I live in village with some 20.000 inhabitants. A very sizeable percentage of the people who attend church go to churches of the more conservative Reformed type. We are not part of the Bible Belt of the Veluwe (an area in the center of the country), but we are on its edge and feel its influence. For many, Sunday keeping is still quite important and the local administrators must be careful as to what they allow to happen on the Sunday. But, as in most parts of the Netherlands, more and more people want to go shopping on Sundays. So far Sunday shopping is very strictly restricted in our village, but just last week I received a questionnaire from the local administration about the possibility of extended Sunday shopping. Things are changing, also where I live.
When I see what has been happening over recent decades with regard to the Sunday as a day of rest in the Netherlands (as well as in other European countries) it is hard to imagine that there will come a moment when Sunday keeping will be strictly enforced by the authorities, and when those who refuse to comply will be persecuted! However, the idea that enforced Sunday worship, with the corollary of a prohibition of Sabbath keeping, is still very much alive among many Seventh-day Adventists. Just a few days ago I saw messages on Facebook announcing that Donald Trump has signed an order telling the American public that, in his efforts to make America great again, he has decided that all American must worship on Sunday and failure to do so will mean getting arrested and doing ten years of hard labor. Well, especially when the name of President Trump is attached to something, we expect to see ‘fake news.’ Nonetheless, reality is that some people are so exercised about this topic that they find it necessary to produce such nonsense. And if you wonder whether the topic of Sunday laws is still on many Adventist minds, just spend some minutes googling!
During last week’s Annual Council in Silver Spring all executive committee members of the General Conference received a copy of a compilation of Ellen. G. White statements entitled Last Day Events. One of the longest chapters in this book is about Sunday Laws!
Ellen White wrote against the background of the final decades of nineteenth century America in which there were strong voices advocating strict Sunday Laws. Some laws were actually passed at the state level, resulting in arrests and fines for Sabbath keepers. And today, admittedly, there are still individuals and organizations promoting laws that would make Sunday worship obligatory. But these are of relatively little importance.
As a result there is at present a large gap between the traditional Adventist interpretations of some parts of biblical prophecy and reality. It is simply no longer a credible idea that in the future Sunday worship will be enforced by the state worldwide, bringing persecution to those who keep the Sabbath. And this is not something to simply ignore. When there is a major dissonance between reality and some prophetic interpretions, it causes many to lose interest and confidence in the entire area of biblical prophecy.
Adventists have plenty of important things to say about the benefits of keeping the biblical day of rest in a meaningful way. It is an important and an attractive message in an age in which most people find it ever more difficult to create periods of ‘rest’ in their busy lives. Let us do what we can to convince others of the blessings of Sabbath keeping, without burdening them with theories that seem ever more incredible.