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Lamb or Beast? A Creative Catechism for How To Wait

Alden Thompson sent the following recent Sabbath School presentation to Spectrum, suggesting that it was “worthy of a broader audience.”


One upon a time in the West, in 1874, the General Conference sent to Walla Walla, Washington, Isaac Van Horn (baptized by Joseph Bates) and his wife Adelia (Patten) Van Horn.

Adelia, who had been a secretary to Ellen White, wrote to White about their difficult work and wished there were someone who could help them to “make a stir.” Isaac pitched a 60-foot tent, where he preached good news about God.[1]

Among those who attended was a 24-year-old infantryman named Jones, from Fort Walla Walla. Alonzo T. Jones spent his free time satisfying his voracious appetite for reading and studying. And he had a natural gift for “making a stir.”

Jones attended Van Horn’s lectures, then devoured all the Adventist literature he could find. As he arose from his baptism, he raised his hands and exclaimed, “Dead to the world, and alive to thee, O my God!”[2]

In 1878 Ellen White met Jones, declaring him a “promising young man.” Jones wrote several articles for the Review and Herald about prophecy and religious liberty. By 1888 Jones had moved east and was teaching history and religious liberty in Battle Creek College.

Also in 1888, Senator Henry William Blair of New Hampshire proposed a National Sunday Law. In testimony before Blair’s committee, Jones ably presented the Seventh-day Adventist position in favor of religious liberty. He did so despite frustrations.

“I was interrupted, by the Chairman alone, one hundred sixty-nine times in ninety minutes.”[3]

Blair’s bill died in committee, then it died again in 1889.

It was in this context that Ellen White wrote:

The most momentous struggle of all the ages is just before us. Events which for more than forty years we have upon the authority of the prophetic word declared to be impending are now taking place before our eyes. (5T: 712, 1889)

The proposed National Sunday Law was defeated. But many state Sunday laws remained.

In May of 1892, five Tennessee Seventh-day Adventists were convicted of working their farms on Sunday. They were jailed and forced to work on a chain gang. Similar penalties continued until 1895.[4] When Ellen White warned of a National Sunday Law, she was not writing about some possible threat 130-plus years in the future. She wrote of current events, major concerns in her own day. She fully expected a National Sunday Law to be passed and gave instruction on how to meet it:

The prophecies that show us the closing scenes of earth’s history are fast fulfilling. The time is fast approaching when we shall be made to feel the hand of oppression, because we demand our religious rights. . . .

We have been looking for many years for a Sunday law to be enacted in our land: and now that the movement is right upon us, we ask, What are our people going to do in the matter? . . .

Sunday can be used for carrying forward various lines of work that will accomplish much for the Lord. On this day open-air meetings and cottage meetings can be held. House-to-house work can be done. . . .

Whenever possible, let religious services be held on Sunday. Make these meetings intensely interesting. Sing genuine revival hymns, and speak with power and assurance of the Saviour’s love. Speak on temperance and on true religious experience. (9T: 233, 1909)

And in 1888: “Very soon our nation will attempt to enforce upon all, the observance of the first day of the week as a sacred day” (9T: 233, 1909).

* * *

Let’s pause to define some terms—inspired, infallible, inerrant.[5] Are they the same?

Inspired: Actuated or animated by divine or supernatural influence.

Some have said, “Mozart was an inspired composer.”

Before a sermon, the preacher may say, “I pray that God will guide my words.” (The preacher is requesting divine inspiration, and he has some confidence that it will be granted.)

Infallible: Not liable to be deceived or mistaken. (“In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it. God alone is infallible.”[6])

Inerrant: Free from error. “If I find one mistake in the Bible, I’ll have to throw it all out!” (No Bible author claimed to be inerrant; inspiration is not the same as inerrancy.)

Is it all right to be wrong? Must we always be right?

* * *

Signs of the Times November 28, 1922—its cover story:

Farewell, Farewell, ZIONISM!

It has been the hope of the Jews ever since they lost control of Palestine that someday the land would be restored to them. But when they rejected Jesus of Nazareth, their opportunity passed.

The English government has notified the leaders of Zionism that there will be no Jewish state, or nation, or authority; no Jewish rule in, near, or about the Holy Land.[7]

“The kingdom is the Lord’s: and He is the governor among the nations” (Psalm 22:28).

The God of heaven declared that after Messiah came, the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed, the sanctuary would be burned, and nowhere have we record that Jerusalem would again be built up as a home for the children of Abraham [ref. to Daniel 9].

Since 1896-1897 many Jewish people in Central and Eastern Europe had been dreaming and planning for a future Jewish state in their ancient homeland. But now, according to our Signs of the Times, this event, so longed for, so prayed for, would never happen.

Yet only 26 years later, in 1948, came the Israeli Declaration of Independence. And in June of 1967, the entire city of Jerusalem came under Israeli control.

* * *

Paul: “These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age” (1 Corinthians 10:11 NLT).

If Paul lived at “the end of the age,” what age was he writing about? What would he call our age, 2,000 years later?

Peter: “You must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21 NLT).

Were these prophets, “moved by the Holy Spirit,” still free to make mistakes, or to misunderstand their messages? Did their divine inspiration make them infallible or inerrant?

Let us read carefully.

“And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:1-2 KJV).

Jonah preached, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed.” Here was a specific time prophecy, whose fulfillment could be tested. Jonah didn’t like Nineveh, and may also have been concerned for his prophetic reputation:

If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22 NLT)

Who gave Jonah his message? God? Did Jonah’s message come true?

No.

So, whose fault was that? Was Jonah’s message conditional or unconditional?

Apparently, conditional.

What was the condition?

Repentance.

Was this condition stated?

No.

Who suspected that the prophecy was conditional?

The king of Nineveh.

Was it an act of faith to assume that the apparently unconditional prophecy was in fact, conditional?

Yes?

So far in our story, who was “faithful”? Nineveh? Who else suspected that Jonah’s prophecy was conditional?

Jonah.

Was Jonah pleased to learn how generous and forgiving God is?

No!

How did Jonah feel?

Very angry, “angry enough to die!”

What did Jonah know about the character of God?

“I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry, and filled with unfailing love” (Jonah 4:2 NLT). Jonah knew God, but he didn’t like him!

Would you like to live a godly life?

Paul said, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 NLT).

Have you suffered persecution? Does that mean that your life is, or is not, godly? Might Paul’s proverb include conditions, stated or unstated?

Who said, “When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel” (Matthew 10:23 NLT).

According to Matthew, Jesus said that. Did the Son of Man return before his disciples reached all the towns of Israel?

No.

If this predicted event didn’t happen, why didn’t it happen? Does this predictive failure make Jesus a false prophet?

The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me.

(Might angels have trouble communicating eternity to time-bound humans?)

It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional. (White, Manuscript 4, 1883)

So, should we try to make Ellen White predict the nearness of Jesus’ return by quoting her out of context, and against her own counsel? Would we like to have a very clear sign of Jesus’s return, one from Jesus himself?

Yes? He called it “the sign of the Son of Man”:

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30 KJV)

When we look up and see Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven, that is the promised sign of the Son of Man. Of that we can be sure.

Jesus told a story about a servant who said in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming” (Matthew 24:45 KJV). Was what the servant said in his heart accurate?

Yes, the lord did delay his coming.

But in view of the delay, how was this servant behaving?

He began “to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken.”

* * *

While Jesus “delays” His coming, how shall we treat our fellow-servants?

Two followers of Jesus knelt on a platform. Which do you think was better prepared to lead?

Follower A: Baptized member of 32 years; 27 years of service to the church; pastor and counselor; 3 years of public preaching; conducted weddings and funerals.

Follower B: Baptized member of 27 years; 3 years of service to the church; physician and Sabbath School teacher; 2 years of public preaching; no weddings, no funerals.

So far, do you have any preference? Might you be willing to ordain both?

Let me add some medical/genetic information:

Both candidates had chromosome pair #23. But their chromosomes #23 were paired differently. Neither candidate got to choose how the chromosomes were paired. Maybe this was a random outcome. Maybe this was God's personal choice.

Follower A: XX chromosome pair #23.
Follower B: XY chromosome pair #23.

Follower A: Peg Hempe
Follower B: Bob Wresch

No one has questioned my own ordination. Why would anyone question Mrs. Hempe's ordination?[8],[9]

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NLT)

Why does the Roman Church not ordain women to be priests?

The traditional liturgical norms of the Church prohibit women from [even] serving the priest at the altar, even in women’s chapels, houses, convents, schools and institutes.[10]

Women are not ordained simply because they have never been ordained, which is not in itself a good theological reason. The Roman practice reflects older cultures in which women were subject to men in every respect, including religion.[11]

Why does the Adventist Church not ordain women to be pastors? Are women not ordained simply because they have never been ordained?

Oops! Many women have been ordained. The first woman received certificates of ordination on more than one occasion.[12]

* * *

This lesson is based upon these most important questions:

Can God be trusted? Is God more like a loving self-sacrificing parent? Or is God more like a demanding and punishing tyrant?

And if I want to become more and more like God:

Will I become more like a Lamb?

or

Will I become more like a Beast?

Let’s review what Revelation says about this Beast. Who cares for a woman who is giving birth? A midwife? A doula? An OB-Gyn physician?

The Beast also attends a woman who is giving birth. Why?

To kill and eat her baby! But God rescues the baby. Then the Beast tries to drown the woman.

Are you already getting a bit tired of this dragon-Beast?

Yes? But this Beast produces more Beasts. A beast from the sea tells lies about God. Is this getting to sound familiar?

Somebody wounds this Beast. “Yeah!”

But he recovers. “Sigh!”

Somebody also wounded the Lamb—fatally.

But despite this, the Lamb came back to life!

Which is the greater miracle? Wound healing? Or resurrection from death?

Does it make any sense to worship a Beast? Who would do a crazy thing like that?

Those people who worship power; especially those that get their power from the Beast.

Do we understand that the Beast is a most unpleasant person?

Seeing that his people are in danger, God “seals” his own people to protect them from being destroyed by the Beast.

Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:30-32)

God records those he has sealed in “The Lamb’s Book of Life.” Who would not want to be sealed by God?

Only those who have already given their allegiance to the Beast, who has made himself God’s enemy.

The Beast slaughters. The Lamb was himself slaughtered.

But the Lamb slaughters no one. The Beast wants to imprison and kill the Lamb’s people.

Do the Lamb people escape to mountain fortresses, from which they defend themselves, using their powerful weapons?

No, that’s not part of the Bible story.

Aren’t we getting very tired of Beasts?

But here comes one more:

This “Land Beast” somewhat resembles a lamb. Lambs are not born with horns. But this Beast has two horns, and he talks like the dragon.

What do all these beasts want, anyway?

They want to force obedience, from those who would not freely follow.

Does the Lamb force obedience?

No! Allegiance to the Lamb is freely given: “Worthy is the Lamb.”

When Elijah prayed, who sent fire from heaven?

God.

Does that mean that all miracles come from God?

No! This most-unpleasant Beast also performs miracles.

So, what does a miracle really prove?

Maybe nothing!

But if people think that all miracles must come from God, could they be fooled by a Beast?

Yes!

Would you wish to live next door to any of these Beasts? Would you want to make a statue to honor any of them?

No! and No!

So why would anyone make a statue to a repulsive and destructive Beast?

Only because he is ordered to do so, and he is afraid to make his own decisions.

By the way, should you hear of a statue that miraculously heals, or sighs, weeps, or speaks, should you be impressed?

No!

Should you decline to worship the Beast or his statue, what would be the minimum penalty?

Death!

Any other penalty?

Yes. After being killed, you could neither buy nor sell. (I guess that makes sense.)

To avoid penalties, what can you do?

Just get marked, with the name or number of the Beast.

Does everybody get marked?

Yes, but the Lamb people are marked with the name of the Lamb.

The Lamb people follow the Lamb, and they sing in the heavenly choir. They refuse to tell lies about God, nor about the Lamb.

What do they tell?

They share the forever Good News about God, our Creator and Savior.

If God is the only Creator, how could any of his creatures “give glory” to Him?

God is glorious. Just tell the truth about him. God has given good evidence that he can be trusted. In the end, he’ll make things come out right.

I surely want to be one of the Lamb people.

And I don’t want to follow the Beast.

But might I still be tempted to sometimes act like a Beast?

* * *

Some Exercises in Acting Like Lambs and Beasts
For each of the following, consider whether the proposed action is more lamb-like or beast-like. Note that some answers may be both or neither.

Like Lamb or Beast? To honor God’s holy Sabbath, we should

allow each other to celebrate holy hours in our own ways.

follow the Bible example of Nehemiah, honoring God’s holy Sabbath by closing the gates.

Like Lamb or Beast? What God expects of us is

openness and freedom in the name of Jesus.

coercion of the conscience in the name of Jesus.

“Any man, be he minister or layman, who seeks to compel or control the reason of any other man, becomes an agent of Satan….” (White, MS 29, 1911; 1BC: 1087).

Like Lamb or Beast? Once I have clearly explained to you why I consider a certain day to be holy

“One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:4 NET).

If you don’t join me in worshipping on my day, God will stamp you with the “Mark of the Beast.”

Like Lamb or Beast? We all want unity, therefore

“When as individual members of the church, you love God supremely and your neighbor as yourself, there will be no need of labored efforts to be in unity, for there will be oneness in Christ as a natural result” (White, MS 24, 1892 [11MR266]).

We must work hard to determine and enforce uniform beliefs and practices.

Like Lamb or Beast? Which commandment in the law is the greatest?

 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40 NRSV).

There are now 28 of them, and I guess they are all equally important.

Like Lamb or Beast? Of course, you can be educated for Adventist ministry. As “commissioned,” you may enjoy all the rights and privileges of an Adventist minister.

But you can never have an ordination ceremony.

Like Lamb or Beast? Of course, you can be legally married. You may enjoy all the rights and privileges of marriage.

But you can never have a wedding ceremony.

Like Lamb or Beast? In making decisions

“We must study the truth for ourselves. No man should be relied upon to think for us. No matter who he is, or in what position he may be placed, we are not to look upon any man as a criterion for us” (White, TM: 105-111; [GW: 125-131, 98-100, 249-254 (1893)] [cf. DA: 459, CWE 44] [cf. 2RH 311:3:1 (June 18, 1889)).

Jesus by his Spirit has granted our leaders the highest authority of God upon the earth. Leaders always pray before they vote. So, majority votes of church employees reveal the will of God. Thus, do we determine the boundaries of your freedom. If you wish to be acceptable to God, you must follow our formulas.

Like Lamb or Beast? People wishing to “come out of Babylon” should

adopt the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice.

be sure to join our church.

Like Lamb or Beast? I know that I’m a sinner, and that I’ve deeply offended God. What can I do to be saved?

Let me introduce you to Jesus. He is in the saving business. If you’re willing to trust him, you will be saved (Acts 13:30-31).

That’s a difficult question. But if you agree to study 21 lessons, for 21 consecutive nights, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to answer your question.

Like Lamb or Beast? I’m a slow reader, and the Bible is so big! Could there be some central theme?

Yes! It’s a wonderful story—about why God made our world, and us. We learn what went wrong, and how God is making it right again. It challenges us to choose whether we want to join the winner or the loser. (Education: 190, 1903).

 Huh?

Like Lamb or Beast? You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars.

These are signs to become terrified because time is running out!

“See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6 KJV).

* * *

I hope that our lesson has stimulated each of us to think more carefully.

“But then, I could be wrong.”[13]

 

Notes & References:

[4] A. W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, vol. 2, (Review and Herald), 1962, 258-259. This was a revision of Spalding's earlier book, Captains of the Host.

[5] The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, Complete Text Reproduced Micrographically, (Clarendon Press, 1991).

[6] White, Ellen, SM 37 (Letter 10, 1895).

[7] Britain, with other Allied powers, had defeated the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

[8] Adventist Today, Vol. 5 No. 4, July-August 1997 p. 23.

[9] Spectrum Magazine, Vol. 26 No. 3, September 1997 pp. 62-63.

[10] Flannery, Austin P. editor, The Documents of Vatican II, Pillar Books, New York, 1975, p. 217.

[11] McKenzie, John L., The Roman Catholic Church, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York, 1971, p. 211.

[13] Carl Sagan, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/37275-but-i-could-be-wrong.

 


Robert R. Wresch, MD, is an ophthalmologist at Guam Seventh-day Adventist Clinic. He has been interested in questions of Christianity and geology since age 17, when he enjoyed discussions by initial GRI scholars Frank Marsh and Richard Ritland at the Atlantic City Youth Congress.

Title image: “Burckhardt-Wildt Apocalypse – Lamb” (1250), Christie’s (public domain).

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