A four-part series in the Adventist Review of June, 1986, deals frankly with a serious problem. Too many youth reared in Seventh-day Adventist homes and schools are leaving the church for a new reason: they are now joining other churches.
The series (“To Catch a Star”) deplores the obvious fact that most Adventist youth lack the vision that motivated the “missionary volunteer” youth of previous generations. “Not exciting, not positive, not big enough, and not related to life”—these are “the specific inadequacies” our youth see in today’s Adventism.
If the Seventh-day Adventist mission is that of the three angels of Revelation 14, can it possibly be true that it is “not exciting, not positive, not big …, and not related to life”? Not unless we have misunderstood reality! But for some strange reason, it has appeared so to many youth.
The true leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not the General Conference or a hierarchical clergy. It is Christ Himself, the same Christ whom the pioneers in the 1840’s saw as commencing His ministry in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. Is He not sufficiently exciting, positive, big, and related to life to capture the whole-hearted devotion of today’s youth? Or is that vision of our pioneer youth as irretrievably lost to them as John and Charles Wesley’s vision is lost to modern Methodist youth?
If the Seventh-day Adventist Church has become as dull as most of our youth think, the reason can not be that its Leader is “dull.” According to the prophetic insight of Ellen White, the problem is that a false christ has usurped the place of the true One. She says that Baal worship has captivated many of us as surely as it deceived God’s ancient people in the days of Elijah and Jeremiah. The proportionate number may even be similar.
This does not mean that the church has fallen as has “Babylon” or that it has ceased to be the supreme object of the Lord’s loving concern. Dissidents and off-shoots who write off the church as fallen do not understand the Baal-worship reality. The full truth is good news, for repentance, reformation, and reconciliation with Christ become possible when reality is recognized, just as they were in Elijah’s day.
Israel in his day was still the Lord’s chosen nation, and Judah likewise in Jeremiah’s time. According to Bible prophecy, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is still today entrusted with the message of Revelation 14. The truth means simply that genuine repentance and reformation are necessary if this church is to proclaim “the everlasting gospel” to the world in a way that lightens the earth with Lord. And such a spiritual experience is possible.
If this is not true, we must simply squeeze ourselves into another denominational niche beside the “Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Catholics,” who with other churches, says the Review, are welcoming increasing numbers of Adventist youth who forsake Adventism. These formerly Adventist youth see “denominational distinctiveness … as of lesser importance than a general belief in a Supreme Being.” This mind set would cancel our history and put us back to square one in a world that had never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist message.
However, the prophetic scenario of Revelation does not call for the extinction of that unique people defined in chapter 14, nor for the suppression of their special message.
A few months after Minneapolis Ellen White saw one of the most graphic and chilling of all her visions: “I was impressed that great danger was before us at the heart of the work” (TM 460-471).
It seems that no one else shared her burden of soul, but the Lord encouraged her to believe that He would not forsake His church. “There were laid out before me some things which I could not comprehend; but the assurance was given me that the Lord would not allow His people to be enshrouded in the fogs of worldly skepticism and infidelity, bound up in bundles with the world” (p. 460).
Could she perhaps have sensed how many of our present-day youth would become enshrouded in those fogs, bound up in bundles with the world, satisfied with a mere “belief in a Supreme Being,” devoid of a clear concept of the High Priest’s work on the cosmic Day of Atonement?
Many of our youth find this vacuous shell of Adventism dull because it has lost the sanctuary vision of the pioneers and the 1888 message of hopeful Good News. Ellen White’s Salamanca vision related this emptiness to the 1888 failure. She predicted that in consequence of that unbelief ancient Israel’s apostasy would afflict us:
The prejudices and opinions that prevailed at Minneapolis are not dead by any means; the seeds sown there in some hearts are ready to spring into life and bear a like harvest. The tops have been cut down, but the roots have never been eradicated, and they still bear their unholy fruit to poison the judgment, pervert the perceptions, and blind the understanding of those with whom you connect, in regard to the message and the messengers. …
Infidelity has been making its inroads into our ranks; for it is the fashion to depart from Christ, and give place to skepticism. With many the cry of the heart has been, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Baal, Baal, is the choice. The religion of many among us will be the religion of apostate Israel, because they love their own way, and forsake the way of the Lord. The true religion, the only religion of the Bible, that teaches forgiveness only through the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour, that advocates righteousness by the faith of the Son of God, has been slighted, spoken against, ridiculed, and rejected. … What kind of future is before us if we shall fail to come into the unity of the  faith? (TM 467, 468; 1890).
We can answer her question very simply: the kind of future we have now come to.
The post-1888 experience traumatized Ellen White for she saw almost with horror how powerfully Satan would try to destroy the uniqueness of this people’s mission. Several years later she said:
Everything may move forward amid apparent prosperity; but Satan is wide awake, and is studying and counseling with his evil angels another mode of attack where he can be successful. … The great controversy will wax stronger and stronger, and will become more and more determined. Mind will be arrayed against mind, plans against plans, principles of heavenly origin against principles of Satan. Truth in its varied phases will be in conflict with error in its ever-varying, increasing forms, and which, if possible, will deceive the very elect. …
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 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. …
Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan ….
The conflict is to wax fiercer and fiercer. Satan will take the field and personate Christ. He will misrepresent, misapply, and pervert everything he possibly can, to deceive (TM 407-11; 1897; emphasis added).
Are these predictions of Baal-worship of serious concern to us today, or was the problem only temporary, confined to Battle Creek in the nineteenth century? Our natural reaction to this inspired prediction is to say, “Impossible! Incredible! We may be ‘wretched’ and all that, but we’re not that ‘poor’ spiritually!” On the other hand, our conscience quietly tells us that something is wrong. Maybe this makes sense after all. Who is Baal?
In the language of ancient Israel, Baal was the simple word for lord or husband:
It is significant that in patriarchal times … the husband is the master, the ba’al, of the wife, who is dependent on him for her whole livelihood, and over whom he has an authority not shared by others (B. G. Sanders, Christianity After Freud, Geoffrey Bles Ltd., London, 1949, p. 88; cf. Hosea 2:16).
Baal, the god of the Canaanites, means “the lord,” often the ordinary way of speaking of Israel’s true God, the LORD, Yahweh. The Babylonian Adon, Hellenized as Adonis, has the same meaning. It is a cognate word to the Hebrew Adonai or “the Lord.” Thus when the prophets of Baal prayed at Mount Carmel, they cried, “O Lord, Lord, hear us,” while Elijah preserved a distinct difference in his conception of God (1 Kings 18:26).
It is commonly assumed that there was a vast apparent difference between the true religion of Israel and the contemporary religions of paganism. But scholars say that there were striking similarities—a morning and evening sacrifice conducted daily, a tithe paid to the priests, animals offered without blemish, sacred books and penitential psalms, many concepts and ideas that were copies of the true.
The temples of Babylonia and Assyria had much in common with Solomon’s temple. The people of Israel often stumbled over these similarities and were deceived into various forms of apostate worship. It was difficult for Israel to sense that they were worshiping a false god when the name was the one commonly used for the true God. The language and terminology were similar, but only an inspired prophet and those who believed him could discern how the motifs and concepts were different. Ellen White’s prediction raises the frightful possibility that an apostasy as serious has quietly permeated the modern church while we have slept. If true, the situation is frightful, but not hopeless. Repentance was possible in Elijah’s day, and it is possible in ours.
The apostasy in Elijah’s day is often misunderstood as a departure from truth so obvious and striking as to make the Israelites seem unusually dull and inexcusable. The facts are that Israel’s apostasy was gradual and unconscious, requiring about a century to assume the proportions Elijah recognized in his day. He must have had a very keen mind to discern it (cf. 3T 273; PK 109, 133, 137). We must remember that Elijah still lives, having been translated. Would he feel at home among us, recognizing Jezebel and her prophets?
Baal being a false christ, it is obvious that all worship of self which is disguised as worship of Christ and which evades the principle of the cross is in reality Baal-worship. The roots go deep, often beneath our consciousness.
The verbal use of the name of Christ and other Christian terminology means nothing so far as identifying truth is concerned. Christ’s enemy is to “impersonate Christ,” that is, assume the appearance of and usurp His identity through exceedingly clever deception. But long before the impersonation will come his misrepresentation. The non-Adventist Frederick A. Voigt recognized an aspect of this superb deception: “The ‘Christian Ethic’ is the Anti-Christ of the Western world. It is the most insidious and formidable corruption that ever afflicted that world.”
One small example is the cult of self-love. Through a clever manipulation of Scripture, the sinful love of self has been transformed into a virtue. During the last fifteen years it has been strenuously taught to our youth as a supposed Christian duty. The divine command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is twisted into a command to love self, when in fact the Lord taught that the motivation of our natural-born sinful love of self is now redirected through genuine faith to a Christlike love of our neighbor.
Genuine self-respect is indeed a virtue, but it becomes authentic through an appreciation of Christ’s self-emptying love revealed at the cross. True self-esteem is thus rooted in His atonement. But the me-first love of self is antithetical to devotion to Christ and His work. It is understandable that an enemy would promote the cult of selfism as though it were Christ’s teaching. What is difficult to understand is why Seventh-day Adventists should promote it.
Undoubtedly it is ignorance or disregard of Ellen White’s statements about Baal worship that has made it possible also for the New Age philosophy to be tolerated in our midst as much as it has been. But fundamental to all of our modern confusion is the mistaking of a false christ for the true in consequence of our 1888 tragedy. The roots go back for nearly a century.
We are all familiar with the description of the final stage of Satan’s impersonation when he will counterfeit the second advent:
As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ … as a majestic being of dazzling brightness … 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. … His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody. … This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion (GC 624).
The 1890 Salamanca vision unveils a mystery. In consequence of our 1888 misconception of the true Christ, this false Christ will find a way to worm himself in through misrepresentation by false doctrines and concepts long before he takes the final step of physical impersonation. This is how Ellen White’s words can be fulfilled, “The religion of many among us will be the religion of apostate Israel”—Baal-worship. Wherever self becomes the true object of devotion while we profess to serve Christ, there is Baal-worship. Wherever ladder-climbing, promotion, prestige, and power are the true motivations of ministry, there we have the prophets of Baal.
But this cannot happen where the true message of righteousness by faith is understood and believed. Baal-worship is the fruit of a species of corrupted teachings that encourage a profession of faith in Christ while self is not crucified with Him:
The present age is one of idolatry, as verily as was that in which Elijah lived. No outward shrine may be visible; there may be no image for the eye to rest upon; … Multitudes have a wrong conception of God and His attributes, and are as truly serving a false god as were the worshipers of Baal (PK 177).
In this age antichrist will appear as the true Christ … But the true leader of all this rebellion is Satan clothed as an angel of light. Men will be deceived and will exalt him to the place of God, and deify him (TM 62; 1893).
Christ will be personified, but on one point there will be a marked distinction. Satan will turn the people from the law of God (FE 471, 472; 1897).
Those who are not wholly consecrated to God may be led to do the work of Satan, while yet they flatter themselves that they are in the service of Christ (5T 103).
A counterfeit righteousness by faith is inevitable when faith itself is not defined in New Testament terms. The popular self-centered motivation of fear or hope of reward is not that of the “faith which works by love (agape).” Thus Baal-worship finds a way to intrude through popular but inadequate theories of righteousness by faith.
In Jeremiah’s day Judah drifted into Baal-worship as imperceptibly to the priests and people as had Israel in Elijah’s day. The Book of Jeremiah is a text-book on confronting Baal-worship.
(1) Because it was an unconscious apostasy, the leaders and people tried to deny its existence:
“How can you say, ‘I am not polluted,
I have not gone after the Baals’?
See your way in the valley;
Know what you have done …
Yet you say, ‘Because I am innocent. …’
You say, ‘I have not sinned’ “ (Jeremiah 2:23, 35).
“They say to you, ‘Why has the LORD pronounced all this great disaster against us? Or what is our iniquity? Or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because your fathers have forsaken Me,’ says the LORD, ‘they have walked after other gods’ “ (16:10, 11).
“According to the number of your cities were your gods, O Judah; … you have set up altars to that shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal. … Now the LORD gave me knowledge of it, and I know it; for You showed me their doings” (11:13, 18).
(2) This apostate worship was combined with the true worship of the Lord in His temple at Jerusalem:
“Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? … The children of Judah … have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it” (7:9, 10, 30).
(3) The religious leaders at the headquarters of the nation aided and propagated this apostasy:
“‘Both prophet and priest are profane;
Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness,’ says the LORD. …
The prophets of Samaria … prophesied by Baal
And caused My people Israel to err. …
‘From the prophets of Jerusalem
Profaneness has gone out into all the land.’ …
Prophets … try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal” (23:11, 13, 15, 26, 27).
Thank God He has promised to “send … Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mat. 4:5). We desperately need him! (Ellen White intimates that “Elijah” is the message that began in 1888; see RH February 18, 1890). At the same time we must understand how the enemy longs to counterfeit even Elijah’s coming, and will encourage any self-appointed “reformer” who is lifted up in his own vanity to rush in where angels fear to tread. “The word of the Lord came to Elijah; he did not seek to be the Lord’s messenger” (5T 299).
Without understanding the 1888 message and its history in relation to the heavenly Day of Atonement, our youth find it difficult to see how the Seventh-day Adventist Church fits into God’s plan for the world today. The temptation is almost irresistible to see Adventism as just another religious option, a lifestyle not necessarily more valid than any other respectable religious group who recognize a “Supreme Being.”
There are countless good, sincere people and ministers in the popular Sunday-keeping churches. They are happy, loving, zealous, as devoted to their families as we are to ours, in some cases more missionary-minded than we have become. Their success in church growth fabulously outstrips ours in many cases, and their moral standards seem to be as high. The Lord’s question, “What do ye more than others?” is one they have a right to ask us (Matthew 5:47, KJV). And that is the embarrassing question many of our youth are asking.
The full light of the third angel’s message in verity “has been in a great degree kept away from the world” ever since the 1888 era (cf. 1SM 234, 235). As a result, the world has stood in a different relationship to God than His plan anticipated. While “Elijah” has had to go into exile, some “Obadiahs” have had to nourish the sincere prophets of the Lord “in a cave” as it were. The fall of Babylon has been checked. Not yet has it become what it will be when the loud cry is proclaimed. Not yet has that voice of Revelation 18:4 sounded clearly and powerfully, “Come out of her, My people”
Our Lord tells us plainly what the trouble is: He cannot yet work for His remnant church as powerfully as He would like to (cf. 6T 371). The Greek expression our Lord uses means that we make Him so nauseated that He feels like throwing up (Revelation 3:16, 17).1 Is it too much to say that sincere people who are close to Jesus also feel nauseated, as He does, by the self-centered Baal-worship that finds its way into the modern equivalent of the Lord’s temple? The vanity of spirit, the emptiness of sermons, the praise and flattery of men and women, the screaming and shouting into the microphones, the joking and jesting, the pathetic egocentric legalism—how does Christ feel? And how do those whom He describes in Revelation 18:4 as “My people” feel?
It is terrible to think that Baal-worship has infiltrated modern Israel as it did ancient Israel, but the Lord’s servant insists it is true. Human nature being the same in all ages, our tendency has been the same as that of the Lord’s ancient people—to assimilate the thinking of the people around us. The rejection of the 1888 message set the pattern for nearly a century of such assimilation, beginning with the exposure of counterfeit ideas at the 1893 session that purported to be the same as genuine righteousness by faith.2
That was only the beginning. We have turned again and again to the popular churches and their leadership for ideas and inspiration which we have assumed was the same message, not discerning the fundamental distinctions. Already in the 1890’s there were tendencies to confuse Roman Catholic justification by faith for the genuine (GCB 1893, pp. 244, 261, 262, 265, 266).
Just after World War I we borrowed “the victorious life” enthusiasm from The Sunday School Times. Froom’s Movement of Destiny even boasts that the 1888 message was essentially the same as a vast array of Evangelical preachers were teaching (pp. 255-258, 319-321; 1971 ed.).
This is not to say that all such ideas have been bad, but the unique concept of the cleansing of the sanctuary has been absent from them all. This vacuum has invited Baalworship to rush in.
Although the fall of Babylon is not yet complete, the initial stages have taken place. Something essential is decidedly lacking in the doctrines and experience of churches that do not understand the Scripture teaching of the antitypical Day of Atonement. Far removed by several generations from their forefathers of the 1844 era, they cannot be held responsible for truth they do not know unless they have also rejected it. Nevertheless, they are tragically the poorer for not knowing it.
In one of her earliest communications Ellen White describes the beginning of this process of deprivation. She received prophetic insight into the root cause of modern Christianity’s spiritual alienation from the “everlasting gospel” of Revelation 14. In her vision she saw the transition from the heavenly High Priest’s ministry in the first apartment to that of the second. The knowledge of this change of ministry was rejected by multitudes of Christians. What makes this account important is not the issue of guilt or lack of it for rejecting the 1844 light. The reality is the terrible deception entering in for lack of a vital truth regarding Christ and His present-day work in the final Day of Atonement. This statement has profound implications:
I did not see one ray of light pass from Jesus to the careless multitude after He arose, and they were left in perfect darkness. … Those who rose up with Jesus would send up their faith to Him in the holiest [apartment], and pray, “My Father, give us Thy Spirit.” Then Jesus would breathe upon them the Holy Ghost. In that breath was light, power, and much love, joy, and peace.
I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne [of the first apartment]; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, “Father, give us Thy Spirit.” Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, and peace (EW 55, 56).
By rejecting the two former messages, they [the rejectors] have so darkened their understanding that they can see no light in the third angel’s message, which shows the way into the most holy place. I saw that as the Jews crucified Jesus, so the nominal churches had crucified these messages, and therefore they have no knowledge of the way into the most holy, and they can not be benefitted by the intercession of Jesus there. Like the Jews, who offered their useless sacrifices, they offer up their useless prayers to the apartment which Jesus has left; and Satan, pleased with the deception, assumes a religious character, and leads the minds of these professed Christians to himself, working with his power, his signs and lying wonders. … He also comes as an angel of light, and spreads his influence over the land by means of false reformations. The churches are elated, and consider that God is working marvelously for them, when it is the work of another spirit (ibid., pp. 260, 261).
Is this prophetic insight valid? If so, it has far-reaching implications. It explains the mystery of the confusion we see in the modern Christian world. Although an apparent spiritual prosperity pervades many of the churches that “have no knowledge of the way into the most holy [place]” and which “can not be benefited by the intercession of Jesus there,” the final issues of the mark of the beast will test everyone’s devotion to Christ.
Members leave the Adventist church because they say that they find “love” and “warmth” and spiritual “power” in other churches, not discerning the true nature of Christ’s love as agape. Thus they are easily deceived by a superficial sentimentality. Is it possible to understand this confusing situation apart from the inspired prophetic insight of the final Day of Atonement?
And can our own spiritual impotence be traced to losing touch with that special, unique High Priest who entered the second apartment ministry at the end of the 2300-year prophecy? His final work is exciting, positive, big, related to life! Have we also lost a practical understanding of His work, so that our mission appears “dull” in consequence? Let us analyze these Early Writings statements:
(1) A specific generation of Christians in the 1844 era had rejected the Spirit-endorsed proclamation of the first and second angels’ messages, and many Millerites rejected the third angel’s message. (The overwhelming majority of Christians and their ministers today understand nothing of this).
(2) God is eminently fair. He cannot hold guilty these modern descendants of the rejecting 1844 generation if they have not comprehended the message sufficiently to reject it intelligently. There is no reason to suppose that many of these people are not sincerely living up to all the light they have and thus are individually accepted by the Lord.
(3) However, the real issue is not mere personal salvation in preparation for death. Since Bible prophecy indicates that the coming of the Lord is near, the true issue is a preparation for His coming and the attendant final trials. And we must not forget the transcendent motivation of concern for the honor and vindication of the Saviour so that the great controversy can be ended in victory for Him.
For this to take place in any community of human hearts and lives, the full truth of righteousness by faith must be clearly understood. And the popular churches cannot understand this truth, however sincere they may be, for they “have no knowledge of the way into the most holy [place], and they can not be benefited by the intercession of Jesus there.”
Genuine righteousness by faith is not only a truth but an experience that accompanies it which the heavenly High Priest ministers in His closing work of atonement. Continued centuries of ignorance of this truth cannot resolve the problem. The third angel’s message in verity is vitally needed. In the absence of that truth, no body of people anywhere can be prepared for the second coming of Christ, regardless of their religious affiliation.
(4) Ellen White is on target in depicting Satan as a sly counterfeiter. He succeeds only when “he leads the minds of these professed Christians” away from the special, unique work of Christ in the Most Holy Apartment. According to the Early Writings statement, his method is to appear to perpetuate the same ministry of Christ that continued in the first Apartment from His ascension to 1844. His intent is to eclipse a knowledge of the change in that ministry.
The High Priest’s ministry must change, because He cannot forever minister His blood in substitution to cover the perpetual sinning of His people. He must accomplish something on the Day of Atonement that was never accomplished previously. He must have a people who overcome “even as” He overcame, a people who “condemn sin in the flesh” through His faith. Satan must zero in on this truth and eclipse it if possible. Thus the counterfeiter leads minds “to himself” by deflecting their interest from the unique work the true High Priest must accomplish.
If Third World entrepreneurs can counterfeit Swiss Omega watches so as to fool sophisticated buyers, is it hard to believe that Satan has by now polished a highly successful imitation of Christ and the true gospel message? It includes “light and much power, but no sweet love [agape], joy and peace.” He has diligently studied the work of the true Holy Spirit and has invented a superb imitation that will deceive, if possible, the very elect. He has his counterfeit righteousness by faith nearly perfected for deception. Of course, it lacks an understanding of Christ’s work in the Most Holy Apartment, that vital ingredient of agape that alone can cleanse human hearts of all fear and self-centered motivation which perpetuates sin.
(5) If Ellen White is correct, multitudes of “sincere,” “loving” Christians will succumb to terrific pressure to restore the religious intolerance of the Dark Ages and will enforce the mark of the beast. Various forms of terrorism can easily accomplish this for a nation, a world, and churches given to materialism, sensuality and “spiritual” spiritualism. Ellen White unmasks the horrible specter of a false Christ spreading “his influence over the land by means of false reformations, … the work of another spirit” (ibid., p. 261).
(6) There are wheat and tares growing together in “Babylon” as there are within the church that professes to bear the third angel’s message. But the stalemate of a near-century must be resolved. The human race is in a process of disintegrating morally and spiritually. We face problems of potential global suicide through drug abuse, drunkenness, infidelity, break-up of homes, violence, polarization of the rich and the poor, terrorism, and the always looming shadow of nuclear disaster.
The great controversy between Christ and Satan will likely appear to resolve itself into a contest to see which can preserve life on this planet. “The beast” will make it appear that he is the world’s savior. Thus his mark will at last be urged as the only way to prevent the destruction of the human race. The “false reformations” brought by the counterfeit “high priest” who has pretended to take over the ministry of the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary will be the means to effect this vast deception.
(7) Thus there are truths inherent in the 1888 message of Christ’s righteousness that are not comprehended by any segment of Christians who do not understand the twoapartment ministry of the heavenly High Priest. The “gospel” proclaimed by the “little horn” power virtually justifies sin and therefore logically upholds Satan’s rebellion. This is the secret of the lawlessness that pervades the modern world on all levels. All churches everywhere desperately need to have the gospel of the three angels’ messages in verity effectively communicated to them.
The third angel’s message in verity proclaims a Saviour who “condemned sin in the flesh,” offering the only valid rebuttal of Satan’s charges against God. It effectively “condemns sin,” that is, demonstrates that sin in human nature is unnecessary and is actually doomed to extinction. Ralph Larson explains the close relationship between “the Nature of Christ and the Saving Work of Christ” who cannot heal that which He has not assumed (The Word Was Made Flesh, pp. 277-283). The third angel’s message thus presents a Saviour who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin, and who therefore can save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him. The message will prepare a people for the Lord’s return.
Those who follow Christ by faith in the change of His High Priestly mission appreciate three distinct and unique truths:
(a) The perpetuity of the law of God, including the holy sabbath. The true “fulfillment of the law” is agape (Romans 13:10) because it produces heart-obedience through the atonement. This is the unique aspect of righteousness by faith that is ministered only in the Most Holy Apartment ministry .
(b) The non-immortality of the soul. Apart from clearly comprehending the truth of the nature of man it becomes impossible to appreciate what happened on the cross of Calvary. Thus true motivation to holy living is weakened, and righteousness by faith is nullified.
(c) The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is the final Day of Atonement ministry. This ensures the ultimate demonstration of righteousness by faith in the hearts and lives of those who believe the truth.
These three “pillars” of truth support the Seventh-day Adventist Church (CWE pp. 30, 31). They embrace a complete message that can prepare a people for the return of Christ. But apart from understanding the 1888 message, the verity of truth therein necessarily eludes us. As surely as night follows day, the pioneers’ confidence in the imminent return of Christ consequently fades away; we lose their vision and their star disappears.
There is no truth that Satan has sought more earnestly to counterfeit than New Testament love. Human hearts everywhere hunger for it; but “because lawlessness will abound, the love [agape] of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). It is this genuine love that Ellen White saw is ministered only by Christ in His closing work of atonement.3 A counterfeit love is ministered by a counterfeit holy spirit, who is the essence of spiritualism. Here is what is happening before our eyes:
I saw the rapidity with which this delusion [spiritualism] was spreading. A train of cars was shown me, going with the speed of lightning. The angel bade me look carefully. I fixed my eyes upon the train. It seemed that the whole world was on board; that there could not be one left. Said the angel, “They are binding in bundles ready to burn.” Then he showed me the conductor, who appeared like a stately, fair person, whom all the passengers looked up to and reverenced. I was perplexed, and asked my attending angel who it was. [Why would Ellen White have to ask that question if it is so easy to recognize him?] He said, “It is Satan. He is the conductor in the form of an angel of light” (EW 88).
In this age antichrist will appear as the true Christ (TM 62).
He will assume to personate the angels of light, to personate Jesus Christ (Letter 102, 1894).
The enemy would have had no power to weaken the Seventh-day Adventist Church unless “we” had somehow opened the door for him to squeeze in. “When the Lord has a genuine channel of light, there are always plenty of counterfeits. Satan will surely enter any door thrown open for him” (Letter 102, 1894).
It was a miracle that a unique people came into existence during the last century holding to those three distinctive “pillars” of truth embodied in the message of the three angels. No way should their work have been delayed or hindered, according to God’s plan. But because of the 1888 unbelief, the Lord’s messenger in 1889 predicted a terrible falling away from truth and purity:
Unless divine power is brought into the experience of the people of God, false theories and erroneous ideas will take minds captive, Christ and His righteousness will be dropped out of the experience of many, and their faith will be without power or life (RH September 3, 1889).
In order to appreciate this disclosure, we must note:
(1) Christ and His righteousness would not, could not, be “dropped out of the experience of many” verbally. For any of us to repudiate Him in words would arouse a dramatic thrill of horror. “The result predicted” had to take place while those “many” maintained a profession of Christ and His righteousness.
(2) Christ and His righteousness would not be “dropped out of the experience of many” consciously. That would be to awaken us to our need, a sense of extreme coldness. It would drive honest-hearted souls to the fire and put an end to lukewarmness. But Satan is pleased to keep us in a state of “balance,” so long as it is thermostatic. Words or their lack may deceive us. “The lips may express a poverty of soul that the heart does not acknowledge” (COL 159).
(3) Christ and His righteousness would therefore be “dropped out of the experience of many” unconsciously through the mysterious process of our unknown hearts. There is a natural enmity against God working beneath the surface. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9). Any obsessional neurosis can develop with the causes buried beyond knowledge. Ellen White wrote of the possibility of our changing leaders after 1888 and not knowing it:
For the last twenty years a subtle, unconsecrated influence has been leading men … to neglect their heavenly Companion. Many have turned away from Christ (RH February 18, 1904).
Those who can so easily be led by a false spirit show that they have been following the wrong captain for some time,—so long that they do not discern that they are departing from the faith (Southern Watchman, April 5, 1904).
A heart-appreciation of Christ’s cross always leads to self being “crucified with Him.” But “human wisdom will lead away from self-denial, from consecration, and will devise many things to make of no effect God’s messages” (RH December 13, 1892).
Multitudes of our own people, especially youth, are confused and bewildered by the dullness and spiritual impotence they see in the Seventh-day Adventist Church today. And the problems raised by fanatics, disloyal dissidents, and off-shoot leaders within the church can also be understood and solved only in the light of this reality.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not Babylon, and God has never planned that it become Babylon any more than ancient Israel in the days of Elijah or Jeremiah was to become Babylon. Baal-worship was and is a disease of the body that is foreign to it and makes it sick. But healing is possible through repentance and reformation. The solution to the problem is not the destruction of the church, but its spiritual recovery. Note this encouragement:
God is leading out a people. … He would reprove and correct them. The message to the Laodiceans is applicable to Seventh-day Adventists who have had great light and have not walked in the light. … The message to pronounce the Seventh-day Adventist Church Babylon, and call the people of God out of her, does not come from any heavenly messenger, or any human agent inspired by the Spirit of God ….
God … has a work for His church to do. They are not to be pronounced Babylon, but to be as the salt of the earth, the light of the world … to proclaim a living message in these last days. …
How Satan would exult to have a message go broadcast that the only people whom God has made the repositories of His law are the ones to whom this message [the fall of Babylon] applies. …
Evidence which makes the message to the Laodicean church applicable … will not blot out the church that it will not exist (2 SM 66-69; 1893). 162
When pride and self-seeking masquerade as devotion to Christ, there we have Baalworship. And it has penetrated all levels of the church body. “Those who are more desirous of securing promotion and a good name in the world than of maintaining right principles, will betray sacred trusts” (RH January 31, 1892).
Honesty and policy will not work together in the same mind. In time, either policy will be expelled, and truth and honesty reign supreme, or, if policy is cherished, honesty will be forgotten. They are never in agreement; they have nothing in common. One is the prophet of Baal, the other is the true prophet of God (5T 96).
O that we might glimpse the face of our true Lord! If we will look in His face, we will not see the perpetual smile of indulgence with His unfaithful people that Baal assumes. He is an idol with a frozen smile. The face of the true Christ registers the pain of acute nausea, a divine sickness of heart with our terrible lukewarmness, our self-love, our professions of a devotion that we do not truly feel. Genuine Christian experience contrasts with the counterfeit as follows:
A true sense of the sacrifice and intercession of the dear Saviour will break the heart that has become hardened in sin; and love, thankfulness, and humility will come into the soul. The surrender of the heart to Jesus subdues the rebel into a penitent … This is the true religion of the Bible; everything short of this is a deception (4T 625).
A new order of things has come into the ministry. There is a desire to pattern after other churches, and simplicity and humility are almost unknown. … Some open revival meetings, and by this means call large numbers into the church. But when the excitement is over, where are the converted ones? Repentance and confession of sin are not seen. The sinner is entreated to believe in Christ and accept Him without regard to his past life of sin and rebellion. The heart is not broken. There is no contrition of soul. The supposed converted ones have not fallen upon the Rock, Christ Jesus (Undated MS, 111).
Where is that Rock, that we may fall upon it and be “broken”? The good news is better than Baal wants us to believe. Falling upon that “Rock” does not destroy self-esteem or in any way harm one’s true personality. One’s personality experiences a resurrection with Christ when the sinful love of self is crucified with Him. Christ never destroys anyone; but this experience of taking up our cross is the only way the heavenly High Priest can put us together right, both for time and for eternity.
1 The original language is not a firm promise that the Lord will spue out His church of Laodicea. The Greek is mello se emesai, an expression that means literally, “I am about to vomit you out.” The same word mello is used in Revelation 10:4 where the action anticipated does not take place. The Laodicean message declares that we can heal Christ’s sickness of nausea by our repentance (verse 19). The word Laodicea is not a dirty word; it means “judging, or vindicating, the people.” The problem with Laodicea is her lukewarmness, not her identity as the seventh or last of the churches. [return to text]
2 See GCB 1893, pp. 358, 359; Hannah Whitall Smith got her basic ideas for her Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life from Fenelon, the Roman Catholic mystic at the court of Louis XIV who spent his life energies seeking to convert Protestants to Rome. His “righteousness by faith” is a close counterfeit, as was that of the Roman Catholic TV evangelist, Fulton Sheen, and modern Catholic TV evangelists. The resemblance to the genuine is often very subtle. [return to text]
3 There are outstanding books on agape by Evangelical scholars, such as Agape and Eros by Anders Nygren, Testaments of Love by Leon Morris, and The Love Affair by Michael Harper. But there is something lacking in all of them: they do not comprehend how the love that led Christ to His cross is a love that endured the equivalent of the second death, as we find set forth so clearly in The Desire of Ages p. 753. Thus these sincere authors of necessity come short of appreciating the true “width and length and depth and height” of that agape “of Christ which passes knowledge.” No community of Christians who hold the doctrine of natural immortality of the soul can see it, regardless of their sincerity. In proportion as their concept of agape is thus weakened, so is their concept of faith weakened. Inevitably, their idea of righteousness by faith is compromised. [return to text]