Dialogue with a Seventh-Day Adventist Conference President

 

Kevin Swift received a letter from a Seventh-day Adventist Conference President in response to a prophetic update emailed on September 10, 2010. Below is the correspondence and Kevin's response.

Seventh-day Adventist Conference President

September 10, 2010

Kevin,

Thanks for sharing your insights with me. Although I, too, think prophecy is intriguing and helpful in my understanding of Scripture, I always remind myself that the purpose of prophecy is to see God’s hand and leading AFTER these things take place (Mt. 24:33). In all of Christian history, the advance understanding of prophecy has been 99.99% wrong and has caused many to lose their faith and others to scoff at our Christian faith. This is why I personally believe in the Adventist historic view of prophecy. It is not as exciting as trying to figure out the future, but I find no record in Scripture of people properly understanding God’s prophetic word in advance. In fact, the authors of the great Old Testament prophecies had no understanding about what they were writing (1 Peter 1:10-12). Peter tells us that the prophets themselves couldn’t put it all together. They diligently studied their own writings, but they were not able to comprehend their message. I read (occasionally) the multitude of predictions made by “futurists” and find confusion and contradiction, yet everyone is certain their future understanding is correct, this time. When the time or event passes with no fulfillment, which always happens, they renegotiate their prophetic interpretations based on the next big news event that looms on the horizon. And the world laughs, then ignores. It is because the Jews were fascinated with messianic prophecy and thought they had it all figured out in advance that they refused to allow what was happening right in front of them to reveal the clear revelation of Jesus. We now easily understand those same prophecies, because the fulfillment has occurred. The purpose of the prophecies was not to give advance knowledge, but to give miraculous faith when the events unfold. (Luke 24:25-27; 45)

Do the Adventists have it all correct? I doubt it. Are there some confusing verses and chapter, especially in Daniel? Yes. That really bothers some who want clarity of every word God speaks. But, I find the basic historic interpretation of Daniel and Revelation to be verified over and over again through the years. It’s only been since the final time prophecy’s fulfillment (1844) that there has been a drastic rise in futurist interpretation of prophecy. In my opinion, this is because we are all so eager to be the “blessed” people that we will do most anything to interpret Bible prophecy to apply to our day. Old, fulfilled prophecy is dull.

There are parts of the prophetic books that I do not understand. Honestly, that does not concern me because my “safety” in the future is not dependant on my advance understanding of what is coming. It is my confidence in seeing God’s leading in the past, even though He predicted it in advance, that gives me confidence that God is still in control of this very confusing world.

I am a bit concerned with your final paragraph to me. You appeal, “Finally, I would encourage you to use this period, known as the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, to seek God's forgiveness and to draw closer to Jesus, Yeshua our Savior.” My walk with God is not because we are in some certain time period. In my humble faith, I am already completely in Christ and cannot be forgiven more. I don’t have to do better or repent more sincerely. John 15 assures me that those who “abide” are “clean” and belong to Him. Whether Jesus comes in the next 10 days, or not for 100 years, my faith is in Him, not in my ability in figuring out some hidden prophetic message. It really doesn’t matter who the “head of gold” is unless we are focused on the “stone cut out without hands.” The “head of gold” is only to convince me that the “stone” WILL show up someday!

If you are correct and Daniel 8 is talking about Iraq and Iran, how should I live differently right now? I don’t know. If you are incorrect and this is just another news event, what are we supposed to do then? Seriously, I don’t understand what theological or relational difference this “new” light would bring to me other than to “be right” or have “inside information” from God. If you can help me understand that basic question, I’d be interested and open.

Kevin, I wish more people had a passion to understand Scripture as you do. However, I am concerned that a focus on future events and an attempt to put the pieces together beforehand is both dangerous to the searcher as well as damaging to the mission of the church. The whole Bible is about Jesus (John 5:39). Prophecy is about Jesus. The future is in His hands. We don’t need to understand it. We need, in my opinion, to look back and see the amazing prophetic accuracy of our Creator and continue to plant our faith in Him, even if the heavens fall.

God bless you and have a wonderful Sabbath.

Signed Seventh-day Adventist Conference President

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Kevin Swift's reply to the Seventh-day Adventist Conference President 

(Some information was deleted, and some links added as response references).

 

September 17, 2010

Dear __________,

Thank you for responding to the email I sent out on Friday, September 10, 2010.  My primary focus was to present the prophecy of Daniel 8, which addresses the end-time prediction that a modern-day Persian conflict will initiate final events.  Just to give you perspective, I sent the email to over 1,200 individuals with many religious backgrounds who have, for the most part, signed onto the Focus on the Prophecies website over the last several years from around the globe.  A few names and emails I have added through the years, such as yours.

I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to write down your concerns and to reaffirm your commitment to the Adventist historical view of prophecy.  I think highly of you.  I believe you are a talented leader and God is using you in a productive way to provide spiritual leadership to _______________.  I know we will not agree on what I am about to write, but if you will favor me with your time I will share some additional thoughts in connection to your response and concerns.

You wrote, “I always remind myself that the purpose of prophecy is to see God’s hand and leading AFTER these things take place (Mt. 24:33).” 

The passage you quoted proves the opposite of your view. “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it [Christ’s return] is near, right at the door.” In Matthew 24, Jesus prophesied and revealed “future” events with much clarity.  He referred specifically to Daniel’s predictive scroll and the abomination that will cause terrible devastation (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:4).  The Olivet Discourse was not to confuse the saints, but to challenge the saints to be prepared for last-events.  If you think Christ’s words applied to 70 AD, then He offered advanced wisdom to that generation. If, on the other hand, you see Christ’s words in Matthew 24 to apply to the final unfolding of events as I do, the result is the same—advanced knowledge. His point is that the saints should be “watching” for the events described, so we would stand firm in the midst of the trial, just before His return.  Paul said, we are “not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief”; we are “sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness,” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6). 

The prophecies were not recorded to always be shrouded in mystery beyond understanding.  Especially as last-day events approach when demonic powers will rule and deceptions will escalate, we will need a clear pathway through the trials.  What good is it to only be able to look back after we get to safety “to see God’s hand and leading,” as you say? Our faith will not need to be encouraged at that stage; we will be in His presence.  Rather, we can know what is to happen during the final work of Satan, because Jesus already told us in advance of the events. It’s a warning to know about and understand the wars, natural disasters, betrayal, work of the faithful, the end-time abomination that will be set up in Jerusalem, the false messiahs and satanic deceptions, which just precede His return.  For when we see these things, we are to keep watch and be spiritually prepared.

Prophecy is a gift of the Spirit. It has been clouded by misunderstanding, confusion, and fear. Yet, from the standpoint of the Scriptures, the gift of prophecy is the most important spiritual gift. Paul considers it vital to the up-building of the church “in the moment.”  The importance of the gift of prophecy is seen from Paul's urgency for it. He commands the Corinthians to "earnestly desire to prophesy" (1 Corinthians 14:39; see also 12:31 and 14:1). In all the various lists and discussions of the gifts in Paul's letters the only constant gift is prophecy.  Whenever Paul makes an attempt to classify the gifts in terms of importance, prophecy is given preference over all the rest (1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Only in the two passages where Paul speaks of gifted men (prophets), rather than of the gift (prophecy), do prophets fall into second place behind apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; Ephesians 2:20).  Our cry should be to "earnestly desire to prophesy" (1 Corinthians 14:39), instead of stifling the gift in the church.  

We can agree that the prophets were often confused about the visions they received, because their prophecies often disclosed events beyond their days.  Therefore, they did the best they could, with what God allowed them to know.  Is it possible that a prophet who lived 100 years ago could not fully comprehend the meaning of the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation, because events would not be fulfilled in her day?  What’s good for Daniel might be good for Ellen [White].  She did not understand the “daily,” or the 1,290 days, the 1,335 days and other prophecies. Why was she blinded and left in the dark? Were the full rays of light yet to burn upon the pages of Daniel and Revelation? Could God call a modern-day prophet, or send messengers from the courts of Heaven to give further light and instruction as events unfold?

Prophecy is “predictive” and “futuristic” by nature, not historical.  Daniel, as you mentioned, was not able to comprehend, and was told “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined [by the end-time trial], but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand. From the time that the daily sacrifice [not in the original] is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days,” Daniel 12:9-12.

Maybe you can explain the Adventist historicist meaning of the 1,290 days (which Adventists turn into “years”) and the 1,335 days (“years”)—when and how they have been fulfilled?  If so, please kindly let me know!  You said “The purpose of the prophecies was not to give advance knowledge, but to give miraculous faith when the events unfold.”  Please share with me the miraculous faith the 1,290 days (years) and 1,335 days (years) offer us and the church in Adventist prophetic theology!  [People] typically don’t hear about them during Adventist prophecy seminars; nor did Mervyn Maxwell know what to do with them in his series, God Cares. He wrote, “It is not yet possible to state with certainty the manner in which these two time prophecies were to be fulfilled.”  But, evidently hundreds of thousands of Adventists think these two prophetic periods have been fulfilled. Historicists, like yourself, seem quite content to just dismiss these two dynamic God-ordained, Christ-centered and Spirit-filled prophetic periods as “not that important.”  The attitude is, “brother, don’t bother me with God’s prophetic times… what difference do they make?”  Adventists are absolutely sold on the idea that the 1,290 days (years) and 1,335 days (years) had some kind of prophetic significance sometime— somehow—somewhere in the past, but they sure couldn’t tell you exactly when and how… but they are sure they were fulfilled!  This is very sad indeed. 

There is pride among the brethren: If it was good enough for our church founders, it’s good enough for me.  If I followed this thinking, I’d still be a card-carrying Baptist.  I come from a close family with strong evangelical ties, but I opened my mind to challenge some of those “questionable” beliefs in my early 20’s.  May God help Christians to not just be “OK” with obscure passages, but to search the Scriptures for additional light and ask God to impress upon us the message for the hour in which we live. 

I opened my spiritual mind, and I found the Sabbath truth.  My dad fought back. He said, “After Christ’s resurrection, God chose the first day over the seventh day!”  I was upset at my father for dismissing the plain Word of God. And, I am disturbed at my Adventist friends for changing the Word of God to suit their contrived views.  Frankly, God knows the difference between years and days.  I held firm to the Sabbath, lost my job, and experienced the loss of family and friends and lost the respect of my father for a time.  However, after 35 years as a pastor my 75 year old father finally saw the light and accepted the seventh-day as the Sabbath.  He taught his Baptist congregation the value of resting on the day of God’s choosing during the years just before his death.

In contrast to Maxwell’s view, I think God does care that we understand all of his prophetic announcements and time periods.  After-all, God made a promise He must keep.  He does not lie--the “wise will understand” at the “time of the end.”  I am not trying to be facetious (I know letters of debate come across that way).  You understand the seriousness of Daniel’s scroll.  There is a wisdom promised to the last generation, and the promise is tied specifically to the 1,290 days and 1,335 days.  Adventists and other historicists have decided to over-ride the primary meaning of the Hebrew word “yowm,” which means “day,” and change the meaning to “years.” Men have changed the Word of God according to their own imaginations and schemes. 

Nevertheless, if we can’t depend up God to speak the truth… when God says "days"… it means "days"; then, what do we have but men’s opinions?  You have the right to believe what you want, but as me… I decided long ago to take God at His word no matter where it takes me.  As a young man--whether closer to my Baptist roots, or further away; and, as an older man--whether closer to Adventism, or further away.

God established five unchangeable, undeniable truths in the passage in Daniel 12:9-12:

1)      The meaning of Daniel’s scroll would be “sealed until the time of the end.”

2)      The “wise will understand” (which means, knowing and counting the days when they are being fulfilled).

3)      The “daily” will be understood, and used as the corner stone to start the counting.

4)      The “abomination” will be understood as the event that ends the 1,290 days and initiates the running for your lives period (which just proceeds the “immediately after” return of Christ in the clouds of heaven—Matthew 24:15-16, 21, 29).

5)      Blessed is the one who “waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” 

I might be able to keep watch and wait during trials and tribulations for 1,335 days, but I can’t wait for 1,335 years. What value is that?  How have any of the saints in the past or in the Advent faith today found the 1,335 “years” to be a personal blessing in their lives?  They are meaningless, without their true purpose and meaning.  Psalm 33:18, 20 says, “The eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love… We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.”  The waiting period is in direct relation to the trials of the last days, just before the return of our Messiah.  Isaiah 40:31 says, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 25:9 adds, “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice [“happy”--“blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days”] in his salvation.”

You wrote, “There are parts of the prophetic books that I do not understand. Honestly, that does not concern me because my “safety” in the future is not dependant on my advance understanding of what is coming. It is my confidence in seeing God’s leading in the past, even though He predicted it in advance, that gives me confidence that God is still in control of this very confusing world.” 

So, I understand you to say your “safety…is not dependant on the advance understanding of what is coming?”  Neither is this Biblical, and this goes against the fabric and purpose of the prophetic gift, including the intent of Daniel and Revelation’s last-day predictions.  It flies in the face of the promise in Daniel 12, that the “wise will understand,” while the “wicked” will not.  What side do you want to be on?  The wise, or the wicked?... You surely want to stand with the wise, full of spiritual understanding about Daniel’s book and its contents (even if other Adventists don’t care).  Very soon Adventists will care when fear grips their souls, and “many will go here and there [in the book] to increase knowledge,” (Daniel 12:4).

When Daniel is told concerning the Persian conflict: “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end,” repeated twice for emphasis, I see no reasonableness in accepting 331 BC as the fulfillment.  Was 331 BC the time of the end?  If not, I have every reason to question the Adventist interpretation and look at Persia/Iran today, since as future “overcomers” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7) we could certainly face “the time of the end” challenge head-on.  The fact that for over two decades prophecy students have been warning about this prophetic event (a modern-day Persian/Iran war) as found in Daniel 8, and we now see it coming into focus, this should give Adventist historicists pause.

I know Adventists are challenged to incorporate ALL the prophetic timelines of Daniel and Revelation in their eschatology. As you may have noticed, I have not left any of the timelines out of The Kingdom Calendar, because I could not understand them or they didn’t fit somehow.  No, I have included them all. And, I have not gone back in time through historical events “picking and choosing” dates that “might” work to fit the chart, as William Miller and the early pioneers did.  That’s really not that hard at all; anybody can choose obscure book-ends when the days are turned into “years.” Who can really go back and prove beginning events hundreds or a thousand years ago? On the other hand, what I offer is specific in nature and must be proven as true before Adventists and others will believe it. I accept that, but will Adventists believe the evidence and accept the light if it comes to pass?

The Kingdom Calendar is bracketed by God’s Festivals.  If you think Kevin just happened to be intelligent enough to put together a chart using ALL the timelines, and then be lucky enough to get them to fit between God’s Festivals… then you might consider the mere mathematical odds.  You would not recognize the number; it would have way too many “0’s”.  No, it is not my chart.  I’d put God’s Hebrew Calendar of prophetic days against William Miller’s mumbo-jumbo prophetic chart of years any day.  There is no comparison.  One is confirmed by God’s own appointed times; the other is mere guess-work.

Finally, you asked the question, “I don’t understand what theological or relational difference this “new” light would bring to me other than to “be right” or have “inside information” from God. If you can help me understand that basic question, I’d be interested and open.”

I will let the Scriptures answer that question. Paul wrote to Timothy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come”… and follows up with these words of wisdom:  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” 2 Timothy 3:1, 16-17.  Paul didn’t say, “All scripture except Daniel and Revelation”; no, ALL scripture is profitable, and has purpose for our daily walk, and the edification of the church.  If I don’t understand one of God’s passages, it is my obligation to search for its true and rightful meaning; and, not to ignore a brother who is offering some viable meaning and purpose to the passage.  If the theologians and professors don’t have answers, I can ask God for His wisdom—the originator of the prophecies—who is much smarter than the batches of cookie-cutter priests and preachers that religious universities churn out year after year (I say this respectfully).

Therefore, any deeper understanding of God’s prophetic passages in Daniel and Revelation, particularly insights that offer plausible explanations (“new” light) for the timelines and events that Adventists cannot thoroughly explain, is profitable in every way; especially, as we are about to enter the “time of the end.”  If Adventists, years ago, would have allowed a healthy debate about the “interpretive” aspects of the historicist view of prophecy, God may have added some wonderful insights to the church.  In doing so, the Prophecy Seminars would not have been so focused on the past, but on real-life, soon-coming events and the nearness of Christ’s return. But, from the highest levels in the Adventist organization, all challenges have been rejected “wholesale” and without debate in favor of views originating primarily from the dark ages.

I’d like to clarify this: I know there is a 99.99% chance of being wrong by human standards.  I know the extremely long odds against any man receiving fresh gems of truth from the throne of God.  However, “with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible,” Mark 10:27.  Miracles can and do happen.  So, on the flip-side of the coin, if this is of God, and if events unfold as I have placed before you and thousands of others over the last two decades, then what will you do?  That is the big question as the spiritual leader of so many souls in _______________.  Will you hold onto tradition?  Or, will you encourage the saints to open their hearts and minds to the miraculous work of the Spirit of God?  Will you accept God’s present truth as the wisdom promised in Daniel 12, which could possibly shed light on current happenings in the world and in the church?

The church needs desperately to know where we are in prophetic time, and God has a roadmap of His own design that will take the saints through the greatest trial to befall His followers.  Moreover, Revelation 11 says about the last days, “I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands [Zechariah 4; Matthew 17:1-13] that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths [“I will make my words in your mouth a fire”--Jeremiah 5:14] and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men [not inanimate objects like the Old & New Testaments] have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want,” Revelation 11:3-6.  Then, after they are martyred—“after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them [with resurrection power], and they stood on their feet [does the Bible have feet?], and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice [does the Bible have ears?] from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on,” (vs. 11-12). 

You can try to spiritualize away the resolute language and facts, but God’s word is as clear as black letters on white paper about His two last-day witnesses. They are real men, God’s prophets, who speak real words, who die a real death, and who are resurrected to life. The Adventist interpretation of this passage (like so many other prophetic passages) is a shame and sham. I look forward to the work of God in the lives of these two Heaven-sent witnesses.  And so, whatever we do not yet understand, or have misunderstood, I believe these two witnesses will clarify if we are ready to accept their testimony. Praise be to our powerful God. Some might say, “well God wouldn’t send prophets in the last days from Heaven!!”  Oh my, why not? Oh, you of little faith!

Finally _________, my biggest surprise was your rebuke for me cheering on those who may need some words of encouragement to renew their hearts [during the Fall Festival season].  This is God’s season—His “moedim”—God’s rehearsals, which He Himself established (Leviticus 23).  They are near and dear to Him.  The days just leading up to the Day of Atonement in the Scriptures represented a period of time each year when God’s people were to give attention to their sins, to repent and turn to the Lord.  Although I do not find the obligation to observe the Festivals (Paul said it is every Christian’s right to observe, or not observe—Romans 14:5), I felt it was an opportunity to use the season to encourage those who are in need of God’s forgiveness and a turning back to God.  Peter used the Day of Pentecost to encourage the people to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” Acts 2:38

I find it odd that most Adventist Christians feel comfortable highlighting Christmas and Easter—of pagan origin, but are totally uncomfortable giving any spiritual attention to God’s Festivals.  Dr. Samuel Bacchiocchi was right to encourage Adventists to preach and use the Festivals within the church, as they arrive each year, for encouraging the saints.  The church could learn so much from knowing about the meaning of God’s Festivals.  Dr. Bacchiocchi saw a very clear connection between the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Day of the Lord (as I do), and wrote about it in his book God’s Festivals in Scripture and History. Volume 2: The Fall Festivals, where he offered insights into the autumn Festivals (Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkoth) and their end-of-time meaning. See http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/books/festivals_2/.  If you have not read his books on the Festivals, I would highly recommend them; insightful and eye-opening indeed.

I am sorry this letter ended up much longer than I planned, and I am sorry we cannot see eye to eye on God’s prophetic Word. There are so many wonderful insights into final events that have been covered over by the historicist “over and done with” view.  It has many contrived and inventive manipulations of the original Hebrew/Greek words and meanings.  The interpretation of Revelation chapter 11 is one of many glaring examples where the meaning has been twisted so far out of context, it would be laughable if it weren’t so downright disgraceful.

Until we reach the Kingdom of God, I will continue to follow my life’s verse: My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding,” Proverbs 2:1-6.  If I am despised and ultimately rejected for it, so be it.

Adventist’s historicist tradition and the claims of a prophetess will never keep me from searching the Word of God for the greater light. Everybody who reaches the point of satisfaction with what they’ve “just always been taught” is setting themselves up to miss God’s best, and quite possibly the Kingdom.  The Spirit of God is alive and well, and He continues gifting others as the Father sees fit.  He did not die with the Adventist founders.  The gift of prophecy remains, and with it miraculous truths are being brought forward to meet the great need of the saints for the trial that is closer than most can imagine.

I’ve sat on this letter for several days. I know it comes across as crass, and I’ve tried to re-write to make my points without offending; but, without much success. However, I hope you know my spirit.  I am a somewhat shy and hopefully humble man, who seldom speaks out or makes waves.  I am not doing this for any self-grandeur, but out of obligation. I am blessed with many Adventist friends...  However, I can’t always remain silent.  I must share when God lays it on my heart, and I have done so.  That’s all any of us can do in our service for God, whether as a leader or layperson.

Blessings in Christ,

Kevin Swift