The advent movement started with Christ. The keynote of the message of William Miller and his associates was the second coming of Christ in glory—and as a result, a powerful revival took place between 1831 and 1844. Accord- ing to Revelation 14:6, the “everlasting gospel” was an essential part of the message proclaimed by the representatives of the first angel. Said the prophet: “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God,
and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:6, 7).
Then, the message of the first angel contained:
1. The everlasting gospel.
2. An invitation to fear God and give glory to Him.
3. A solemn warning about the hour of judgment.
4. An appeal to worship the true Creator.
The gospel was preached for the first time when Adam and Eve transgressed the commandment of God. During the entire Old Testament dispensation, the gospel was preached in a special way through the symbols and figures of the earthly tabernacle. But the everlasting gospel mentioned in Revelation 14 includes the whole system of truth for these last days when all humanity must face the divine judgment.
The second angel gave powerful emphasis to the everlasting gospel and denounced the churches that rejected the first angel’s message as constituting Babylon.
The third angel also brings the everlasting gospel under another expression: “the faith of Jesus” together with the “commandments of God” (Revela- tion 14:12).
After the second great disappointment on October 22, 1844, the Adventist pioneers found Christ officiating in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. As a matter of fact, Christ is the central Person of the three angels’ messages!
Almost imperceptibly, the Advent preachers began giving emphasis to the distinctive messages which differentiated them from other denominations such as the seventh day Sabbath, the mortality of the soul, the judgment, and other messages. Sadly, Christ was forgotten.
The General Conference delegation session held in October 1888 was one of the most important in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Very essential messages presented during that conference affected deeply the rep- resentatives of the denomination—and the church itself. Those who accepted the message were really benefited and became efficient instruments to help others. On the other hand, those who rejected it suffered a great loss and became leaders in the rebellion against God’s commandments.
The main purpose of the message of the fourth angel or “the other angel” of Revelation 18, which came in the delegation session of 1888, was to exalt Christ as the only hope of the sinner for forgiveness and ability to obey God’s holy Law.
“The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless humanagent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world.
It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.”1
In summary, the message brought to the denominational delegates in 1888 had the main purposes:
Invite the people to receive the righteousness of Christ.
Manifest obedience to all the commandments of God would be the result.
The reason for the coming of the message: “Many had lost sight of Jesus.”
We conclude that the main purpose of the coming of the “other angel” (Revelation 18) was to exalt Christ and that the sure result of accepting this message is the obedience to all the commandments of God.
In 1892, just four years after the experience of Minneapolis, the servant of the Lord wrote:
“The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth. For it is the work of everyone to whom the message of warn- ing has come, to lift up Jesus, to present Him to the world as revealed in types, as shadowed in symbols, as manifested in the revelations of the prophets, as unveiled in the lessons given to His disciples and in the wonderful miracles wrought for the sons of men. Search the Scriptures; for they are they that testify of Him.
“If you would stand through the time of trouble, you must know Christ, and appropriate the gift of His righteousness, which He imputes to the repentant sinner.”2
According to this quotation:
1. The loud cry of the third angel has begun through the message of the righteousness of Christ.
2. This is the beginning of the light of the angel (Revelation 18).
What happened during the conference of Minneapolis in 1888?
The main subjects considered during the meetings in Minneapolis: The Law in Galatians, The Ten Kingdoms, Divine and Human Nature of Christ, and Justification by Faith.
Some of the leading GC officers in 1888 became strong opponents to the message and to the human instruments God used to bring a revival and reformation in the church. History registers the following ministers: George I. Butler (GC president till 1888), Uriah Smith (GC Secretary), J. H. Morrinson, Frank Starr, R. M. Kilgore. However, “one of the most talkative and critical” was Louis R. Conradi.
“The spiritual atmosphere of the delegates’ lodging house where [McReynolds] stayed was depressing. As noted, some twenty-five—includ- ing the entire Iowa delegation—were rooming together in this large house. There was, however, no worship pe- riod, or sound of group prayer either at night or morning—only cynical laugh- ter and criticism by some, especially by Conradi.”3
“At the Minneapolis General Conference of 1888 Louis Richard Conradi was one of the most outspoken scorn- ers of Dr. E. J. Waggoner’s solemn message on Righteousness by Faith, according to the C. C. McReynolds statement of 1930. He was surely one of the ‘some’ who resisted and rejected the message as there given.
“Because Waggoner’s studies were strongly backed by Ellen G. White, Conradi thenceforth sought increasingly to undermine, and at last bitterly to fight, the Spirit of Prophecy. That s attested by men to whom he made explicit declarations—such as to Pastor Wilhelm Mueller, later president of the Central European Division (1951-62). This Mueller stated to me personally.
“Notwithstanding, Conradi con- tinued on in increasingly prominent ministry in the Church—until he broke with us completely in 1932. But wher- ever he lived and labored and traveled he subtly scattered unsettling seeds of doubt as to the validity of the Spirit or Prophecy—and ultimately came to challenge the fundamental tenets of God’s message for these last days.”4
The great crisis in 1914
Just one year before World War I, Ellen G. White gave the following warning:
“God calls upon those who are willing to be controlled by the Holy Spirit to lead out in a work of thorough reformation. I see a crisis before us, and the Lord calls for His laborers to come into line. Every soul should now stand in a position of deeper, truer consecration to God than during the years that have passed. . . . I have been deeply impressed by scenes that have recently passed before me in the night season. There seemed to be a great movement—a work of revival—going forward in many places. Our people were moving into line, responding to God’s call.”5
World War I started on July 28, 1914, and ended on November 11, 1918. The result was an estimated 10 million military deaths and another 20 million wounded.
During that terrible ordeal, the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe compromised the faith, summoning church members to take active part in the war.
Guess who was among the leading brethren who summoned the Seventh- day Adventist people to take part in World War I? Yes, one of those who had been most critical of the message and the messengers of Minneapolis in 1888: Louis R. Conradi, then President of the Central European Division.
Let us remember again the quotation cited earlier: “This message [justification by faith] was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which
is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given
to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.”
What happened in 1914 and in subsequent years? Those who lost sight of Jesus decided to take part in the war.
Ellen White wrote: “In the army [God’s people] cannot obey the truth and at the same time obey the requirements of their officers. There would be a continual violation of conscience. Worldly men are governed by worldly principles. They can appreciate no other. Worldly policy and public opinion comprise the principle of action that governs them and leads them to practice the form of right doing. But God’s people cannot be governed by these motives. The words and commands of God, written in the soul, are spirit and life, and there is power in them to bring into subjection and enforce obedience. The ten precepts of Jehovah are the foundation of all righteous and good laws. Those who love God’s commandments will con- form to every good law of the land. But if the requirements of the rulers are such as conflict with the laws of God, the only question to be settled is: Shall we obey God, or man?”6
The result of the third angel’s message is summed up by the apostle John with the following words: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
“As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are pre- pared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbathkeepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.
“In this time of persecution the faith of the Lord’s servants will be tried. They have faithfully given the warn- ing, looking to God and to His word alone. God’s Spirit, moving upon their hearts, has constrained them to speak. Stimulated with holy zeal, and with the divine impulse strong upon them, they entered upon the performance of their duties without coldly calculating the consequences of speaking to the people the word which the Lord had given them. They have not consulted their temporal interests, nor sought to preserve their reputation or their lives. Yet when the storm of opposition and reproach bursts upon them, some, overwhelmed with consternation, will be ready to exclaim: ‘Had we foreseen the conse- quences of our words, we would have held our peace.’ They are hedged in with difficulties. Satan assails them with fierce temptations. The work which they have undertaken seems far beyond their ability to accomplish. They are threatened with destruction. The enthusiasm which animated them is gone; yet they cannot turn back. Then, feeling their utter help- lessness, they flee to the Mighty One for strength. They remember that the words which they have spoken were not theirs, but His who bade them give the warning. God put the truth into their hearts, and they could not forbear to proclaim it.”7
The righteousness of Christ
“The righteousness which Christ taught is conformity of heart and life to the revealed will of God. Sinful men can become righteous only as they have faith in God and maintain a vital connection with Him. Then true godli- ness will elevate the thoughts and en- noble the life. Then the external forms of religion accord with the Christian’s internal purity. Then the ceremonies required in the service of God are not meaningless rites, like those of the hypocritical Pharisees.”8
As a result of the crisis which came to light in 1914 during World War I, when the Seventh-day Adventist Church was involved in the conflagra- tion, two percent of the members in Europe protested against the violation of the principles, and this group of about 4,000 members was disfellow- shipped from the church in different European countries.
Elder C. H. Watson, elected presi- dent of the General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in 1930,
wrote a circular letter entitled The European Situation, with the following explanation:
“There was in Germany and those other countries concerned a minority of our believers who refused to follow the leadership of Conradi and others into combatant participation in the war.
“These were subjected to much suffering at the hands of their govern- ments because of their stand.
“In Germany, those who took their stand against the Conradi’s wicked action in thus committing them to war were treated with great harshness by Conradi and his associates. The resistance of the minority to military service threatened to compromise the whole body of Adventists in the eyes of the German government; and, to avoid this, Conradi had the minority disfellowshiped from the church.”
Walter H. Brown, another SDA writer, gives the following information about the same crises:
“In truth the ‘reform’ movement. . . sprang into being in Germany during the World War, while Mr. [L. R.] Conradi was the leader of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in the whole of Europe. That movement as it is today and has been since it came into existence is the practical protest of a large number of Seventh-day Adventists, not against the teachings of the denomination, but against the high-handed actions of this very man Conradi and a few others who were associated with him in his leadership of the church in Europe: actions which he took without either the counsel, consent, or even the knowledge of the General Conference. The departure of these people was not from ‘a lot of gross errors and a dominating hierarchy,’ but from Conradi’s leadership which had committed them, without their voice or consent being given to his action, to the cannon and the bayonet of the battlefield. From the hour that he so basely betrayed them, they have had absolutely no faith in him either as a man, a minister, or a leader in the church of God.”9
After many failed attempts of reconciliation based on the respect of the fundamental principles of the Seventh-day Adventists, the disfellowshiped group was organized in 1925 as the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement General Conference. Our fundamental beliefs are based on the following Bible verses:
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
“The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).
“The questions that most concern us are, Do I believe with saving faith on the Son of God? Is my life in harmony with the divine law? ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life.’ ‘And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments’ (John 3:36; 1 John 2:3).”10
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14). R
1 Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92.
2 The Review and Herald, November 22, 1892. 3 LeRoy Edwin Froom:, Movement of Destiny, p. 249.
4 Ibid. p. 677.
5 The Review and Herald, May 9, 1913.
6 Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 361, 362.
7 The Great Controversy, pp. 608, 609.
8 The Desire of Ages, p. 310.
9 Walter H. Brown: Brown Exposes Ballenger, p. 30.
10 The Desire of Ages, p. 396.