Why I Am No Longer An
Jack M. LaneMany preachers and teachers have taught their followers the idea that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent. In recent years, many people have changed their ideas regarding Christ's coming, while others continue to believe that they must "hurry up and get the Work done so Christ can come back." Some no longer pin their hopes on the Second Coming, while others feel it is still very near! Let me share with you some of my thoughts about being an adventist.
No, I never was a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. That's not what I mean. Although I consider myself to be a member of the ekklesia of God, coming from the Church of God tradition, I'm still an adventist. That is, I believe that the Second Coming of Christ, when the Messiah returns in power and glory to rule the earth, is literally going to take place on this earth.
What I no longer believe is that the Second Coming is just around the corner, and that we're living in the "end times of the end times," or the "last days of the last days," or even the "gun lap," or that Christ could return any day now. It would be nice if that were the case, and the world could certainly use a good dose of the Kingdom of God -- the sooner the better! But what about the concept that the Second Coming is just around the next bend?
Many of us used to hear talk like that, and we believed it then. It became a habit to think that way. Today, even though many people in the various Church of God organizations may no longer believe that Christ will come immediately, it's hard to break the habitual way of thinking. That's what I mean when I talk about no longer being an "imminent adventist."
MY OLD CONCEPT OF CHURCH HISTORY
There is quite a bit of literature in print today regarding the history of the visible church of God throughout history, including our more recent religious origins, the rise of the Church of God movement in the United States. It would be helpful to read some of these history books. How can we know where we are now, and why we are here -- and where we are going in the future -- unless we know how we got here?
For some years I naively held to an idea along the lines of the Catholic doctrine of "apostolic succession." That is, our link to the church was originally, for many of us, Herbert Armstrong (HWA). I had held in my mind the neat and tidy picture of HWA being ordained by ministers of the Church of God (Seventh Day), which itself went back in history in an unbroken line to the apostolic church in first century Jerusalem. In my mental concept, which I nurtured for many years, the original apostles had ordained men, who had ordained men, who had ordained men, and so on down through the centuries, in a direct linear progression right down to HWA in this century. Thus, "apostolic succession."
And of course, anyone HWA ordained was also in the same category, along with anyone they in turn ordained, and so on throughout time into the future. That's why it was always important to be anointed, counseled, married, etc., by an "ordained minister" from the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). That apostolic succession had to be there!
(Today this belief continues among many of the former members of WCG, who believe that, unless they were "ordained" by people "ordained" by HWA, they have no authority to do anything of a leadership nature. There are still others who believe that, since they were "ordained" in such a manner, they are very qualified to lead, just on that basis!)
This belief system included a dividing point along the way in history, along about the beginning of the second century A.D., when the major part of the supposed "church organization founded by Jesus" radically changed their beliefs, and this group ultimately became, by 325 A.D., the fledgling Roman Catholic Church. We then had two parallel lines of church organizations progressing through the ages until today. Both of these lines had the all-important apostolic succession, but two widely divergent sets of doctrines. Of course, I fancied that "our" group held to the true doctrines of the Bible, so we had both apostolic succession and the truth. Such is the nature of conceit.
Of course, apostolic succession, or a direct lineage of "ordaining" going back to the original church, is meaningless. After all, Simon Magus, the Samaritan sorcerer, was "baptized" (Acts 8:9-24), but since he had not repented, his sins were probably not forgiven, and if hands were laid on him, he most certainly would not have received the Holy Spirit.
It is Simon Magus who is credited by some historians with beginning the doctrinal shifts that led ultimately to the establishing of the Roman Catholic Church. The apostolic touch then means nothing because, in the event of apostasy, a linear succession of ordination is meaningless, if the people involved do not hold to the truth of God and "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3, NIV). It is the obedience that is important, not the succession.
Another factor that is often missed, when Church of God people discuss ordination and laying on of hands, is that no ordained minister laid hands on HWA to ordain him into the ministry! A look at HWA's autobiography reveals that it was the members of his small congregation, not anyone from "headquarters," who laid hands on him to ordain him to the ministry!
Where, then, did this idea come from, that HWA was the modern descendent of apostolic succession? This belief in an unbroken succession in the church of God was fostered in part by several books written about the history of those people whom we consider to be God's church throughout the ages, those who held to many of the same doctrines we believe, with the addition of a lot of "hype" from HWA himself!
Perhaps the grandest of these church history books was A True History of the True Religion, published in the 1930s by Dugger and Dodd of the Church of God, Seventh Day (COG7). (Andrew N. Dugger, one of the authors, led the COG7 for many years during this century. After the history book was published, the other author, C.O. Dodd, followed a different path, and went on to establish the Sacred Names movement among the Church of God people.)
Other books of more recent date, also by Church of God authors (primarily WCG members), give the impression, even if it wasn't the authors' intentions, that there had been an unbroken chain of church congregations scattered throughout Europe and the New World, and that they all had had a loose network or affiliation of some kind with each other.
Added to that was the concept HWA drummed into us continually, that Christ had said, "I will build My church, and the gates of the grave shall never prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). That strongly implied that there was never a time in the last 1900 years when there was not a Church of God organization going somewhere.
For example, the history books indicate that there was an unbroken line from the centuries-old Sabbath-keeping Bell Lane church in Britain, through the time church member and businessman Stephen Mumford brought his religion to America during the early colonial era, then forward in time as the church spread to the Willamette Valley of Oregon in the early days of the 20th century, up to the time when HWA came on the scene. That's when most of us pick up the story, because the majority of our readers are familiar with the history of the Worldwide Church of God.
Newer literature, though, has revealed a side of the story not widely known previously. Robert Coulter's booklet, The Story of the Church of God (Seventh Day) (Bible Advocate Press, Denver, Colorado), describes the development of that church group in America, from their perspective. The booklet shows, for instance, how the WCG and HWA came out of COG7 and went their own way, while the history we received from WCG often implied that God raised up HWA directly, and COG7 was hardly a bump along the path.
Because of the historical discrepancies among various authors, it seemed necessary for us to offer the following brief synopsis of church history, to help understand the development of the Church of God movement in the United States. A proper historical perspective can help us better appreciate what went before, and can help us to see how we arrived at the baffling situation we see in the Church of God today.
THE GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT
You may have heard about "The Great Disappointment of 1844." Over 150 years ago, many people were led to believe, through the well-attended lectures of preacher William Miller, that Christ was scheduled to return to earth on October 22, 1844. The "Adventist movement" grew like wildfire during the 1830s and early 1840s among the religious in America. In fact, many people became religious who had not been religious before. Since their main belief, or the one that attracted the most attention, was their belief in the imminent return of Christ, they were called Adventists, since "advent" means "coming." Earnest Bible study was the order of the day, and many came to a new and deeper knowledge of their Lord and Savior.
By 1842 and 1843, the movement was growing greatly in numbers and popularity. People throughout America were mending their lives and striving to obey God in great numbers, since the end of the age was (supposedly) upon them. But the anticipated arrival of Christ did not occur on the specified date in 1844. Nor did Christ return at any time during that year, or the next. Many held their faith, waiting and watching, for quite some time. Eventually, most of the Adventist people realized that what they were awaiting was not going to happen, and large numbers of them simply returned to their former lifestyles.
As you might expect, all this had a depressing and demoralizing effect on people who had hoped for and longed for Christ's appearing. To say they were disappointed is to use understatement. Many became downhearted and despondent, a living example of the proverb, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when the hope comes, it is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). There were a great many heart-sick people at that time. That's why the whole episode is referred to in religious history as "The Great Disappointment of 1844."
However, some twists and turns of history arose out of the Great Disappointment which have continued to greatly affect the American religious scene, and that of the rest of the world, to this day. The American Baptist movement rose to prominence out of the remains of the Adventist movement. Another group of Adventists discovered the truth about the Sabbath and began to observe it, some of whom later adopted the name "Seventh-Day Adventists," to show by their name that they observed the Sabbath and they expected the physical return of Christ to this earth. Other religious groups also began at that time.
HISTORY OF THE COG
It is now time to meet Gilbert Cranmer, the man said to be most responsible for the beginnings and the continuance of the Sabbath-keeping Church of God we came to know.
Cranmer was a preacher and farmer in Michigan who became a "Millerite" in 1843. Following the Great Disappointment, Cranmer studied the scriptures even more intensely, and as a result still felt that Christ's return was imminent. Cranmer continued to preach Christ's advent for the rest of his life.
The modern Church of God movement has been traced largely to this one man and his evangelistic efforts. He had apparently read about the Sabbath in 1843 in an adventist publication, possibly in an article written by or influenced by the Seventh-Day Baptist Church, but didn't begin to observe the Sabbath until later.
In 1860, another independent Sabbath-keeping group began in Iowa. The churches in Michigan and Iowa continued to grow until they inevitably found out about each other. The two churches joined forces, and growth continued.
However, division arose because of James and Ellen G. White, and her prophecies. Both churches (Michigan and Iowa) had originally been founded on the basis that the Bible, and the Bible alone, was the source of truth and doctrine. But those who followed Mrs. White elevated her teachings and writings on an equal footing with the Bible. This split the church down the middle. Many of the church people chose to follow her as a prophetess, and left the church in order to form the "spin-off group" that became the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (SDA).
Gilbert Cranmer continued to be a leader in the main group, which called itself by the biblical name, "the Church of God," and continued to follow the Bible, and the Bible alone, as its measure of truth. Cranmer died in 1903. He had been a tireless worker in the faith, and it was evident that God had used Gilbert Cranmer to call many people into a saving knowledge of the truth.
In 1923, the parenthetical phrase "(Seventh Day)" was added to the corporate name of the church, to distinguish it from various Sunday-observing groups using the name "Church of God."
This is a brief history of the Church of God in America. From what can be gathered in the scanty historical records, Cranmer was not ordained or credentialed by any group. He simply did what God compelled him to do, and we, today, are the result.
Here is a major paradigm shift that needs to be faced as a result of this history: The Church of God movement in the U.S. apparently had a definite beginning. Even if the Seventh-Day Baptist organization pre-dated the Church of God organization, perhaps by centuries, still the Church of God did not arise out of the Seventh-Day Baptists, but got a fresh start separate from the older group. From this, we can conclude that (1) there was no unbroken line back to first-century Jerusalem, and therefore, (2) there is no "apostolic succession" in today's Sabbath-observing Church of God groups, particularly in the WCG!
We can also see something else, which is the main point of this discussion: Expecting Christ to return soon is a concept that has been with mankind through the ages since Messiah's ascension. The Great Disappointment of 1844 was not the only time groups of people have believed that the Second Coming was imminent. There have been many, and there continue to be many.
Another well-known Second Coming that fizzled was in the year 1914. Beginning around 1872, Charles Taze Russell raised up a group of followers who were originally called "Russellites," or the International Bible Students, but who later changed their identity to Jehovah's Witnesses. They also saw a time for Christ's coming, in 1914. Although they too prepared to meet Christ in the air, He failed to show up as expected. Following their disappointment, the Jehovah's Witnesses developed a theology that indicated that Christ indeed had returned in 1914, but invisibly, and that He now rules, but the "new system of things" or "new order" has not yet been established. The erupting of the Great War (World War I) in 1914 was given as proof that the world had entered the last days. Indeed, they point out that the world has been living in increasingly perilous times since 1914! Unfortunately, the last days are still going on, and Christ has not yet manifested Himself to His creation.
Even the COG7 retained the concept of the imminent advent. A 1933 booklet by Dugger declares: "The end is very near at hand. Signs throughout the world show the Lord is soon coming. European diplomats are prophesying a world war involving all nations in 1934 which they say the League of Nations is powerless to avert. We know what this means. Conditions of the world, and also of the Holy Land, are set in order for Armageddon. Therefore the church must also be set in order, to meet the bridegroom. ... It is now time for his wife to make herself ready." Although the conflict did erupt, in 1939, and came to be known as World War II, it also was not the end of the age, and Messiah did not come.
Another "Great Expectation" was seen as the growing Radio Church of God (later to become the Worldwide Church of God) looked forward eagerly to 1972, when the Church would be ushered into the much-discussed "Place of Safety," to sit out the Great Tribulation and await Christ's return in 1975. As if history was repeating itself, people flocked into the congregations and began to straighten up their lives, as people had done in the 1840s and 1910s. Many of those who came into the WCG seemed to be motivated primarily by the hope of escaping nuclear World War III. This common goal provided a strong bond and unifying force which acted like a glue that stuck the Church together in a most remarkable fashion. Shoulder to shoulder, Church members flocked to services on Sabbaths and Holy Days and diligently studied their Bibles (or at least read the Church's literature) through the week.
But 1972 came and went, and the Church didn't flee to the Place of Safety. Then 1975 slipped past without Christ's return. The leaders lost face, the WCG began to float aimlessly, and the momentum was lost. They were, figuratively, "dead in the water." A new direction had to be sought. Even HWA drifted for a time, until he found a new unifying factor for the Church: his new commission to visit heads of state! This was a way that seemed right to that man, but its ends were the ways of dissipation, worldliness, extravagance, taking his eyes off the goal, and more financial and personal trouble than he could have imagined!
For the last several years of his life, HWA tried to keep his followers whipped up and enthusiastic by frequent references to Christ's soon-coming Kingdom, His imminent return to earth, the fact that he felt it was very close now, frequent references that we were in the "gun lap," and other goads of that nature to keep us moving in a direction.
Then he died. His last letter to the membership indicated that the church would be going on to do great exploits. So it wasn't the time of the end for us, only for him! How disappointing!
Then the WCG clergy began to explore their own feelings about it all. They taught more frequently that, after all, the apostles believed Christ would be returning during their lifetimes, too, and they were wrong. And besides, we were told, if Christ had said He wouldn't be back for another 1900 years, everyone would have let down and relaxed, since there was no rush. Then, as if to prove the point, everyone began to let down and relax, because there was no rush, there was no Place of Safety, and there was no Second Coming.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Gilbert Cranmer preached Christ's imminent return until his death in 1903. A mere 23 years later, HWA came into contact with the COG7; HWA's ministry also concentrated on preaching Christ's "soon-coming Kingdom," until his death in 1986. Between the days of Cranmer and HWA there was the end-time prophecy for 1914 by Pastor Russell. In addition, there have been perhaps another hundred or so end-time prophets here and there. We still see it today.
The end of the world is, as it turns out, big business! I don't mean to imply that there was anything less than honest conviction in the various end-time preachers of yesteryear and today. We can safely assume that each was sincere in his beliefs. But the end of the world is a "big deal" in the lives of those who hear about it. It helps rivet people's attention so they can hear God's message. That is, after all, how most of us got here!
But when we stop to look at the overall history of a progression of one end-of-the-world "work" after another, it gets a little tedious. I think we have come to the place where, after 154 years (1844 to the present), we can relax a little about expecting Christ's imminent return. However, that does not give us an excuse to get lax about anything we do. We may not feel the same urgency without the constant "gun lap" mentality, but the seriousness of what we are doing continues, and must never lag.
As many preachers have said, "You could get hit by a truck tonight -- then where would you be?" In our case, we expect to be in the first resurrection in our next conscious moment. Viewed in that light, Christ's coming could be perceived as being tonight, if we get in the way of that truck. Therefore, we must never let down in our loyalty and obedience to God! Since we don't know in advance when a thief in the night will come, we must remain ever watchful (Matthew 24:43)!
We have heard it said that, if the first century church knew that 1900 years would elapse before Christ's return, they would not have been able to maintain their spiritual fervor. Therefore, we were told, it was actually a good thing that they thought Christ's coming was imminent. Perhaps that assessment seemed right for those in the 20th century ministry, and for those in the congregations who were not thoroughly converted, who never saw the "big picture." Those through the ages who truly did catch the vision, however, remained faithfully in the ekklesia all their lives, and were even willing to sacrifice their lives, while many others tired of "playing church" after awhile and simply went away. We've seen the same happen in this century. The parable of the sower and the seeds (Matthew 13) fits this picture very well.
Does one need to be an "imminent adventist" to be safely "in" the ekklesia? Must we cling hopefully to the belief that the reason we must "be good" is that Christ is coming soon? Are we destined to drift away if we admit to ourselves that Christ has not come yet, and may not come this year or the next? Is our faith founded on such superficial issues as these? In the final analysis, was WCG filled with people who needed to be cajoled like this, year after year, because, ultimately, they didn't see the true picture?
IT'S TIME TO ENTER OUR OWN FUTURE!
What if our Messiah does return soon? WONDERFUL!! Please, let's continue to pray fervently that He does! But our faith, hope, and expectation must be built on firmer ground than just saving our skin, going to a place of safety, or looking to physical, material blessings as a reward for obedience! Our devotion to Him, and our patient wait for Him, must be for a longer period of time than "soon-coming."
Our very young children have trouble being patient, and experience a short period of waiting as if it is forever! As we mature, we grow in patience and the ability to wait. The older we get, the more we notice that a long span of time seems to pass very quickly! You may have heard it said, "When I was young, ten minutes seemed like an hour. Now an hour seems like ten minutes!"
The same growth and maturity should hold true for us spiritually. It's time for some of us to move on to a more mature faith, founded on better promises. It's time we redefine why we are in the ekklesia, if we have not already done so. If we are here for superficial or immature reasons, we won't last for the long haul during the trials ahead.
If some of us are still carnal, or are still spiritual babes, nursing on spiritual milk, we won't even notice when some of our brethren leave the cradle and begin to eat spiritual meat!
A literal baby would not have a frame of reference to analyze what a toddler or older child is capable of doing, knowing, learning, etc. The same is true spiritually, in an analogy of the church. While some church members spiritually grow up, learn to walk and then run, while they are learning and growing and maturing from their spiritual lessons, the babes left crying in the play pen will continue to be just as helpless as ever, always in need of someone to look after them and tell them what to do.
As a parent, which sounds more appealing to you? Would you like to have a son who stays a baby, never growing and developing, always dependent on you for everything, forever feeding on milk? Or would you prefer it if your son grows, learns, matures, takes on new responsibilities, stretches his wings and tries new things, as he prepares to ultimately take his place beside you and become a leader in the family? Which kind of son would you prefer to have?
Why would any of us presume God wants anything less from His sons? God will be pleased if, "speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:14).
Re-read the lesson of the sower and the seed in Matthew 13 with these things in mind. If anything is choking us, or keeping God's Spirit from taking deep root in our lives, we are simply not growing as we should! This is a fatal error, as the story so plainly says.
IT MAY OR MAY NOT BE IMMINENT!
Whether Messiah's return is next year, in a decade, or in a century, is not the important thing. The resurrected Yeshua said of the apostle John, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me" (John 21:22)! The lesson is simple: "Never mind who lives, or for how long. Follow Me!"
Even if the whole world looks for the Second Coming, we are told we won't know when it will be! "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matthew 24:42-44).
But we have been expecting him since 1844! As each generation grows old and dies, all the while waiting for the Second Coming to take place, another generation comes along, hears the message, and takes up the vigil. There is something wrong with that picture!
True, we must all wait patiently for the Messiah, as the farmer waits patiently for the rains and for harvest time: "Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains" (James 5:7). The problem arises, though, out of the idea that the Second Coming will be very soon, so we must drop everything and, as it were, wait at the door for Daddy to come home!
Truly, it may happen soon. It would be the best thing for this world if it were to happen soon. But after 154 years, it has become a little unrealistic. The imminency has worn off.
BUT IT WILL BE AN ADVENT!
Christ's coming is sure. The entire Bible shows that it has been God's plan from the beginning. We are participating in the greatest and most important activity on earth: the calling and training of the firstfruits of God's own sons! When our Messiah, the firstborn Son of God, returns to this earth, we will rise in the air to join Him as sons of God and siblings of each other and our Savior!
We don't even need to worry about when that day will come. The day will come! Our job is to be ready for it. If it doesn't come in our lifetime, it will still come. The Father will not send Christ until the right moment, and we have no way of knowing when that will be. This is part of our faith in God, and the patience of the saints (Revelation 14:12)!
The old scenario as pictured by the WCG is fading away. The picture painted so vividly in the Bible is as true today as it was when it was first penned. The Messiah will come! The coming of the risen Lord is as sure as the coming of tomorrow morning. It is only the time frame we have misunderstood.
If we try to be good little children, for just a little while, just to get a physical reward from Daddy, that demonstrates a spiritual immaturity. That shows that we are being mindful of the flesh, which is the way of death. (See Romans chapter 8; Galatians 6:8; James 4:14; 1 John 2:16.)
The truth is, we must leave behind this fleshly, carnal, lustful, fear-driven condition in order to find, not physical protection in a place of safety, but true eternal life! (See Matthew 10:39; 16:25; 19:29; Luke 12:22-23; John 12:25.)
The WCG, even unintentionally, taught its members to behave this way. If we try to be growing and maturing children of the Most High, who wish to please our heavenly Father because of Who He is and what our relationship with Him is, then it doesn't matter when He will send the Messiah. When our Savior comes, He will find us busily at work! We must not let down our standards and return to a life of sin, but we must also be able to carry on in walking in this Way, no matter how long it takes!
"Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24: 42-51, NRSV).
ON WHAT DO WE BASE OUR FAITH?
Remember the disappointment of 1975 we mentioned earlier? Thousands of people left WCG when it became apparent that Christ would not return according to WCG's timetable. Some remained faithful to God and His truth, as best they could, on their own or in another organization. Others, however, returned to their worldly, unconverted ways, just as so many people did following the "non-advent" in 1844. Why is that?
The great shake-ups WCG has gone through over the years have had the result of showing God who among these people truly trusted in Him, and looked to Him, and had faith in Him. These purging experiences also showed God who didn't really get the idea, who might have been merely following a man, or who was there only to save their skin by being in the right place at the right time when the bombs started falling.
God called us and opened our minds to understand His truth. Because we were carnal and had no understanding as yet, one very effective method God used to get our attention was to reveal to us that there was a time of trouble coming, the time of Jacob's trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), which would pale World War II into insignificance, and that we might be able to escape some or all of this tribulation if God chose to protect us. That got a lot of people's attention, and brought many into the WCG fold. Once there, however, people were supposed to learn more about God and His plan for mankind, to grow spiritually, to grow in love and trust toward God, and the desire to be in the resurrection to live forever with God. Our focus was to change over time, from saving our necks during the upcoming tribulation to giving our lives over to God and His will. We were to grow, both in grace and in the knowledge of our Savior (2 Peter 3:18).
Unfortunately, many of the pastors and teachers of WCG were not grown and matured themselves, nor were they all totally yielded to God, and were capable only of parroting the party line of their employer, rather than working individually with the members of their congregations toward real spiritual growth. The result was WCG congregations filled with spiritual babes being treated like children. Many of these babes in Christ were still looking forward eagerly to God providing them with physical salvation during the Great Tribulation, rather than focusing on how they themselves should become children in whom God would be pleased. Indeed, many became children in whom the Pharisees would have been pleased!
It seems apparent now that those who left the church altogether after 1972, and returned to the world and its ways, had their faith primarily centered in the church fleeing in 1972 and Christ returning in 1975. When that failed to take place, the underpinnings of their faith -- the very thing in which they placed all their hope -- vanished, and so did their interest in the things of God. Unfortunately, even among those who remained with WCG, many became unfocused and began to drift, allowing sin to creep back into their lives, because they saw no more need to remain vigilant against sin. It's a sad story of people whose focus was on the wrong thing.
Something very similar happened more recently when WCG underwent its doctrinal metamorphosis. Some people left the organization and retained the old doctrines pretty much unchanged. Others adopted the new doctrines, some eagerly and some with reluctance. Still others dropped out of corporate churches altogether and continue to meet in small groups in homes, sometimes experimenting with new theologies. Some people have tried to remain loyal to what they picture God to be, while others have been trained to remain loyal to the organization, right or wrong. Many have simply given up their faith and returned to the world. Another great disappointment!
PLACING OUR FAITH CORRECTLY
Is it possible that Yeshua could fail to come when people expect Him, yet still remain our Messiah and Savior? Yes, it is. His existence, His power and authority, do not depend on what we think, or whether we believe in Him. He is still coming as King of kings and Lord of lords, even if we get tired of waiting and give up!
There have been many people, in every generation, who believe in God, but when things don't go their way, or if God doesn't answer their prayers like a genie in a bottle, they begin to doubt whether God really exists! Yet, God's existence does not depend on our feelings or what we think. He is! He exists! Even if no one on earth has any faith that He exists, He exists anyway!
Suppose a teenager was to ask his dad if he could borrow the keys to the car, but his dad says no. Does the dad cease to exist? Preposterous! He simply said no to the request.
Why should anyone doubt God's existence because they didn't get the "goodies" they asked for? Why is it, if Christ did not come in 1975, that people would think as a result that He was any less of a God, or that He didn't really exist, or that His plan was changed, simply because they misunderstood the time table?
If our focus is entirely on God, and pleasing Him as our Father, and allowing the Spirit to come into us so that the Father and the Son can live in us and through us, we should have no trouble in maintaining the faith we once had during the more highly pressured "gun lap" days.
And so it is that one may become a not-so-imminent adventist, without the constant pushing and coercing, without the prod of "the last days of the last days," and still have the faith that God exists, that He is active in our lives, and that He still plans His work and works His plan. There does not need to be a let-up in enthusiasm for God's Way of life, or for pursuing our part in His Kingdom and Family.
All things will unfold as they should. Things will happen when they should happen. But that doesn't mean we can grow lax and drop our guard. We can still lose the battle. We should always be on the alert for the tempter's trials. But because we have more time than we thought, we also have more time to grow and develop spiritually.
It's not the time to sleep. We are still closer to our salvation than when we were first called (Romans 13:11). Many have already crossed the threshold out of this life and are awaiting Christ in the grave. For those of us who are still fighting the battle, we must not lose sight of the true goal.
We weren't called so that God would save our skin. We were called so that God would save our lives, and use our lives to fulfill His purposes, both in this life, and forever.