“Get ready, get ready, get ready!”
Recently a viral video has been circulating by a missionary (well known in certain circles of the church) claiming that the judgment of the living remnant people began on the Jewish Day of Atonement, September 23, 2015, when the Pope visited the U.S. The video predicts that in March/April of 2019 (3½ years after the papal visit) “certain legislation” will be passed that will initiate a 3½-year period of persecution against God’s commandment-keeping people.
So: 3½ years from the fall of 2015 to the spring of 2019 + 3½ years from the spring of 2019 to the fall of 2022 would comprise a 7-year last-days time period that is now being taught and enthusiastically received by thousands of people.
I believe that the pure motive of this sincere individual is to sound the much-needed alarm to awaken the complacent among us – “get ready, get ready, get ready!”
I want to emphatically underscore that message. The soon coming of Christ is indeed “even at the door!” This IS our message.
In fact, as a student of not only prophecy but also history and current events, I was personally on especially ‘high alert’ in 2015, and I continue to be so. 2015 was an incredible year in the intensification of the prophetic signs of the times, which show that Christ’s coming is very near. I’ve labored intensely since 2015 on the topic of the nearness of Christ’s return, as the 24-dvd series, Second Beast Rising was motivated by this very thought.
But the major 2015 events – from the gay marriage Supreme Court decision to the historic 2015 General Conference session to the wild economic news to the incredible and historic papal visit to the United States – were not found in any specific time-prophecies in the Bible. These events indeed were indicators that the time is near, but the dates for these events were not prophetic dates.
So I want to be clear that I share the following list of 10 concerns about the recent viral video not as somebody uninterested in current events or unaware of the importance of September, 2015; quite the opposite. However, just as much as I want to awaken myself and others from spiritual slumber I also wish to caution our enthusiastic people regarding how Bible prophecy is being used, or rather, misused even by admirable and credible people in popular youtube videos.
So, here are a few brief concerns that you could share with friends and family who are enthusiastically distributing this viral teaching.
These concerns may well give us all second thoughts about accepting the doctrine:
1. Perhaps most importantly, the basis of authority for the teaching presented in the viral video is a personal “what I believe God is showing me” and “what some (anonymous) friends of mine saw in a dream,” rather than a Thus Saith the Lord. We must have a sure word of prophecy to provide the certainty that we stand on a sure foundation.
2. The video promotes the teaching of a literal 1260 day (or 3½-year) end-times persecution. Protestant prophecy students have always understood the 1260 days spoken of in Daniel and Revelation to represent the 1260 years of papal persecution during the Dark Ages from 538 AD to 1798 AD. There will, of course, also come a time of trouble and a ’little time of trouble‘ in the last days, but the Lord has not chosen to reveal to us the exact length of these last day events, other than to tell us that the final events will be swift. If we leap into the assumption that every prophecy can have a “dual fulfillment,” (for example, assuming and guessing that the 1260 years will also be repeated as 1260 days) then we are free to speculate and make up any plausible-sounding last-days fulfillment of any number of historic prophecies, leading to endless potential errors. There is simply no indication in the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy that we should expect or teach that this 1260-year time period will be repeated as a literal 1260-day (3.5-year) persecution in the last days.
3. September 23, 2015 was most definitely a monumental and historic day, as I shared on my radio program at that time. But that date is not identified in the Bible by a specific time-prophecy. The video suggests that a 7-year period of prophetic time began on September 23, 2015. To put it mildly, using a date that is not mentioned in the Bible as the start date for a time-prophecy that also does not exist in the Bible is a problem for people who base their beliefs on the Bible.
4. It is claimed in the video that the 3½-year period of time between late 66 AD and early 70 AD is also being repeated in the last days – a literal 3½ years from September 23, 2015 until March or April of 2019. It is predicted that, just as the Jews underwent persecution in 70 AD, so we also will undergo persecution in the spring of 2019. The problem is that this prediction is nowhere taught or hinted at by inspired prophetic sources. Just because the intense persecution of the Roman invasion of Jerusalem took place 3.5 years after the initial invasion does not mean we should expect persecution to begin 3.5 years after the papal visit. Where is the ’Thus Saith the Lord‘ to sustain this speculation? Individual impressions and "other people being shown the same thing" is not a replacement for complete reliance on prophetic authority.
5. On the other hand, there is actually a very clear prophetic statement in the book Testimonies to the Church, Volume 5 (pp. 464-465) which explains what exactly is the last-days equivalent to the historic event of the Roman army‘s initial 66 AD invasion (known as the arrival of the ’abomination of desolation‘ to Jerusalem). Our last-days equivalent or ’abomination of desolation‘ signal is NOT the Pope‘s ’invasion‘ in 2015. It is simply this: “the assumption of power on the part of our nation, in the decree enforcing the papal sabbath” (5T 464-465). To teach that it was the Pope‘s visit, rather than that specific decree, that is our ’abomination‘ signal directly contradicts the statement in 5T. There was no such national law or decree passed on September 23, 2015. The remnant church holds to the fundamental belief that the Spirit of Prophecy “speaks with prophetic authority.” I hope the folks behind the viral video still believe that, also.
6. And, by the way, no such decree enforcing the papal sabbath has been passed still to this day. So our last-days ’abomination‘ moment, that final opportunity to flee the cities, is yet in the not-too-distant future. Without setting dates, we must view the final events as imminent and thus view Christ‘s subsequent return that will take place after the final events as very, very soon. And we should most urgently get ready, get ready, get ready. I recommend reading the books Country Living, Maranatha and Last Day Events by Ellen G. White as good preparatory reading.
7. The Paris climate agreement, though it is certainly related to the coming papal sabbath enforcement (as seen in the papal encyclical on the environment) does not actually contain a decree about the papal sabbath. Anonymous sources may suggest that this law is indeed “about” the papal sabbath, because it is taking us toward that eventuality, for sure; however, the video fails to provide a quote from the (unnamed) “environmental law” that is supposed to contain such a decree. The reason no quote is provided is because there is no such quote or decree in the Paris agreement.
8. And in the U.S. there is no Paris climate agreement anyway! One of the first acts of the current presidential administration was to sever and remove completely the United States from the Paris climate agreement. So even if the climate agreement had such a decree in it, we are not even signatories to that agreement in the U.S. Pretty important detail.
9. We should take care to avoid unsubstantiated and vague statements like “by December (2018) Rome will be done with its plans.” Where did this idea come from? Is it just a hunch? Did an anonymous person see it in a dream? What plans will they be done with? How do we know?
10. In discussing with a sampling of people who were excited about this video, the most common thing I heard from them was about the greatness of the man who presents the teaching, rather than any biblical evidence to sustain his teaching. I trust that this wasn‘t his intention to get people to implicitly trust him over the Bible. And I also believe that he would agree with this sentiment: let us aspire “to be thinkers, not mere reflectors of other men‘s thoughts.”
I don‘t present these concerns to God‘s people to in any way undermine the need to awaken people from spiritual slumber.
There are those who say ’peace, peace when there is no peace,‘ and if we join them in putting afar off the close of time, we‘re playing into Satan‘s strategy to put people back to sleep.
In fact, we can credibly acknowledge that it could be BEFORE December that Rome‘s plans will be ready. There‘s a good chance they‘re ready even now!
And it could be BEFORE March/April that persecution begins! Already now in many parts of the world under communist, Islamist or other authoritarian rule, persecution has been rapidly increasing in intensity.
The fact of the matter is that we have no indication from prophecy when, exactly, the final events will catapult into action, so it could very well begin next spring. And in America, it could be observed that already we are in the early stages of a civil unrest/war (that you can read about in Ms 114, 1899). Maybe the U.S. president will be assassinated in March and we will be in all out civil war by next spring. Maybe there will be catastrophic natural disasters next week. Maybe world war 3 is right around the corner. Very real possibilities. There are very plausible and ever-present scenarios that keep us perennially alert and abiding in Christ during all watches of the night. And since we don‘t have specific time-prophecies on these final events, we are even more vigilant as watchmen on the walls than if we knew how many months we have left to prepare.
Just as much as we are to be Christ-centered and gospel-centered, just as much as we are to give the trumpet a certain sound… let us also be credible and biblical when we share on the topic of prophecy, and let us carefully study for ourselves before we jump on board with the most exciting interpretation of last day events.
One final thought as we‘re thinking of the nearness of Christ‘s return and the souls in need of warning and hope in this dark time.
We‘re planning (by God‘s grace and much help) to hand out for outreach literally 100,000 DVDs – Media on the Brain, Second Beast Rising, Raising the Remnant, etc. You sponsor the outreach distribution; we and our outreach-minded volunteers do the distributing. That‘s the plan for us to hand out the thousands of DVDs, ourselves… EXCEPT – quite a few people asked me, Am I allowed to chip in my monthly support to sponsor the DVD outreach, but then actually take delivery of the DVDs, myself, and put them in peoples‘ hands, myself? My answer to that is, ABSOLUTELY! That‘s even better! Just hit reply to this email if you want DVDs for outreach mailed to you. (See the details HERE.)
Christ‘s coming is indeed near, and we must sacrificially give people the tools to break free from Satan‘s snares and deceptions. So even more than our personal preparation, this is a call to doubling down on our urgency to reach the lost!
In closing, let us strive to be always and only people of the Book. If, hypothetically, a modern prophetic gift is manifested in the midst of the remnant people and is vetted and validated through rigorous testing by the Bible standard, only then we can rely on his/her pronouncements as indeed being from God. But until that is done, we should refrain from teaching the doctrines from dreams and personal impressions. ’Thus Saith the Lord‘ must be our only authority. And let us always be ready, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Scott Ritsema is an educator, writer, and speaker with a passion for present truth. Scott recently left the teaching profession to pursue full-time ministry; as founder of Belt of Truth Ministries he currently presents seminar material to churches and other gatherings on topics such as media, parenting, education, and sexuality.
His seminars have been featured at a number of GYC and ASI conventions, as well as satellite TV and radio - both inside and outside the church. Belt of Truth Ministries is based in Michigan where Scott lives with his wife and three kids.
To contact Scott, call: 616-238-5058