American Beastly Leadership (1 of 5)– #13 in Series

The last 12 posts contrasted beastly and servant leadership, using scripture illustrations to show a great war wages for our allegiance. One side pulls individuals and nations toward evil and beastly leadership, characterized by lots of speaking, limited or poor listening, stubborn blindness, lying, coercion, and murder. That side practices a leadership approach of “lording” it over others.

The other side, lead by God, established in the work of Christ, actively revealed by the Spirit, works for good as a servant. The Godhead and their followers are characterized by mutual submission, service, sacrifice and operate with the belief ALL (human and cosmic) will be held accountable in a final judgment. While God is literally and sacrificially working for the redemption of all, specifically his enemies, “he will not clear the guilty” who cling to their resistance (Ex 34:7). Repentance is the door into this better kingdom with better leadership.

In the next 5 posts, I extend this discussion of  “THE WAR” over leadership styles to two communities I love dearly and try to serve: America and Adventism.

I use five resources to unpack how this conflict might play out within these communities:

  1. In this post, I use Revelation 10-14 to show the prophetic frame that sets the stage for this modern conflict.
  2. In post 14, I use Ellen White’s chapter on “God’s Law Immutable” in her book The Great Controversy (the chapter is also labeled in some version as “America in Prophecy”) to focus on specific approaches to “law” and “liberty” that will separate the beasts from servants.
  3. In post 15, I use Clifford Goldstein’s The Day of the Dragon: How Current Events Have Set the Stage for America’ Prophetic Transformation to nuance further details on how Adventism and America are on a trajectory of conflict.
  4. In post 16 and 17, I use Nick Miller’s The Reformation and the Remnant to nuance even further how liberty and law can be used to demarcate those who follow God and those who reject Him.
  5. Various Adventist writers on divine leadership will be used throughout to strengthen my arguments. I especially find Gyeongchun Choi’s work to be the best theological critique of beastly systems and explanation of servant leadership (his critique of Korean culture is very insightful).

Revelation 10-14

I recommend you read Revelation 10-14  and draw your own conclusion before I share mine.

I use prophecy for its power to reveal, a power more characterized by the ability to diagnosis and make prognosis than merely to predict the future or even to give a fiat about the future.

Prophecies’ predictive diagnosis and prognosis powers are evident when Jesus, on the night of his death, foretold Peter would deny Him three times. Peter told Jesus this would never ever happen. Jesus knew it would. He prophesied it would. Some get distorted about prophecy as if Jesus was dictating what Peter had to decide. This is a distorted view of prophecy arising from a distorted view of God’s sovereignty. The fact that God will repent of a prophecy or change generational outcomes (Jer 18, Ezekiel 18; Jonah) shows that most prophecy is more like a medical diagnosis and prognosis than a fiat.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Jesus knew Peter was not converted nor open to the challenges of that night. Peter was not yet able to fully embrace the deep servant leadership model of Christ: mutual submission, service, sacrifice, and eventual final judgment. Jesus knew Peter wouldn’t make the right choice that day. This was Jesus prognosis.

So with that understanding of prophecy we plunge into Revelation 10 where we see a vision of an awesome looking angel standing on water and sea, referencing the creative power of God who “created heaven and the things in it” (v 6) and holding a small book speaking hidden thunders. Chapter 10 is short and the book it refers to is small.

Adventist’s believe the little book referenced here is Daniel and several indications. Key among these is the increased focus on time prophecies based on this “opening” of the little book. Adventist see in the revival of interest in the book of Daniel to late 1700s and early 1800s, culminating in the Millerite movement of the 1830s, a fulfillment of this prophecy.

As we continue reading Revelation 10 and 11, several additional themes emerge that further confirm this passage as not only referring to the Book of Daniel but to several themes that would become deeply associated with Adventists:

1) CREATION (10:6,)

2) BOOK OF DANIEL (10:2, 8, 10)

As well as….

3) GLOBALIZATION of a message (10:2, 11), 4)

4) God’s SANCTUARY (11:1, 2, 19),

5) the witness of OIL and LAMP (11:3-7, believed to be a focus on the Bible as enlivened by the Holy Spirit that would foster new truths, progressive truths)

6) the LAW of GOD (11:19),

7) God’s JUDGMENT (11:18),

8) the GREAT WAR between Christ and Satan (throughout Rev 11-14)

9) the lingering presence of several FALSE RELIGIONS (Sodom, Egypt, “Jerusalem” 11:8),

10) repeated “WOES” coming on the earth (throughout).

We believe all these details show up in the last two centuries of the 1800s and 1900s.

Most of these themes are discovered, carried, and proclaimed by Adventists in their global movement stressing God’s creation, redemption, law (and Sabbath), judgment hour gospel and his soon return.

The judgment is especially strong in this section:

“the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” ….. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11: 15-18).

In this scene Jesus “takes over” the world, and nations get angry.

The fact that nations still are around to get angry means something more than the second coming is referred here. I could be referring to two other significant “taking of kingdoms:” the cross and the coming into judgment (which Adventist correctly see from the time prophecies of Daniel as occurring in 1844, another nod to the little book).

“the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

Into this time of judgment comes what appears to be a “new” revelation: “temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple” (Rev 11:19).

Adventists believe they were raised up to refocus the world on God’s judgment and the importance of his law (“ark of His covenant”) in that judgment.

From this passage, we move into Revelation 12 and 13 which again cycles back to the war between the Dragon and his beasts against Jesus and his people:

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.”

This cycling back and forth, from past to present and again back to past, is used to show the ongoing and continual presence of the great controversy–war–between Jesus and Satan in all that is happening on earth. But the strong showing of this war is also something that the Adventist church has especially focused on.

Dragon was  “enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12: 17).

Adventists have used this passage to both talk about themselves and also to talk about the persecution the remnant will receive from false religion, nasty state powers and others who serve the Dragon (Satan).

Into this “great war” theme, grows a new “entity” in Revelation 13:

“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who *had the wound of the sword and has come to life.  And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.  And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev 13:11-18).

This new beast starts with lamblike qualities and then deteriorates quickly into beastly abusive talk, teaming up with the “first beast” “he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed” (v 12).

I share the deep “diagnostic” belief with many Adventist that this passage refers to the growth of America as a nurturing source for God’s truth, then a dominant power, and finally one that succumbs to the temptation of all nations…. to move toward beastly leadership.

America was the birthing place for religious liberty, and gave many the opportunity to worship God as they saw best. This freedom allowed the Millerites and later Adventists a place to grow. Adventism now covers the earth.

But the diagnostic/prognostic power of prophecy also here suggests a showdown between Adventism and America.

While Adventists celebrate and have greatly been blessed under America’s culture of religious liberty  … see …. we have used this passage to predict American will eventually buy into a beastly leadership style and ultimately succumb to its nasty practices.

Next time we unpack how that might happen.

P.S. For further analysis of this passage of Revelation, see George Knight’s wonderful Australian 2009 lectures (I can no longer could find the link online) which is summarized well in this Adventist Review article later and more fully detailed in his book on the Neutering of Adventism.

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