How Close Are We to the End? Part II
By Edwin de Kock
This question also makes us wonder whether we, as individuals and a denomination, are ready to meet the Lord Jesus at his Second Coming or the terrible persecution that will precede it. Many Seventh-day Adventists, especially in North America and Western Europe, believe that we are not, though elsewhere the Three Angels’ Messages are being preached with considerable success, especially in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Asia.
About this, Fox News Latino on 30 June 2016 reported under a dramatic headline,
“Seventh-Day Adventist Church baptizes more than 4,000 in mass ceremony.” It begins by focusing on the largely Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Latin America: Seventh-Day Adventists in southern Peru, working with the world church’s “Total Member Involvement” program, successfully baptized 4,210 people there on Saturday. The baptisms took place on the Sabbath, as it’s recognized by the church, at an end of the campaign called “Mil Veces Más,” or “A Thousand Times More.” The campaign’s name was based on Deuteronomy 1:11, which reads: “May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are, and bless you as He has promised you.” The baptisms were the result of a campaign encouraging church members to give Bible
study classes in their communities and to preach at 2,905 sites in 20 cities across the region between June 18 and 25. The Adventists have about 200,000 members worshiping in nearly 3,000 congregations across Peru, according to the latest figures from the Adventist world church’s Office of Archives, Statistics and Research. This report was probably based on a denominational press release. It continued by pointing out that nowadays Seventh-day Adventists constitute the largest Protestant church in Peru, with its 30 million inhabitants, although since the sixteenth century Roman Catholicism has been its predominant religion, Fox News Latino also stated: “The recent mass baptism follows others across the globe. In May, 100,000 people were baptized in Rwanda; in Venezuela in April, 4,012 people were baptized; and, in February, the Philippines saw 10,000 baptisms.” Our Third-World Seventh-day Adventists must certainly be applauded for their diligence by carrying out the Great Commission of Matt. 28:19, 20 and congratulated on such bountiful harvests. We hope, however, that all these converts will be well grounded in what we believe. Sometimes we are faced with the danger of unrooted shallowness. We especially hope so for the 100,000 new believers of Rwanda. In that country, our denomination has for many decades been very popular. But in 1994 this did not prevent a terrible genocide, when nominal Seventh-day Adventists helped to exterminate Tutsi fellow-believers.
Prophetic Snapshots of the End-time Church
In the Apocalypse, the pen of inspiration represents the final Church through three
symbols: (1) lukewarm Laodicea (Rev. 3:14–22), (2) three angels flying in the midst of heaven (Rev. 14:5–12), and (3) a fourth angel that comes down from heaven and with a blaze of glory lightens the whole earth (Rev. 18:1–4).
1. The Laodicean Message
This contains a very strong rebuke. Seventh-day Adventists acknowledge and candidly apply this criticism to themselves. At the same time, however, they point out that this message ends on a hopeful redemptive note. It is also complex with several layers or meaning, which we need to explore. First, historically there really was in the time of John, who wrote the Revelation, a congregation at the town of Laodicea. It was one of the seven churches in Asia Minor, and it did contain parishioners who were religiously apathetic; otherwise Inspiration would not have been so cruel as to use their name in such a way. Second, Laodicea symbolized the Church at the end of time. Third, like all seven messages, it had a personal dimension: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (verse 22). In other words, if the shoe fits, put it on, the implication being that not every person or even congregation of Laodicea is lukewarm. The message is delivered by our Lord himself, who describes himself as the faithful and true witness, who never lies. Some of his words are dreadful: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:15, 16, New King James Version, 1979). The older Authorized/King James of 1611 is more polite. It says: “I will spit thee out of my mouth” (emphasis supplied). But which is the better translation? According to the Greek text, both versions are partly right. Vomit (NKJV) is correct, and so is the singular pronoun thee (KJV). But each version also misses something: the urgency, the immediacy of his threat. Jesus warns that he is on the point of vomiting out the person to whom he is speaking. Here is the original: “μελλω σε ἐμεσαι ἐκ του στοματος μου” (mellō se emesai ek tou stomatos mou), “I am about to vomit you out of my mouth!” Emesai has a familiar English derivative, the word emetic, which is a substance that induces vomiting. With whom is our Redeemer so disgusted? It is not necessarily the whole Laodicean congregation. He uses the singular word σε. In the French, Italian, or Spanish tu as well as the German du this is singular. He addresses its presiding ἀγγελος (angelos), which in this case means messenger. This apparently refers to whoever leads or is in charge of the Church. Fortunately the Lord does not immediately carry out his threat. Fighting back his gorge, he adds his analysis. He warns that the angelos is complacent but deluding himself, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (KJV, verse 17). Reluctant to carry out his threat, he pleads with the angelos: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich, and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed, and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (NKJV, verses 18, 19). The white garment, the gold, and eye salve are apparently symbols of Christ’s righteousness, love, and the Holy Spirit, all desperately needed by every believer. The message ends with a precious picture of the Saviour who stands at the heart’s door and knocks, awaiting an invitation to enter. As an inducement, he makes promises that go 3 beyond what he has said to any of the other congregations: “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (NKJV, verses 20, 21).
Current Conditions in Laodicea
An accurate status report on how well or badly we are doing at present is complicated by a question that few of us usually ask as to what the Seventh-day Adventist Church is. One answer is that it is the organization, namely our system of conferences, union conferences, and General Conference, together with all the institutions subordinated to or more or less controlled by it. This setup is at its various levels managed by a hierarchy of administrators whom their constituencies elect in a quasi-democratic way. Another answer is that the Church is essentially its members, human beings who worship together in congregations. Let us first look at the organization, our denominational mechanism. By and large, it functions reasonably well at different levels. It regulates the appointment of ministers to individual churches. It ordains them, pays their salaries, and through them superintends the activities in their congregations, including evangelism. The organization also keeps a watchful eye on our institutions, like its TV station, our schools and universities, hospitals, publishing houses, etc. Beyond that, it looks at what is going on in the religious and political world of non-Seventh-day Adventists. It seeks to live at peace with people of other denominations. Indeed, it has growing ecumenical tendencies. Theologically it generally fears deviant ideas but is not always very scrupulous about rooting them out. One of its great problems in recent years has been the thorny and much-debated issue of women’s ordination. At the General Conference session in San Antonio in 2015, a majority
of the delegates—especially from Third-World countries—voted against it. But the
leadership retained the principle of commissioning women pastors. It has also for many years maintained that they could be ordained as elders. This, however, has never been approved by a General Conference in session, only by annual councils.
The aftermath has demonstrated that about this issue Seventh-day Adventists remain perhaps even more divided than they were before San Antonio. Some conferences in the United States are nevertheless ordaining women ministers. The larger Berlin Conference in Germany as well as the Union Conference of the Netherlands is doing the same. Over in China, the Seventh-day Adventist church is largely led by women who are ordained and continue ordaining others, including men. But in Denmark and Norway, the leadership has discontinued ordination altogether, for men as well as women. In South Africa, female ministers are commissioned through the laying on of hands, that is, through ordination! At the same time, theistic evolution and emergent Christianity are also invading our ranks. So, too, are onslaughts on our time-tested Historicist interpretation of prophecy. Particularly bad is the tolerance by the organization of a widespread liberal, so-called progressive Adventism that is antagonistic toward the Third Angel’s Message. Nor are other unbiblical tendencies, like homosexuality, condemned. No high-level functionaries of the Organization have taken a strong, effective stand against these blights upon our Church. Then there was a scheme to publish and disseminate in huge quantities The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan by Ellen G. White. For this purpose, church members sacrificially donated hundreds of thousands of dollars. When it appeared, however, they stood aghast at the result. It was a cut-and-paste job, very greatly abbreviated, leaving out 4 entire chapters that indict the papacy as the Antichrist. The title of this miserable booklet was The Great Hope, which its critics promptly called The Great Hoax. A good idea had been botched and turned into a fiasco. To cap it off, when Pope Francis visited our land of liberty and the United Nations in 2015, wooing the world into cooperation with the Catholic Church, no senior office bearer at General Conference level made much of it. Nothing was said to suggest that this was the Roman Antichrist. It is true that some self-supporting ministers spoke up forcefully, but they do not represent the organization. One of these was Pastor Stephen P. Bohr. He has continued to raise the alarm. In the second quarter of 2016, his Secrets Unsealed contained “Reflections on Pope Francis, the U.N., and the 2030 Agenda.” The article takes a close look at the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home, which the pontiff issued on 24 May 2015, just four months before his September visit to America. It is on this that Francis based his ecological agenda for our planet. One notable item is a clear call to observe Sunday, the so-called Lord’s Day, though curiously he bases it on the Lord’s instructions about the real Sabbath. Here are three excerpts:
“68. Rest on the seventh day is meant not only for human beings, but also so ‘that your ox and your donkey may rest’ (Ex. 23:12).” “71. On the seventh day, God rested from all his work. He commanded Israel to set aside each seventh day as a day of rest, a Sabbath, (cf. Gen 2:2-3; Ex 16 23; 20:10). Similarly, every seven years, a sabbatical year was set aside for Israel, a complete rest for the land (cf. Lev 25:1–4) . . . Finally, after seven weeks of years, which is to say forty-nine years, the Jubilee was celebrated as a year of general forgiveness and ‘liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants’ (cf. Lev 25:10). This law came about as an attempt to ensure balance and fairness in their relationships with others and with the land on which they lived and worked. . . .” “237. On Sunday, our participation in the Eucharist has special importance. Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day which heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world. Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, the ‘first day’ of the new creation, whose first fruits are the Lord’s risen humanity, the pledge of the final transfiguration of all created reality. . . . The law of weekly rest forbade work on the seventh day, ‘so that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your maidservant, and the stranger, may be refreshed’ (Ex 23:12).” No high functionaries in the organization protested, apparently unconcerned by what the pope was trying to implement. He obviously wanted to persuade America as well as the United Nations to adopt an ecological program including mandatory Sunday observance. About this and the other issues mentioned above, the organization is in total disarray. Such things are also serious distractions from preaching the everlasting Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Together with deviant scholars employed by the organization,
these leaders have, in the words of the ancient prophet, become dumb dogs that do not bark (Isa. 56:10, 11). Why do we keep watchdogs? To bark, of course, and warn against intruders, drive them away, and, if necessary, bite them. And our responsibility is not limited to what is going on within the ranks of Seventh-day Adventists. It includes the entire world, which we need to win for our coming King. Specifically we also have to warn other Protestant churches that are now yielding to the enticements of Roman Catholicism. Yesterday, 17 August 2016, as I was revising sections of 5 this essay, I suddenly found the following shocking report on the Internet, where The Huffington Post had placed it:
U.S. Lutherans Approve Historic Agreement With Catholic Church
Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service
Nearly 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. has approved a declaration recognizing “there are no longer church-dividing issues” on many points with the Roman Catholic Church. The “Declaration on the Way” was approved 931–9 by the 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly held last week at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.” According to Wikipedia and other sources, the ELCA, which has about four million members, came into existence in 1988 by merging three denominations: The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and the Lutheran Church in America. Apart from belonging to the World Council of Churches as well as the Lutheran World Federation, “the ELCA is in full communion with the Episcopal Church, Moravian Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church.” The circumstances and deliberations that led to this merger lie further back than 1988. We need not detail them here but will leave the matter to interested readers who can research it for themselves. Our main point it that as a Seventh-day Adventist Church we have, about this, too, been dumb dogs that did not bark. But, to the extent that our witness could have hindered this terrible drift toward Rome, we are also responsible. Let us in this regard consider the dictum of that famous British parliamentarian and writer, Edmund Burke (1729–1797). He it was who warned in vain that using force against the American colonists would have bad consequences. As a thinker he was often profound. He said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Can the Lord Jesus, the Faithful and True Witness, be pleased with such a state of affairs? Lukewarmness and indifference to what is going on beyond our ranks? We think not. Reread his letter to the angelos and “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Surely the devil is very happy, for he and his agents are stealing a huge march on us. Can we do nothing about such a deplorable state of affairs? Of course we can. We must earnestly pray for a change. There are also things that we can strive for. Let us intelligently work towards reforming the organization by abolishing resurgent kingly power in the conduct of our affairs. Further, we must insist on eliminating from our institutions scholars who promote liberal, so-called progressive Adventism.
Our electoral system is described in our Church Manual. It stipulates governance from the bottom up, beginning with the local congregation. In practice, however, this is not how things work. We have, instead, a hierarchy, which seeks to rule in the opposite direction: downward from the top, with the Executive of the General Conference at the apex.
How is this possible? According to the Church Manual, our instrument must be the
nominating committee. But this system is subject to defects, of which three are so serious that they pervert and sometimes nullify the purpose for which it was created. First, the nominating committee is mostly chaired by a functionary representing the next higher level of ecclesiastical governance. For instance, in the local congregation the chairman is usually the minister, who is an employee of the conference that pays his salary. In the deliberations of the nominating committee, he exerts an influence from above. This unduly empowers the conference over the local congregations, though it supposedly serves their needs and is funded by tithes and offerings from their members. At conference constituency meetings, again, the nominating committee is usually chaired by the president of the union or the union conference, whose interests he represents and is apt to promote. Second, for offices
such as that of the conference president only one candidate is chosen. This favors incumbents. Third, the congregation or constituency is largely a rubber stamp, for it cannot choose between alternative candidates. This makes the misnamed “nominating” committee a de facto appointments committee. Despite the good intentions embodied in the Church Manual, our elections are deficient, undemocratic. We are saddled with a hierarchy. How can these defects be eliminated? Through electoral reform, specifically through three procedural modifications. First, the congregation or constituency must itself appoint the chairperson of its nominating committee, deliberately excluding functionaries from above. For instance, at the congregational level, the chairperson must not be the minister but a clear-headed, senior church member. Second, where it is practically possible, at least two candidates should be nominated as office bearers, who at conference level need not even be denominational employees—though they should obviously be Seventh-day Adventists in good and regular standing. Third, the congregation or constituency must vote fairly and without manipulation to make a meaningful choice. At times, when more than two candidates are nominated for the
same office this would entail voting more than once. In this way, governance can be exercised in a non-hierarchical manner from the bottom up instead of from the top down. Office bearers who receive salaries need at all times to remember that they are employees of the local congregation, which is the only level at which the Church exists in a real and concrete sense. Does this mean that organization (with small letters) is unimportant? Not at all. For many functions it is essential. But it is only a means to an end.
Academics “Qualified” at the Wrong Institutions
The main source of liberal, so-called progressive and other deviant ideas in our midst is non-Adventist universities. That is where far too many of our people study under Protestant and sometimes even Catholic professors who reject our doctrines. After acquiring doctorates there, they are appointed to teach in our colleges and universities. This reminds us of the warning to the church at Thyatira. Despite its general steadfastness against medieval persecution, the Lord Jesus said to its angelos: “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants” (Rev. 2:19, 20, NKJV). Too many Seventh-day Adventists who have been perverted at those universities are appointed to teach at our own institutions, where they infect the minds of ministerial students.
What can be done about this problem? Three things. First, such teachers should, before their appointment, be vetted very carefully to ensure that they do not cherish theological or prophetic ideas that our godly pioneers in the nineteenth century would have rejected. Second, if—despite such vetting—a professor, lecturer, or scholar teaches things that clash with Seventh-day Adventism, the services of such a person should be terminated. It will be argued that this clashes with the principle of academic freedom. Formally, that is true. But deviant teachers should go and practice their Babylonian academic freedom elsewhere. Third, our denomination must turn away from accreditation with non-Seventh-day Adventist
bodies. But what would this do to the reputation of our own educational institutions? Let that be the Lord’s concern. Also consider the example of Harvard, America’s most prestigious university. It has never sought accreditation. Why? Because it can say: “We are Harvard! We are good and know that we are good. We have no need of anyone else to tell us that we are good.” But would it not be rash for us to pursue a similar course? We think not. In all matters of theology and prophetic interpretation, the Remnant Church should be the head and not the tail.
From time to time, some Seventh-day Adventists have raised suspicions that our
denomination has, especially at our colleges, been infiltrated by Jesuits. This is only too probable because Ignatius de Loyola created this teaching order to uphold and protect the papacy. There are, however, also other harmful forms of infiltration, especially of ideas transmitted by academics and writers, a process touched on in the previous section. But even more deadly is the direct involvement of demons, which the servant of the Lord described in the early twentieth century. She wrote: “Satan will use every opportunity to seduce men from their allegiance to God. He and the angels who fell with him will appear on the earth as men, seeking to deceive.” Fortunately, “God’s angels also will appear as men, and will use every means in their power to defeat the purposes of the enemy” (8MR 399; 1903). Specifically, “Evil angels in the form of men will talk with those who know the truth. They will misinterpret and misconstrue the statements of the messengers of God” (3SM 411; 1903). But how and where? “Evil angels in the form of believers will work in our ranks to bring in a strong spirit of unbelief. Let not even this discourage you, but bring a true heart to the help of the Lord against the powers of satanic agencies. These powers of evil will assemble in our meetings, not to receive a blessing, but to counterwork the influences of the Spirit of God” (2MCP 504, 505; 1909). Dear reader, have you ever—without realizing it—been spoken to and discouraged by a devil who pretended to be a good member of your church? One of the areas that Satan specializes in is false prophetic interpretation, with which he seeks to undermine the Three Angels’ Messages. And here his favorite instruments are wicked Seventh-day Adventists in key positions. Already, during our present Laodicean lukewarmness, he is enjoying considerable success. Before the end this will get even worse.
“The Hellish Torch of False Prophecy”
Look at what the servant of the Lord predicted more than a century ago: “Finally, as the apostasy deepens, those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands and to worldly customs come to view matters in the same light as the nominal churches and with the hellish torch of false prophecy, teachers and leaders urge the slumbering church to go along with the apostasy” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 409, 410). For instance, both at the Biblical Research Institute and some of our universities wellknown scholars have asserted that the 666 in Rev. 13:17, 18 has nothing to do with the papacy. According to them, it does not refer to vicarius Filii Dei but to human imperfection and depravity, which we as Seventh-day Adventists share with everybody else. This undermines the Third Angel’s Message, as shown in The Truth About 666 and the Story of the Great Apostasy (2011, 2013). “The hellish torch of false prophecy”—What a strong and terrible expression to indicate the displeasure of the Lord! But he knows that undermining prophetic Historicism, which undergirds the Three Angels’ Messages, threatens the entire structure of our Church. And look at this further prediction: Unsanctified ministers are arraying themselves against God. They are praising Christ and the god of this world in the same breath. While professedly they receive Christ, they embrace Barabbas, and by their actions say, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Let all who read these lines, take heed. Satan has made his boast of what he can do. He thinks to dissolve the unity which Christ prayed might exist in His church. He says, “I will go forth and be a lying spirit to deceive those that I can, to criticize, and condemn, and falsify.” Let the son of deceit and false witness be entertained by a church that has had great light, great evidence, and that church will discard the message the Lord has sent, and receive the most unreasonable assertions and false suppositions and false theories. Satan laughs at their folly, for he knows what truth is. Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan. If doubts and unbelief are cherished, the faithful ministers will be removed from the people who think they know so much. “If thou hadst known,” said Christ, “even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” “False prophecy . . . kindled from the hellish torch of Satan”! But thank the Lord that this state of affairs will not endure. She went on to say: Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure. The Lord knoweth them that are His. The sanctified minister must have no guile in his mouth. He must be open as the day, free from every taint of evil. A sanctified ministry and press will be a power in flashing the light of truth on this untoward generation. Light, brethren, more light we need. Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm in the holy mountain. Gather the host of the Lord, with sanctified hearts, to hear what the Lord will say unto His people; for He has increased light for all who will hear. Let them be armed and equipped, and come up to the battle—to the help of the Lord against the mighty. God Himself will work for Israel. Every lying tongue will be silenced. Angels’ hands will overthrow the deceptive schemes that are being formed. The bulwarks of Satan will never triumph. Victory will attend the third angel’s message. As the Captain of the Lord’s host tore down the walls of Jericho, 9 so will the Lord’s commandment-keeping people triumph, and all opposing elements be defeated. Let no soul complain of the servants of God who have come to them with a heaven-sent message. Do not any longer pick flaws in them, saying, “They are too
positive; they talk too strongly.” They may talk strongly; but is it not needed? God will make the ears of the hearers tingle if they will not heed His voice or His message. He will denounce those who resist the word of God. (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 410, 411) In his good time, the Lord will sweep away the refuge of lies.
Who and What is the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
We have seen what it is not. It is not the organization, though it is organized. It consists of individual Seventh-day Adventists who believe the same biblical doctrines and worship together. Concretely the Church exists only at the congregational level. The men and women who constitute the organization, sitting in offices from which they periodically go forth to travel around their constituencies, are not the Church. They are its employees. To a large extent, they are ecclesiastical bureaucrats, who think up plans for the congregations. Some, though not all, of these are useful. Only individual church members can be saved or lost. Each one also has a personal responsibility to further God’s kingdom, through the witness of their lives and by helping to prepare a people for Jesus, who wants to come as soon as possible. But how is the Church, in contrast with the organization, doing? As testified by both their walk and talk, some congregations and their members are living vibrant lives for our Lord, who has little if any fault to find with them. But others are not; they are secular, serve Mammon, are inclined at times to overlook immorality in their midst, careless of their dress and deportment, and often addicted to music which the holy beings from heaven who visit our services cannot approve. Sharing the spiritual lukewarmness that characterizes the Laodicean angelos, they also cause the gorge of the Faithful and True Witness to rise and are in a perilous state. Unless they repent, he will vomit them out—although, for now, he still pleads with them to repent and to open to him the door of their heart. Anyhow, our Laodicean state does not, at least for now, look good in relation to the question: How Close Are We to the End?
2. The Three Angels’ Messages
A second set of prophetic symbols in the Apocalypse that depicts the Church is three angels flying in the sky. Through their visible presence and loud voices, they proclaim their end-time messages. The Forward to Zion lecture series describes and analyzes them in six and a half pages under “Three Angels Flying in the Midst of Heaven.” Readers would find it fruitful to read the whole article on the Web site <propheticum.com>, so that it is unnecessary to repeat that material here. We have fierce opponents from outside our Church, both Protestants and Catholics, against our teachings about the Three Angels’ Messages. Sundaykeepers loathe our insistence on observing the seventh-day Sabbath and deride our Sanctuary doctrine. This is only to be expected. Unfortunately, some people within the denomination, including Seventh-day Adventist ministers and scholars, have been influenced by them. 10 And not a few of our own people have a Simon Peter complex. That apostle wanted to be well thought of by everybody. This made him a coward, so that on the night when Jesus was taken captive, he denied his Lord. Some modern Simon Peters are ecumenically minded. They seem to prefer Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People to warning the world against the mark of the Beast. Regarding the Second Angel’s Message, the situation of the Millerites was very different from that of their successors, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which went on to become a separate denomination. Besides, we need to admit that nowadays we do not hear much about the fall of Babylon. On the contrary, a strangely different ecumenical voice has been raised in our midst. It is rather cautious about other Protestant churches, seeking to find common ground with them. Like them, too, we fail to speak up against Catholicism and perhaps even admire its charming Jesuit pope. What did the Millerites say about the Third Angel’s Message? They did not proclaim it. After all, they were not Sabbathkeepers. They did not fully “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Also, the prospect of a national Sunday law still lay in everybody’s future, and the loud voice of the third angel was not to be a Millerite voice. Others would after them be calling out: “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation” (Rev. 14:9, 10). But is it not terrible and downright unchristian to threaten hellfire for those who keep Sunday? Yes, but the idea is not simply the observance of that day, or the present-day situation. It largely concerns a future context, when America, together with countries under its influence, will legislate to impose it and also severely punish Sabbathkeepers, even to the extent of prescribing for them a death penalty (Rev. 13:16). Note the words, “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of his indignation” (Rev. 14:9, 10). This is the Lord’s reaction to human wickedness, which not only tramples on his Law but also persecutes his children who observe it. At that time, the voice of the third angel will swell to a warning loud enough to be heard to the ends of the earth. But for the time being we are not ready to face the final events of this planet’s history: a national Sunday law, with intense persecution, the seven last plagues, or the Second Coming. Meanwhile, let us consider to what extent and how effectively our Church is at present proclaiming those messages. Under “Current Conditions in Laodicea,” we have already presented our views about the organization. We think that in this respect it is not doing well at all, especially with regard to the third angel. We have also, however, pointed out that the Church is much more than the organization. So, how well are our congregations doing? Nowadays a surprising thing happens at some, though fortunately not too many, of them. Those who visit them are warned, perhaps by a misguided pastor, not to preach about the
Three Angels’ Messages. This is astounding. Such a minister is an unfaithful angelos. He is likely to have been influenced by Seventh-day Adventist scholars perverted by studying at the schools of Babylon, who lecture, write books, or teach at our universities and camp meetings. Liberal, so-called progressive, Adventism has become dominant in some parts of the world, particularly Europe, where the Reformation originated, which is very sad and 11 disgraceful. A notable feature of this trend is a large-scale skepticism about, even animosity toward, the writings of Ellen G. White, which she said would characterize the last days. According to Wikipedia, these liberals reject the traditional Seventh-day Adventist claim that we are the Remnant Church of prophecy. They prefer to “widen the concept to include
Christians in non-Adventist churches.” It is true that the Lord still has many Protestant and Catholic children in other denominations. One day, he will call them out of wherever they are. In the meantime, however, the following Scripture is not true of their churches: “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17). The Lord also has many Muslim and Buddhist children who have not yet come to a full knowledge of the truth, for Jesus died for them as well. One day, he also will call them out of the religions to which they now belong.
Many Are Still Faithful
At present, as the Lord once pointed out to a discouraged Elijah: “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18). Very many of our ministers are godly men and women, who have not deviated from the path of truth. Furthermore, there is a multitude of Seventh-day Adventists, not appointed or employed by the organization, who faithfully proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages with power and in a most exemplary way. On radio and television, through their literature, and as missionaries they labor fruitfully for the Lord in every part of the world to prepare a people for his Second
Coming. We have dealt with them in a chronicle written a few years ago, entitled “Self-Supporting Ministries,” which appears on our Web site <www.propheticum.com> under Articles, Letters, etc. It begins as follows: “A mighty agency for finishing God’s work on earth is a constellation of bodies created and financed by ordinary Seventh-day Adventists. Addressing different needs of the Remnant Church, they augment it in carrying out its mission and are sometimes known as selfsupporting ministries. One estimate puts their number at about 800. They often represent group activities. In many cases, however, single families or individuals also labor for the Lord so spectacularly that they really belong to the same category. There are, therefore, perhaps a few thousand self-supporting ministries.” Perhaps seven thousand? The article goes on to say that some of them “have been in existence for decades and have evolved over years.” It focuses on eighteen of them over the preceding thirty-five years.
When time permits, that piece should be updated, especially by adding details from countries outside North America. Although evil forces in our midst are seeking to hinder the progress of the three angels and especially to clip the wings of the third one, they cannot be completely hindered, for theirs is a divine commission. Unfortunately, however, for the time being, they are not doing as well as could have been the case, and they are not fully heard. In fact, as became evident when Ben Carson was seeking the presidential nomination of the Republican Party, astonishingly many Americans knew nothing about Seventh-day Adventists. As predicted by the servant of the Lord, this is destined to change dramatically when the United States will make a national Sunday law to advance the interests of the papacy. The persecution unleashed by that event will shake out from our midst all false teachers, together with many fainthearted church members who compromise with the world. Only those will be 12 able to stand who maintain a very close relation with the Saviour and have strengthened their minds with the Word of God.
3. The Fourth Angel
The Apocalypse also contains a third prophetic snapshot of the end-time Church: yet another angel, who suddenly descends from heaven, “having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory” (Rev. 18:1). Everything symbolized by this splendid being lies in the future, when the Holy Spirit as the latter rain is poured out copiously on the Lord’s Remnant. It is also a time of Sunday laws, in America and throughout the world, when Sabbathkeepers will suffer intense persecution, but before a universal death decree is issued against them. In 1844 and for some time after that, the fall of Protestant churches which kept on rejecting the First and the Three Angels’ messages was not yet complete. Afterwards, however, Romanism became increasingly acceptable and even alluring. So did higher critical thought and a more comprehensive, liberal ecumenism, together with doctrines that the Bible condemns, like an acceptance of homosexual relationships as well as same-sex marriage. “Thus the substance of the second angel’s message is again given to the world by that other angel [Revelation 18:1–4] who lightens the earth with his glory. These messages all blend in one, to come before the people in the closing days of this earth’s history.” Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 2, 116. 4) But the Fourth Angel’s message is a much-augmented version and paints a more dismal picture. During 1844, it was “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Rev. 14:8), a mere seventeen words in the Greek original. But after more than a century of further apostasy by the churches symbolized by that name, the prophet now depicts them in startling terms: Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
(Rev. 18:2, English Standard Version [ESV], 2011).
It is fruitful to look at these words in relation to the original. It is a rather good translation of the 2012 Nestle Alant New Testament text in Greek, 28th revised edition. The English Standard Version is itself a revision of the 1971 Revised Standard Version, seeking to be as literal as possible and remain readable. Especially interesting is the threefold repetition of the word unclean. In the Greek, it is ἀκαθαρτου (akathartou), “of unclean.” Exactly the same word is used in Revelation 16, under the seventh last plague. There we read, also in the ESV: “And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty” (Rev. 16:13, 14, emphasis added). There, too, the word is ἀκαθαρτα (akatharta), “unclean,” ending in the plural α (a), to show that it is the object of this sentence. 13 We think the “unclean spirit, unclean bird,” and “unclean beast” inhabiting Babylon are those same spiritualistic entities. In The Great Controversy, the Lord’s servant predicted:
“The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience” (GC, “The Impending Conflict,” 588). In this context, end-time Babylon symbolically lumps together the Church of Rome and Protestant churches. She is the mother; they are the daughters. How can we say that? Because
the Bible provides the following identification: “Upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” and “The woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:5, 18). The Fourth Angel comes down from heaven, “having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory” (Rev. 18:1). The Authorized/King James Version is, on the whole, an excellent translation. Here, however, the phrase having great power does not adequately measure up to the original: ἐχοντα ἐξουσιαν μεγαλην (echonta eksousian megalēn). It means “having great authority” (emphasis added) and megalēn, “great” is placed after “eksousian,” which emphasizes it. This is an extremely interesting expression, for two of those words are also found at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, which many regard as our Lord’s greatest discourse. There we read: “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28, 29, emphasis added). Here the Greek has ἐξουσιαν ἐχων (eksousian echōn) instead of ἐχοντα ἐξουσιαν (echonta eksousian). Because that ancient language was more highly inflected than English, it had a much freer word order and could indicate emphasis and grammatical interrelationships very precisely. Basically, though, eksousian echōn and echonta eksousian mean the same thing. Let us compare the two Scriptures. In Matthew we
read that Jesus had authority. The angel of Rev. 18 had great authority. Exactly this same expression in Greek occurs where John describes the Antichristian Beast with its seven heads and ten horns. He saw it coming up out of the sea, “and the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2, emphasis added). This is the papacy, empowered—alas—by Satan himself, although it has always claimed to be the representative of Christ, the Son of God. According to Revelation 18, however, the Lord will raise up against him a great and outspoken antagonist, that other angel, not coming up from the depths of the Great Sea but down from heaven itself. It will also, for the final conflict, be empowered with eksousia megalē. But where and from whom did the angel obtain such authority? Obviously in heaven, from where he came down. In Rev. 18:3, we also read about Babylon’s relation to the kings and merchants of the earth, a theme which we do not here find necessary to pursue. Let us focus instead on verse 4. After the denunciation of the fourth angel, we read: “I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (emphasis added). Whose voice is this? It belongs to the Lord himself, most probably Jesus. It is he who speaks and endows this angel with great authority. And whom is he addressing? Not Sabbathkeeping Seventh-day Adventists, who constitute the Remnant of the woman’s seed, 14 “which keeps the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17). He is speaking to his many faithful followers of all denominations, including his Roman Catholic children, who are still to be found in Babylon. Their knowledge of his requirements may be defective, but they love and serve him. They are his. But the Fourth Angel’s fearsome denunciation of a Babylon stirs them mightily. They naturally wonder whether their churches cannot be reformed. But for this it is, alas, too late. And then they hear the Lord’s voice, which urgently tells them: “Come out of her, my people!” When the fourth angel speaks, the Holy Spirit will be poured out as the latter rain upon the Remnant Church. This will be a second Pentecost. Here is a part of what Ellen G. White has predicted about that time: The great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God
than marked its opening. The prophecies which were fulfilled in the outpouring of the former rain at the opening of the gospel are again to be fulfilled in the latter rain at its close. Here are “the times of refreshing” to which the apostle Peter looked forward when he said: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus.” Acts 3:19, 20. The work will be similar to that of the Day of Pentecost. (GC 611, 612) It is with an earnest longing that I look forward to the time when the events of the day of Pentecost shall be repeated with even greater power than on that occasion. John says, “I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.” Then, as at the Pentecostal season, the people will hear the truth spoken to them, every man in his own tongue. . . . Thousands of voices will be imbued with the power to speak forth the wonderful truths of God’s Word. The stammering tongue will be unloosed, and the timid will be made strong to bear courageous testimony to the truth. May the Lord help His people to cleanse the soul temple from every defilement, and to maintain such a close connection with Him that they may be partakers of the latter rain when it shall be poured out. (SDABC, EGW’s comments on Acts 2:1–4, vol. 6, 1055) This is to be a revival and reformation among Christians in any denomination, including Seventh-day Adventists, without parallel since the last apostles died some two thousand years ago. Though this is not the primary function of the latter rain, many amazing miracles, including divine healing, will be performed. In the paragraphs cited, one is especially fascinating: “Then, as at the Pentecostal season, the people will hear the truth spoken to them, every man in his own tongue” (emphasis added). Does this mean that the true gift of tongues, the supernatural endowment of speaking a foreign language, will again be manifested? That is surely what this sentence says. From other statements in the Spirit of Prophecy, we know, however, that this tremendous
revival will be preceded by a great though false revival in the Babylonian churches, stimulated by Satan himself, though that will be in vain.
The message of Revelation 18 is uncompromisingly anti-ecumenical. What is more, it is very confrontational. Surely this is not God’s way, how his work should be done. It is so 15 tactless, so . . . unspiritual. Not at all. There is a time for everything, including tact. But not when sincere believers are faced by blatant, stubborn, self-justifying apostasy that challenges the Lord of heaven. It is he who sends the third angel with its mighty warning against those that receive the mark of the Beast. Finally, in reinforcement, he commissions the Fourth Angel to speak plainly to the world about Babylon’s complete degradation. This is God’s message, not ours. He simply tells his people to come out her. Throughout the Bible, prophetic messages have been characterized by confrontation. This is, in fact, how the Most High, who is all wise, has often worked. The second chapter of Acts is a record of what happened on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was poured out, and Peter mightily addressed the polyglot crowd of Jews who, as a result, gathered to hear the apostles. What did he tell them? First he explained what was happening by quoting from the prophet Joel. Soon he turned their attention to Jesus and said he really was the One predicted in the Scriptures. He also told them about the Lord’s resurrection and directly accused them. In essence, he said: “You murdered the Messiah!” What was the reaction? Many no doubt kept quiet in anger. But not all, for “when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The answer was amazing. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” He also urged them: “Be saved from this perverse generation” (verse 40, NKVJ). On that day, three thousand of those Jews
accepted the Saviour (verse 41), which is how the Church began. And this is how it will happen again. At Second Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will be poured out even more mightily. The Fourth Angel will speak up, like the apostles, in denunciation of Babylon. One who is greater than Peter will also, in different but synonymous words, implore his dear ones to be saved from a perverse generation: “Come out of her, my people!” Martin Luther in 1517 and the years that followed launched a great Reformation by directly confronting the papal practices of his day. And he quoted this very verse from the Apocalypse. Next year will bring the 500th anniversary of that time. What will our attitude be in 2017? Some forms of confrontation are foolish and counterproductive. But when the time comes to do so, the Holy Spirit—through his human instruments—himself makes use of this very method.
This expression has from time to time been used by Seventh-day Adventists as in the past they have seen individuals leave our Church, because of this or that controversy. Mostly that has been inappropriate. The real shaking, like the Fourth Angel’s message and the latter rain, is still ahead. It will be unleashed by two events. The first will be the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the accompanying testimony of the True and Faithful Witness, which the naysayers will reject as fanaticism. The second is the persecution of Sabbathkeepers when national Sunday laws are made. Not only will they leave our ranks. They will join those who persistently reject the Three Angels’ Messages. But at the same time large numbers will, in response to the voice of God, depart from the denominations that constitute Babylon and join the Remnant Church. There will, so to speak, be a great interchange of personnel between those who serve the Lord and those who via the Lawless One submit to Satan’s domination. 16 About these events, please read the Spirit of Prophecy. Among other statements note the following: In vision I saw two armies in terrible conflict. One army was led by banners bearing the world’s insignia; the other was led by the bloodstained banner of Prince Immanuel.
Standard after standard was left to trail in the dust as company after company from the Lord’s army joined the foe and tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy united with the commandment-keeping people of God. An angel flying in the midst of heaven put the standard of Immanuel into many hands, while a mighty general cried out with a loud voice: “Come into line. Let those who are loyal to the commandments of God and the testimony of Christ now take their position. Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters. Let all who will come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 41).
God’s Helpers Will Include Unlearned, Even Illiterate Disciples
Those who receive Christ as a personal Saviour will stand the test and trial of these last days. Strengthened by unquestioning faith in Christ, even the illiterate disciple will be able to withstand the doubts and questions that infidelity can produce, and put to blush the sophistries of scorners. The Lord Jesus will give the disciples a tongue and wisdom that their adversaries can neither gainsay nor resist. Those who could not, by reasoning, overcome satanic delusions will bear an affirmative testimony that will baffle supposedly learned men. Words will come from the lips of the unlearned with such convincing power and wisdom that conversions will be made to the truth. Thousands will be converted under their testimony. (See 8MR 187, 188; 1904.)
As in Scandinavia, during the work of the first angel, “Children are impelled by the Spirit to go forth and declare the message from heaven. The Spirit is poured out upon all who will yield to its promptings and, casting off all man’s machinery, his binding rules and cautious methods, they will declare the truth with the might of the Spirit’s power” (Evangelism, 700, 1895).
A Large-Scale Conversion of Jews
Here is another remarkable and fascinating prophecy which still awaits fulfillment:
There is a mighty work to be done in our world. The Lord has declared that the Gentiles shall be gathered in, and not the Gentiles only, but the Jews. There are among the Jews many who will be converted, and through whom we shall see the salvation of God go forth as a lamp that burneth. There are Jews everywhere, and to them the light of present truth is to be brought. There are among them many who will come to the light, and who will proclaim the immutability of the law of God with wonderful power. The Lord God will work. He will do wonderful things in righteousness” (Evangelism, 578). 17 “Among the Jews are some who, like Saul of Tarsus, are mighty in the Scriptures, and these will proclaim with wonderful power the immutability of the law of God” (Gospel Workers, 399). “There will be many converted from among the Jews, and these converts will aid in preparing the way of the Lord, and making straight in the desert a highway for our God. Converted Jews are to have an important part to act in the great preparations to be made in the future to receive Christ, our Prince. A nation shall be born in a day. How? By men whom God has appointed being converted to the truth” (Evangelism, 579). How marvelous!
What About the Muslims?
Part I of this series points out that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all Abrahamic religions. They have more in common with one another than is commonly supposed. Among the Muslims are imams and other devout people whom God acknowledges as his own, for they serve him faithfully in accordance with their understanding—not only of the Quran but also the Old and New Testament Scriptures. When the fourth angel proclaims the depravity of Babylon and the Lord’s voice from heaven calls his people to leave her, large numbers of them will also join his Remnant.
Pagan Seekers After Truth
The light of the fourth angel will also shine into the minds of Hindus, Buddhists, and others, who will likewise accept the Gospel as it is in Christ Jesus, our coming King. In some, perhaps many cases, supernatural beings will be sent to assist them. So it happened when an ancient Roman centurion serving the Lord to the best of his knowledge needed further instruction (Acts 10). “As God worked for Cornelius, so He works for these true standard bearers. . . . They will obtain a knowledge of God as Cornelius did through the visitation of angels from heaven” (Letter 197, 1904). We also read: “When divine power is combined with human effort, the work will spread like fire in the stubble. God will employ agencies whose origin man will be unable to discern. Angels will do a work which men might have had the blessing of accomplishing had they not neglected to answer the claims of God.” (1SM 118; 1885)
But Satan Will Strike Back in Startling Ways Via Human and Demonic Conversions
We have already referred to this kind of infiltration. Not all who attend our evangelistic meetings seek to know the truth about the Three Angels’ Messages, but come into the Church with a very different purpose. Some of those who receive baptism at the hands of Seventhday Adventist Ministers may not even be human at all. Imagine baptizing a demon! But when the fourth angel bears its mighty witness, these devils will be driven out.
By Impersonating the Dead
“Spiritualism is the masterpiece of deception. It is Satan’s most successful and
fascinating delusion—one calculated to take hold of the sympathies of those who have laid 18 their loved ones in the grave. Evil angels come in the form of those loved ones, and relate incidents connected with their lives, and perform acts which they performed while living. In this way they lead persons to believe that their dead friends are angels, hovering over them and communicating with them” (The Signs of the Times, August 26, 1889). “Many will be confronted by the spirits of devils personating beloved relatives or friends, and declaring the most dangerous heresies. These visitants will appeal to our tenderest sympathies, and will work miracles to sustain their pretensions. We must be prepared to withstand them with the Bible truth that the dead know not anything, and that they who thus appear are the spirits of devils” (The Great Controversy, 560). “Communications from the spirits will declare that God has sent them to convince the rejecters of Sunday of their error, affirming that the laws of the land should be obeyed as the law of God. They will lament the great wickedness in the world, and second the testimony of religious teachers, that the degraded state of morals is caused by the desecration of Sunday. Great will be the indignation excited against all who refuse to accept their testimony” (ibid., 591).
Through Heathen Gods
But the Evil One covers all his bases. “As we near the close of time, there will be greater and still greater external parade of heathen power; heathen deities will manifest their signal power, and will exhibit themselves before the cities of the world; and this delineation has already begun to be fulfilled. By a variety of images the Lord Jesus represented to John the wicked character and seductive influence of those who have been distinguished for their persecution of God’s people. All need wisdom carefully to search out the mystery of iniquity that figures so largely in the winding up of this earth’s history.” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 117)
By Impersonating Jesus Christ
As the crowning act in the great drama of deception Satan himself will personate
Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation. Revelation 1:13–15. The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: “Christ has come! Christ has come!” The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him, while he lifts up his hands and pronounces a blessing upon them, as Christ blessed His disciples when He was upon the earth. His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody. In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion. Like the Samaritans who were deceived by Simon Magus, the multitudes, from the least to the greatest, give heed to these sorceries, saying: This is “the great power of God.” Acts 8:10. 19 But the people of God will not be misled. The teachings of this false christ are not in accordance with the Scriptures. His blessing is pronounced upon the worshipers of the beast and his image, the very class upon whom the Bible declares that God’s unmingled wrath shall be poured out.” And, furthermore, Satan is not permitted to counterfeit the manner of Christ’s advent. The Saviour has warned His people against deception upon this point, and has clearly foretold the manner of His second coming. “There shall arise false christs, and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. . . . Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert; go not forth: behold, He is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24:24–27, 31; 25:31; Revelation 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. With this coming there is no possibility of counterfeiting. It will be universally known—witnessed by the whole world. (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, 547, 548)
At this time, the Evil One causes his confederates to issue an international death decree against everybody who refuses to trample on the seventh-day Sabbath by substituting for it Sundaykeeping, the mark of papal authority. The Lord Jesus says that from the beginning the devil has been a liar and a murderer. In the end, he will also be a loser. His impersonation will fail. Instead of this so-called Second Coming, probation suddenly closes and the world is plunged into the seven last plagues.
How Close, Then, Are We to the End?
Let us now return to our primary question, which heads both Part I and Part II of this analysis. We answer by pointing out four things. First, we note that at several times according to the Spirit of Prophecy the Lord would already have returned, if certain conditions had been fulfilled. When I was a young Theology student at Helderberg College, South Africa, before graduating there in 1950, I copied this statement by Sister White into the front of my pocket Bible: “If the people of God had gone to work as they should have gone to work right after the Minneapolis meeting in 1888, the world could have been warned in two years and the Lord would have come” (General Conference Bulletin, 1892). These words have long haunted me and even now, from time to time, rise up in my mind. If Laodicea had not failed to properly carry out the Great Commission, including the message of righteousness by faith, the entire twentieth century with its wars and horrible genocides would not have existed. Nor, of course, would we. Second, as the apostle Peter pointed out, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Nevertheless, there are limits to how long the Second Coming can be postponed. Third, in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus told his disciples: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14). This is how it must be and how it will be. The world has not yet been fully evangelized. Millions of people still do not know anything about Jesus. On the other hand, 20 we have no clarity as to when this condition will, from God’s point of view, be completely fulfilled. Fourth, in talking about final events, the Saviour repeatedly uttered the following warning: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” and “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matt. 24:42, 44) One of the imponderable factors is that God will tolerate iniquity only up to a certain point. Through his servant, he has uttered a dire warning to us and to the world: “Transgression has almost reached its limit. Confusion fills the world, and a great terror is soon to come upon human beings. The end is very near. We who know the truth should be preparing for what is soon to break upon the world as an overwhelming surprise.” (Testimonies, vol. 8, 28) We cannot by mere human calculation establish exactly when the Lord will wind up the affairs of this world. Study the Word, study the Spirit of Prophecy, study the events unfolding around us. Let us be sensible and not be too easily shaken. Let us also not try to be too clever. Be ready at all times for the end of the world or the end of our earthly life. When the final curtain comes down, let it not be for us an overwhelming surprise. Also, we are not to await the future, even the voice of the Fourth Angel, passively. Let us rather, right now, in every way and wherever we can, Lift up the trumpet and loud let it ring:
Jesus is coming again!
Cheer up, ye pilgrims, be joyful and sing;
Jesus is coming again!
Coming again, coming again,
Jesus is coming again!