As we have seen, by 1888 the disjunction between Adventism and the evangelical understanding of salvation had become problematic. Adventists were strong on the distinctive Adventist beliefs but weak on the great gospel teachings that their founders had shared with other Christians. Ellen White saw Jones and Waggoner as a corrective to that difficulty.
Contrary to some works-oriented leaders of the day, Waggoner realized that his church had departed from the historic doctrine of salvation. Ellen White spoke to the same truth in expressing her surprise that some found Jones’ and Waggoner’s teaching to be a “strange doctrine,” when their “message” was “not a new truth, but the very same that Paul taught, that Christ himself taught” (MS 27, 1889).
Waggoner’s comment that his interpretation of law and gospel reflected that of Paul, Luther and Wesley became even more profound and insightful when he added that it “was a step closer to the heart of the third angel’s message.” Ellen White came to the same viewpoint. Observing that some had “expressed fears that we shall dwell too much upon the subject of justification by faith,” she indicated that several had written to her, “inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message.” She replied that “‘it is the third angel’s message in verity [i.e., truth]’” (Review and Herald, Apr. 1, 1890).
That statement has mystified some. What exactly did she mean? We will examine that topic in the next few [issues].
Meanwhile, we should recall that Revelation 14:12 is the central text in Adventist history. Here is the patient of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
Recognizing the implications of the Adventists’ use of that text as a description of their denomination, a reporter for the Minneapolis Journal pointed out that “it is either monstrous egotism or sublime faith which leads them to apply this text to themselves.”
The Adventists, of course, considered it “sublime faith.” And both sides in the 1888 crisis came to realize ever more clearly as time passed that their differences at Minneapolis centered on the meaning of Revelation 14:12.
By the way, that is a good text to memorize as we meditate upon its meaning and implications.