Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Sharing Prophecy

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The last few weeks have been pretty intense in the religio-political world. The arrival of Pope Francis in America has elicited all kinds of responses. For some, he is a breath of fresh air. For others, he is no different from any other Pope apart from his “terrific PR”.[1]

 

Regardless of which position you may take, one thing is certain – Pope Francis is a historic Pope. He is the first Latin-american Pope and the first Jesuit Pope. In addition “[h]is tour [in America] marked several firsts for the papacy: Francis was the first pope to address a joint sitting of US Congress. He also [conducted the]… first canonization to occur on US soil.”[2] And if that weren’t enough, Christianity Today recently published an article titled “From Antichrist to Brother in Christ: How Protestant Pastors View the Pope” which reveals the results of a Life Way Research project which discovered that “[m]ore than half of evangelical pastors say Pope Francis is their brother in Christ.”[3] This is a long shot from Luther, the father of Protestantism, who emphatically declared “I am entirely of the opinion that the papacy is the Antichrist.”[4]

Those who share the apocalyptic-consciousness that Luther and the reformers proclaimed continue to view the papacy (not necessarily the pope) as the Antichrist. This consciousness – or state of awareness – is arrived at through the historicist reading of apocalyptic literature. In the Bible, this interpretation chronicles an unfolding of end time events in which spiritual fraud forms the overlying strategy of scriptures protagonist – Satan. At the center of this strategy lies the Roman Papal system and the story that this system tells. A philosophy which, taken as a whole, forms a counter-narrative to the story that Jesus came to tell.

As a result, those who share this consciousness feel a responsibility to warn the world. Thus, while the masses may engage in ardent adulation of Romes pontiff, this group finds itself swimming against that stream. As a historicist I find myself in that very position and wonder, how can I effectively share this story with those who do not share my worldview? And while I have yet to arrive at a complete answer, the last few weeks have taught me 3 things I certainly do not want to do.

False Accusations
The first item on my list is false accusations. I cannot tell you how many Facebook posts I have seen that level false accusations against Pope Francis. The worst of all would have to be a recent article accusing the Pope of declaring Jesus’ work on the cross a failure. If this were true, it would be very significant. But it turns out, that’s not what Francis actually said. His exact words were:

The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.[6]

The relatively unbiased and careful reader would note that the interpretation of this passage rests on the phrase “humanly speaking”. In other words, we are not to measure success by way of human standards because “humanly speaking” Jesus’ life ended in failure. To say the Pope was actually saying that Jesus was a failure is clearly a false accusation. While such an accusation may convince the sensational and overtly biased it fails to bear the test of scrutiny.

Antichrist or not, Christians do not have the right to label false accusations against Pope Francis. Exodus 20:16 clearly states “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” And last I checked Pope Francis is my neighbor. While I may not agree with his meta-narrative he is still a child of God. And while I may fully embrace the apocalyptic warning concerning final events that does not give me licence to break the commandments in the name of “I’m just warning people”. If we are going to warn people against deception, lets not resort to deception. If we are going to proclaim truth, lets do so in the Spirit of truth and not vindictiveness and hatred. Our words and discourses regarding this matter should stand the test of scrutiny. As Ellen White said,

It is important that in defending the doctrines which we consider fundamental articles of faith, we should never allow ourselves to employ arguments that are not wholly sound. These may avail to silence an opposer, but they do not honor the truth. We should present sound arguments, that will not only silence our opponents, but will bear the closest and most searching scrutiny. . . .[7]

Hateful Rhetoric
Rhetoric is defined as “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.”[8] Combine that with “hateful” and you have got yourself one nasty piece of literature. Paul tells us in Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” With such a clear command one would expect Christians to exercise caution when it comes to the kinds of rhetoric that they engage in regarding any topic – including the Pope. And yet, it is from Christians that I have witnessed some of the most hateful rhetoric around. From sarcastic memes to outright insulting statements the internet is crawling with the greatest exhibition of Christian hate that I have seen in a long time. Sadly, most of what I have seen is being promulgated by my Adventist kin. In many ways some (not all, of course) of my own brothers and sisters in faith have become, in the words of Adventist evangelist Roger Hernandez, “the kind of Christian other Christians have to apologize for.”[9]

Examples of hateful rhetoric can include articles and memes insulting the Pope with phrases such as “Marxist”, “idolater”, “blasphemer”, or “man of sin”. Now some may argue “but that’s what the Bible calls him!” To which I would say, no. That’s what we call him while borrowing scriptures language. Truth is, we don’t know who the Antichrist is. While I share the conviction that the Antichrist is certainly the papacy, that does not automatically mean that a particular Pope is the Antichrist. But even if Francis were, what have we accomplished by promulgating this? By calling someone “Antichrist” outside of Revelations narrative does nothing but offend those who do not share our worldview. If we want people to know who the Antichrist is its not about slapping Antichrist on a picture of Francis and sharing it all over social media. Its about inviting people into the story of Daniel and Revelation and lovingly helping them to see the entire tale unfold – a tale which has Jesus, not the pope, as its central theme. If we skip this and instead opt for the shallow meme or the anti-Catholic propaganda, what have we really accomplished? Have we led people to see the beauty of Jesus? Have we drawn people to the truth of the cross? Or have we attempted to simply convince them of the Papacy’s evils through our own brand of evil – our hateful words?

The worst part of engaging in hateful rhetoric is that ultimately we are the ones who suffer, not our target. By engaging in hateful rhetoric against the Pope we are sending a message to our friends and neighbors that we are intolerant, unloving, unhealthy, and fanatical. While Pope Francis pours his energy into relieving the suffering of illegal immigrants we raise our hate-speech banners all over Facebook to let everyone know where we stand. In the end, we accomplish nothing of value. Instead, we succeed in making ourselves look like the biggest fools on earth and do damage to the cause of Christ.

Thirst for More
The final point I would like to mention is our seemingly insatiable thirst for more beast and more Antichrist. I recently came across an article which, while rejecting the Catholic worldview, attempted to highlight the areas of Pope Francis’ philosophy that all Christians – especially Adventists – can embrace. The author focused exclusively on Francis’ appeal to social action, acts of charity, and stewardship of the earth. In the end he concluded that in relation to these positive and necessary pursuits we were in full agreement with Francis. I enjoyed the article and found it to be both balanced and thought provoking. What I found alarming where the comments that followed. Beginning with the very fist comment all the way down the page was one complaint after another on how the author had failed to mention how the Pope is the Antichrist, the beast of Revelation 13, and how he is using social justice as his mask for the Sunday law.

As soon as I read those comments all I could do was ask, “Haven’t you read enough of that already? Do we really need another article on the Antichrist agenda? Do we really need to be told again and again?”

The article did not deal with the apocalyptic narrative of Revelation 13. Instead, it approached the issue from the angle of “common ground” and called Adventists to recognize the value in social action. In my estimation, this is an angle that is painfully overlooked. Revelation 13 has been extrapolated in countless sermons, articles, documentaries, and books. Do we really need another article repeating the same stuff? And here I discovered one of the greatest dangers to avoid in this whole discussion – the thirst for more. Some, it seems, are constantly and endlessly craving more anti-Catholic and anti-Pope ideologies. It’s like we can’t get enough of it. Like addicts, we freak out when someone writes an article about the Pope that is not anti-Pope. “I want more anti-Pope!” is the cry of our “itching ears”[11]. And the more we go down this path the more susceptible we are to fanatical conspiracy theories, an imbalanced apocalyptic-consciousness, apocalyptic paranoia, and an unhealthy witness.[12]

So here is my main objective with this article. I wholeheartedly embrace the reformers historicist interpretation of Daniel and Revelation. I am all for giving the warning. I am all for preaching final events. But it can never be done via false accusations, hateful rhetoric, or a continual thirst for more anti-Papacy discourses which leave the avenues of our souls wide open to the dangers of apocalyptic paranoia. When discussing Revelations narrative we must remember that it is the “Revelation of Jesus”, that our words should always be seasoned with salt, that we are never to bear false witness,* and that if there is one thing that we should thirst for more and more it is Jesus and Jesus only. Psalm 42:1 says “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” May this prayer be ours.

Note: This article was originally posted at pomopastor.com
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* One of the main reasons why false information continues to spread is because many have not educated themselves on how to identify it and evaluate it. Here are 3 articles which should be of help with this endeavor:

“Therefore Keep Watch” – Watching the Signs vs. Conspiracy Theorizing
Does LOL Really Stand for “Lucifer Our Lord”?
Bruno Mars’ Masonic Baby Haircut and 5 Ways to STOP Misinformation on the Internet

[1] http://qz.com/511809/pope-francis-is-not-a-progressive-he-just-has-terrific-pr/
[2] http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/sep/27/pope-francis-philadelphia-us-visit-live
[3] http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/september/antichrist-brother-christ-protestant-pastors-pope-francis.html
[4] https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Martin_Luther
[5] http://biblehub.com/revelation/13-3.htm
[6] http://abcnews.go.com/US/read-pope-francis-yorks-st-patricks-cathedral/story?id=34023376
[7] http://www.gilead.net/egw/books/misc/Counsels_to_Writers_and_Editors/index.htm?http&url=www.gilead.net/egw/books/misc/Counsels_to_Writers_and_Editors/6_Attitude_to_New_Light.htm
[8] https://www.google.com.au/search?sourceid=chrome-psyapi2&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8&q=define%20rhetoric&oq=define%20rhetoric&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.2301j0j4
[9] http://leadsu.org/2014/08/31/als-challenge-and-the-age-of-aquarius/
[10] http://www.cssr.org.au/writings/dsp-default.cfm?loadref=632
[11] “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4:3
[12] See: Christians and Conspiracy Theories – http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/01/christians-conspiracy-theories.html

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8 Reasons to Stop Adventist End-Time Fear Mongering

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“The end of times.” They are words that can strike fear into the heart of the best of Adventists. It’s at about that point in the conversation when you wish you could sneak out and join your pre-tribulation rapture Baptist friends! Yes, you know you might be Adventist if your childhood nightmares were about running through the woods being chased by angry Catholics. Ok, for some of you that may still happen today! When it comes to the end of times, there are a lot of ideas that may cause confusion and fear: Am I truly going to qualify for translation? What if I cave under persecution? Don’t I have to achieve a certain level of “perfection” before Jesus can come? Isn’t the church going down the drain of compromise? Am I canning enough food?

Some of these questions may seem silly, but some are very serious. And all can cause a degree of fear about what’s to come. But below I’d like to present 8 reasons why I believe we need to stop spreading fear over the end times. (No, these are nowhere near full theological discourses on these topics. Yet hopefully they’ll give a little perspective and “turn the light on,” so to speak, for some of the under-the-bed end-time monsters we’ve feared).

  1. Because they’re going to steal your stash of food anyways. Seriously, in the end times, if things get really rough and you have a hoard of food, do you NOT think they’ll come looking for it? And yes, maybe God will miraculously hide it from them, but it could also be that He’ll let yours be the first to go. Because then you’ll actually have to exercise faith and trust Him to provide for you like the rest of the saints! Ok, I’m not saying that we aren’t counseled to prepare, grow our own food, get out of cities, etc. We are told this is wise and important. But if you’re trying to feverishly get off the grid and get setup in your own self-sufficient hideout before everything goes down, you may have another thing coming to you.
  1. Because your making through the end times is God’s business, not yours. So let me ask you: At what point in the future does your salvation STOP being about what God does and START being about what you do? Will your faith be strong enough to stand in the end-time persecution? Instead of fearing that question, why don’t you ask yourself a better question: Am I learning to trust God NOW? Am I giving God my everything NOW? Because if you are, then He should have enough raw material to work with to get you through the end times. Yes, by listening to God and surrendering today, you are doing the very best thing you can do to get ready for what’s coming tomorrow. And if God helped you yesterday to prepare for the challenges of today, what makes you think He won’t continue that all the way through the end? Like it’s been step by step the whole time and then when the end comes it’ll suddenly switch to some quantum leap that you may or may not make? Just study Ellen White’s vision of the narrow way and you’ll see that’s not true.
  1. Because the final generation folks won’t be any better than you. Wait a minute? How can I say that? “Not just anyone will qualify for translation, you know!” As if we have different classes of the saved you mean? Like the “first class” saved who get to see Jesus come and the “second class” saved who were only saved enough to be laid to rest before the end? Yes, God is merciful and there will be people laid to rest before all the trouble – praise the Lord! And yes, He knows what we can bear. But since when do we get to create “levels” of salvational status?  But wait: have I not read that, “When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Christ’s Object Lessons p. 69)? See, these guys got it together! Some might say it’s because they won the hard-earned victory over eating cheese, fully embraced dress reform, or stood tall when the church was “compromising.” And these things may full well be true! But could it be that we’re missing the point of what it means to reproduce God’s character? If God’s character is truly love (1 John 4:8), then these would be the people who’ve allowed God to come into their hearts most completely. And since we also know there will be a shaking time when many in the church will exit and many others will enter (2 Thes. 2:3 etc.), are we really sure this group is going to “look” quite like we think it will? As some of the good looking “Pharisees” exit, might there be that one random guy in that final group who found Jesus toward the end, is fully sold-out for Him, and will be standing around with his long hair, necklaces, or torn-up jeans, munching on a bag of Cheetos he joyously found in the wilderness right before translation? Okay, I really don’t know, and Cheetos in the wilderness may be a little far-fetched. But you get the point. I’m only guessing here, but I have a suspicion that the makeup of that 144,000 might surprise us. But if you love Jesus with all your heart now, they’ll be a group you’ll fit right into
  1. Because standing without a mediator does not mean your best Friend leaves you. You might have read quotes like the following: “Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above, are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling” (The Great Controversy p. 425). Yeah, it will happen. There will be a time when right and wrong, good and evil, can be seen so clearly following the deceiver’s lies will have no appeal to us. In fact, The Desire of Ages p. 668 tells us that, “Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, though communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.” Halleluiah! It starts now. But does this mean that suddenly we’re left alone to conquer in our own strength? Like we’ve finally reached some holy state where we don’t NEED Jesus anymore? Friends, if I EVER – even at the very end of time – get to a place where I don’t think I need Jesus anymore, you will know I’m NOT right with God. No, Jesus may not be needing to mediate for our continued sins during this period, but this doesn’t mean He leaves us or that our strength and salvation is in anything other than Him and Him completely. Just like Jacob during His night of wrestling – He felt he was struggling alone, but Jesus himself was right there the entire time.
  1. Because it’s God who vindicates His character, not us. Going back to the idea of a last generation who will finally vindicate God’s character to the world, I again am not in any doubt that God’s people will show His character of love at the end. But this can sometimes be taken to make it feel like “we better get our act together otherwise the universe won’t be able to believe that God’s law can be kept and it’s up to us to prove it!” First of all, Jesus already proved that. Done. He used none of his divine power, and He did it! And yes, I believe that the same power He accessed is available to us today. Yet the idea that there must be some ambiguous critical mass of people in the end who get it together to some certain level where God can start the final events and his character be secure? Look through scripture: every time God’s name is to be vindicated, HE is the one that does it (Ps. 23:3, Ps. 79:9, Isa. 43:25, Eze. 36:21-24, and many more). Now yes, God DOES vindicate His name through His people! And yes, I do believe that God’s people at the end of times will be a witness to the universe. But nevertheless, let us not forget that it is GOD who vindicates His own name, not us. We are simply used by Him in this process. If the universe at the end is remarking about how good WE are instead of how good GOD is, something will have gone terribly wrong.
  1. Because not every new change or differing opinion is a sign that the church’s standards are going down the drain. New music that’s not in the (secretly canonized) hymnal? We’re becoming like the world! A new way of looking at something in the Bible? We’re losing our identity! Now, there are many “new” things that are not going to take the church in a good direction. But that doesn’t mean that everything new or different is a step down the road to perdition. I seem to find that a lot of our controversy in the church is not so much over issues themselves, but over fear. We are constantly on our guard. Constantly classifying people, speakers, and teachers as “safe” or “questionable.” And it’s true that many winds of false teaching and practice will threaten the church at the end – as they have in the past. It’s true that we must study scripture and be faithful to it! But if our Adventist pioneers saw how much we fear change and challenge, I wonder if they’d be rolling in their graves. In our zeal to preserve the message of these pioneers, are we losing their spirit? A spirit that was not afraid to ask questions, challenge beliefs, and follow God’s leading wherever it took them? Trusting that God would lead HIS church?
  1. Because it’s not your job to facilitate the shaking. As stated in the previous point, if we’re truly trusting God to lead HIS church, would we be so zealous to clean it out or so fearful of it’s corruption? Let’s not forget that in Matthew 13, God instructed the wheat and the tares to be left together till the harvest. The workers (us) were getting all freaked out that tares were growing with the wheat! But God let them be – even in HIS field – HIS church. He will sort it out in the end. Till then, can we be okay with believing that this is still God’s church that He loves – even with the tares? Liberal tares, conservative tares, tares that look like wheat, wheat that look like tares… God knows. You don’t.
  1. Because fear is not of God. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15). “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7). Maybe you fear that you’re not good enough or prepared enough for the end times, maybe you fear that you’ll fold under the pressure or not be “perfect” enough to stand in the final generation, or maybe you fear what’s happening in the church and are reacting in a phobic way because of it. Yes, we are most definitely to watch and pray. But we are not to fear. Fear is of the devil. Hope is of God. A hope that the same God who started the work will complete it – in the world, and in you (Phil. 1:6). Like Paul, we can say “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).  So will you commit it to Him today? Will you commit YOU to him today? No, you’re not ready for what’s coming. But He is.

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