Doomed to Repetition – Part 1

TimeWatch Editorial
February 22, 2017

There is a powerful warning contained in the book Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5. Here is that warning.

“We are standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. Prophecy is fast fulfilling. The Lord is at the door. There is soon to open before us a period of overwhelming interest to all living. The controversies of the past are to be revived; new controversies will arise. The scenes to be enacted in our world are not yet even dreamed of. Satan is at work through human agencies. Those who are making an effort to change the Constitution and secure a law enforcing Sunday observance, little realize what will be the result. A crisis is just upon us.”  Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, page 753, paragraph 2 

The phrase, “controversies of the past are to be revived,” is by no means an accidental phrase. It is completely factual. However there is one event of the past that needs to be highlighted so that we might be restrained from a repetition of history. The book The Great Controversy, describes an approaching storm. This will be the sort of storm that carries with it tremendously powerful elements. How do we know this? Testimonies Volume 6 page 408 tells us:

“The signs thickening around us, telling of the near approach of the Son of God, are attributed to any other than the true cause. Men cannot discern the sentinel angels restraining the four winds that they shall not blow until the servants of God are sealed; but when God shall bid His angels loose the winds, there shall be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture.”—Testimonies for the Church, volume 6, page 408. 

But, getting back to the storm and its approach, those who are uninformed or unprepared for it will indeed make incorrect decisions. It has occurred in the past, and it will be repeated. Listen to Great Controversy page 608, paragraph 2:

“As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel's message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbathkeepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.”  Great Controversy page 608, paragraph 2:

It was during the outbreak of World War I, that the Seventh Day Adventist Church was confronted by a serious challenge. It was not the sort of challenge that one might have expected from those who were not members of the church, but rather, the challenge came from within. In an article dated December 5, 2014 which was a Statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany, regarding the outbreak of the First World War, the following was stated.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany has published a statement pertaining to actions it took in the context of the outbreak of World War I. Adventists at the time saw the outbreak of World War I as “a sign of the end of the world”. Before the war, a number of Adventists had served in the military but refused to carry out duties on Sabbath (Saturday), risking potentially severe penalties. Others considered it part of their preparation for the imminent return of Jesus to refuse to carry weapons or to participate in the military immunization program.” “Guilt and Failure,” Statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany, “Adventisten heute” December 5, 2014

That was an originally strong position taken by the church, at the beginning of the war. However that decision did not hold. As is continued in the article the following occurred.

“However, shortly after the general mobilization on August 2, 1914, the Central European leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hamburg issued a circular letter recommending enlisted Adventists to “fulfil our military duties wholeheartedly and with joy," to bear arms, and also to serve on the Sabbath. This circular and other such publications provoked a complex protest in Adventist congregations, leading to tensions and divisions within the church. In 1915 this state of affairs led to the rising of a separate organization, the self-designated “Reform Movement”, which accused its mother church, the “greater church” of a “Babylonian apostasy from the true Advent faith”. “Guilt and Failure,” Statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany, “Adventisten heute” December 5, 2014

There was a serious division that took place in the German Seventh Day Adventist Church. That division still maintains the stress and strain of mistrust to this day. The Presidents of the Southern and Northern German Union Conferences, Pastors Johannes Naether (Hannover) and Günther Machel (Ostfildern near Stuttgart), in the statement on April 6 and April 13, 2014 states the following.

"Today we recognize and concede," said the two German Seventh-day Adventist leaders, "that during these disputes our fathers often did not act in the spirit of love and reconciliation demonstrated by Jesus." Out of concern for the survival of the denomination in Germany, advice contradicting the Word of God was given which led to division and profound hurt. The former Adventist leadership did not adequately fulfil their responsibility to the Church. They unjustly accused members who contradicted them of having “fallen” from the truth, and in individual cases went as far as having people pursued by the authorities.” “Guilt and Failure,” Statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany, “Adventisten heute” December 5, 2014

This is a tremendous confession to make. What was done by the leadership of the church in Germany was indeed a monumental failure. What was even more serious, however, is the fact that when some of the membership refused to comply with their order to become combatants and carry weapons in the war and break the Sabbath, the leadership accused them of having “fallen from the truth” and then they had the authorities pursue them. To his credit, the General Conference President expressed his position.

“Pastor Arthur G. Daniells, President of the General Conference (World Church Leadership) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, objected to the position of the German Church Leadership regarding military service and emphasized "We would not have made such a declaration." At the Pastors meeting, taking place immediately before the negotiations in Friedensau, those directly responsible for the documents had rescinded their statements as "erroneous" and on January 2, 1923 again expressed regret "that such documents had ever been released." “Guilt and Failure,” Statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany, “Adventisten heute” December 5, 2014

We will surely be challenged again. The signs are thickening around us, as the storm swiftly approaches. We will continue to look at this in our next editorial.

Cameron A. Bowen

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