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God's Throne at Risk: God's Hardest Message Given to Ellen G. White



In 1892, Ellen White wrote a letter from Australia to Brother Olsen, then president of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That's the manuscript 27, found in Letters and Manuscripts Vol. 7 and entitled " The Crisis Imminent". Mrs. White begins the letter by expressing her concern about the low standard of piety among God's professed people and calls for an examination of conscience. She then draws Pastor Olsen's attention to the evident prophetic events of the time: the apostasy of Protestantism, its union with the papacy, the marriage between Church and State and the culminating Sunday decree. Sister White describes these events as an unshakable willingness on God's part to end the state of affairs on earth. Or, in other words, it is about God's efforts to resolve the Great Controversy. We arrive at this part of the letter without great surprise: we all know that a low standard of piety is a hallmark of the Laodicean Church and that the prophetic events of Revelation 13, in particular a strong political disposition to curtail religious freedom, were taking form right at the time Sister White was writing. The fifth paragraph of the letter, however, may cause some strangeness. It is to this passage that I would like to draw attention:


"All heaven is represented to me as watching the unfolding of events. A crisis is to be revealed in the great and prolonged controversy in the government of God on earth. Something great and decisive is to take place, and that right early. If any delay, the character of God and His throne will be compromised. The armory of heaven is open; all the universe of God and its equipment is ready. One word has justice to speak, and there will be terrific representations upon the earth, of the wrath of God. There will be voices and thunderings and earthquakes and universal desolation. Every movement in the universe of heaven is to prepare the world for the great crisis." (Letters and Manuscripts Vol.7, Ms 27, 1892)


The part I would like to highlight here is: "Something great and decisive is about to happen, and very soon. If there is delay, the character of God and His throne will be compromised." I ask: how is it possible for the throne of God to be compromised? The first intuition that immediately comes to mind tells us that the compromise of the throne of God is something simply absurd and impossible, because God, in his omnipotence, has total power over His own throne, that His kingdom is eternal and that nothing can shake it. I believe the vast majority of Adventists today would respond to Sister White's letter in the following terms: "Dear Mrs. White, I understand that it might be, perhaps, that the Throne of God is under threat, but what does that have to do with Pastor Olsen, with you or with me? God has full power over His own throne and will not take long to fulfill the prophecies of Revelation 13 (Church-State union) and Revelation 14 (preaching of the everlasting gospel). That "if any delay" part just means that God's throne might be threatened if He delay in fulfilling the prophecies, but in no way will He allow that to happen. Quite the contrary, He will make the prophecies come to pass quickly, thus preserving His own throne. Don't be so worried about it, for God is in charge of everything. He will act in his time and everything will end well." Was that the Church's response at the time? How was the impressive message of the "Crisis Imminent" received by Adventist pioneers? Did it go blank or was it echoed? Fortunately, we have the answers to these questions. And they are enlightening.


REACTIONS TO THE MESSAGE OF THE "CRISIS IMMINENT "

The church was not blind to the revelations of the Gift of Prophecy. The warning from the "Crisis Imminent" did not go unnoticed among the observant pioneers, who seemed far more sensitive than we are to the various nuances of solemnity in God-given messages. Indeed, the testimony of the "Crisis Imminent" was not only heard, welcomed and understood, but even reached the general conference of the following year, 1893. On that solemn occasion, a preacher, in discussing the events of Revelation 13, declared:


"We stand pledged to the Lord and before the world that we depend upon God; that He loves His people; that He manifests Himself in behalf of those whose hearts are toward Him. Brethren, there is that fearful word also that touches that very thought, that came to us from Australia. It is in the testimony entitled, “The Crisis Imminent.” What does that say? “Something great and decisive is to take place, and that right early. If any delay, the character of God and His throne will be compromised.” Brethren, by our careless, indifferent attitude, we are putting God’s throne into jeopardy. Why cannot He work? God is ready. Are not God’s workmen ready? But if there is any delay, “the character of God and His throne is jeopardized.” Is it possible that we are about to risk the honor of God’s throne? Brethren, for the Lord’s sake and for His throne’s sake, let us get out of the way. Let us get out of the way. The only way to get out of the way of God is to flee to Him. That is the only way to get out of His way, and that is where He calls us now." (General Conference Daily Bulletin january 31, 1893, p.73)


Is there any similarity between this sermon excerpt and the statement that God will act in His time to remove any possible threat to Himself? There is no resemblance. Is there any way to harmonize the meaning given to the "Crisis Imminent" in the 1893 general conference with the meaning given to it today, if any meaning is given to it at all? There is no way. Notice what was taken up in the general conference sermon: “Something big and decisive is about to happen, and soon. If there is delay, the character of God and his throne will be compromised.” And the way the message was interpreted: "Brethren, by our careless and indifferent attitude, we are endangering the throne of God." Therefore, when Mrs. White's letter to Brother Olsen came to the attention of the Church, there was no understanding among the pioneers that God's purpose there was to communicate that He was about to act to avoid compromising His own throne. Rather, the Church's pioneers understood it to be a warning to the Adventist people and a call to action, for what was really causing this threat was not God's action or inaction, but the action or inaction of His professed people, which cannot be forced to do anything. Yet, one might insist that the message of the "Crisis Imminent" was rather saying that God Himself would soon move to remove the threat to His throne and that this had no bearing on the work of the Church. To support this point, one might argue that the interpretation raised at the general conference was false and out of step with what God really wanted to communicate to His people through Sister Ellen White. Fortunately, a single quote will suffice to demonstrate that Mrs. White endorsed the message preached at the 1893 general conference, which we have just read. In 1908, she wrote to the preacher of that sermon himself:


"I have been instructed to use those discourses of yours printed in the General Conference Bulletins of 1893 and 1897, which contain strong arguments regarding the validity of the testimonies, and which substantiate the gift of prophecy among us. I was shown that many would be helped by these articles, and especially those newly come to the faith who have not been made acquainted with our history as a people. It will be a blessing to you to read again these arguments, which were of the Holy Spirit’s framing." (Manuscript Releases, Vol. 9, p. 278; Letters and Manuscripts Vol.23, Lt230, 1908)


In any case, after the general conference, the reaction to the "Crisis Imminent" message continued to take shape. Sister Ellen White's letter to Brother Olsen was quoted again later that year, this time in an article in the Adventist journal The Home Missionary. Once again, the theme was the context of the prophetic events of Revelation 13. The excerpt from the article that evokes the "Crisis Imminent " is this:


"Well then, seeing that both the beast and his image are drawing the line which it is the express object of the third angel’s message to draw, and are making the distinction which it is the express object of the third angel’s message to make, is it not high time that the people to whom this wonderful message is committed were so baptized into the Spirit, and clothed with the power of this glorious message, that the message itself shall do the work assigned to it, and have the glory and the honor and the distinction and the power that belongs to it? Shall the great enemy of this message and of all righteousness, do more to mark the distinction between the two great sides in this great controversy than the message itself shall be allowed to do? Shall the beast and his image be allowed to do more in making the distinction between their worshipers and the worshipers of God, than the people do to whom this awful message has been committed? Since Satan and the beast and his image are now doing the very work in this respect, that it is the rightful office of the third angel’s message itself to do, and since this message is not allowed to do its appointed work because of the blindness and the slackness of the people who profess to be giving that message, how much longer is it possible for the Lord to wait upon this people? O will this people ever awake? Will they ever arouse to the mighty work which is going on before our very eyes? Nearly two years ago there came this solemn word: “If any delay, the character of God and his throne will be compromised.” Shall the character of God and his throne be put yet further to the risk, shall these be indeed compromised, in waiting longer upon a people who will not awake nor come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty?" (The Home Missionary, November 1893, p.12)


As you can see, the text seems to further develop the sermon given months earlier at the general conference. The understanding of the pioneers, in this period of just under a year, moved towards the idea that the threat to the throne of God, to which the testimony of the "Crisis Imminent" referred, was being caused by a blind, negligent and drowsy people and not premeditated by God himself. Finally, Pastor Olsen himself, in the 1895 general conference, referenced the letter received three years earlier:


"Then ask yourselves individually, What is my condition to-day? Is sin in the way? Then confess it and put it away, and open your heart to the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit. The following extracts from the Spirit of prophecy are worthy of our careful study at this time:


“All heaven is represented to me as watching the unfolding of events. A crisis is to be revealed in the great and prolonged controversy in the government of God on earth. Something great and decisive is to take place, and that right early. If any delay, the character of God and his throne will be compromised. The armory of heaven is open; all the universe of God and its equipments are ready."" (General Conference Bulletin, December 1895, p.597)


While these words are not as clear as those in the previous general conference sermon and the Home Missionary article, as far as the responsibility of God's professed people is concerned towards the compromise of His throne, it takes no supernatural effort to realize that the interpretation of the "Crisis Imminent " message remained the same. The question "Is sin in the way?" is enough for us to understand who Pastor Olsen was blaming.


WHY DOES THE MESSAGE OF THE CRISIS IMMINENT SOUND SO ABSURD?

The great impression I have when reading the testimony of the "Crisis Imminent" and the impacts it has caused is that we Seventh-day Adventists, who have distributed dozens of The Great Controversy books to friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances all Over the years, still don't have the slightest idea on what the Great Controversy is all about and all the implications it brings. Maybe we just don't want to have that idea or maybe we are afraid to think seriously about it. We have been taught that "whether you like it or not, Jesus will come again", that "if we don't preach, others will preach in our place", that "if we don't spread the news out loud, the stones will do it", that "angels will do the work, if necessary", that "God will not allow it to take longer than what has been determined". All these phrases seek to affirm, in the end, that the Church cannot fail or that, if it fails, everything will still end well. I believe that most Adventists who, like me, grew up in Adventist circles have grown accustomed to the idea of ​​individual responsibility over personal salvation and the grim possibility of being found wanting when one's name is passed in judgment. Every Adventist is fully aware that there is a serious threat to their own salvation and that their choices could alter their ultimate destiny, but even then, they can always come to terms with the fact that if they don't reach heaven, many others will and these will live in constant contact with Jesus for all eternity. The clear existence of a heaven for the righteous and an eternity of peace is something sublime even for those who do not imagine they will be there.

However, and this must have happened to other Adventists as well, it never crossed my mind that there could be a much more frightening threat than the one that brings the possibility of the loss of one's soul. And that is precisely what we are talking about here: the threat to the throne of God is THE GREATEST THREAT OF ALL, because it jeopardizes not only individual salvation, but really EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS. How can the throne of God be threatened if the Great Controversy is already fully resolved? In fact, all the phrases like "whether you like it or not, Jesus is coming back" usually convey the same idea that the Great Controversy is already resolved and that what we will see from now on are just protocol prophecies. The model of the Great Controversy that we have in mind is that of an already defeated Satan looking only for a slightly less disastrous ending for himself, in which he "tries to take some more with him." We can say that this is the Great Calvinist Controversy, if such a thing is possible, where God has it all figured out and the church's action makes no difference. It is a God who does not want or has nothing to prove. Unfortunately, according to the revelation given to Mrs. White and the understanding of Adventist pioneers, this is not the Great Controversy that is taking place.


A GREAT CONTROVERSY MODEL IN THE LIGHT OF THE CRISIS IMMINENT

The message of the "Crisis Imminent " and the reactions it caused among the pioneers shed enormous light on the nature of the Great Controversy between God and Satan and indeed make the understanding of the subject clearer, not more obscure. I propose here, therefore, to set up a brief model for the Great Controversy, considering both the initial revelation given to Mrs. White and the later direction that the pioneers gave to the message they heard.

Church-State Union and the Sunday Decree

Every time the message of the "Crisis Imminent " surfaced, both in the original letter and in later references, the issue at hand was the union of Church and State and the fulfillment of the entire 13th chapter of Revelation taking place at that very moment. The message of a throne of God at risk, threatened by the delay of God's people, makes perfect sense in this context, because: "It [the coming of the Lord] will not be delayed beyond the time when the message is carried to all nations, tongues and peoples." Evangelism, p. 697 The fulfillment of Revelation 13 in Sister Ellen White's time was a call to preach the gospel contained in the three angels' messages, but this is not to say that one thing must necessarily lead to another, as if there were some kind of eschatological natural law there. The advancement of the union between Church and State did not have to, as it still does not, necessarily bring about the end of world missionary work. It is often thought that there is a kind of causal and logical relationship between the two events, as there is with a chemical reaction. It is not so much so that the passion for the curtailment of religious freedom, in the absence of a people willing to serve God, simply died down. Even today Adventists keep the Sabbath, at least in most countries, including the US.

Why did this happen? Why was religious freedom preserved and even increased in some periods of the 20th century? The best answer so far seems to be: because these events have not found their necessary counterpart, namely, a people committed to preaching the three angels' messages. One cannot advance without the other, so when one advances and the other does not, God must "hold the winds" of events. The entire history of mankind from the end of the 19th century to 2022 seems to be one huge "holding the winds" on God's part. After World War I, especially in the 1920s and 1930s, Catholicism forged strong alliances with political and military powers, including Mussolini and Hitler, but after the end of World War II the world again witnessed an outbreak of religious freedom, which is quite marked in the figure of a Catholic and secular American president like John Kennedy. New conservative political-religious alliances, however, emerged in the 1980s, but so far relative religious freedom is still seen. The bottom line is: these events alone cannot go very far. A people must preach the gospel and "make the distinction which the third angel's message is expressly designed to make." Without it, major political events need to be repeatedly stopped by God.

Here we can understand why we should not trumpet any geopolitical event that seems to foreshadow the end of religious freedom: this scenario has already been completed and even so the prophecy of Revelation 14 has not been fulfilled and Jesus has not returned. Am I taking on the behavior of the mad virgins, who believed they were safe and suddenly were taken by surprise? Or am I here dangerously taking the position that “my Lord delayeth His coming”? Not at all. What the successive waves of attempts to destroy religious freedom seem to tell us is that Jesus really will come like a thief in the night. We must be very alert when the scenario of Revelation 13 is fully dismantled, as well as when it is fully constructed. The speed with which a favorable geopolitical scenario is dismantled or built is unimaginable, as the control of the “winds” is, indeed, in the firm hands of God. The summary of the professed people of God in recent decades seems to be this: to take upon themselves the tasks that belong to God and to delegate to Him the obligations that they should assume. What is an Adventist's duty when the stage for Revelation 13 is set? Cling to Jesus, forsake all sins and spread the everlasting gospel to the world. And what is the Adventist's duty when the scene of Revelation 13 is all dismantled? Cling to Jesus, forsake all sins and spread the everlasting gospel to the world.

Why can't He work? God is ready


God wants to end the state of affairs in this world. The insistence with which history brings out the fulfillment of Revelation 13 is the greatest proof of this. He sets the stage for the action of His people, who hitherto have not responded to Him. God advances prophetic events as far as He can, but in order for prophecy to be brought to its full fulfillment, God's people must fulfill their evangelizing role. Once that was done, God would resume the course of final events and very little time would be left until Christ's return. God cannot act by forcibly raising up 144,000 sealed individuals willing to give the last warning message to the world, nor can He preach the three angels' messages by Himself (by sending angels or robots, for example). Why? Because in doing so, He would be acknowledging that His position in the Great Controversy is untenable. If God did all the work himself, choosing 144,000 individuals by unconditional election or sending angels to do what the church did not do, Satan would triumph in his argument that God's law cannot be kept, for even if Jesus kept it, He would have failed to replicate the task in a representative group of human beings. The prophecy of Revelation 14 would have been a failure: there would not have been 144,000 individuals endowed with moral freedom redeemed from the earth, sealed by conviction of the truth, keepers of God's commandments and possessors of the faith of Jesus.

If God, making use of His omnipotence, fulfilled by imposition the prophecy of Revelation 14 and sealed individuals without conviction of the truth, he would be recognizing that what He fought for so long, namely, a model of government based on freedom and obedience , could never work. Since it was impossible for created beings to live in harmony with God's laws, even after Jesus rescued them from insubordination, there would no longer be the possibility of a free universe. In that case, Satan would have triumphed in his other argument: his sin could never have been avoided and, once committed, it could never have been redeemed. He would thus only be the victim of a poorly planned creation and an unsuccessful government proposal. The scene changes completely, however, when God has in His favor a considerable group of free beings who, endowed with moral capacity, choose the side of Jesus and, convinced that God's government is immeasurably superior, adhere to the only requirement for the triumph of that government: obedience. By the example of Christ they were led to understand that, although they are free to do evil, they would lose their own freedom in doing so, for sin is enslaving and destroying. In this scenario, the plan of redemption reaches its climax with the resolution of the Great Controversy. Therefore, before He can fulfill the events that would put an end to the cosmic conflict, which are described between chapters 15 and 22 of Revelation , God needs Jesus and His 144,000 to move forward with the fulfillment of Revelation 14.

If there is delay: how much longer will it be possible for the Lord to wait for this people?


Why is the delay of God's people putting His throne at risk? Why is there a time beyond which God could no longer wait for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Revelation 14? In the Great Controversy, time is an important variable. And it is important because, although to God a day is like a thousand years, to His creation it is not. Imagine that a husband leaves his house telling his wife that he needs to buy a tool and that he will soon return. The wife will normally go about her activities for about an hour. In the second hour, she will continue with her chores, but she will begin to think that maybe her husband didn't find the tool he needed at the nearest store and went to look for it elsewhere. In the third hour, she will instinctively begin to suspect that her husband has taken advantage of the trip to resolve some other matters. With lunch ready, she will try to communicate with him. If she is unable do that, she'll start to worry. If the whole afternoon goes by without her husband showing up, she will be very apprehensive. In the late afternoon, she will try various ways to contact her husband. If night comes and she has not heard from her husband, she will go to the police. As the day breaks, she will be absolutely sure that something very bad has happened, although she doesn't know what. After a week, she will be filled with complete anguish. After a month, there will be only a vague hope that her husband is not dead. After a year, she will be in mourning. Ten years and she will have adapted her whole life to solitude or will have remarried...

The point is: God promised created beings the effective resolution of the Great Controversy. He promised them He would end the anguish and unmask Satan's sophistries in the light of the facts, in a scenario where everyone understood very well what really happened. It is high time that Adventists, fascinated by Calvinism's easy answers, finally realized that God does not simply want to appeal to His omnipotence to restore His creation. If he wanted to do that, he could have done it at any time in the past, before He made Himself a creature, before He created the earth, and before centuries and centuries of suffering. God so prizes the conscience, intelligence, and freedom of His creatures, that, in order to preserve them with these attributes, He risked His own throne, and allowed Jesus to go through all that He went through in this world. Is this not a God firmly resolved not to use His own omnipotence? Now, if the created beings, which are scattered throughout the universe, are still intelligent and free, since God does not give up that things must be so, they cannot help but observe in amazement the whole unfolding of facts, because they can understand and reason about them. They recognize the danger of the throne of God being at risk, and they cannot help but feel a shiver down their spines, just as a wife feels a chill at the prospect of her husband not returning. If God had all eternity to prove his point in the Great Controversy, Satan would have little trouble making sarcastic arguments about the viability of God's government, even going so far as to claim that the Great Controversy, being unresolvable, is not a momentaneous state of the universe, but its natural condition, or the way everything has always been and always will be. It is simply impossible to say whether Satan is already starting to make these sarcastic arguments, but once they are uttered amidst the perplexity caused by a Great Controversy that insists on surviving, the effects can be catastrophic.

We know that in 1844 Jesus was authorized by God to return as soon as he had the 144,000 on his side. In 1892, the throne of God was already threatened, due to the delay. We can't lose hope that there's still time, but we can't lose another second either. "May it shine or may it rain, we are one day closer to Jesus' return" is not the best attitude at this moment. The truth is that we may be one day closer to fully compromising the ideal model for the universe which God is trying to implement.

Danger to God's character and throne and a people to succor the Lord

Putting together the pieces of the "Crisis Imminent " message, we arrive at an overview of the Great Controversy and the evidence that points to the reality of an endangered throne of God. Let's go back then: for the resolution of the Great Controversy, God has prepared everything throughout history, including the various scenarios of full or partial fulfillment of Revelation 13 in the last 150 years. From the beginning, Satan had to be given time to reveal who he really is. His premature destruction, without the full evidence of apostasy, would have been more harmful to creation than letting he operate for a certain time. The full and clear revelation of Satan's character is a precondition for Christ's second advent, as Paul well knew when he warned that:


"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;" 2 Thess. 2:3


This time given to Satan to show his true nature ended in 1844. Since then, as we have seen, God has been working to create the right circumstances for God's people to give the world the three angels' messages and thus present the clincher to unmask Satan. The persistent irresolution of the Great Controversy points to the hard truth that God does not yet have a people He can call His own. The mere passage of time, in the age in which we live, is an argument for Satan. Thus the scenario of a threat to the throne of God is set.


"God will work for those of His people who will submit themselves to the working of the Holy Spirit. He pledges His glory for the success of the Messiah and His kingdom." (Testimonies for the Church, Vol.9, p.138)


In a universe of intelligent and free beings, which God in his wisdom designed, conviction is the only possible way to dissuade the righteous from sinning and the sinner from persisting in error. However, the work of persuasion, everyone knows well, is much more ungrateful than that of imposition, since persuasion is an appeal that offers the possibility of rejection. By valuing a universe of free beings, God focused all His efforts on the Redemption Plan. He puts all His love and strength into the task of compelling us to take His side (2 Corinthians 5:14). There is a solemn and powerful attempt to convince, which needs to reap its fruits. The success of the Messiah is inevitably linked to the success of His people, for if the Plan of Redemption is unable to dissuade the sinner, it has failed as God's intended means of constraining His fallen creation. Jesus made atonement for the entire universe. If His work cannot be completed in the hearts of the people who bear His name, neither can the universe exist as it is.

So when it is the throne of God that is at stake, even the threat to personal salvation becomes a small thing. Likewise, the danger of someone taking my place in evangelistic work also becomes completely irrelevant, for if God really did always have someone to put in the place of a quitter in the faith, His throne would be quite secure. The truth is that God is having a hard time finding a people He can call his own, who will come to His rescue against Satan's attacks, and who will give Him the necessary arguments to end the Great Controversy.

CONCLUSION


The message of the "Crisis Imminent " and the way in which it was understood by Adventist pioneers is indeed quite frightening, for it involves an idea to which we are not at all accustomed. No wonder it was considered "a terrible word". However, any effort to mitigate the harsh reality that it brings would be in vain, for if God chose to reveal it in such a vivid way to His prophetess and to impress His Church with such intensity, it is because it was necessary to do so and because we can bear it without despair if we keep our eyes on Christ. The worst attitude would be to mutter: "this is an hard saying; who can hear it?" John 6:60. It will always be better to live in the light of a hard and frightening truth than in the darkness of a pleasant lie. The Great Controversy that has been preached, in which there is nothing more to be done and in which Christ already has or will have by force His 144,000 is a pleasant lie. And is not truth liberating (John 8:32)? The reader of the "Crisis Imminent" will certainly see any trace of triumphalism go away from him, which is good, because triumphalism destroys all perception of responsibility. It is important to remember that wherever there is free will, there will be responsibility. The "Crisis Imminent" message, moreover, brings more value to heaven. What was just a certain reward of the righteous suddenly becomes the most wonderful and unlikely resolution of something seemingly unsolvable. Heaven, as the seat of God's government, suddenly reveals itself before us as the materialization of a dream that could hardly be dreamed of and something to be truly celebrated effusively day and night, for all eternity, as the most sublime victory in which few dared to believe. Heaven after the "Crisis Imminent " is a heaven quite different from the one we commonly talk about in our Saturday afternoon conversations. It has many more colors and is a true fresh start for God's creatures.


A big hug to everyone!


Lucas

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