In accurately forecasting end-time events, even without date setting, the track record of the our Church is dismal. Nothing makes this more evident than the discussion of the role of the Middle East in end-time Bible prophecy. This subject is the Achilles heel of the denomination. The Sabbath, state of the dead, and other fundamental doctrines of the church are sound and Bible-based. So far as prophecy goes, as long as the ministry stays within the realm of Daniel chapter 7 and Revelation 12-14, they perform reasonably well. With the “1844 doctrine” (the 2300 days and the investigative judgment), in recent years we have been under particular fire, and not entirely able to remain free from embarrassment under intense questioning and pointed cross-examination. This is not because of any error in the concept itself, but as a result of the inherent weakness of our angles of proof for the doctrine. However, this has been largely kept away from the Adventist public by various methods. Outside of those boundaries, our ministry is easily challenged and battled to a standstill with proper interrogation.
When discussion turns toward current events in the Middle East and what the Bible specifically says about how they will lead to the “mark of the beast”, they can only truthfully answer with complete silence or speculation. Especially does Daniel 11, particularly the correct interpretation of verses 40-45, call forth face-saving dismissal. Thus, they will simply answer “it’s not important”, or the equivalent as emphatically as possible in an evasive attempt to avoid discussion.
“It is important that in defending the doctrines which we consider to be fundamental articles of faith we should never allow 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.” – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5 p. 708.
The startling statement made above is best and most thoroughly documented, ironically, by retired pastor and White Estate historian Donald Ernest Maxwell in his book entitled Adventists and Armaggedon: Have We Misinterpreted Prophecy?
For instance, our leadership confidently and publicly declared that World War I would lead to the Battle of Armaggedon.
“Some Adventists began to predict that as a result of the war, Turkey [the “king of the north” according to the Adventist view] would be driven from Europe and the pieces of the puzzle of the prophecies of Daniel 11 and Revelation 16 would somehow fall into place. As the war progressed, Adventist predictions became more definite.” – Adventists and Armaggedon p. 59.
“According to Adventists living at the time, the hopes and fears of our people reached a fevered pitch during these momentous days. We were sure that in the very near future the Turk would move ‘the tabernacles of his palace’ to Jerusalem and ‘come to his [ignominous] end.’ This event would signal the close of probation, Armaggedon would soon follow and Christ would come perhaps within a year; two at the most.” – Ibid. p. 63. (Brackets belong to the original quote).
The author then cites several sources from our periodicals as confirmation of the above. Unfortunately, the exact opposite of our expectations took place.
“As previously mentioned, against all probability or expectation, the Turks turned the tables on the Allies in the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922. True, the Ottoman Empire came to an end, but out of its ashes arose, phoenix-like, a vigorous Turkish republic. This made a shambles of our interpretations of Daniel 11.” – Ibid. p. 68.
Dazed and confused, with darkness settling in, we stubbornly maintained this position.
“That somehow Turkey was still the king of the north continued to be not only Leon Smith’s [son of Uriah Smith] position but the position of most Adventists. After all, our people reasoned, Turkey still retained the Caliphate – the religious leadership of the Islamic world.” - Ibid. p. 69.
It was then theorized that through the Caliphate “some sudden uprising, not in Turkey only, but of the whole Mohammedan world, might change the results of the Great War as affecting Turkey, and at least temporarily restore to that power the possession of the Euphrates valley and Palestine.” (Present Truth, June 3, 1922). This was critical so that the Turk could relocate his capital to Jerusalem and come to his end.
“But this was not to be. On March 3, 1923, the Turkish Parliament abolished the Caliphate. Our interpretation of Daniel 11: 45 was in embarrassing disarray. Heretofore the church paper had regularly carried articles on the Eastern Question in its pages, but during 1924 the Review carried not a single article on Armaggedon or the king of the north.” – Ibid p. 69.
Our predictions failed miserably, and these failed predictions dealt a severe blow to confidence in our ability to “rightly divide the Word of Truth.”
“As a consequence, baptisms plummeted and apostasies skyrocketed. In a letter to Irwin H. Evans, vice-president of the North American Division, G.C. President A.G. Daniells wrote in consternation, ‘I count it a very serious thing to have so many thousands of people going away from our ranks… It does seem to me that we should somehow find the real cause of this very heavy drift away from us, and set ourselves resolutely to stop it.’
“In spite of valiant efforts by the denomination’s leaders to staunch the flow of the church’s lifeblood, baptisms were few and apostasies many in the years that followed… Thus, in the late teens and the decade of the 20’s, there was an alarming decrease in total membership in the church.” – Ibid. p. 65, 62.
Not having learned their lesson sufficiently, our ministry absorbed yet another embarrassing blow with World War II.
“During the war emphasis was placed on an international melee in Palestine, but nothing happened in the war that measured up to our traditional view of Armaggedon. So, once again our interpretations concerning this battle were in disarray.” - Ibid. p. 82
But far more disconcerting was our position regarding the Jews returning to Palestine shortly after World War II. On the strength of a statement found in Early Writings p. 75, the ministry confidently assumed the position that the State of Israel would never be formed in “old Jerusalem.” However, on May 14, 1948, the United Nations gave hasty birth to the State of Israel as the British relinquished control of the region. This unexpected turn of events once again had them scrambling for answers. The damage was more far-reaching and long-lasting, for not only was their reputation further tarnished by this misapplication of the above mentioned reference, but the ministry of Ellen White and the authenticity of the Spirit of Prophecy was called into question. This is still going on today. Even the Protestant churches were more correct on this particular issue.
These failures to “rightly divide the Word of Truth” have led to the current Adventist mind-set that events of worldwide significance occuring in the Middle East are essentially “distractions” with no relevance to the fulfillment of end-time prophecy and are thus unworthy of comment or discussion. They have also led the Adventist church to spiritualize the “Battle of Armaggedon” into a “cosmic battle between good and evil” regarding the Sabbath/Sunday issue rather than an actual conflict between the armies of earth and the Army of Heaven. It is beyond the scope of this document to enter into a discussion of Armaggedon in detail, but we can say that the current S.D.A. position is impossible to prove from the Bible alone.
Daniel 11 is explained away in a similar fashion. The correct interpretation of the final five verses of the chapter is unquestionably of end-time importance. It is also an undisputed fact that the ministry has no interpretation that can bear close examination without being riddled with contradictions. Thus, they do the only thing they know how to do and feel that they can do under those circumstances in order to save face; widely proclaim that “it is not a salvation issue.” This may be excusable for the heathen or the non-religious public, perhaps even the Protestant churches, but for a people who boast more than any other about being an end-time church with an end-time message for an end-time generation, it is completely unacceptable and the highest form of hypocrisy. If this position was taken due to a lack of information being available, this MAY be justified, but the fact of the matter is that there is an abundance of light on the truth of this subject. The reason it is being ignored and brushed aside is that they despise the source from which it shines. (For further information on Daniel 11 and 12, please request our free literature on the subject).
The mass exodus of church members which occurred after World War I is only a minor representation of what is to take place when events in the Middle East again explode and culminate in the war described in Zechariah 14:1-3. During that time frame, the leadership will again make predictions out of stern necessity, and again witness the opposite of their predictions come to pass. They, and those who subscribe to their theories, will become alarmed and confused and witness a hemorrhage of church membership. Individuals will leave the church in droves while the ministry will be thrashing about, desperately wondering what to say and do. Unfortunately, they will not have sufficient probationary time to correct their errors. They will, as foolish virgins, not get to “the door” on time for their “lamps [will have] gone out.” (Matt. 25: 8). Thus will have finally arrived “the day of [their] watchmen and [their] visitation…[then] shall be their perplexity.” (Micah 7: 4). Will you be one of them?
“ I have been shown that many who profess to have a knowledge of present truth know not what they believe. They do not understand the evidences of their faith. They have no just appreciation of the work for the present time. When the time of trial shall come, there are men now preaching to others, who will find, upon examining the positions they hold, that there are many things for which they can give no satisfactory reason. Until thus tested, they knew not their great ignorance. And there are many in the church who take it for granted that they understand what they believe, but, until controversy arises, they do not know their own weakness. When separated from those of like faith, and compelled to stand singly and alone to explain their belief, they will be surprised to see how confused are their ideas of what they had accepted as truth.” Testimonies Vol. 5 p. 707.
“The mind that depends upon the judgment of others is certain, sooner or later, to be misled.” Education, p. 231
We again stress that these false interpretations and resultant disappointments are a direct result of rejecting truth which “proceedeth forth from God” and not keeping pace with the light.
“Those who have rendered supreme homage to ‘science falsely so called’ will not be the leaders then. Those who have trusted to intellect, genius, or talent will not then stand at the head of rank and file. They did not keep pace with the light. Those who have proved themselves unfaithful will not then be entrusted with the flock. In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. They are self-sufficient, independent of God, and He cannot use them.” – Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 80.
With the track record of the Seventh-day Adventist ministry clearly set forth, the reader is left to prayerfully and intelligently consider the wisdom of continuing to be led by their misguided forecasts. Ponder the fact that these events occurred during the prime of some of the greatest scholars Adventism has ever produced, such as M.L. Andreasen, F.M. Wilcox, F.C. Gilbert, W. A. Spicer and A.G. Daniells. These, and their associates, are men who are practically worshipped as gods throughout the rank and file of the denomination. In spite of it all, not in a single instance have they issued an accurate prediction. The Lord’s counsel to you is “cease ye from man…for the leaders of this people cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” (Isa. 2:22; 3:12). Let the reader consider that he would not give the time of day to listen to a weather forecaster with such a poor track record as the one we have reviewed. Why would you entertain it from a ministry when your eternal interests are involved?