"Be Ready for Such an Hour"
How close are we to the end? It depends on how you frame the question, Pastor Marquis Johns says.
1. Where do you personally believe the Adventist Church is in the stream of Bible prophecy?
Prophecy, in my opinion, has never been, nor ever will be, about one group or denomination. I also think the answer to this question depends on the interpretation of the question. If we are asking whether or not the Adventist church can be found in the Bible as a prophetic movement, my answer is, “Yes! Absolutely!!” The Adventist church, based on Revelation 12, is the woman (church) that came from the wilderness (of North America) after the 1260 days (1798) to proclaim a message that included both time prophecies and commandment keeping (including, but not limited to, the fourth commandment). If, however, the question is asking how close the world, and by default the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is to the close of human history, then to borrow a phrase from my now deceased friend Paul Tolbert: We are in the fungus on the toenails of the image of Daniel 2.
2. Is the eschaton to happen soon? If so, why? If not, why not?
The "eschaton" is already happening and has been happening since Paul wrote to Timothy, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be... from such turn away... Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith." (2 Timothy 3:1, 5b, 8). Paul doesn't seem to be speaking about the eschaton as though it was something to come, but rather as something that had already begun to dawn and that would continue to brighten the horizon until it reached its noontime. Notice that Paul said, "so do these also resist the truth." People manifesting the character traits found in verses 2-7 were already present in his day.
There is, however, a difference between the end of time and the time of the end. I find it best illustrated in the story of a Thanksgiving turkey. I'm told farmers would, in preparation for Thanksgiving, feed their turkeys very well, attempting to make them plump for the approaching holiday. During this “feeding time”, several of the turkeys would occupy the same space. However as Thanksgiving approached, the farmer would take the turkey that was the fattest and separate it from the rest, placing it in a pen by itself. This was the time of the end.
However the farmer would continue to feed the turkey to see if it could put on additional weight, while he made the necessary preparations to kill the turkey. When he finally stepped into the pen a few days before Thanksgiving to actually kill the turkey, THAT was the end of time.
Paul has told us, and so has Jesus, that for almost two Millennia we have been in the time of the end. We have yet, however, to reach the end of time.
The Lord showed me I needed to study and know the signs, but I also needed to be a sign that pointed to Him.
3. Was your perspective the same at the beginning of your Adventist experience, or has it changed over time? How have your views changed since the year 2000?
My perspective has changed significantly. In 2000, I wasn't even Christian, let alone Adventist. However, 9-11 was the turning point for me. Before 9-11, authors such as Noam Chomsky, John Coleman and William Cooper informed my understanding of what was going on in the world. But afterwards, I had a deep desire to understand, and share with others, what the Bible had to say about these events and the role Jesus would play in them. I logged hours reading and studying so I could tell people that the end was near.
However, fear of those events also led me to become more concerned with the prophecies about them than the people I wanted to share them with. Sharing the truth, not how I shared it, was the only thing that mattered.
My only focus was getting myself right and ready. At that time, as far as I could tell, the Adventist church was, if not in complete apostasy, pretty close. I fancied myself a watchman on the walls of Zion sighing and crying about the abominations taking place in Israel and Judah. I looked for the traits of the "wicked" described in 2 Timothy 3:2-4 in others, without realizing that I was displaying them myself.
It wouldn't be until 2007 that the Lord began showing me that I had most of those characteristics and was an example that the "eschaton" was in full swing. The Lord showed me I needed to study and know the signs, but I also needed to be a sign that pointed to Him.
4. What events will signal to you that we have reached the last moments of earth's history?
As I have stated, I don’t believe that we need to look for any more signs or events: there has been a proliferation of false prophets and Christs; Sunday laws exist; there are wars and rumors of war; people are being killed merely because they follow Jesus – the overall character of humanity is outlined in 2 Timothy 3. Ellen White even said that as early as the 19th century, "already sprinklings from the vials of God's wrath have been let fall upon land and sea, affecting the elements of the air." (4MR 444.3). So instead of looking for more signs, we need to BE signs - "epistle[s]... known and read of all men..." (2 Corinthians 3:2). Paul gives Timothy some counsel in 2 Timothy 3:13 to 4:5 that we would profit from.
Popes will come and go, times will be hard, darkness will spread, humanity can, and will, get worse and deception will be rampant. We can choose to focus on those things, or we can make sure Christ lives in OUR own hearts. We can offer relief to the least and lowest; we can keep our lamps trimmed and burning; we can be better Christians. Our job is twofold: be "...ready: for in such an hour as [we] think not the Son of man cometh," and "give [mankind] meat in due season" for there is a "bless[ing] for the servant, whom the lord when he cometh shall find so doing." (Matthew 24:44-46)