By Mark Shipowick
“Over a two day period in late March of 1979, the people of Iran held a groundbreaking referendum to turn their country into a theocratic Islamic Republic where the religious leaders ruled supreme. According to the wholeheartedly honest and incorruptible officials who counted the votes, 99.3% of the ballots were cast in favor of becoming an Islamic Republic.”
This bears a striking resemblance to Kim Jong Un winning a 2014 ‘election’ in North Korea with 100% of the vote, or when Saddam Hussein won re-election in Iraq back in 2002 with 11.4 million votes in favor, and 0 against. Within months, a new constitution was drafted, and Iran became a theocracy.
In a theocracy, the rules and rituals of the official state religion become pervasive in everything– politics, education, business, news, entertainment, and even your daily routine– regardless of whether or not you’re a believer… if you’re even allowed to be a non-believer. In its own way, the United States (and much of the West) is rapidly becoming a theocracy where the woke leftist religion similarly pervades our daily lives.”
Simon Black goes on to make his case. He points to the tell-tale signs that a quasi-religious ideology is overtaking America. But rather than reciting his list here which is long and somewhat depressing (and for the most part, common knowledge), the question for Adventists is whether this woke movement of Western and global culture is mentioned in scripture? Is it a part of the beast that all of the world wonders after and if so what do we do about it?
In my opinion what we’re seeing is definitely foretold in the end-time prophecies but because its not currently about Sunday vs. Sabbath, many Adventists are in denial of the beast that is right in front of us. Many of these will disagree but please bear with me and hear me out. This will be brief.
There’s more to the beast and the mark than Sunday vs. Sabbath. Yes that part is central. But the beast is currently on display in America and around the western world in the persecution of those business owners who can’t buy or sell unless they, in violation of their consciences, cater to the LGBTQ sector.
Those who plead for biblical morality or who affirm that “all lives matter” or that gender is biologically based etc., risk job loss, economic and social sanctions and civil and criminal penalties for so called hate crimes. God’s Two Witnesses are being silenced by the “beast that rises from the bottomless pit [who] will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” Rev 11:7 and 8.
Notice where the Witnesses are slain – in the streets of spiritual Sodom and Egypt. And notice by whom – the beast from the bottomless pit. This is the same beast from the same pit that the whore, Mystery Babylon, rides in Revelation 17.
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” Revelation 17:8.
And the beast of Revelation 11 and 17 is the same one that is wounded in Revelation 13 but its wound is healed. The overarching feature of this beast’s ideology is blind conformity: All the world blindly wonders after it, idolizing and worshiping its humanistic laws and thoughts, displacing an intelligent faith in the word.
One of the most troubling recent examples of the implicit trust placed in human wisdom is the disproportionate Covid response that has destroyed a large part of our economy causing social pain many times worse than the pandemic itself. The consequences are disheartening. Long breadlines have formed across America. Millions have been made jobless and thousands homeless who’ve never been in this situation before in their entire lives. Having to ask for handouts is galling to them. But the well fed leaders continue in their course and there’s no end in sight. Millions are months behind in their rent and are on the verge of eviction. Our hearts should go out to these, our brothers and sisters.
The silver lining in this is that many are open like never before to the gospel of Christ. The harvest is ripe. The pressing question for all of us now is how do we cooperate with the first angel to spread the everlasting gospel effectively.
Given that a messenger is only as credible as his character and it takes time to develop character how do we do that? There’s an apparent tension between an urgent message and the fact that character takes a lifetime to develop. Or is there? In my view the answer and the proper balance is given in the books Education and Ministry of Healing. The whole church, new members and veterans, will all grow in grace and be prepared to meet Christ by following the inspired counsels on both how to live and on how to bring in the harvest.
In just a few short chapters, the Spirit of Prophecy tells us how to minister effectively. In chapters 9 to 14, especially chapters 12 and 13, “Help for the Unemployed and Homeless” and “The Helpless Poor” the Ministry of Healing along with the book Education (see especially chapter 2) she gives us the divine answer to the current crises; in short order Ellen White sets out our strategic, evangelistic blueprint as well as the blueprint for our own character development.
This plan is foolproof in that if it’s followed it simultaneously accomplishes all three goals: 1) It brings relief to the poor and the destitute; 2) it effectively spreads the gospel and brings in the harvest; and 3) it develops the character of the laborers themselves. I’d go so far as to say that one reason Adventism has wandered in the wilderness for all these years is our unbelief in failing to follow these methods of labor which are exactly what Christ would be doing if He was here in person.
Our failure to implement this program not only means we have not been the salt of the earth as we should be, it means that as a church we are blighted in the formation of our characters. As we know, or should know, this is the greatest failure in Adventism that has delayed the return of Christ. However vital the doctrines of the Sabbath, the sanctuary and righteousness by faith may be there is no substitute in character development for practical godliness and obedience to all of the counsels of God. To be sealed in the truth we have to both believe it and act on it.
Personally, I’m renewing my commitment to these counsels not only as my own plan for evangelism but also as my plea and my call to Adventism to get with the program of God. I’d encourage all ministries, denominational and independent, to re-evaluate their programs in the light of these chapters and consider whether God isn’t calling us to come into line with His ideal of ministry, making agriculture and practical industries key components of our health and evangelistic ministries. As we do this, at the same time we’ll be meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters, many of whom are in unprecedented distress.
Regarding the specifics of what this program could look like, the goals are two fold: 1) Meeting the basic needs of people 2) while at the same time developing and train youth and adults as entrepreneur/farmer medical evangelists. To achieve both of those ends I suggest building micro-manufacturing educational training centers with agriculture and health evangelism at the core of the program. As a means of skill training, mentoring and to cover tuition student teams would build their own homes and hone their industrial skills by manufacturing products.
The purpose of making agriculture central to the training program is its character building value and the need for all of us to know how to grow wholesome food sustainably. These outposts should be located on tracts of land where industrious families can rebuild their lives.
There have been two institutions in Adventist history that have implemented the Ministry of Healing/Education model – Avondale College of Australia in its early years and Madison College that operated for half a century north of Nashville, Tennessee. These institutions were renowned in their day. As long as they remained true to God’s plans they were “men wondered at”.
As Americans and Adventists we view ourselves as ready to rise to a challenge. Here is a divine challenge coupled with one of the greatest socioeconomic crises in American history. The motivation couldn’t be greater: effective philanthropy, the salvation of other souls and of our own. Those who accept the challenge and come into line with Christ and His methods, will have no regrets. Like Christ, they will eventually see the travail of their souls and be satisfied.
Post Script, Selections from Ministry of Healing, Chapter 12:
There are largehearted men and women who are anxiously considering the condition of the poor and what means can be found for their relief. How the unemployed and the homeless can be helped to secure the common blessings of God’s providence and to live the life He intended man to live, is a question to which many are earnestly endeavoring to find an answer. But there are not many, even among educators and statesmen, who comprehend the causes that underlie the present state of society. Those who hold the reins of government are unable to solve the problem of poverty, pauperism, and increasing crime. They are struggling in vain to place business operations on a more secure basis.
If men would give more heed to the teaching of God’s word, they would find a solution of these problems that perplex them. Much might be learned from the Old Testament in regard to the labor question and the relief of the poor. . .
In Israel, industrial training was regarded as a duty. Every father was required to teach his sons some useful trade. The greatest men in Israel were trained to industrial pursuits. A knowledge of the duties pertaining to housewifery was considered essential for every woman. And skill in these duties was regarded as an honor to women of the highest station.
Various industries were taught in the schools of the prophets, and many of the students sustained themselves by manual labor. . .
“Give counsel, execute justice; make thy shade as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; betray not the fugitive.” “Let Mine outcasts dwell with thee; … be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler.” Isaiah 16:3 (A.R.V.)
The plan of life that God gave to Israel was intended as an object lesson for all mankind. If these principles were carried out today, what a different place this world would be! Within the vast boundaries of nature there is still room for the suffering and needy to find a home. Within her bosom there are resources sufficient to provide them with food. Hidden in the depths of the earth are blessings for all who have courage and will and perseverance to gather her treasures.
The tilling of the soil, the employment that God appointed to man in Eden, opens a field in which there is opportunity for multitudes to gain a subsistence. “Trust in the Lord, and do good; So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” Psalm 37:3.
Thousands and tens of thousands might be working upon the soil who are crowded into the cities, watching for a chance to earn a trifle. In many cases this trifle is not spent for bread, but is put into the till of the liquor seller, to obtain that which destroys soul and body. . .
If the poor now crowded into the cities could find homes upon the land, they might not only earn a livelihood, but find health and happiness now unknown to them. Hard work, simple fare, close economy, often hardship and privation, would be their lot. But what a blessing would be theirs in leaving the city, with its enticements to evil, its turmoil and crime, misery and foulness, for the country’s quiet and peace and purity.
To many of those living in the cities who have not a spot of green grass to set their feet upon, who year after year have looked out upon filthy courts and narrow alleys, brick walls and pavements, and skies clouded with dust and smoke—if these could be taken to some farming district, surrounded with the green fields, the woods and hills and brooks, the clear skies and the fresh, pure air of the country, it would seem almost like heaven. Cut off to a great degree from contact with and dependence upon men, and separated from the world’s corrupting maxims and customs and excitements, they would come nearer to the heart of nature. God’s presence would be more real to them. Many would learn the lesson of dependence upon Him. Through nature they would hear His voice speaking to their hearts of His peace and love, and mind and soul and body would respond to the healing, life-giving power.
If they ever become industrious and self-supporting, very many must have assistance, encouragement, and instruction. There are multitudes of poor families for whom no better missionary work could be done than to assist them in settling on the land and in learning how to make it yield them a livelihood.
The need for such help and instruction is not confined to the cities. Even in the country, with all its possibilities for a better life, multitudes of the poor are in great need. Whole communities are devoid of education in industrial and sanitary lines. Families live in hovels, with scant furniture and clothing, without tools, without books, destitute both of comforts and conveniences and of means of culture. Imbruted souls, bodies weak and ill-formed, reveal the results of evil heredity and of wrong habits. These people must be educated from the very foundation. They have led shiftless, idle, corrupt lives, and they need to be trained to correct habits.
How can they be awakened to the necessity of improvement? How can they be directed to a higher ideal of life? How can they be helped to rise? What can be done where poverty prevails and is to be contended with at every step? Certainly the work is difficult. The necessary reformation will never be made unless men and women are assisted by a power outside of themselves. It is God’s purpose that the rich and the poor shall be closely bound together by the ties of sympathy and helpfulness. Those who have means, talents, and capabilities are to use these gifts in blessing their fellow men.
Christian farmers can do real missionary work in helping the poor to find homes on the land and in teaching them how to till the soil and make it productive. Teach them how to use the implements of agriculture, how to cultivate various crops, how to plant and care for orchards. Many who till the soil fail to secure adequate returns because of their neglect. Their orchards are not properly cared for, the crops are not put in at the right time, and a mere surface work is done in cultivating the soil. Their ill success they charge to the unproductiveness of the land. False witness is often borne in condemning land that, if properly worked, would yield rich returns. The narrow plans, the little strength put forth, the little study as to the best methods, call loudly for reform.
Let proper methods be taught to all who are willing to learn. If any do not wish you to speak to them of advanced ideas, let the lessons be given silently. Keep up the culture of your own land. Drop a word to your neighbors when you can, and let the harvest be eloquent in favor of right methods. Demonstrate what can be done with the land when properly worked.
Attention should be given to the establishment of various industries so that poor families can find employment. Carpenters, blacksmiths, and indeed everyone who understands some line of useful labor, should feel a responsibility to teach and help the ignorant and the unemployed. In ministry to the poor there is a wide field of service for women as well as for men. The efficient cook, the housekeeper, the seamstress, the nurse—the help of all is needed. Let the members of poor households be taught how to cook, how to make and mend their own clothing, how to nurse the sick, how to care properly for the home. Let boys and girls be thoroughly taught some useful trade or occupation.
Missionary families are needed to settle in the waste places. Let farmers, financiers, builders, and those who are skilled in various arts and crafts, go to neglected fields, to improve the land, to establish industries, to prepare humble homes for themselves, and to help their neighbors.
The rough places of nature, the wild places, God has made attractive by placing beautiful things among the most unsightly. This is the work we are called to do. Even the desert places of the earth, where the outlook appears to be forbidding, may become as the garden of God. “In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, And the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 29:18, 19. By instruction in practical lines we can often help the poor most effectively. As a rule, those who have not been trained to work do not have habits of industry, perseverance, economy, and self-denial. They do not know how to manage. Often through lack of carefulness and right judgment there is wasted that which would maintain their families in decency and comfort if it were carefully and economically used. “Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.” Proverbs 13:23.
We may give to the poor, and harm them, by teaching them to be dependent. Such giving encourages selfishness and helplessness. Often it leads to idleness, extravagance, and intemperance. No man who can earn his own livelihood has a right to depend on others. The proverb “The world owes me a living” has in it the essence of falsehood, fraud, and robbery. The world owes no man a living who is able to work and gain a living for himself. Real charity helps men to help themselves. If one comes to our door and asks for food, we should not turn him away hungry; his poverty may be the result of misfortune. But true beneficence means more than mere gifts. It means a genuine interest in the welfare of others. We should seek to understand the needs of the poor and distressed, and to give them the help that will benefit them most. To give thought and time and personal effort costs far more than merely to give money. But it is the truest charity. Those who are taught to earn what they receive will more readily learn to make the most of it. And in learning to be self-reliant, they are acquiring that which will not only make them self-sustaining, but will enable them to help others. Teach the importance of life’s duties to those who are wasting their opportunities. Show them that Bible religion never makes men idlers. Christ always encouraged industry. “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” He said to the indolent. “I must work … while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” Matthew 20:6;John 9:4.