don’t grow either physically or spiritually by human effort. My daughter today is not working very hard to make the baby grow. She is working very hard to allow the baby to grow (by feeding and caring for its heeds), but the growth itself is actually a miracle, just as it was when Julien was a fetus. You can’t grow spiritually by trying to. When spiritual growth comes, it is always a miracle.

Ellen White and the Book of Revelation III

The final blog in this short series summarizes random points of interpretation that can be found scattered throughout Ellen White’s writings, particularly in the book The Great Controversy. The concepts that follow are covered in the order of the texts in Revelation to which they apply, beginning with chapter 1 and ending with chapter 22. White understood the “Lord’s Day,” when the spirit came upon John (Rev 1:9-10), to be the Sabbath day (AA 581:3; YI April 5, 1900). She associates the heavenly scene of Revelation 4-5 with the ascension of Christ to heaven after His resurrection (DA 834-835). The lion and the lamb (Rev 5:5-6) are both symbols of Christ, representing the union of omnipotent power with self-sacrificing love (AA 589:2). The heavenly signs of the sixth seal (Rev 6:12-14) are usually associated with events leading up to the Advent movement in the mid-19th Century (GC 333-334).

While her language falls short of an endorsement, White approvingly reports the predictions of Josiah Litch related to the fifth and sixth trumpets (GC 334-335). The scene of Revelation 10 describes a point in history when the time periods of Daniel have reached their conclusion and the final proclamation of the gospel has begun (MS 59, 1900, quoted in 7BC 971). The two witnesses of Revelation 11 represent the Old and the New Testaments, and the descriptions of the chapter portray how the Bible was treated in the course of the French Revolution (GC 265-288).

Ellen White describes the war in heaven of Rev 12:7-12 in two different, but complementary ways. On the one hand, the scene describes a threat to the government of heaven that occurred even before the creation of the world. Satan, and all the angels who followed him, were physically cast out of heaven at that time (RH January 28, 1909; Letter 114, 1903, quoted in 7 BC 973). On the other hand, the casting out of the dragon reflects the impact of the cross on the affections of the universe (MS 50, 1900, quoted in 7 BC 974). At the cross, Satan lost any spiritual credibility he may have retained in heavenly places (3SP 194-195).

Ellen White understood the sea beast of Rev 13:1-10 to represent the papacy of the Middle Ages (GC 49-60), which is to have an end-time role in opposition to the true people of God (GC 445-450). While many of her statements against the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church are painfully strong by today’s standards (GC 563-581), other statements caution against personalizing one’s opposition to the papacy (Ev 576:1). She also recognizes that time and place need to be considered when expressing that opposition (TM 112:2; Ev 573-577).

Ellen White understood the land beast of Rev 13:11-14 as the United States of America in its end-time collaboration with the Roman heirarchy (GC 439-445). The Mark of the Beast is received when one rejects God’s final call to true Sabbath keeping and instead submits to the end-time enforcement of Sunday worship (GC 445-450). The three angels of Rev 14:6-12 represent believers in God’s end-time message who spread the last gospel message throughout the world (GC 311-312).

Ellen White did not consider the Battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16) a military affair in the Middle East or elsewhere, to her Armageddon will be a last-day spiritual conflict between the people of God and the forces of evil (note several comments in 7BC 982-983). During that last conflict fundamental spiritual principles will be clarified and people will be brought to decision concerning them. It will be a time when faith is tested rather than physical power or skill (MS 1a, 1890, quoted in 7BC 983).

Regarding Revelation 20, Ellen White was a pre-millenialist. She believed that the millennium will be a thousand-year period after the Second Coming of Jesus. During that period the earth will be desolate of human beings, although Satan and his angels are confined there. The people of God are taken up to heaven at the second coming to spend the thousand years with God (GC 653-661). At the close of the millennium, the wicked of all time are resurrected and God’s people return to earth with the New Jerusalem to witness the final destruction of sin, sinners and Satan (GC662-673). The earth is then destroyed by fire and God creates a new heaven and a new earth in which God’s faithful people will dwell forever in joy and perfect harmony (GC 673-678). In White’s opinion, however, the best definition of heaven is not riches and glory, it is the presence of Christ (undated MS 58, quoted in 7BC 989).

Ellen White and the Book of Revelation II

Ellen White articulated a high spiritual purpose for the book of Revelation. 1) The book was designed to keep the human agent out of sight and to exalt God and His law (TM 112:2). When readers view the glory of God portrayed there human pride is laid in the dust. 2) The close connection between heaven and earth in the visions was designed to teach that the connection between God and His people is “close and decided” (TM 114:5; AA 586:1). 3) Rightly understood, Revelation enables presenters to “uplift Jesus as the center of all hope” (TM 118:1). Revelation was not designed to satisfy curiosity about the future but to fix human eyes on Jesus and encourage a closer walk with God.

Ellen White’s view of Revelation’s authorship and time of writing was in harmony with the traditions of the Early Church Fathers as well as the conservative consensus around the turn of the Twentieth Century. She taught that the author of Revelation was the last survivor of the disciples, presumably John the son of Zebedee (AA 569:1). The Apocalypse was written in the time of Emperor Domitian, who summoned John to Rome to be tried for his faith, had him cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, and then banished him to the Isle of Patmos, a place of banishment for criminals (AA 569:4-570:4).

Where her statements are clear, Ellen White seems to consistently apply the “historicist” method to the text of Revelation (EW 230:2). “Some of the scenes depicted in this prophecy are in the past, some are now taking place; some bring to view the close of the great conflict between the powers of darkness and the Prince of heaven, and some reveal the triumphs and joys of the redeemed in the earth made new” (AA 584:1). Two examples of her historicist approach: 1) she sees the letter to the church of Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7) as a description of the entire Christian church in the apostolic age (First Century AD– AA 578:1-2, cf. AA 585:3), and 2) the message to Laodicea is particularly applicable to the Adventist people at the end of time (MS 33, 1894, quoted in 7 BC 961).

At the same time, however, she also acknowledges that the book of Revelation was given “for the guidance and comfort of the church throughout the Christian dispensation” (AA 583:1), something more akin to the “idealist” approach. The overcomer promises of all the seven letters, for example (including Rev 2:7; 3:5 and 3:21), belong to all the faithful ones striving against evil throughout the centuries of darkness and superstition (AA 588:1-2). The message to Ephesus offers an example of how to reprove sin for ministers today (MS 136, 1902, quoted in 7BC 956). The message to Laodicea applies to all who profess to keep the law of God but are not doers of it (RH Oct 17, 1899; DA 489-490).

Whichever way one studies Revelation, however, Ellen White sees the book of Revelation fulfilling a special role in the final era of earth’s history (TM 113:0; 115:2; 116:2; GC 341-342). The truths of the book are “addressed to those living in these last days” (TM 113:3; 8T 301). Many parts of Revelation (she cites in this context Rev 15:2-3; 21:2-22; 22:1-5, 14; and 14:2-5) are directly concerned with the ultimate triumph of God’s remnant church (AA 590-592). She believed that her generation was nearing the time when those prophecies would be fulfilled (TM 113:3). So while historicism was her primary approach to Revelation, she understood that the entire book would have special significance for the very last days (TM 116:5; 9T 267). Even the chains of history portrayed there would help God’s people correctly estimate the value of things and discern “the true aim of life” (PK 548:1-2).