Our Unique Calling
t has been suggested that there is only one unique doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. What doctrine do you suppose that is? The Sabbath? The state of the dead? Perhaps it is the Spirit of Prophecy. What do you think?
Here is the answer: “[There is] one unique doctrine of [the Seventh-day Adventist] church. There are other people who believe the Sabbath truth and have held on to that truth for years. There are others who believe the same way we do on the condition of man in death. There are others who accept the gift of prophecy, and there are many, many people, of almost every denomination, who believe in the second coming of Christ. Our only unique contribution to the religious world has been the three angels’ messages and the connection they made for us with the sanctuary and judgment teaching.”1
That’s it: the three angels’ messages found in Revelation 14:6-13. Our church has been called to trumpet this truth in the last days of earth’s history. The passage resonates with hope. It defines our church’s mission. And it sings of salvation!
In Revelation 14:6, John writes: “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.”
Let’s get a little historical context and then we will draw some applications. Keep in mind that the author of Revelation is John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. He is in exile on the island of Patmos around A.D. 95 and is sharing this message of hope and judgment with Christians scattered throughout the seven churches in Asia. These followers of Jesus were experiencing persecution at the hand of the emperor Domitian. Listen to how historians describe this man: “By all accounts Domitian appears to have been a thoroughly nasty person, rarely polite, insolent, arrogant, and cruel. He was a tall man, with large eyes, though weak sight. And showing all the signs of someone drunk with power, he preferred to be addressed as ‘dominus et deus’ (‘master and god’).”2
In this context of persecution God sends a message of hope to His servant John. God pulls back the curtain of time and allows John to see the final chapters of the human story on this earth. God reveals how He will call upon His people in the last days before He returns with His universal message of hope.
The Nature of Our Calling
Now for the remainder of this study, let’s explore the nature of this calling. Of the many nuances we could emphasize in Revelation 14:6, consider three key words that capture our calling as a church: (1) hope, (2) mission, and (3) worldwide. In sum, we share a worldwide mission of hope.
1. We share a message of hope.
First, ours is a message of hope. It is the “eternal gospel.” We are heralds of hope. Jerome Groopman, M.D., author of The Anatomy of Hope, defines hope as “the ability to see a path to the future.” He explains: “I think hope has been, is, and always will be the heart of medicine and healing. . . . [Even with all our medical technology] we still come back to this profound human need to believe that there is a possibility
to reach a future that is better than the one in the present.”3 Think about that: for all of the advances in medical technology, one of the brightest minds in the world says that the best medicine we know of is hope.
The Bible teaches that there is indeed a path to a brighter future. In the three angels’ messages we find this pathway.
2. We share a mission that matters.
Our second observation from Revelation 14:6 is that we share a mission that matters. There are a lot of things that churches get involved in that really don’t matter very much. Whether it’s squabbling about what color to paint the walls or bickering about worship style, it’s easy to get distracted with missions that don’t matter. While it’s not that these issues are unimportant, it is just that they do not matter nearly as much as our primary mission—to proclaim the message of the three angels to the world. After all, eternity hangs in the balance!
Some years ago, the Oregonian carried the story of the 20-year reunion of the crash victims of United Airlines Flight 173 in Portland, Oregon. The headline read: “Flight 173 survivors call pilot their savior.” At that reunion some 200 people—mainly passengers on a DC-8 that crashed into a Portland neighborhood—applauded the man who steered the plane to the ground. United Flight 173 ran out of fuel at 6:15 p.m., December 28, 1978, as its crew tried to overcome a problem with the landing gear. When the plane crashed, 10 of 189 aboard died.
Throughout the article are quotes of survivors heralding Captain McBroom as their savior. In spite of all the accolades, however, McBroom could not rejoice. Instead, he spoke repeatedly of how he had been haunted for 20 years about the 10 who did not survive. McBroom had this comment about the applause: “It’s kind of bittersweet. I appreciate it,” he said, “but we lost 10, and that is heavy.”
The pilot whom many called their savior could only cry for the 10.
One time our Savior broke down crying because He could see with eternal lenses how many of His children were facing death for eternity. So He wept over the city. Then He called His church for the final hour to proclaim the everlasting good news of salvation for all who believe. That is our Father’s heart. That is our mission of hope. It matters.
3. We share a warning that is worldwide.
Finally, we share a warning that is worldwide. God intends for this message to be proclaimed “to all who [are] still on earth,” as Eugene Peterson puts it in his paraphrase, The Message.*
While it is indeed a global challenge, ultimately it will
be accomplished only when the mission becomes personal. Evangelism happens only when we take personal action, not when we urge others to do something.
Our mission to reach the world will happen only when you and I make it our mission to reach our neighborhood with the good news. Now it gets personal. It becomes a matter of how you and I live every day. For people are watching us and making decisions about their eternity based on what they see.
A parable is told of a woodsman working in the forest one day when he was attacked by a tiger. The woodsman seized the tiger by the tail, and the tiger began turning around in circles, trying to get its teeth into the woodsman. A Buddhist monk, out for a walk, was attracted by the noise and sauntered over. The woodsman, upon seeing the monk, cried out, “Please take my ax there and kill this tiger before I am eaten alive!”
The monk, lowering his eyes and piously folding his hands, replied, “I am sorry but I cannot kill the tiger. You see, I am a Buddhist and as a Buddhist all life is sacred to me, be it insect, human, or animal.”
The woodsman answered, “Fortunately, I am not blessed with your belief, so would you please take my place at the tail of the tiger and let me kill the beast.”
The monk agreed and they exchanged places. The woodsman then walked over, picked up his ax, placed it on his shoulder, and nonchalantly strolled off into the forest. The Buddhist monk, very much alarmed, cried out, “Please, come back and kill this tiger as you promised or else I will be devoured!”
The woodsman’s parting reply was: “I was so impressed by your example that I have become a convert to your belief.”
People are converted to Christianity in the same way—by watching our example. That’s why Jesus told His followers: “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. . . . Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16, Message).
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we are challenged to radiate the light of Jesus in dark neighborhoods. Together, we share a message of hope. We share a mission that matters. And we share a warning that is worldwide.
*Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright ” 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
1Morris L. Venden, The Pillars (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1982), p. 32.
2As quoted at www.roman-empire.net/emperors/domitian-index.
3Jerome Groopman, The Anatomy of Hope (New York: Random House, 2004).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND SHARING
1. Explain how Revelation 14:6 emphasizes hope, mission, and worldwide.
2. What part does personal example play in the fulfillment of our mission?
Karl Haffner, author of the readings monday through friday, is senior pastor of the Kettering Seventh-day Adventist Church and mission strategist for Kettering Health Network in Ohio, U.S.A. He’s the husband of Cherié and daddy of Lindsey and Claire. He has B.A. degrees in theology and business from Walla Walla College, a Master of Business Administration degree from Pacific Lutheran University, a Master of Divinity degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Andrews University. Pastor Haffner is a prolific author with more than a dozen books to his credit, along with hundreds of articles published in a wide variety of journals. His humor and enthusiasm are infectious, delighting audiences around the world with his passion and perspectives.