In 2002, the Hubble telescope captured an image known as the Ultra Deep Field — a pencil-eraser-sized dark spot in the sky near Orion that appeared to have no stars present within it. But after leaving the Hubble focused on that spot for more than 100 hours, to their surprise, over 10,000 galaxies, each containing an estimated one billion stars, were present in that tiny spot in the heavens.
Astronomers asserted that these galaxies are the most distant in the observable universe and they are not as spherical in shape as those we see closer to us. They also assert that we are looking back in time to when galaxies were just “children” and that they had not as yet been carefully spun by gravity into the breathtaking shapes we see today. I don’t find this necessarily inconsistent with Christian belief as the Scriptures state repeatedly that the heavens are being stretched out like a curtain, meaning continual change is taking place in the universe.
I share this thought because recently I reviewed the minutes of the 1903 session of the General Conference (GC). Believe it or not, it was an exciting read because at that time the constellations of rudimentary parts of the Advent movement were just beginning to take shape: namely, conferences and unions. During that 1903 session, the Lake Union Conference was organized, along with other unions and conferences, and accepted into the body we call the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But that wasn’t the only reason it was exciting. Reading the minutes of the meeting demonstrated when there is growth and maturation we get excited. Surely the church leaders must have been excited to see the desire of many local churches, conferences and unions alike requesting to be a part of the General Conference.
What joy the church members must have felt knowing that many other Seventh-day Adventists understood that their churches would be stronger if they were organized into conferences, and the conferences stronger and more effective if they were organized into unions, and that ultimately all would be stronger if we belonged to what has become a world-wide body we call the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Without the past to tell the story, it may seem that these entities were always part of the larger whole, but the minutes prove that was not so. As a consequence of their visionary decisions, today we are one of the best organized and effective organizations in the world.
Even as the galaxies in the heavens above were formed at Jesus’ command, for the Bible states: By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth . . . For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast(Psalms 33:6, 9 KJV).
From such humble beginnings, this faith community has grown to be a global movement, rising more and more to the task of reaching the world for Christ by His creative and redeeming power. As a global body, we are in a process of perfecting our union of effort and energies as our in-reach and outreach tools become more refined, our understanding of this movement of destiny advances, and our doctrinal understandings are deepened. And because we are joined together, the lessons learned in New Delhi might very well impact the way things are done in Detroit, or vice versa. And to think, our earliest leaders resisted organization.
But thank God, through prayer and study, they realized that a congregationalist approach to growth would not be consistent with our creation-redemption worldview as described in the Great Controversy theme. Even our theology is global: . . .having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. . .(Rev 14:6,7 KJV), and would not allow for a loosely connected church.
The Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19) compels us to present aChrist-centered message, teaching that to love Christ is to obey Him, and to love Christ is to long to be with Him! But, our message is much broader than loving Jesus and longing for His appearing. We are called to have God’s heart for the lost and to answer the call of the Father as Jesus did — to say in Isaiah-like tones, “Here am I, send me!” To go near and far, deep and wide, to share a message of hope that through Christ’s righteousness there is relief and release from every addiction — especially the addiction to self and self-centeredness.
In keeping with our name “Adventist,” Matthew 24:14 asserts that Jesus will not return until the gospel of the Kingdom is preached everywhere to everyone. We are specifically called to be the hasteners of the second advent of Christ. Moreover, we are specifically tasked with sharing a message of mercy with the world. In Revelation 14, the cry of the three Angels is to help end-time people avert the disastrous plagues of Revelation 15, by avoiding the dissonant and Babylonian-like confusion of these last days. As Moses stood before Pharaoh and declared on God’s behalf, “Let my people go,” we, too, are called to bellow, in no uncertain terms, a similar plea to those who are captive to the “kingdom of confusion” today: “Come out of her my people!”
Although nuanced a bit differently, the message is the same. This world is about to be destroyed. Just as the plagues began to fall after Moses’ declaration, the plagues will again begin to fall after the warnings of the three Angels are carried to the remotest parts of the planet.
At the end of the plagues, Jesus returns triumphant to gather together those who have heeded the call. Our Savior also comes to put an end to sin and suffering from which there will be no second chance, even as there was no second opportunity for Pharaoh and his armies. Satan’s last stand is recorded at the end of the plagues and he is left with a desolate earth reduced to rubble (see Revelation 20).
Before the plagues fall, we have a job to do as God wants the whole world to pass the final examination. His desire is for everyone to be saved, thus He sent His Son to make the greatest sacrifice, the universe has ever known — a plan crafted before the earth was formed in its Edenic symmetry and beauty, even before mankind was scooped from the ground to receive the breath of life.
Certainly, those early Adventists had to be excited — not that they were growing, but that they were being called and equipped globally to prepare people for the Kingdom that awaits.
Cover photo by Denis Degioanni