War and pestilence

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“Nineteen hundred and eighteen has gone into history as a gloomy year. War and pestilence have united to make it a year of death.” These words, penned by CH Watson in the first Australasian Record for 1919, could well have been written in 2022. We all know what 2020 and 2021 were like. While 2022 started with optimism in the air, Omicron soon ran riot. The world held its breath as Russia invaded Ukraine. Just when life seemed to be getting back to normal, the war particularly has made people anxious and seen them glued to news updates. As I write this, Australia’s east coast is flooded.  

It is tempting, living in troubled times, to mine the Bible for connections to prophecy. To sound the alarm and to predict Jesus’ soon return. As an Adventist content creator, it is something I’d love to do. Using real world events to call people to repentance and back to Jesus—it’s easy in times like this. But it struck me that these events, repeating almost exactly 100 years later, may teach us something. 

In 1919, the world had experienced World War I and then the Spanish flu pandemic. There are obvious similarities to our times. 

Former Record editor Pastor Bruce Manners noted that in the lead up to World War II, Record had some content with predictions of the end and ties to Bible prophecy but once the war started, concerns were more practical and “earthly”, threaded with hope and encouragement. 

We must resist the urge to sensationalise—to overreach in our predictions and to “cry wolf”. 

In a recent Record Live interview with Auckland pastor Vitalii Shevchenko about the situation in his homeland, he mentioned how the Ukrainian government had been warning about a war with Russia for eight years. Everyone was so shocked when the conflict broke out because of the “boy who cried wolf” situation. He also mentioned that peace hadn’t been reached during that whole time. So on the one hand, the consistent warnings lulled people into a false sense of security. On the other hand, nothing practical was achieved to address real-world needs which have escalated into the current conflict. 

These are lessons we can learn from. We cannot cry “The world is ending” every time there is a disaster or we risk diminishing trust in our prophetic voice. Yes, Jesus is coming back, but He didn’t come in 1844, He didn’t come in either world war and He may not come this year or next. 

Yet we must work to heal the world around us; even as it ends, we can still do our part. That is our duty as stewards and ambassadors of a higher kingdom.

Our prophetic voice must go out riding in the vehicle of love. Our ministry is to serve. 

We can pray, support the work ADRA is doing, help neighbours and flooded communities with clean-up and donations, and minister to the needs of our communities. Our prophetic message is not worth anything, according to Paul if we do not have love (see 1 Corinthians 13).

I’ll leave you with the final words of CH Watson:

“The need of millions is a saving knowledge of Christ. Hearts are broken, homes are wrecked, hopes are shattered, lands are pillaged, humanity is outraged, and sin is cruelly apparent. Opportunity to serve is abundant. May God give us grace, sufficient in power and abounding in measure, to meet the responsibilities that this new year brings. In the certain hope of the glorious advent message let us strive and win.

“To love someone more dearly every day. To help some wandering child to find the way. To ponder on some noble thought and pray . . . To follow truth as blind men long for light. To do our best from dawn of day till night. To keep our hearts fit for His holy sight, and answer when He calls.” 

Nothing much has changed in our world, but we are still called to change the world.  

Read the original 1919 Record here.

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