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Reviewing the Review: 144,000 Edition

October 22, 2009 – Vol. 186, No. 30
This issue, with two exceptions (three if you count the lead story in KidsView), was worthy of publication. The INBOX provided a range of thoughtful responses from readers; Roy Adam’s editorial, FOOT WASHING: REMOVING THE EMBARRASSMENT, was generous and inclusive; AFTER by Kimberly Luste Maran was a cautionary tale of needless worry; WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES included the amazing humanitarian work of ADRA and an appeal from Jan Paulsen for young adults to push their agenda, politically and theologically; Reinder Bruinsma wrote a lovely ode to foot washing.
FOCUS ON THE REAL ISSUES, is a timely admonition by Ellen White “not to engage in controversy” with enemies lest we “be diverted and hindered from our work”.
HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY by Handysides and Landless is a MUST READ. Jimmy Phillips asks readers to “adopt the Jesus model by taking healing action before we challenge people’s appearance, lifestyle, and theology”.
A HOLY SPELL by Michael W. Campbell is a carefully researched account of Adventist worship practices before the Adventist Church was formally organized in 1863. It’s a MUST READ.
Monte Salin does his usual excellent job of recommending Christian reading. In this issue the common theme is evangelism.
In WAITING FOR THE KING, Elfriede Volke reflects on her glimpse of the motorcade of Belgium’s King Leopold. She was a girl of six in a crowd of “cast-offs of society” waiting to see a king who never noticed her. It broke her heart.
There are three pieces in this Review that are poorly written, but they frustrate and sadden me for additional and more important reasons. The first and most egregiously upsetting is the cover story, JUST 144,000? REALY? by Ganoune Diop. The cover promised to untangle “the secret behind the mysterious number”. It didn’t! This was in spite the editorial “help” of Wilona Karimabadi, author of 144K IN CYBERSPACE, the article’s sidebar that equated the 144,000 with other “tough” theological concepts.
First of all, The 144,000 isn’t “a favorite topic of ‘parlor conversation’—particularly on Sabbath afternoons—among Adventists”. It’s only a popular topic for traditional Adventist literalists, thankfully a diminishing minority, who have to reinterpret the number of the “saved”, a very big number in 1863, to mean a much bigger number today—15,000,000 and counting!
As to the attempt to “untangle the secret behind the mysterious number” we have first to “untangle” words such as “stand” and “standing”.
“The 144,000 are able to stand because they worship the Lamb. Notwithstanding the angels who stand in the book of Revelation, humans are able to stand because the Lamb is standing. Revelation 5 tells us that the Lamb was slain but is standing. This refers to Christ’s death and resurrection in apocalyptic language. The concept of victory is central to the entire message of chapter 5. Without the Lamb’s victory, there is no other victory.
“It is no accident that Revelation 14, in referring to the 144,000, describes them as standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion and that they follow the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14:1-5).”
Finally, Diop, concludes, “The number 144,000 is a symbolic number.” Words fail me once again.
A MESSAGE FOR REVELATION’S SAINTS by Hyveith Williams claims her interpretation of Revelation provides a “comfort, encouragement, incentive to believers facing persecution and possible death! What hope for these uncertain times”. Maybe it’s just me, but her preceding paragraphs describing the fiery liqueur “served undiluted into the cup of divine judgment” to those “tormented” souls who have “the mark of the beast”, left me uncomfortable and uncomforted.
Why KIDSVIEW features the story Jenny, THE LITTLE MILLERITE, who “wasn’t sure about her relationship with Jesus because her experience had been scary”, i.e. Jesus didn’t return on October 22, 1844, is puzzling. Even though she decided to join “a church” when she was 11 and went on “to study her Bible, and to not follow without first asking questions and studying for herself,” the author fails to make explicit the historical significance of the story, the lesson to be learned, or the relevance of the story to the kids reading it.

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