What follows is a sermon by Elder Bob Jorgensen. Ron Beaulieu will make designated commentary after some paragraphs. I, Ron Beaulieu, have not finished my commentaries to this sermon, and will work on it daily until it is finished.
In Seventh-day Adventism there appear to be several directions of thought that have been developing. One of these is the thought that developments of apostasy in the organized conference church have surely reached the point where God has fully spewed the church out and has no further use for it. Another view is that no matter how great the apostasy gets in the organized conference church it will always be God's one and only true church and those who determinedly stay with it will eventually be saved. Some of us who have been caught up in the fray are accused of being Judaizers and many other unflattering terms because we don't agree that the organized church has become Babylon, or that apostasy has caused God to close the door of probation on the organized conference church yet.
Ron Beaulieu: One paramount reason that there are "several directions" of thought [personal opinion] developed as to the degree of apostasy of the church, and a correct response to that apostasy, is because the ministers and leaders of the church find themselves in a conflict of interest, in that their life's vocation and investment in that vocation is threatened by the apostate condition of the church. Their very job would be affected by a correct response to the apostate condition of the church.
There should not be, and need not be, "several directions of thought (opinion) development as to whether or not apostasy in the organized SDA church has reached the point where God has fully spewed the church out and has no further use for it. The Word of God, scripture, and the Spirit of Prophecy, should be clear as to when a church supercedes the bounds of its usefulness by God. God has not left such an important issue undefined. God's Word indeed does define when the probation for an organized church is closed. There is definition of such for a corporate church, and for individuals within such a corporate structure. We will present these important definitions and designations at the end of Bob Jorgensen's sermon.
Statements have been made that seem to assume that we view the conference leadership as being the church. But in reality the conference leadership is only a part of the church, and a small part at that. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has over 10 million members, but only a small fraction of this number are elected officials or employees of the denomination.
Ron Beaulieu: Ellen White has clearly stated that a church's leaders can betray a church to the point that God can no longer use it. If a church's leaders form a conspiracy with the enemies of God, and form the church into a New Movement, a New Organization, that removes God, (Selected Messages, vol. 1, 204-5) then, such a church is no longer even a valid church, because according to Ellen White, only the presence of God can constitute a church, (The Upward Look, 315).
Ellen White also states that the church as a body will be held responsible for the [obvious open] sins of individuals in the church:
"The plain straight testimony must live in the church, or the curse of God will rest upon His people as surely as it did upon ancient Israel because of their sins. God holds His people, as a body, responsible for the sins existing in individuals among them." Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 269.
Jorgensen: The positions and responsibilities of conference leadership could be considered as a part of the exercise of the gift of "governments". "Governments" are given for the perfecting of the church, just as prophecy, teaching, etc. But like the other gifts "governments" can be perverted and misused by those who are in positions of responsibility and leadership. The misuse of such a gift usually results in serious and subtle, yet extensive, departure and apostasy from God. But the misuse of such a gift of the Spirit even in such a widespread manner does not automatically cause the rejection by God of the whole church.
In this manuscript we will address several of the many issues relating to this controversy about the church: The Application of the Vineyard; A Close of Probation for a Church; The Chosen People and the Fullness of Time; The Relation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Sealing.
Ron Beaulieu: The misuse of the gift of "governments" by some or even all church officials, does not automatically cause the rejection by God of the whole church, for the reason that the faithful will be given a period of time to separate from such an apostate church. However, there are bounds in God's Word, beyond which God will not sanction membership in an apostate church, if and when the members become so informed about such apostasy and such "bounds" governing a proper course in regard to such apostasy. Those "bounds" will be clearly defined at the end of this sermon.
The Application of the Vineyard
In Matthew 21 Jesus told a parable of a vineyard in which a householder set up a vineyard and put husbandmen in charge of it. There were vines in the vineyard that were to be cared for and fruit to be yielded and harvested. There was a winepress, and also a tower. It was walled in with a hedge. It the time of harvest the householder sent servants to receive the fruits of the vineyard. They were beaten, stoned, and killed. He sent other servants and they were treated likewise. He finally sent his son, but he too was killed. Jesus made an application to the Jewish nation as God's church on earth and showed that the ensuing result of rejecting and murdering the Son would be that the kingdom of God would be taken from Israel and given to another group of people.
There are several points that need to be noted carefully. First, in the parable the vineyard represented God's people, or His church (See PP 15-22). The husbandmen who were left in charge of it were the leaders of Israel. The tower was the temple, which was the center of the religious services committed to the nation. In spite of the merchandising and criminal activities going on in the temple it was still claimed by Jesus as belonging not to the leadership (who were in dark apostasy and rebellion), but rather to His Father. He called it "My Father's house." It was not until a matter of hours before His death that He spoke of the temple as "your house" which was to be left desolate. It was then no longer His Father's house. But, and please note, it was the Father's house all through the centuries of dark apostasy and rebellion that preceded those final moments of Christ's ministry and death. In spite of the fact that the husbandmen were in charge of the vineyard and were going contrary to the directions of the master, it was still the Master's vineyard.. Anyone who would say that it belonged to the husbandmen would be taking the side of treason and disloyalty.
Ron Beaulieu: Apostate Israel was given a literal specified time in years to put its apostasy away. However, even though Jesus referred to the "tower," the "temple," as "My Father's house," until His Mount of Olivet proclamation using the words: "Your house is left unto you desolate..." there is clear historical and Spirit of Prophecy evidence that some members of that "Temple" were leaving it to worship and sacrifice on their own because of the abominations of that "Temple," many centuries before its probation closed. The Biblical evidence is found in Jeremiah 11:9-15, where in verse 15, God says: "What hath by beloved [bride] to do in mine house, seeing she [the Temple--the apostate church] hath wrought lewdness with many [God's enemies--the opposers of truth] and the holy flesh is passed [departed] from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest [or celebrates]." Jeremiah 11:15.
Here we find that in Jeremiah's day, long before the probation for Israel closed, God did not expect His beloved [bride] to worship in "His Father's house," because it had wrought lewdness with many. Verse 9 says that its leadership has conspired with the enemy and had turned bacy to the iniquities of their forefgathers, which refused to hear God's words; they went after other gods to serve them: they broke the covenant God had made with their fathers, verse 10. These are acts by leaders which sanction and even demand that God's beloved do not have anything "to do in mine house," the Father's house! Likewise, this Word was written as an ensample unto us that we should do likewise in the event that such "conspiracies" develop in our church, and it is an understatement to say that they have. We will further define how and why at the end of this sermon.
But let us look at another proof from history and the Spirit of Prophecy, that some of the worshippers in God's Vineyard were not worshipping at His Tower, His Temple, because of the apostasy and abominations, long before the probation for Israel closed:
"The recreant priests added licentiousness to the dark catalogue of their crimes; yet they still polluted by their presence the tabernacle [Temple] of the Lord, and, laden with sin, dared to come into the presence of a holy God. As the men [laymen] of Israel witnessed the corrupt course of the priests, they thought it safer for their families not to come up to the appointed place of worship. Many went from Shiloh with their peace disturbed, their indignation aroused, until they at last determined to offer their sacrifices themselves, concluding that this would be fully as acceptable to God, as to sanction in any manner the abominations practiced in the Sanctuary." E.G. White, The Signs of the Times, vol. 1, p. 264, col. 3, December 1, 1881.
The application to Israel is apparent. Though, like an airplane that has been hijacked, the nation was under the leadership and oppression of men in rebellion against God; though at the time of Christ's birth the office of high priest was often gained by fraud, bribery, and murder; yet God claimed the nation as His chosen people and declared that out of that nation a Light would shine. To that nation those who were seeking the Light were often directed. The wise men (who probably had a better understanding than the leaders of Israel) were directed by God first to Jerusalem to come in contact with the sacred writings and the temple establishment. After a period of time there they were directed to Bethlehem.
All these developments depended on there being a recognized nation and religious identity in an organized form that God pointed to as His chosen people and His church on earth. We would expect that no one would argue with the assessment given by Inspiration that at that very time the Jewish nation had become the agency of Satan to pervert and mislead people from the truth. God simply illustrated that He could still fulfill His purpose, in part at least, within the very nation of Israel. Inspiration also tells us that at the time of the birth of Christ the height of the deception of sin was reached more within Israel than in any other nation.
We would call attention to another point. The rejection and murder of the servants that were sent did not close probation for the husbandmen and the vineyard. It was the rejection and murder of the Son that finally closed the probation of the Jewish church. It is very important to understand the difference between the rejection of the prophets and the rejection of the Son. Without the rejection of the Son, Israel could have conceivably continued on for many more years rejecting and killing the prophets, and their probation would still have remained open. It was the rejection and murder of the Son that sealed their fate. It was the "last straw" as we sometimes say.
But what made it the last straw? Did God's patience wear out? Was the rebellion getting too close to Him to allow it to continue? Did God just arbitrarily "drop the curtain" as it were, and say, "Enough is enough?" Some other aspects of the fullness of the time will be discussed later, but it must be clearly emphasized here that it was not so much a failure of the patience of God, but rather the loss of ability on the part of Israel.
When God closed the door, when the temple curtain was rent in two, God was saying to the world that Israel had ruined their capability to be of any further value in the development of truth and in the working out of God's plan. By officially rejecting Christ and murdering Him they had placed their nation where it was an impossibility for them to develop any more truth. And here every Jew remains. He must accept Christ as the Messiah in order to progress into an understanding of the New Covenant and the Three Angels' Messages. Much that to us is simple and basic gospel truth is hidden in mystery and darkness to every Jew until he faces the history of his past and accepts Christ as his Messiah. It is simply a matter of fact that the "organic" function of the human mind of the person and church that rejects Christ as the Messiah is totally unprepared to understand and participate in the developments of truth that came after A.D. 31.
The fullness of the time here includes the fact that final, ultimate, testing truth has arrived. It is the time of visitation (see DA 235 and many other similar references). Previously all other truth pointed to and prepared the way for this development of truth. In symbols and ceremonies Israel had held the promise of the fullness of time in terms of final testing truth to arise from within their midst. To have closed their probation previous to the arrival of this final development would have destroyed the whole plan of salvation and given Satan the victory. This will be discussed more fully in the section on the Fullness of Time.
In the light of these considerations I would like to emphasize that we do not dispute the statements such in DA 232. Rather, such statements actually serve to illustrate the very emphasis that we are making in this response, namely, that when the majority of the leadership reject the important truths, God works with other classes within His church. In ancient Israel when the ecclesiastical authorities rejected Jesus, He turned to another class, not another nation or another group. It was not at this time that the gospel was given to the Gentiles, but rather to another class of Israel. Even when talking to non-Israelites He emphasized that "salvation is of the Jews." He did not mean by this that the leadership had the clearest light from heaven, or that they were even walking in the truth. Rather, He was confirming that the oracles of truth, and the development of Heaven's purpose was still taking place within Israel.
The Close of Probation for Churches
There have recently been discussions in which the idea of a close of probation for churches has been questioned or denied. The idea of a role for the denominated Seventh-day Adventist Church as far as any further usefulness in the development of God's plan has been rejected. It seems to me that some important statements and considerations are being overlooked.
A concept that is described in the Spirit of Prophecy is that there is an account kept with nations, and when the account, or cup, is full then its probationary time comes to an end and judgments take place. One of the many places where this concept is discussed is in the famed section of Testimonies, vol. 5, that deals with the sealing of God's people. This section, though written prior to 1898, still deserves some very careful analysis. It makes a last day application of a prophecy that was written in Old Testament times. On page 208 we find this thought: "With unerring accuracy the Infinite One still keeps an account with all nations. While His mercy is tendered with calls to repentance, this account will remain open; but when the figures reach a certain amount which God has fixed, the ministry of His wrath commences. The account is closed. Divine patience ceases. There is no more pleading of mercy in their behalf."
This idea of an account (time of probation) which is maintained for nations is also discussed in many other passages such as GC 627. We should be familiar with the fact that the Loud Cry message is actually an announcement that our country has filled its cup, which closes its probation. It is when national Sunday legislation is passed that the limit of God's forbearance is reached, and national apostasy is followed by national ruin. See such statements as the following: "As the approach of the Roman armies was a sign to the disciples of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, so may this apostasy be a sign to us that the limit of God's forbearance is reached, that the measure of our nation's iniquity is full, and that the angel of mercy is about to take her flight, never to return (5T 451)"; ST June 12, 1893; etc.
We have the experience of Babylon in the time of Belshazzar in which the words were written by the hand of an unseen Watcher on the walls of the palace in burning letters of fire, "Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting." This meant simply that Babylon's probation had come to an end, and the scepter of power passed to another nation. When probation for a nation comes to an end, when a nation's cup of iniquity has been filled, it simply means that God withdraws His protection, favor, and blessing, and they are left to reap the results of their sin and apostasy. This usually takes the form of destruction or subjugation to another nation.
We are also told that an account (time of probation) is kept with families (PP 165; ST 9-11-84; etc) and with individuals. An account is kept with cities as well. It was when the men of Sodom tried to rape the angels who visited their city that their cup was filled and judgments came upon them. Their probation closed. See PP 159.
Israel had a standing as a nation and also as a church. Certainly we would not question whether or not they experienced a close of probation as a nation. They are refered to as a nation divorced from God (AA 145). Interestingly, and significantly, they are refered to also as a nation unchurched. Notice the following passage. "It was not the hand of the priest that rent from top to bottom the gorgeous veil that divided the holy from the most holy place. It was the hand of God. When Christ cried out, ‘It is finished,' the Holy Watcher that was an unseen guest at Belshazzar's feast pronounced the Jewish nation to be a nation unchurched. The same hand that traced on the wall the characters that recorded Belshazzar's doom and the end of the Babylonian kingdom, rent the veil of the temple from top to bottom, opening a new and living way for all, high and low, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile. From henceforth people might come to God without priest or ruler (MS 101, 1897)."
When Christ was crucified the Jewish nation became unchurched, meaning that it lost its status as a church in God's eyes. It was no longer His church; His chosen agency for the development of truth; His special depository for the oracles. A new movement now became God's visible church. It has always been this way. When God closes the probation of a church He points people to a new movement as His church. Thus when probation closed for the Jewish church, at the crucifixion of Christ, immediately the attention of true seekers of truth began to be directed to the new apostalic church which rapidly gained prominence through Divine working and intervention.
Thus it was with the Protestant churches in 1844. By rejecting the proclamation of the first angel's message they closed and sealed their destiny. God at that very time was raising up a new movement and drew attention to them as the new depository of truth and the oracles of God. The ministry of a prophet marked His designation of the new movement as His chosen people, the visible church of God on earth. This is what became known as the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Interestingly we are clearly told that the Seventh-day Adventist Church will be "weighed in the balance" which means that it definitely has a probationary status and will come to a time when the account is settled. Notice how the statement reads: "In the balances of the sanctuary the Seventh-day Adventist church is to be weighed. She will be judged by the privileges and advantages that she has had. If her spiritual experience does not correspond to the advantages that Christ, at infinite cost, has bestowed on her, if the blessings conferred have not qualified her to do the work entrusted to her, on her will be pronounced the sentence: ‘Found wanting.' By the light bestowed, the opportunities given, will she be judged (8T 247)." This was written in 1903, several years after 1898. But it repeats a theme that was emphasized in an earlier period when the commentary on the sealing was published in 5T 207-212.
It speaks of a time of visitation (a reminder of Israel's experience as God's church and chosen nation), of rapidly swelling figures (indicating an account, a time of probation, a filling up of the cup), and signs of approaching ruin. It speaks of the little company in the church when the danger and depression of the church is the greatest. It speaks of a time when God's presence has left the church, and of over-flooding worldliness throughout the membership of the church. At this time the sealing commences in the church, followed by the beings with slaughter weapons carrying out the judgments of God. Let us remember that the sealing renders a person's destiny secure for all eternity.
In the section on the sealing and the Seventh-day Adventist Church we look more fully at the characteristics of what is taking place in the church in the time described in Ezekiel 9. Perhaps it will help us see that just as Israel was preserved, in spite of rebellion and apostasy, to bring forth the Messiah, so the Seventh-day Adventist Church was brought into existence and will be preserved, in spite of apostasy and rebellion, to initiate the sealing of the God's faithful people. Until that sealing commences, until the separating of the wheat and tares takes place, we are unwarranted in concluding that the probation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has closed. And let us keep in mind that the movement that finally emerges following the embattled Seventh-day Adventist Church is a purified movement, the first in history to be free of any tares.
Any new group that supercedes the Seventh-day Adventist Church and still contains wheat and tares together would simply perpetuate apostasy and rebellion and would undoubtedly accomplish more than what we already have in a shorter length of time. In fact it would have to either totally disqualify the whole Advent Movement since 1844, or else disqualify itself, since all it would be doing is repeating the accomplishments of the Advent Movement previously. Furthermore, to supercede the Advent Movement of 1844-2000 it would need to provide similar, if not greater credentials in terms of the ministry of prophecy, of providential interpositions, and compel worldwide recognition on a greater scale than that of the Advent Awakening of the 1840's (which we are told was the purest and greatest since Pentecost).
Many statements clearly refer to a probationary status for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the possibility of filling up its account. See for example 5T 529, "It is time that we were closely examining our hearts to see whether or not we are in the faith and in the love of God. If there is not an awakening among us who have had so great light and so many privileges, we shall sink to ruin, and our fate will be worse than that of Chorazin and Bethsaida; ‘for,' as Christ said of those cities, ‘if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.'"
Also see 8T 67: "Jerusalem is a representation of what the church will be if it refuses to walk in the light that God has given. Jerusalem was favored of God as the depositary of sacred trusts. But her people perverted the truth, and despised all entreaties and warnings. They would not respect His counsels. The temple courts were polluted with merchandise and robbery. Selfishness and love of mammon, envy and strife, were cherished. Everyone sought for gain from his quarter. Christ turned from them, saying: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,' how can I give thee up? ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!' Matthew 23:37."
There are some today who feel that they are God's new movement, His church that supercedes the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the pure and true remnant who are giving the Loud Cry and experiencing the power of the Latter Rain. It would seem that we need to more earnestly study the passage found in EW that clearly describes what qualifies as Present Truth (see EW 63). LS 196 tells us that we need not fear for the future unless we forget how the Lord has led, and His teaching, in our past history.
Surely, if we are to be honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that there is as much, or more confusion among all the various ministries, home churches, and independent groups as is to be found in the mainline church. I have never heard so many strange teachings and winds of doctrine being promoted in the mainline church as is taking place in the other channels. There is much ignorance regarding how the Lord has led, and what the pillars of the truth have been. Is it not presumptuous for us to feel or claim that probation has now closed for the Seventh-day Adventist organized church and that our group, or our ministry is the superceding representative true remnant church? Surely we must study more diligently and take a more careful survey of all aspects before making any such bold assumptions.
The Fullness of the Time and the Chosen People
In the book DA there are two chapters that are filled with very important observations concerning the condition and status of Israel at the time of Christ's birth. They are Chapter Two, "The Chosen People," and Chapter Three, "The Fullness of the Time." I wish to share some pertinent observations regarding points brought out in these chapters, but would like to lay some background first. This background has to do with the history and issues of the great conflict between Christ and Satan.
In the GC and also in PP are found a chapter entitled "The Origin of Evil." In these and other sections it describes how Lucifer developed his original accusations against God. Basic among these was the thought that God was selfish and arbitrary, that He was more interested in His own well-being than in the good of His created beings. Lucifer accused God of being strict justice, of not even being capable of forgiving transgression. Such forgiveness, an attribute of mercy, could not exist in God's character or government according to Satan. In DA 761-764 is described the basic charge of Lucifer. It was summed up in the thought that "Justice excludes Mercy."
There was only one way that God could effectively answer that charge. This is beautifully described in these chapters I have mentioned. God must allow time for the development of Satan's principles. He must make a demonstration of His charcter and government that the contrast would become apparent and Satan would thus be proven wrong by demonstration. No divine proclamation or show of infinite power could be as convincing and permanently effectual as a full demonstration of all the claims and counterclaims.
But such an undertaking required considerable time and development. God prepared for His demonstration by raising up a people. Through them He purposed to bring forth before the world His demonstration that would forever answer the false insinuations and accusations of Satan. The DA chapter about the chosen people discusses this people. It was, of course, the nation of Israel. To the chosen nation God committed sacred oracles, a knowledge of His law, sacred ceremonies and services, the ministry of prophets, and many other blessings. He designed that through them the world would be able to see the goodness of His character. But even more, He designed that through Israel the supreme demonstration would take place that would prove that there was self-denial and forgiveness with God. This way Satan's claims would be answered. Thus "a chosen people" was a very important part of settling the issues in the great controversy.
Satan recognized the favor which God had bestowed upon Israel, and with cunning and malice he worked to undermine every detail of God's plan to accomplish His purpose through Israel. It became a bitter conflict over whether Israel could even be maintained intact enough to bring forth what God had promised to bring forth through them. Speaking of the nation in Nehemiah's time Inspiration says, "The Lord showed His rebellious people that they were dependent upon Him for prosperity and safety, yet His eye was upon them. They were feeble, exposed to the ravages of their enemies; yet they were the guardians of the worship of the true God, and were to preserve a knowledge of His law until the Prince of peace should come (RH March 18, 1884)." Here we find a declaration that Israel was basically promised an existence and a standing as God's chosen people until the Messiah came.
There have been some who have maintained that all of God's promises are conditional. Indeed there are statements that suggest this thought. But we must also recognize that this is speaking in a qualified sense regarding the blessings God will bestow. There are prophetic utterances such as when God says that he raised up Pharoah for the purpose of glorifying His name. We might say that this is an unconditional prophecy. It was to be fulfilled whether Pharaoh cooperated with God or whether he rebelled. God was glorified, but it was at the cost of the riches and prosperity of Egypt, the loss of their first born, the destruction of their army, and Pharoah's death. This was all because he was in utter rebellion. He could have cooperated with God, and he and Egypt would have been greatly blessed. Either way, God's name was glorified.
Similarly, God raised up Israel and decreed that they should be the nation through whom the Messiah should come. Satan did his utmost to prevent that from happening, but of course it happened anyway. It happened in spite of rebellion and apostasy in Israel. It happened in spite of the fact that the leaders of Israel constantly plotted how to prevent Jesus from carrying forward the work he had undertaken in God's great plan. No amount of apostasy and rebellion kept Israel from having the first opportunity to receive the Messiah and herald His advent. See DA 231, 351, 43-44; GC 314. The preservation of Israel as a distinct nation for over a thousand years was a witness to the fact that through Israel the Messiah was to come.
In addition to the chosen people, there was also the fullness of the time. This was when the condition of the chosen nation and of the world were ripe for the demonstration that God was going to make. The conditions that constituted the fullness of the time included the fact that Satan had so succeeded in perverting the faith of Israel that we are told that he won his greatest triumph in Israel. It was within Israel that the deception of sin reached its highest attainment. DA 35-36 tells us that Israel had developed to maturity the concept that man can save himself by his works. They caused God to be viewed as a tyrant.
We can now see that Satan had hijacked the nation of Israel and endeavored to so turn them around from God's purpose that they were actually demonstrating more effectively than any heathen nation the idea that God is all justice and that there is no mercy with Him. Thus the fullness of the time for Israel included a development in which the issues of the controversy came into prominent display. It was in this setting that God sent His Son and demonstrated the existence of the very thing denied by Satan. Within Israel were simultaneously demonstrated the climax of Satan's demonstration and the climax of God's demonstration. They appeared on the same stage of action side by side, and could thus be evaluated better than ever before. If God had sent His Son previously it would have been premature. It would not have been the fullness of time. Likewise, if the door of probation had been closed for Israel any sooner than when God closed it, it would have been the failure of God's plan and the success of Satan's rebellion.
Inspiration tells us that even the holy angels saw no room for hope at the time of Christ's first advent. They expected to see "Jehovah arise, and sweep away the inhabitants of the earth." If the decision had been committed to any of the heavenly beings as to when to close the door for Israel, God's character would not have been effectively demonstrated. The claims of Satan would not have been adequately answered. The extent of God's self-denial and forgiveness would not have been demonstrated correctly. God would have been misrepresented.
As I have studied these events I have often asked myself, "If the outcome of the controversy had depended on my making a decision of when was the appropriate time to close Israel's probation, would I have closed it long before God did?" If so then I am showing that I do not understand God's character and purposes, I do not reflect His thinking. Fortunately, this decision was not left to angels or heavenly beings because none of them knew the attributes of God's mercy and justice clearly. But none of them presumed to pronounce the decision either. They waited to see what God would do. It was Satan who continually declared that there was no mercy or forgiveness for Israel or mankind. It was he who said that they had passed the point of no return.
The passage previously mentioned in DA 761-764 describes how Christ came to this earth and forever settled the question of whether there was self-denial with God. All heaven was amazed and glorified God for the wonderful revelation of His marvelous love.
But Satan was not to give up so easily. He now came forward with a new argument. It went like this: Ah, yes. We see that there is mercy and forgiveness with God. His justice is not so strict and harsh as we once thought. We now can see that in reality God is so full of mercy that we don't need to be concerned about His justice." Mercy excludes justice became the new emphasis of his attack. The DA tells us that this is the big issue now. Accountability for obedience to God's law is the big issue to be settled in the last phase of the great controversy.
In this phase I believe that we can again see the application of a chosen people and a fullness of time. And where we close the door of probation for the "chosen people" of our time will display whether we reflect the thoughts of God, or the sentiments of Satan. And brethren, I think we all know in our hearts that we can make many apparently righteous declarations denouncing sin and apostasy, we can look pretty pious, and we can still be cherishing and promoting the sentiments of Satan. If we close the door too soon we are erring on the side of justice, if we close the door too late we are erring on the side of mercy. Too err on these issues in the controversy at this hour of earth's history is to neutralize both justice and mercy.
We are being tested, I believe, in this very issue,--"Is the door closed for the church?",--to show before the universe who has a correct reflection of God's mind in this matter, who understands correctly God's character, government and purposes (see GC 593). I propose that just as in God's church anciently there were two demonstrations that took place side by side, so today the church is a stage where a demonstration is to take place,—a demonstration of God's side of the controversy. It will be a demonstration that proves that mercy does not lower justice in the least. It will prove that those who have availed themselves of the provisions of mercy can meet and survive the demands of justice. It will bring forth a people who stand with characters perfected before the universe.
But it also appears that just like in ancient Israel, Satan has commandeered the stage of demonstration and is endeavoring to present the perfection of his deception that mercy excludes justice. He promotes the do-as-you-please, if-it-feels-good-do-it forms of worship. He insinuates his philosophy that "it doesn't matter how you eat, dress, speak, or act, just love everybody and don't make waves." We see that all through God's chosen people the representations and echoes of Satan's big argument are prevelant and multiplying. They spring up in the most unexpected ways and places.
Whereas in the time of Christ's first advent the people were led to look on God as a harsh tyrant, today the people are led to look upon God as a soft and pliable Granddaddy type of person who accepts everybody just as they are. The keynote of Satan's smooth and attractive deception is that God's requirements are not as strict as we once thought they were (see 4SP 339-340). As in former times vice is consecrated as a part of religion. Abominations that shouldn't even be named among Seventh-day Adventists are cloaked with religious garb and called "ministries."
There is an attempt to bring in plans and methods totally unacceptable to God, but "sanctify" them by making them tools of evangelism Then we are pointed to the numbers attracted by them as evidence that God is blessing through these means. But we are told that we show great blindness when we lower the standard to attract more people into the church, and then make that increase of numbers a cause for rejoicing (see 5T 31).
But through it all we have evidence that God is calling for men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall, who are as true to duty as the needle to the pole, who do not fear to call sin by its right name. And Inspiration tells us that He will bring forth a demonstration of such character within the church. That is the commission that I am responding to. It may be that our brethren in conference leadership will ever view us as dissidents and troublers of Israel, while the seperationists will label us as lukewarm timeservers who are willing to sustain and endorse apostasy. Perhaps we must let that be. The events soon to transpire will clearly distinguish the dross from the gold in the church.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Sealing
It should go without saying that in order for a message to be able to test a person and determine their destiny for eternity it would be truth of at least the same order and magnitude as that which came to the Jewish nation. Please observe that the same truth that was to test all people and all nations (the truth that the Man Jesus Christ was the Messiah) was committed first to the nation of Israel. For over a thousand years they were the covenant people who only had the stewardship of the legitimate services and sacrifices that contained the embryo of the ultimate testing truth that was to come through the Jewish nation.
The privilege of being the first to hold the oracles and services that prefigured this truth also meant that they were to be the first to be confronted with its test. These points are of great significance in comparing the chosen people anciently with the chosen people of modern times. The message that tests and seals people for eternity must be able to test and seal first the people who have held the oracles, services, and ceremonies that prefigure that ultimate testing truth. It must first test the people who hold it before it can have prominence in testing the world.
Another point to note is that while ancient Israel was God's chosen people there were some pretty bad things that took place. You may recall the career of Manasseh, of Ahab, King Saul, and others. Even when the apostasy was so bad that true spirituality only existed "underground" as it were, in Israel, the Jewish church was still called "My people" by God. They had not been faced and tested yet with the ultimate truth for which their existence was preserved. 5T 455-456 indicates that God allowed Israel to be taken into captivity in order to preserve their potential to fulfill the divine purpose of bringing forth the Messiah from among Israel. Certainly we can see that the fact that there were people in leadership who were serving idolatry and promoting apostasy did not close their door of opportunity and purpose. Even as late as shortly before Christ's ministry came to a close it was possible for the high priest and other apostate leaders of Israel to repent and be converted and be a part of the reformation that was to begin first within Israel. See COL 277; DA 577-578, 205, etc.
There is a most valuable commentary on the final sealing event as described in Ezekiel 9. This commentary, as you all know, is found in 5T 207-216. It has been surprising to observe how often things that are clearly stated in Inspiration are ignored or overlooked. This section describes what is transpiring "in the church" at the time when the sealing commences. This is spoken of as a time when the people in the church are under great pressure to turn from loyalty to God's law. Clearly they are under pressure to give in to the overwhelming movement in support of Sunday observance. Notice carefully the characteristics mentioned in this passage:
* Those who have had the greatest light and privileges are contaminated by prevailing iniquity (in the church).
* There are two classes: one class who has increasing love for God's precepts; another class who holds them in contempt (in the church).
* The time for God's visitation has almost come (in the church).
* Those who walk in the light will see signs of approaching peril (in the church).
* It is their duty to labor diligently to save others (in the church). There is no mention of calling the church Babylon and telling people to withdraw membership.
* The time is one when the danger and depression of the church are the greatest.
* There is a little company who are standing in the light (in the church). Obviously the vast majority in the church is not standing in the light at the time described here when the sealing commences.
* The prayers of the faithful little company will especially be raised for the members of the church who are doing after the ways of the world. We would just briefly note that this church has visibly identifiable rolls of membership.
* At this time the Lord comes forth as an avenger. It is not necessary to call people to leave the church, because God will cause a clear demarcation to occur between the true and the false when the sealing takes place.
* The sighing, crying ones are holding forth the words of life (in the church).
* They are distinguished by their efforts to reprove, counsel, and entreat, and by their soul anguish (in the church).
* Some who had been dishonoring God repented and humbled their hearts (in the church).
* The glory of God had departed from "Israel" (in the church).
* Their soul anguish is expressed in lamentation, weeping, reproofs, and warnings (in the church).
* The other class is trying to throw a cloak over the existing evil (in the church).
* The little company are vexed day by day with the sins and iniquitous abominations promoted by the rest of the unrighteous church members (in the church).
* They mourn before God to see true religion despised (in the church).
* They lament and afflict their souls because of the corruption and apostasy which are evident almost everywhere "in the church."
* The servants of Satan triumph (in the church).
* God is dishonored and the truth is made of none effect (in the church).
* "Here we see that the church— the Lord's sanctuary—was the first to feel the stroke of the wrath of God."
* The "dumb dogs" that would not bark will suffer the vengeance of God, and will never again lift their voices to teach the truth.
Surely, my brothers and sisters, we can see that what is being discussed here in 5T is the final confrontation of the members of the Seventh-day Adventist denominated, organized, conference church with the final testing, sealing truths to be given in the church! There has been no call to have the faithful members withdraw from membership. There has been no message denouncing the church as Babylon. There have been faithful messages of warning and reproof given in the church. There have been mourning and soul anguish that is a characteristic of those who are the "true children of God" in the church. Frankly, I haven't seen much of this spirit on the part of most of those who are promoting leaving the church, and "the church is Babylon." I have seen a lot of bitter vindictiveness, a lot of angry accusation and denunciation, a lot of sarcasm and ridicule, a lot of name calling and jumping to conclusions, but precious little of the anguish of spirit, the sighing and crying that here is described as the earmarks of the faithful little company in the church.
It has often seemed to me that there are many who would be very upset if God should offer to the organized Seventh-day Adventist Church the opportunity to repent and be His chosen vessel in proclaiming the last message to the world. The attitude of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son more suitably accords with their attitude. Maybe we should see some valuable lessons of application in the story if we apply it to a prodigal church (see 8T 250). Many amongst us, I am afraid, do not want to see the church healed. Is this the true reflection of the thoughts of God regarding the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
Many other passages of Inspiration describe similar characteristics of the time when the sealing takes place, the time when in the church there emerges a pure and faithful remnant, just as in ancient Israel there eventually emerged, at the time of their visitation, a pure and faithful Witness who brought all Israel to the bar of judgment and accountability. For examples see 5T 75-84; 5T 136, 217; 1T 179-184.
If all these descriptions that are pointed out here are not talking about the denominated conference organized Seventh-day Adventist Church, then I beg of you to tell me what church it is talking about that is God's sanctuary, His people who have had great light, the people whose leaders have stood as guardians of the spiritual interests of the people and of momentous truth. Without malice I would quietly ask, "Is it your group?" I cannot but believe that it is the denominated Seventh-day Adventist Church.
To be a member of the church does not mean at all that I support the apostasy or the worldliness that is flooding in. Rather it indicates that I recognize that God is the rightful owner of the church, and I am to be a voice calling every church member to return to their rightful allegiance to God. I am to call upon my fellow church members to heed the most solemn and important truths ever given to mortals, which have been committed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Membership in the denominated conference Seventh-day Adventist Church is not an issue of supporting everything that is done by the leadership of the church, but rather it signifies that I firmly believe that God has designated the organized Seventh-day Adventist church as the visible entity in which He will bring forth in living demonstration of the final developments of truth that will test the world.
O, brothers and sisters, let us be "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." May God help each one of us to hear His voice, and to pray for His working in a clear way in His church. Let us claim the church that God claims. Let us wrest back to loyalty to God alone, by spiritual conquest, the vineyard that belongs to the Master. Let us not be ready to close the door before God does, for in so doing we show that we are under the deception of the great adversary, no matter how high our claims to truth.<