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A Few Parallels with Last Generation Theology


This week’s Adult Bible Study Guide focuses on suffering and purification of character. On sanctification, Last Generation Theology reaches in several directions, but the lesson seems prone to wander close to it on these themes. Sunday’s study sets the parameters with this quote from Ellen G. White: 

The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people.” (The Desire of Ages, p. 671) (a website that is no longer active but is viewable through archived pages) includes a 14-point short list of beliefs. Number 12 states the following:

Heaven has put it in our power by consecrated, Christ-reflecting lives to hasten Jesus’ return. God will wait for the maturing of Christian character in a significant number of people as the chief condition determining those events, such as the latter rain, loud cry, sealing, and Sunday law, which affect the time when probation for the world shall close, and thus the time of the Second Coming.

The lesson doesn’t use White’s language of “perfection,” a term that is woven throughout Last Generation Theology. Instead, it employs “purification” in describing the process and purpose of human suffering. (A discussion of what the suffering of animals accomplishes is not addressed.) Unfortunately, there is no explanation in this week’s study as to why it eschews White’s use of “perfection.” It’s also unclear if the lesson makes a distinction, as it also includes several White quotes employing the variations on “purification” in making essentially the same point about perfection and human character. 

Significantly, this week includes more and longer Ellen White quotes than normal. I counted all the biblical words printed in the lesson as well as all the White material, including the supplement. 

  • Bible: 111 words
  • White: 3630 words

Perhaps it should be called the Adult White Study Guide with biblical supplements.

Later in the week, the lesson randomly jumps to the parable of the ten virgins, a favorite of the Last Generation Theology crowd. 

In the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1–12), many commentators point out that the oil is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. Ellen White agrees, but also says that this oil is a symbol for character and that it is something no one can acquire for us.

Read the parable. In what ways does the meaning of the story change, depending on whether you see oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit or of the possession of character? What are the implications of this story for you if the oil represents the Holy Spirit, or a Christlike character?’s number 14 alludes to the parable and seems to embrace the multivalent nature of symbols. 

When Adventists embrace the truths they now have they will become the five wise bridesmaids. Adventist truths enflamed by the transforming Spirit will produce the light that will say to the world, “Behold your God!” The character of God will be demonstrated more clearly and winsomely by the followers of Christ than ever before on Planet Earth.

Of course, this lesson goes beyond Last Generation Theology’s focus in several ways, including a helpful point about the role of communities. But does it do enough biblically to help Adventists avoid the various historical and current temptations of purity and perfectionism? 


Alexander Carpenter is executive editor of Spectrum

Title image: The Parable of the Ten Virgins (detail from Mansfield Traquair Centre), Phoebe Traquair, 1893-1901 (public domain).

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