The Great Controversy - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 2 Lesson 07 - Motivated by Hope

Teachers Comments
May 11 - May 17

Key Text: Isaiah 25:9

Study Focus: Matt. 13:30, 38–41; 2 Tim. 3:13; Matt. 24:27, 30, 31; 1 Cor. 15:51–53; 1 Thess. 4:13–18; Dan. 8:14; Dan. 7:9–14; Dan. 9:20–27; Rom. 13:11.

Introduction: A crucial point in the great controversy was the coming of the Messiah. During the 70-week prophetic period, the devil fought to destroy Israel’s faith in the first coming of the Messiah as the fulfillment of Old Testament promises, prophecies, and types. In the same way, by the end of the 2,300-year prophetic time period, the forces of evil tried to obscure its fulfillment in the pre-Advent judgment, occurring in the heavenly sanctuary, and to suppress the proclamation of the second coming of the Messiah.

By the end of the 70-week prophetic period, there were faithful people of God, such as Simeon, who waited for “the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25, NASB), or Anna and others “who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38, NASB). These faithful few saw in Jesus the fulfillment of the promise of the first coming of the Messiah. In the same way, there were, by the end of the 2,300 years, believing people, such as William Miller, whose “present truth” message focused on the hope in the soon appearing of the Messiah. Miller did not discover this message through a philosophical methodology but through a literal reading of Scripture. This illustrates, once again, the essentiality of Scripture to the great controversy.

Lesson Themes: This study focuses on two major themes:

  1. Although the exact date and year of Christ’s second coming is not given in the biblical prophecies, the 70-week and 2,300-days prophecies, which are related to both the first and the second coming of Jesus, have been fulfilled with precision. Their precise fulfillment assures us that Christ’s second coming is certain and imminent.
  2. The Adventist people were called by God to proclaim to the world the fulfillment of the longest time prophecy in the Bible. God also appointed them to call the world to embrace the hope in the second coming of Jesus to end the great controversy forever.

Part II: Commentary

Finding Hope in Premillennialism

Hope and optimism filled the atmosphere of the nineteenth-century United States, the new nation born out of the unique American Revolution. The century brought social, economic, political, as well as technological changes and inventions, promising the dawn of a new world. The spirit of the age influenced the country’s Protestant evangelical Christians, until it permeated their religion and churches. The result was a postmillennial Christianity with a hopeful and optimistic eschatological fervor.

But what is postmillennialism? Millennialism comes from the word “millennium,” which refers to the 1,000 years of Christ’s reign with the saints as described in Revelation 20:1–6. While most Christians accept this biblical teaching about the millennium, not all agree on how to relate the millennium to the Second Coming and to the last judgment.

The first post-apostolic theologians—the apostolic fathers—adopted premillennialism, the belief that Christ would return to earth before the millennium and execute the last judgment. (Adventists, of course, understand that the millennium will be in heaven.) However, soon, subsequent church fathers, such as Origen of Alexandria (a.d. 185–253/254) and Augustine of Hippo (a.d. 354–430), integrated Greek philosophy with Christian theology and applied the allegorical method to the reading and interpretation of the Bible. Consequently, they rejected premillennialism as a naive and superficial reading of the book of Revelation, and proposed instead a new theory of the millennium, which was later called amillennialism.

According to this theory, the millennium must be understood allegorically or spiritually. As in Greek philosophy, which posited that time has no particular relevance to spirituality or to the ethereal sphere of existence, these church fathers concluded that the millennium refers to the church period that runs between the first and the second comings of Jesus. For this reason, the millennium is not past or future but represents the entire Christian era. During this period, Christ reigns spiritually with the souls of the dead saints in heaven, as well as with the church on earth. The church is God’s kingdom on this planet. Christ works to establish His church to the ends of the earth, thus diminishing the power of the devil. However, before the Second Coming, Satan will corrupt the church, leading to the installment of the antichrist. At this moment, Jesus will return, saving the church from the antichrist, and executing the last judgment, thereby reestablishing a new order of things. This position was embraced by the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches, and some Protestant denominations, such as the Lutheran, Anglican, and the Presbyterian churches.


Postmillennialism was an adaptation of amillennialism by the nineteenth-century Protestant churches, who applied it to their contemporary situation. Like the amillennialists, the postmillennialists thought that Christ would come at the end of the millennium. However, unlike the amillennialists, most postmillennialists thought that the millennium represented 1,000 literal years. This period does not represent the entire Christian era, but only the last 1,000 years before Christ’s return. During this 1,000 years, Christ will work through the Holy Spirit and through the church to spread the gospel throughout the entire world to establish His millennial kingdom. As most of the earth’s population accepted the gospel, the power and control of the devil would diminish, and the world would gradually enter its golden age, a period of peace, righteousness, justice, love, and prosperity that would serve as a foretaste of the coming of God’s eternal kingdom. Highly optimistic about the nature of the human individual and society, postmillennialists did not envision a time when the church would become corrupt or when the antichrist would control and oppress the church and the world. The millennium would be followed by the second coming of Christ, by the general resurrection, the last judgment, and the eternal divine kingdom.

Judging by the success of the gospel in the world during the eighteenth century, the nineteenth-century postmillennialists concluded that the millennium was still in the future, albeit a very near future, one that even was at hand. Moreover, since the millennial kingdom would be inaugurated through the church by Christ, the Protestants rolled up their sleeves and began working hard to bring about the millennium and to do so in their lifetime. Change and progress filled the air of America. An increasing number of biblical societies published Bibles and Christian literature. Missionaries were sent overseas to prepare the world to accept the gospel and to enter the millennial kingdom. Parallel to this development, an increasing number of technological inventions contributed to the rise of the quality of life in America and around the world. Temperance societies focused on improving the quality of people’s health through abstinence from alcohol. Noting the absence of major wars, political parties and all types of social movements called for profound social changes compatible with the establishment of God’s millennial kingdom.

Not all, however, followed the postmillennial excitement of the majority. The original premillennial ideas of the apostles and of the apostolic fathers were revived by the Anabaptist Reformers in the sixteenth century; and then continued by some English Evangelicals through the eighteenth century; and, finally, began spreading in North America during the first half of the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the greatest proponents of biblical premillennialism were William Miller and, after the Great Disappointment, the Seventh-day Adventists. Like the postmillennialists, the Adventist premillennialists believed that the millennium represented 1,000 literal years, that the millennium was still in the future, and that it would begin soon.

Seventh-day Adventists

Unlike the postmillennialists, however, the Seventh-day Adventist premillennialists understood from their Bibles that things would worsen for God’s people before the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:3–13), that Jesus would come before the millennium (Rev. 19:11–16) to save His persecuted church, resurrect His people, and take them all with Him to heaven (1 Thess. 4:13–18). In heaven, God’s people would not only reign with Christ (Rev 20:4, 6) but also participate with God in the judgment of the wicked (Rev. 20:4, 1 Cor. 6:2). During that time, the devil is described as “bound . . . for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:2) on earth because he “could not deceive the nations” (Rev. 20:3, CJB). These nations constitute the wicked who will not be resurrected until the end of the 1,000 years (Rev. 20:2, 3, 5). Once the millennial judgment ends, Jesus returns to planet Earth with all His saints. He resurrects the wicked (Rev. 20:5, 7, 13) and executes the last judgment (Rev. 20:11, 12). The devil tries to deceive the wicked one last time in order to incite them to fight against God and take His kingdom by force (Rev. 20:7–9). This event culminates the great controversy; Christ executes His judgments, and the wicked, the devil, and evil, as well as death itself, are all cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:9, 10, 14, 15) and are forever annihilated.

Miller and the Seventh-day Adventists did not share the optimism of their postmillennial contemporaries about human nature and about the bright, utopic near future of humanity. But this stance was not because Miller and the Adventists were antisocial, pessimistic, or negativistic by nature and thus incapable of rejoicing over the progress and hope of humanity. Rather, Miller and the Seventh-day Adventists arrived at their premillennialist understanding from their solid, literal, historical-grammatical study of the Bible. For this reason, they rejected both amillennialism and postmillennialism because these doctrines were rooted, not in the Bible, but in the presuppositions of ancient Greek philosophy or of contemporary socio-economic-political studies. The postulations of the amillennialists or postmillennialists are not only absent from the Bible, but they also go contrary to biblical teachings, thus distorting the gospel and generating false hope. Miller and the Seventh-day Adventists longed for hope, but they wanted a hope built on the solid foundation of the Word of God.

In just a few decades, the twentieth century’s two world wars and one cold war pulverized the postmillennial optimism about human nature and about humanity’s gradual ushering in of God’s millennial kingdom of peace and prosperity. Most Evangelicals returned to premillennialism. True, this premillennialism was repackaged and distorted, falling into the unbiblical teaching of dispensationalism. Nevertheless, the mere fact that Evangelicals returned to premillennialism indicates that ammillennialism and postmillennialism are not only unbiblical but an inadequate and disappointing exegesis of end-time events. Biblical premillennialism is the only foundation for hope. It teaches that while humanity cannot save itself or the world, Jesus will come again in the most difficult time of history. Before the millennium, He will save us from the final attacks of the devil and his armies and will lead the great controversy toward its end.

Part III: Life Application

  1. How does the second coming of Jesus Christ bring hope to your religious and/or cultural context? How can you explain to your neighbors that the return of Jesus is humanity’s only hope?
  2. How relevant is the fulfillment of the biblical time prophecies (such as 2,300 years) in your religious or cultural context? Think and propose ways in which you could make it relevant to the people of your community.
  3. William Miller developed a specific way of reading and understanding the Bible. What is your model of reading and interpreting the Scriptures? Develop and share with your Sabbath School class your own meaningful way of understanding God’s Word. Share how Bible truth has transformed not only your own life but also the life of your family and of your community.