George R. Knight, the famous Adventist author, leans into the podium as he whispers to us.
“Hell will be full of Saturday-keepers.”
Knight argued that correct behavior alone could neither save nor keep anyone committed to the Seventh-day Adventist people. He was speaking to college students who were being required to be present at the school convocation hour. The title of his lecture for that Thursday morning was “Why be an Adventist?”
“I’m here to answer the question, why be an Adventist? I have multiple versions of this talk; I can do it in thirty minutes, one hour, two hours, or three hours and I have even done a twelve-hour version of this talk in Australia. But I’ve heard you really like lunch so I’ll try to stick to thirty minutes.” He mentioned lunch because Southern schedules its convocations on Thursday mornings at 11am before many students go eat at noon.
“So why be an Adventist?” he repeats his topic’s question.
“You know, I don’t even like Adventists!”
His follow-up comment made everyone laugh because it wasn’t the usual opening line for a School of Religion-sponsored event at school.
Knight argued that salvation comes via grace—something we receive when we enter into relationship with God. And without relationship, there can be no worship; if there is no worship, then we may do as many correct things as we would like but it’s to no avail.
“There will be many Saturday-keepers in hell, but no Sabbath-keepers. There is a difference. Only those who have relationship with God can actually keep Sabbath.”
Knight’s words reminded me of what my fiancée said at a Bible study we had attended the previous week. As we discussed Sabbath-keeping, she confessed that Sabbaths had been annoying during her teenage years. Sabbaths are miserable when you don’t have relationship with Jesus.
For our generation, those words are deep and authentic but also commonplace. We have grown up surrounded by a Christian emphasis on relationship over behavior.
But to see Knight—a man who entered and remained in Adventism throughout some of its worst legalistic years in the 60s, 70s, and 80s—unabashedly preach Jesus’ supremacy in the faith was beautiful and encouraging.
No matter the time period, God always raises messengers to remind His wayward people of what matters.
“It’s all about Jesus,” Knight told us.
“I am here today only because Jesus called me. Without that conviction, I would not be here.”
But that was not enough to answer why he (and us) should choose to be Adventist. To focus his argument, he took us to the words of Revelation 12-14. He gave a brief synopsis on the events in these chapters, and the relevance of the Three Angel’s Message. By doing so, Knight’s answer to his lecture’s question became obvious—only those persuaded of the Seventh-day Adventist eschatological mission will care to remain within the tenets of Adventism.
Perhaps it’s not the message liberal minds might favor, but I think it’s true.
Our faith tradition hinges on the conviction that Jesus is coming and that we are called to “prophesy again” to all nations.
Not to make them Saturday-keepers.
Many an infidel will be arrogantly persuaded of his or her right-doing as they march into death and destruction.
But to make them lovers of the Lamb, following Him anywhere and everywhere, faithfully clinging to the grace of Jesus.
They are true Sabbath-keepers, and heaven will be full of those.