MARTIN L. CAREY
For three decades, the "Brinsmead Agitation" challenged Adventist leadership on several continents. During the years I was growing up, the conflict over his teachings became so intense that showing any agreement with Brinsmead's heresy could get one expelled—and this I saw firsthand. Many pastors lost their jobs or left the ministry voluntarily because they espoused Brinsmead's theology. For his followers, even mentioning the name of Brinsmead could put one's membership at risk. Moreover, much Adventist literature published in the 1970's was aimed at correcting Brinsmead's influence. Then, in the late 70's, he began not merely "working within" but separating from Adventism, and by 1990, he had moved entirely out of the Christian faith.
Robert Brinsmead had begun his career as a conservative Adventist. As the years passed, however, he morphed, slowly becoming liberal, then radical, and finally moving from devotion to hostile rejection. Along the way, he covered much of the territory of Adventist thought that still flourishes today. Robert Brinsmead's Awakening movement reveals not only a microcosm of Adventism but also gives insight into its nature.
Some say Brinsmead left Christianity because he abandoned Ellen White's prophetic authority and the pillars of the Adventist faith. She had, after all, predicted that Adventists who rejected her would abandon God. In this study, I avoid that superficial analysis and will attempt to show that Brinsmead did not abandon the Christian faith because of Ellen White or the "pillars"—or because he was somehow corrupted. Rather, I believe he was unable to submit personally to the true Lord Jesus Christ revealed in the Bible.
Questions at Avondale
Robert Brinsmead was raised in Australia in a family of eight children who helped operate the family farm. In 1955, the 22-year-old Bob entered Avondale College in Cooranbong to earn his theology degree. As an energetic, earnest student, he was quickly recognized for his intellect and potential. While at Avondale, he also met his wife Valorie.1 Raised with a thorough knowledge of Ellen White's writings and the Bible, he had a passion for the Adventist doctrines of the last days. Chief among these doctrines was the investigative judgment, and it became his focus for more than a decade.
While Brinsmead was at Avondale, Adventist leaders produced the book Questions on Doctrine [QOD] to answer the common evangelical accusation that Adventism was not a Christian evangelical movement. Conservatives felt that the book compromised or hid the core doctrines of Adventism in order to impress the evangelical world and to avoid the label of "cult."2 Adventists believed they had been entrusted to proclaim the message for the last days—a gospel that apostate Protestantism had rejected. At the foundation of this last-day message were the nature of Christ and the atonement, and these two were points of contention with the evangelicals.3 Did Christ have a sinful or sinless nature, and was the atonement completed at the cross?
When QOD was published in 1957, many historic Adventists felt that the church's core message had been weakened.4 There were evangelical-sounding statements on the nature of Christ: "We emphasize again that in His human nature Christ was perfect and sinless."5 Moreover, some statements on the atonement appeared to support the common Protestant understanding of a completed atonement: "On Calvary, the all-sufficient atoning sacrifice of Christ was offered for our salvation." However, this "all-sufficient sacrifice" did not include "the application of the benefits of the atonement made on the cross, to the individual sinner."6 Did "all-sufficient" mean the atonement was finished, or merely that the sacrifice was sufficient? The book's wording seemed to finesse the questions rather than to answer them clearly.
The investigative judgment, Adventism's unique fundamental belief, shaped the responses to these questions. Adventist pioneers patterned the doctrine after the ancient Jewish sanctuary, said to be a model of the sanctuary in heaven. They taught that on the ancient Jewish Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter God's presence to remove Israel's sins that had accumulated in the sanctuary during the year. (Scripture, incidentally, does not teach that sins accumulated in the sanctuary during the year. See Proclamation!, April–June 2010.) Adventists believe this yearly "cleansing of the sanctuary" removed the record of sins and made atonement for Israel. As our high priest, therefore, Christ entered the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary in heaven in 1844 and began a judgment of all those who profess God.7 The records in heaven are now being examined so that all those who have confessed and overcome every sin will have the evidence of their sins removed from the records.8 Only then will the atonement for sin be accomplished.
However, if Jesus finished the atonement on the cross, there is no need for this judgment.
Brinsmead felt that judgment readiness was urgent, that God's professed people were not ready. Anyone's name could come up for review at any time, and the standard of readiness was nothing less than perfection of character. Ellen White had made that belief abundantly clear. Yet how were the faithful to be able to attain the spotless characters necessary to stand in judgment today?9
Following are the historic Adventist doctrines of salvation that shape Adventists' understanding of how they can achieve judgment readiness.
An Immutable Law of God
A central premise of historic Adventist doctrine is the eternality of "God's Law", or the Ten Commandments. This law has been referred to as the "transcript of God's character," the eternal moral law, and the image of God.10 To be right with God, one must be in right relationship with the law, to "satisfy," "please," and "answer to" this law. Often the language that Adventist authors use for the law is personal, as though it were a divine person.
Adventist literature lacks a consistent doctrine of original sin. Some authors denied the existence of original sin, while others said it is removed at conversion. Still others said our natures are gradually cleansed over our lifetimes.11 The argument over Jesus' sinful nature also continued. Historic Adventist authors, such as M.L. Andreasen, believed Jesus shared our propensities to sin.12 Ellen White statements can support all sides.13 All agreed, however, that Jesus is our example for overcoming. If He shared our sinful desires and could overcome all temptation, with His help we could also.
Righteousness By Faith [RBF]
In Adventism, RBF includes both justification, what God has done for us, and sanctification, what He does in us. Justification initiates the process of salvation, and it refers to the forgiveness of past sins only.14 At the moment of justification, Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer, meaning that God counts him as righteous as Christ.15 When the sinner has fully surrendered to Christ and lives a holy life, his sins will remain "pardoned," and "the blessing of justification is retained."16 Pardoned sin, however, is not full forgiveness; forgiveness is only granted on condition of passing the investigative judgment.17 God eventually grants full forgiveness to those who have cooperated with Him in becoming righteous, not merely counted righteous. Justification is only maintained by continual surrender and obedience. Justification is called the believer's "title for heaven."
Sanctification was always the most important aspect of Brinsmead's early understanding of RBF. By God's imparting righteousness over the believer's lifetime, he is made righteous. This righteousness is defined as obedience to the Ten Commandments. God will not pronounce us righteous when we are not; that would be only a "legal fiction." Imparted righteousness in the believer's life is called the "robe of Christ's righteousness." Wearing that robe means obeying the law with the Spirit's help, and this obedience is acceptable to God as righteousness.18 Imputed righteousness makes up the deficit that may exist in an Adventist's personal growth at the time of his or her death.
Christ looks at the spirit, and when He sees us carrying our burden with faith, His perfect holiness atones for our shortcomings. When we do our best, He becomes our righteousness. EGW, Letter 22, 1889.
Sanctification is a higher state of salvation that lifts us above the need for forgiveness and imputed righteousness. In other words, sanctification is not only our "fitness" for heaven, it is our robe or "wedding garment" for the judgment. In summary, by justification one becomes merely a candidate for final sealing, but only through sanctification can one achieve true fitness for passing the judgment.19
According to Ellen White, Christ's character must be perfectly reproduced in His people before He can return.20 Therefore, believers must, by God's help and their own "diligent effort," overcome all sin in order to be sealed for eternity. The underlying explanation for this compulsion to attain moral perfection is the investigative judgment. Once Christ's atonement is completed at the end of this judgment, believers are no longer covered by Christ's mediation in the sanctuary. When all the names have come up for judgment, Christ's mediation ends, and He will no longer plead His blood for anyone in the Most Holy Place. Their sins will no longer be covered; thus, those who will be fit for salvation will have overcome all sin so they can stand before God without a mediator.21
Many Adventists live in fear of judgment, knowing they have not reached the required character perfection. Perhaps, many have thought, they are better off going to their graves, believing that for dying sinners, the terms are more favorable. Christ's righteousness would somehow make up for their deficiencies if they die before He returns. Even though Christ's second coming should be a joyful event, a deep inner awareness whispers to Adventists, "I am not ready." Even so, they bravely sing these words,
Are you ready to stand in your place? Are you ready to look in His face? Can you look up and say, "This is my Lord!" Are you ready for Jesus to come?22
Against this backdrop, Brinsmead was troubled by the problem of innate sin and concluded that sinless perfection was "impossible and futile." We are crippled by the "scars of sin," or our "subconscious sin." As long as these sinful propensities remained, one could not be "ready to stand in [one's] place." No amount of overcoming sin could qualify one for judgment.23
Yet, if the investigative judgment has continued since 1844, our names could come up for review at any time. Our holiness will be compared to nothing less than the absolute perfection of Jesus Christ. What good is a gradual sanctification if, at that final moment, it is incomplete? Brinsmead found a Protestant answer to this dilemma. In the judgment, Christ must be our righteousness. Only He possesses the infinite purity needed, so He is our substitute. His righteousness justifies us at the end, just as His righteousness justifies us now.24
Moreover, the teaching that Christ will blot out the record of sins at the end of the judgment answered the need to live without a mediator after probation closed. Finally, Brinsmead taught that as a last work of grace to the saints, Christ will perform a "final atonement" by removing their sinful nature. As in the ancient Day of Atonement, believers were to "gather at the sanctuary," afflicting their souls, to be one with Christ in this great and final work. The door to the Most Holy Place was now open, and they could boldly enter into the place of judgment. When their sins are finally blotted out, they will receive the "latter rain," a special outpouring of God's Spirit.
This was the original "Awakening Message." For many Adventists who had lived in dread of God's judgment, this was good news. As Brinsmead later described,
…it was the most sweet and joyful news that many had ever heard. Neither time nor circumstances…can efface the memory of souls weeping for joy at the simple revelation that Christ is our righteousness in judgment (Review of Awakening, Pt. 1).25
Brinsmead decided to leave Avondale in 1958 to speak independently and to publish. His following soon became a significant movement in Australia. By 1960, they called themselves the "Sanctuary Awakening Fellowship." Even though the Australian Adventist leadership strenuously opposed the Awakening, the movement spread.26 Inevitably, on December 19, 1960, the Awakening message came to America, and the General Conference had no idea what was about to hit them.
"A Cult Within a Cult"
In 1961, a young mother of three named Iris Carey was among those who heard and "wept for joy." She lived a few blocks from the Review and Herald building in Tacoma Park, and she began excitedly and widely circulating Brinsmead sermon tapes. Some caught that excitement, others strongly resisted. (Indifference was not a typical Adventist reaction to Brinsmead.) Meanwhile, for the three of us who were kids of Iris Carey, tension with our church and the world was a constant reality. In spite of its polarizing message and charismatic leader, the Awakening movement never tried to be a separate denomination. Indeed, Brinsmead's purpose was not to destroy Adventism but to restore it to its original judgment day urgency. In the 1960's, most Awakeners, as we called ourselves, remained members of Adventist churches—that is, as long as they would have us.
Even so, the Adventist leadership's reaction tended to be emotional and oppositional. A vigorous propaganda campaign warned pastors of those fanatical Brinsmead followers who must not be tolerated,27 and we learned to mention the name Brinsmead only to the receptive. Iris was expelled from several churches for giving out Brinsmead literature and for holding unauthorized Bible studies. For her, this persecution confirmed the prophetic status of the Awakening message, and throughout the movement it unified Awakeners into a distinct Adventist subculture.
Awakening's culture had three characteristics. First, it had a charismatic leader; Brinsmead's energy and personality always carried the movement, powered by his strong mind, exceptional communication skills, and an independent spirit. In addition, his informal persona added to his appeal. Many Awakeners believed that Brinsmead was sent, like William Miller, as a messenger to awaken a sleeping church, and some sent him their tithes. The resulting abundance of literature and tapes galvanized our movement's mission and kept it moving. Additionally, Bob Brinsmead was constantly adjusting his message. Whenever Awakeners would meet they would ask one another, "Have you heard the latest?" We always looked for the next church-shaking new emphasis. Brinsmead had a genius for building elaborate theological structures, getting everyone excited, then tearing them down28 for a "new framework." He often said, "Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I keep moving my tent in faith." There was no resting for the devoted Awakener following Brinsmead's mercurial leading.
The second cultural feature was our movement's elite remnant identity. We were to awaken Laodicean Adventism by our teaching and example. In fact, we felt we were the most Adventist of all Adventists in our knowledge and zeal. Though we believed perfection would be a gift of grace, we strove hard for it. We learned to quote Ellen White extensively, especially her statements about getting ready, and we zealously perfected our remnant diet. We gathered in homes, and frequently we made pilgrimages to Brinsmead's summer institutes. In 1968 we had our own song book, Awake and Sing, with titles such as, "Jesus Stands for Me in Judgment", and "The Truth is Marching On".29 Adventism never had more loyal agitators.
A third feature of the Awakening culture was its intellectual system-building. We loved our speculations about the nature of Christ and the end times, projecting our notions in lurid, apocalyptic detail. I remember our Sabbath afternoon potlucks, heavy with rich vegetarian food, followed by arguments in which we tossed "Sister White hand grenades" at one another. Hidden under our smug intellectualizing, however, we also had breaking families and abused children. By 1968, Iris had become a most on-fire Awakener, but she had seen divorce, poverty, and severe depression. The Awakeners desperately needed the living person of Christ, but instead we received one clever "framework" after another. We gloried in charisma and brilliance, but we ached for the confidence and rest found in the presence of the Lord Jesus.
"For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (I Cor. 2:2-5).
Half a Reformation
In 1971, Brinsmead scheduled a flurry of summer institutes to bring us his latest emphasis. There was more excitement than usual; the latest round of tapes had prepared us for something big. Bob had been studying the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith, comparing it to Roman Catholic doctrines. Reading Luther, he saw that justification is not just a means to the end of perfect sanctification. When we are justified by faith, not only does God impute Christ's righteousness to us but we also possess Christ Himself—all His righteousness and all His perfection.30 Eternity flows from that fact. The apostle said,
"And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).
The same ones he justified he also glorified. We began to realize we had inserted extra steps into Paul's chain of salvation: sanctification and a final atonement brought about by blotting out sins. Those added steps, in fact, were the heart of the Awakening message—but we had ignored the heart of the real gospel: being justified by faith, we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God."31 Our righteousness is in heaven, said Brinsmead:
"The righteousness by which we become just in God's sight, remain just in His sight and will one day be sealed as forever just in His sight, is an outside righteousness. It is not on earth, but only in heaven…only in Jesus Christ."32
This Reformation truth was truly good news for afflicted souls, but we still loved our elite remnant identity. We collectively dismissed the "old" perfection baggage as "subjective clutter" and congratulated ourselves that these new discoveries confirmed we were still following "present truth". There was no talk of repentance for having believed a false gospel, but instead, we swam in a flood of re-explanations for the past. Repentance didn't cross our minds; that was for the Adventist leaders and fallen Protestantism, not for us. The truth was marching on, so again we fell in line behind our leader.
Brinsmead tried to show that this new Reformation emphasis was a continuation of the Awakening's mission, and during the early 70's, he worked hard to reconcile the Reformation gospel with the pillars of Adventism, especially the pre-advent judgment.33 There was, in fact, even talk of reconciliation with the Adventist church.34 The Adventist pioneers had clearly grasped justification, Brinsmead said, but the church had fallen into legalism. As loyal Adventists, however, we Awakeners still clung to the investigative judgment as a protection against heresies we feared in the Protestant churches—while concurrently trying to attach the Reformation doctrine of righteousness by faith on top of it.
The Awakeners now saw how Adventist righteousness by faith resembled Catholic teachings. Present Truth, Brinsmead's new magazine, summarized historic Catholic doctrine this way:
1. Justification is a process of inner renewal in us. 2. Justification is given to us by an infusion of God's grace. God looks at what the Holy Spirit has done in us, and justifies us. 3. Justification is how man becomes just and pleasing to God in his person.35
Both Rome and the reformers said that salvation was all of grace. However, for Rome, the work of grace was in man's experience, a subjective work. Conversely, the reformers said the grace that saves us is outside man's experience in the person of Christ, an objective work. Struggling sinners are not to look to their own experience for hope and acceptance with God. Everything Christ did as our representative is now counted as ours by faith. Luther said,
"Mine are Christ's living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did."36
Many rejoiced at this clear proclamation of Christ's finished work for us. So this is what a completed atonement looked like! But critics asked, "What about holiness?" The reformers were unanimous; only because of Christ's virtue is the Spirit given to the justified sinner to regenerate him for good works. True sanctification looks away from self and flows from the finished, objective work of Christ. In those who hear and believe, Christ's Spirit reproduces His life. Paul told the Ephesians,
"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…" (Eph. 1:13).
Sadly, Brinsmead's antipathy against the Christian church would only intensify from this point forward. Though a student of the Reformers, he still believed that Protestantism was lost in a fog of man-centered gospels. Still an Adventist at heart, he maintained that Protestantism was joining with Rome to bring the mark of the beast and assailed Protestants' Greek paganism, their Calvinism, and worst of all, their subjectivism.
Paganism: Brinsmead always held to the Adventist view that man is a unified being who becomes only dust at death. He attributed an immaterial human spirit to Greek influences in the medieval church. If our life is only in Christ, we cannot have any life intrinsic to us. Otherwise, he asked, why have a resurrection?37
Calvinism: For Brinsmead, eternal security here and now was "Calvin's error," even though eventually he saw that justification was an eschatological verdict given by God. If we are justified today, we have the verdict of the final judgment today. Brinsmead, however, kept Adventism's doctrine of a radical free will which can nullify God's adoption and new birth. Eternal security was a dangerous doctrine that led to antinomianism, he said, because the believer would lose his fear of judgment. To protect the doctrine of man's free will, he rejected the security and reality of Christ's completed work of atonement on our behalf.38
Subjectivism: For many Christians, the glory of the crucified Christ is not their focus; instead they seek internal experiences that eclipse the cross. The Awakening rightly opposed the subjective, human-centered emphasis found among some groups within Christianity. Wrongly, they reacted with a cerebral, spiritless gospel. Brinsmead strongly opposed the charismatic movement's emphasis on experiences as a return to the theology of Rome. However, going to another extreme, Present Truth magazine decried "the false gospel of the new birth," and offered a new birth that was merely a corporate, objective blessing, not an individual experience.39 The concept of the indwelling Spirit was interpreted as a cerebral enhancement. As Awakeners, we learned to recoil from anything that felt subjective or "touchy-feely", and we avoided any talk of the Spirit in us.
The Awakening's Jesus was also "objective," not personal and powerful in everyday life. We resisted saying "Jesus is in my heart," and we resented simple, childlike questions about our "personal relationship" with Jesus. To our amusement, Brinsmead recounted meeting an enthusiastic Christian man who patted his very large belly and said, "I've got Jesus right in here!" Increasingly, Jesus was depersonalized and the Spirit was weakened; we thought of them as external entities and did not relate to them as real Persons with authority in our lives.
Adventist leadership was not delighted with Brinsmead's new theology. Even though he now agreed with some of their scholars, he was also a greater threat. They believed his justification-centered gospel encouraged spiritual laziness. The Review and Herald began publishing articles on Christ's sinful human nature, victory life piety, and "sinless demonstration" people who would, in the last days, finally achieve perfection.
They objected to Brinsmead's fine theological distinctions between sanctification and justification. In 1974, George Vandeman wrote that RBF is "…more than a doctrine, it is a relationship with a purpose. And if we…let Christ live His life within us, it doesn't matter what we call the process." A justification-centered gospel encouraged a lax attitude towards sin, he explained.40 As C. Mervyn Maxwell said, justification is "…much more than forgiveness of sin; it is also victory over sin."41 Again, Adventism reaffirmed its historic roots: we are justified initially by faith, but ultimately saved by our good works and moral fitness.
In the late 1970's, Brinsmead began publishing a barrage against the Adventist doctrinal pillars. In 1979, 1844 Reexamined struck the main pillar, the investigative judgment. Jesus the Messiah fulfills all the law and the prophets, he explained. Therefore, the pre-advent judgment occurs when the believer hears and believes the Messiah's gospel, and justification is the verdict of that judgment.42 Shortly after, in 1980, his Judged By the Gospel surveyed Adventist history and theology, questioning Ellen White's authority and citing her literary dependency and theological errors such as the "shut door." Even more pointedly, Brinsmead criticized the Adventist leadership for their "cult of Ellen White."43
Then he shocked us; Brinsmead came out against seventh-day Sabbath observance. His magazine, now called Verdict, stated that the Sabbath was given for Israel as a shadow of things to come, but it was fulfilled by Christ, the substance.44 Stabilizing ourselves after the disorientation of these sudden revisions, Iris Carey and most of us Awakeners finally followed Brinsmead in leaving the Adventist pillars. We enjoyed a giddy feeling of freedom, casting off regulations about food, drink, and holy days and "joining the human race." Preoccupied with our new freedom, we barely noticed Brinsmead's hints of his growing doubts about the Bible. We did not see the ominous signs of Bob's next "framework".
Being Truly Human
In 1987, Brinsmead was still the editor and chief writer for Verdict magazine. For some years his views had become increasingly liberal. First, he accepted the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation which assumes that the Bible is only written by man with man's words, and is subject to man's rational criticism. His doubts about Scripture were now on the surface, but those cracks had been laid deep in his Adventist foundation.
Secondly, Brinsmead now had a new gospel with a new Jesus. The gospel is not a legal transaction but a story, he said. God did not require Jesus' death to pay a legal penalty for sin; He isn't like that. Moreover, he explained that the legal gospel of Christianity, "Christian nomism," derives from the Roman justice system. It is designed, he claimed, to maintain church power by members' guilt.45 Brinsmead railed against the "barbaric" doctrine of the blood-atonement in which God required His son to die for our sins. Humane ethics, he claimed, were about being "truly human" and celebrating what is best in man without religion, especially Christianity. His 1987 essay, "Farewell to Religion—A Manifesto of Christian Atheism," invited us all to the bonfire of our old faith.46 "Christianity is the Antichrist," he said; "we" needed a new beginning.47 Brinsmead's god would now become a distant, benevolent evolutionary influence that said, "Fear not."48 This faceless god is of little comfort to the losers in Darwin's survival lottery. This god does not sacrifice himself to save the lost. Where is the comfort in a faceless god who has not borne our griefs or carried our sorrows?
By 1990, Brinsmead had stopped writing and publishing Verdict, instead pursuing business and political interests back in Australia. His Awakening movement had scattered; some returned to Adventism, others became agnostics, and for a very few, Jesus Christ came and found them.
Iris the Awakener now lived alone in a mobile home with her cats and her Brinsmead collection. She had obediently followed her leader for nearly 30 years, and now he had abandoned both Jesus and her. She wrote long letters to him, urging him to defend the original gospel, but it was for naught. In 1984, Brinsmead had said this to all of us:
Yes, some want security…I say fine; but if you want that, read some other publication. We are involved in something that will continually disturb you and perhaps even make you feel angry with us. I don't know how we continue to exist, because we continually operate on a program of doing ourselves in. But we continue to fly.49
The movement had finally ended; Brinsmead was done with his Awakening. He had burnt down the whole house to "get the Sabbath mouse."50
This is the Judgment!
Now looking back, what shall we say of our Awakening experience?
1. We bowed before a graven image, a faceless deity called the Law, which aroused our elitist cultic pride. Because we believed the Law defined
what God is like, we ‚couldn't see the real transcript of God's character, Jesus the Word.
2. We rejoiced in the truth that Christ is our Righteousness, that His work for us was complete, that He has blotted out our sins. Yet we denied we had immaterial spirits separated from God that rendered us dead in sin and needed to be born of the Spirit.
3. By resisting the Spirit's power, we denied Christ's sovereignty in our personal lives. We embraced the gifts but not the Giver, and we refused to submit our mind and hearts to Him. "Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him" (Rom. 8:9).
While condemning the blindness of others, we were perishing. We needed the Person of Jesus Christ to break us, own us, and live in us through His Spirit.
There was a certain blind beggar whom Jesus found by the road one day, and He put mud in his eyes. When the light came blazing in, the man suddenly saw the face of Jesus, who then disappeared. That day hostile Pharisees arrested the man, and after losing a debate with him, they expelled him.
"Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?' Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.' He said, ‘Lord, I believe,' and he worshiped him" (Jn. 9:35-38).
We beggars will never see the Son of Man until He comes to us and opens our eyes. We may know all about Daniel 7, where the Son of Man appeared before the Ancient of Days and was given dominion and glory. Yet, we need to ask, "Who is he sir, that I may believe in him?" When you see that bloody, disfigured man lifted up for your sin, you can look on Him and believe—or you can hide your face in fear and disgust. Seeing the Son of Man is the moment of judgment: look upon Him and believe, or hide in the dark. Believing, you are not condemned, for you have already passed from death to life. Jesus told Nicodemus,
"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world" (Jn. 3:18,19).
After decades of feverish preparation, we Awakeners had missed the first meaning of the judgment. Eternal life turns on one thing: how we respond to the crucified Jesus. Submitting to Him makes us judgment-ready, but as a group we had resisted His dominion over our doctrines, our minds, and our personal lives. Our movement ended with a whimper; now without Brinsmead, most of us drifted into self-protective, prideful despair.
Where can abandoned cult members go? Iris was one of the few who fled to the one reliable Source: Jesus and His word where she could see Him. At last my mom, the old Awakener, was ready to be with her Lord. This note, handwritten in her raggedy old Bible, revealed that she had looked on the real transcript of God's character and found the anchor for her soul:
"It is only by looking in the face of Jesus that we can rightly appreciate the character of God—always and forever!" †
Copyright 2011 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Casa Grande, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised July 27, 2011. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin L. Carey grew up as an Adventist in many different places, including Washington D.C., Missouri, and Guam, USA. During daylight hours he works as a psychologist for a high school in San Bernardino, CA. He is also a licensed family therapist. He is married to Sharon and has two sons, Matthew, 10, and Nick, 23. He continues to search for clear, dark skies with 7 different telescopes up to 20". The study of intelligent design takes up his remaining energy. You may contact him at email@example.com.