By Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson
Last fall, a special service took place in London during commemorations for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation— and it strikingly points to the prophetic times in which we are living.
Leading clergy from various faiths gathered at the Church of England’s Westminster Abbey on Oct. 31 to embrace an agreement between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches that attempted to settle a key dispute at the center of the Reformation: justification by faith.
“When the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, you resolved the underlying theological question of 1517, in a decisive moment for all churches in the search for unity and reconciliation,” declared the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during the special service.1
Since its signing, the joint declaration has been adopted by some other Protestant faiths, including the World Methodist Council in 2006; the Anglican Consultative Council in 2016; and the World Communion of Reformed Churches last July. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has not been part of this initiative nor will it be.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church promotes and encourages religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all. This allows us to make biblical and doctrinal decisions without compromise, based upon our time-honored and Bible-based historical-biblical (or historical-grammatical) method of Bible study and interpretation, as well as the historicist approach to Bible prophecy. These approaches, through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, inform us of the developments to take place just before Christ’s return as revealed in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation and, in particular, Revelation 13.
During the service at Westminster Abbey, Archbishop Justin Welby presented the text of the Anglican council’s 2016 resolution to Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, and to Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Also present at the service were leaders of the World Methodist Council and the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
The public presentation of the Anglican resolution on the Reformation’s anniversary was a major step toward church unity, Junge said.2
“We are grateful to God that together with Catholic, Methodist and Reformed sisters and brothers, we are witnessing today the affirmation of the substance of the Joint Declaration of Doctrine of Justification by the Anglican Communion,” he said. “May this moment serve as an important witness on the way of growing unity among our churches.”
A Definite Sign
As Seventh-day Adventists, we recognize this move as a definite sign of the end-times that we have studied in Scripture, read about in The Great Controversy, and talked about for years. We need to be aware of events now taking place and realize that we are living in the very tips of the toes of the statue in Daniel 2. The next huge event is Christ’s second coming, and we will see more biblical, prophetic signs unfold as we near that climactic event.
As we see these events unfolding, it brings to mind the following passages from The Great Controversy:
Since the middle of the nineteenth century, students of prophecy in the United States have presented this testimony to the world. In the events now taking place is seen a rapid advance toward the fulfillment of the prediction. With Protestant teachers there is the same claim of divine authority for Sundaykeeping, and the same lack of Scriptural evidence, as with the papal leaders who fabricated miracles to supply the place of a command from God. The assertion that God’s judgments are visited upon men for their violation of the Sunday-sabbath, will be repeated; already it is beginning to be urged. And a movement to enforce Sunday observance is fast gaining ground.3
The specific understanding expressed on page 588 of the same book is also very pertinent:
Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome. The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.4
In a recent article, leading U.S. Protestant theologian Stanley Hauerwas observed that “the gulfs between the denominations seem only to feel smaller and smaller. And so does the gulf between Catholicism and Protestantism.”5
Further underling this point, on Nov. 13, 2017, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with the Vatican’s chief diplomat, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in Washington. Afterward, Pence tweeted that he was honored to host the cardinal at the White House for a “productive conversation about how we can work together to promote human rights, combat human suffering, and protect religious freedom.”6
We understand from biblical prophecy that this trend of ecumenical events and government associations with the Vatican will not only be for the United States but also in many other places around the world.
Reformation Not Over
Referring to the Protestant Reformation, Ellen White stated that, “The Reformation did not, as many suppose, end with Luther. It is to be continued to the close of this world’s history.”2
What a privilege to be part of the Protestant Reformation and its heritage today. God used Martin Luther and many others to lay the foundations of a return to the Holy Word of God. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us never stray from a clear understanding and acceptance of the Bible as it reads, recognizing the prophetic times in which we are living. As Jesus said in Matthew 11:15, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (See also Revelation 2:17.)
Although we do not want to be perceived as alarmists, it is obvious that we are living in the last days of Earth’s history. May God guide us, His Advent movement, as we proclaim the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 — with Christ and His righteousness at the very core of the three angels’ messages — and as we proclaim the fourth angel’s message of Revelation 18, calling people out of Babylon and back to the true worship of God.
My friends, we are living in the end of time, and we must keep our focus on our mission of proclaiming Jesus’ soon coming. What an opportunity to witness for the Lord personally, and as the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide through Total Member Involvement. Let’s pray for revival and reformation in our own lives and the latter rain of the Holy Spirit in the worldwide church as we proclaim the last warning message to this dying world just before Christ’s second coming.
Ted N.C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. You may follow him on Twitter: @pastortedwilson and on Facebook: @PastorTedWilson.
This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of Adventist World magazine, https://www.adventistworld.org/a-decisive-moment/
- “Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Reformed and Anglicans ‘drawn into deeper communion,’” https://www.anglicannews.org/news/2017/10/lutherans,-catholics-methodists-reformed-and-anglicans-drawn-into-deeper-communion.aspx
- Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 578, 589.
- Ibid., p. 148.
- “The Reformation is over. Protestants won. So why are we still here?” https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/the-reformation-is-over-protestants-won-so-why-are-we-still-here/2017/10/26/71a2ad02-b831-11e7-be94-fabb0f1e9ffb_story.html?utm_term=.c6962dc71df6