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The Lord is coming – we know the time!
Adventists by the very nature of our wonderful and exciting hope are constantly tempted to study the ‘signs’ and try to figure out how soon is the time of His coming. We have been doing it since the disciples asked Jesus the same question in Matthew 24:3 “…what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” When someone whether by DVD or website points out some [often clandestine] happening and links that to another event or quotation, then adds a vague reference to a Biblical text or statement of Ellen White and comes out with a date for His coming – our hope so easily rises and a certain excitement grips our minds. And rightly so that our hearts are excited – our longing for that day of release and redemption constantly calls out “How long, Lord Jesus” and “even so, come Lord Jesus”.

But it’s dangerous. It is like the story of the boy who kept yelling “Wolf, wolf!” Either he was lying or he was over enthusiastic about the signs. But the effect was that when the wolf did come and he cried out, the people were so tired of his calls that no one responded and the flock was ravaged. So time-setting and its failures has a deadening effect on the church.

Jesus refused to set a time and even made it clear that no one knew the time [Matt 24:36, 42] and Paul warned against time setting [2 Thess. 2:2].

Early Adventism came out of a mistake of time setting and was plagued with the problem for some time after 1844. Historian George Knight writes “Thus William Miller and Josiah Litch came to expect that Jesus would appear before the end of the Jewish year 1844 (that is the spring of 1845). H H Gross, Joseph Marsh, and others projected dates in 1846, and when that year passed Gross discovered reasons to look for Christ in 1847.”

No less than Joseph Bates – who led the introduction of the great Sabbath truth to Adventism – thought that he had found a way to determine the date of Christ’s coming. George Knight again – “In that year [1850] he wrote that ‘the seven spots of blood on the Golden Altar before the Mercy seat, I fully believe represents the duration of the judicial proceeding on the living saints in the Most Holy.’” From this Bates concluded that Jesus would come in October 1851. Bates gathered quite a following. Wrong – Wolf, Wolf!

“Then on July 21, 1851, as excitement on the topic mounted, she [Ellen White] wrote in the Review and Herald that ‘the Lord has shown me that the message of the third angel must go, and be proclaimed to the scattered children of the Lord, and that it should not be hung on time; for time will never be a test again. I saw that some were getting a false excitement rising from preaching time; that the third angel’s message was stronger than time can be. I saw that this message can stand on its own foundation, and that it needs not time to strengthen it, and that it will go in mighty power, and do its work.’”

1964 – 120 years after 1844 with its parallel to Noah preaching for 120 years before the destruction of the earth and 2000 – with the idea of the seventh millennium, both created excitement as to the date of Christ’s return.

In Matthew 24 Jesus, after talking about the ‘signs’ – not about the nearness of the coming but of the necessity of His coming – addresses the rest of His sermon not to the topic of time setting but to that of faithful, loving service in the light of that certainly coming day. He asks [Matt 24:45] “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?” and answers [v46]  “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.”

He calls us to trust the certainty of His promise to return and give our lives to the living and giving of the eternal gospel [Rev 14:6-7] to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people.

The Lord is coming – we do not know the time.

Llewellyn Edwards

[All quotations by George Knight are from his 2009 daily reading book Lest We forget. Well worth reading!!!!]