LandMarks Magazine  
   

August 1999 Table of Contents

 
 

Satan’s Third Brigade
By Ralph Larson

The devil has three brigades. The first brigade is the persecutors. Whenever God’s work is becoming prominent anywhere, at anytime, and the people are learning what the truth is and turning away from error, Satan’s first brigade comes on with persecution.

If that does not work, he brings in his second brigade, which is the dividers. They come in among the people of God and try to divide them one from another, and thus destroy them.

Satan’s third brigade is even more subtle. We read about it in Selected Messages, Book 2, 19. “If Satan sees that the Lord is blessing His people and preparing them to discern his delusions, he will work with his master power to bring in fanaticism on the one hand and cold formalism on the other, that he may gather in a harvest of souls. Now is our time to watch unceasingly.” [All emphasis supplied.]

When does the devil bring in fanaticism? Whenever God is blessing His people. And certainly He is blessing the historic Adventist movement today. If you could go with me,  in a time machine, back to the fall of the year 1977 when I moved to Loma Linda, California, and first became aware of the problems that were ravishing the church, you would not believe how lonely I felt. I was like a fence post in the middle of a field, standing all by myself, so far as I knew. Soon, however, I discovered that there were others who were standing for the truth and they too were being put through the fire.

Yes, the devil has tried his first brigade on us. Many have been persecuted, pushed out of their churches and put through kangaroo court proceedings of various kinds. But the devil’s first brigade has not succeeded in destroying us. The devil tried to scare us, but he found that historic Adventists do not scare easily. And so tremendous things have been tried: false accusations, false articles, false books (books that are full of false accusations of one kind or another), but it did not work.

Meanwhile our work was growing more and more and more. Books, magazines, television programs, radio programs, campmeetings and revival meetings all over the world. And so the devil had to fall back on his second brigade, the dividers. And these he has sent with full force, and all too often we have allowed divisions to come among us.

When people ask me about these divisions, I remind them of the Reformation. Those strong-minded men who became reformers had a difficult time getting along all the time, also. There are painful moments in our experience as we read that there were in their experience.

For example, when Martin Luther went to Zurich, Switzerland, to discuss the Lord’s Supper with Zwingli. Poor, dear Brother Martin, went up to the desk, which was a large table between them, and took a piece of chalk and wrote, “This is My body.” Then he backed off and he said, “It does not say ‘Represents it!’ It says, ‘This IS My body.’”

Poor Brother Martin, have you never read where Jesus said, “I am the vine”? He did not say, I represent the vine. Have you never read where Jesus said, “I am the way”? He did not say, I represent the way and so on down the line. That was the way Jesus talked. But there is the problem, you see. It takes a very strong-minded man to lead a ministry, to take all of the opposition, to take all of the guff, and that kind of man is not easily persuaded on any point.

Bring in the Third Brigade!

So we must bear in mind that although division has hurt us, and we must learn to get along if we all plan to be in heaven together, there is something that is even more serious than division. That is the devil’s third brigade. And I must tell you that the third brigade could stop us. The fanatics could kill this movement, because they almost killed the Reformation. Let me show you.

“In every age Satan has sought to impair the efforts of God’s servants by introducing into the church a spirit of fanaticism.” Acts of the Apostles, 348.

In The Great Controversy, in the chapter entitled “The Progress of Reform in Germany,” Sister White tells a particular story about Martin Luther that well illustrates the question we are considering.

At this time, Luther had made his stand before the Emperor and the Diet, and the Elector had put him in the castle at Wartburg, high in the mountains, to keep him safe from the death decree that had been issued against his life. He was there for about a year, and during that year two things were happening. The progress of the cause was going forward because various men had stepped in to fill Luther’s position. At the same time, Satan was looking on and realized that his first brigade, the persecution by the Emperor and the Pope, had not been successful. There had been much division and it had been very painful, but it was not stopping the work and so he said, “It is time to call my third brigade. Let us send in the fanatics.” And the fanatics gathered on all sides. They even invaded Wittenburg. People with strange ideas about this and strange ideas about that, apparently all very deeply convinced that they had the truth. But, friend, sincerity does not help if you do not have the truth.

Luther, hearing the news at Wartburg, decided that persecution or no persecution, death threat or no death threat, he was going to return. And so he went back to Wittenburg. We are told that after much effort he was able to stem the tide of fanaticism.

“But Satan was not idle. He now attempted what he has attempted in every other reformatory movement to deceive and destroy the people by palming off on them a counterfeit in place of the true work.…From the professed friends of the Reformation had arisen its worst enemies. [Worse than the Emperor; and even worse than the Pope.] They brought the Reformation to the verge of ruin.” The Great Controversy, 186, 187.

This is my authority for telling you that if this historic movement is ever stopped, it will not be stopped by persecution, it will not be stopped by division, but it could be stopped by the fanatics who are hitting us unmercifully on every side. Ellen White goes on to say that it was nothing but the firm rock-like stand of Luther that saved the Reformation: “Fearlessly did Luther defend the gospel from the attacks which came from every quarter. He stood firm as a rock against the fanaticism that sought to ally itself with the Reformation.” Ibid., 193.

It was the same in the early Advent movement. After the movement of William Miller, which was remarkably free of fanaticism, when the Bible conferences were going on for the next four or five years, and the message we lovingly describe as “the truth” was being studied out, Ellen White was called to her work. She tells us herself that her very first work was to fight off the fanatics. Although she was little more than a youth, her first work was to travel in Maine, then Vermont, and much later into Wisconsin and meet people with their wild ideas. Probably they were very earnest people. Only in a few rare cases does she accuse anyone of insincerity, but oh, the nonsense they wanted to get into the movement.

Sister White knew what it was like to fight fanaticism. She knew the intensity of the battle and she knew something else. She knew it was going to be acted on all over again in the final days of the movement! Here are just some of the warnings she gives about fanaticism.

“Fanaticism will appear in the very midst of us.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 16.

“Every phase of fanaticism and erroneous theories claiming to be the truth will be brought in among the remnant people of God.” Ibid., 14.

“Fanaticism will come in as it always has when God works.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 245.

“Every conceivable, fanciful and deceptive doctrine will be presented by men who think that they have the truth.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 25.

“In the last days it will be like it was in 1844 as far as fanaticism is concerned.” The Review and Herald, January 28, 1909.

“Fanaticism once started and left unchecked is as hard to quench as a fire which has obtained hold of a building.” Mind, Character and Personality, 43.

“I was instructed that fanaticism similar to that which we were called to meet after the passing of time in 1844 would come in among us again in the closing days of the message. And then we must meet this evil just as decidedly now as when we met it in our early experience.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 221.

Are you a little surprised to read an article such as this from the pen of Ralph Larson, the gentle, kind old man? Well, I want to be gentle and I want to be kind, but I am going to be fair! Fanaticism could destroy us and I am going to take a stand against it. Sister White said fanaticism is like fire in a building. It is harder to quench when the whole building is in flames than when the fire is first ignited. And so, today, it is past time that we take a stand against fanaticism in our midst. We must call heresy by its right name and we must call fanaticism by its right name.

The Basis of All Fanaticism

Fanaticism has many different names, but they all have something in common which runs like a thread through them. We read in Selected Messages, Book 2, 14: “The devisings of men’s minds will invent tests that are no tests at all. That when the true test shall be made prominent, it shall be considered on a par with the man-made tests that have been of no value.”

“God will send us direct and practical tests, to teach us, if we will be taught, the benefits of faith. He has no use for man-made tests. The tests that He has given are sufficient.” The Pacific Union Recorder, October 20, 1904.

“Satan will lead men to manufacture false tests and thus seek to obscure the value of and make of non-effect the message of truth.” The Review and Herald, May 29, 1888.

What is the real test we should be focusing on today? “The commandment of God that has been almost universally made void is the testing truth for this time.” Ibid.

After referring to the Sabbath, Sister White stated: “This is the Lord’s test. Let us not descend from it to man-made tests.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, 56.

“‘Ye shall not add to the word nor diminish from it.’ The Lord guarded against the adding of man-made tests which would bring in confusion.” Letters to Sanitarium Workers in Southern California, 10.

“There will be brought in a vast amount of man-made tests that have not the least bearing upon the word given us of God to prepare a people to stand with the whole equipment of the heavenly armor on without leaving one piece.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, 91.

Examples of Man-Made Tests

What are the man-made tests that historic Adventists are being faced with today? The following is just a partial list.

The Feast Days

We are being called to tests on the Feast Days. We are being told today that if we do not keep the Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles and so on we are going to be lost. Strange as it may seem, this is unsettling and troubling to good sincere people because it is wrapped in packages of sophistry that appears to be very convincing. (Sophistry is that which appears to be logical but it is not logical.)

It is not easy to know how to relate to someone who comes to you, apparently with great earnestness and with great sincerity and zeal and assures you most solemnly that two plus two, properly understood, equals seventy-five. Let me explain. A certain brother put out information calling on everyone to keep the feast days. When I published an article in Land Marks in which I called attention to some of the errors with these type of teachings, he responded with an open letter. I’ll reproduce just a few lines from his letter here, so that you may evaluate the logic of his conclusions for yourself.

Here are his words. “We are all familiar with the story of Moses and Pharaoh. Most of us have thought, until recently, that the Feast of the Passover was given to the Jews at that time. However, Abraham kept the feast four hundred thirty years before Moses.”

What! Abraham kept the Passover? How could a man, who claims to believe the Spirit of Prophecy, send out a letter of this type and even sign his name to it?

Look carefully at these inspired quotations which so clearly tell us when the Passover was instituted. “The observance of the Passover began with the birth of the Hebrew nation on the last night of their bondage in Egypt. The Hebrews went out from Egypt an independent nation.” The Desire of Ages, 76.

 “On that night so terrible to the Egyptians and so glorious to the people of God was the solemn ordinance of the Passover instituted.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, 217.

“The Jews had been strictly enjoined to celebrate the Passover. This had been instituted at the time of their deliverance from Egypt.” The Review and Herald, November 4, 1902.

Now do you understand what I mean when someone solemnly assures you that two plus two equals seventy-five? How do you deal with that kind of a mind? I sent him the quotations that I have just listed and, so far, he has not responded. So, that was just one example of how we are being challenged to face a test about the Feast Days.

The Name of God

We are being called to face a test about the name/names of God. There are at least three variations on the name of God being endorsed and embraced by certain groups among us today. And all of them assure us that if we do not pronounce it their way, we will all go to hell. There is no hope whatever for our salvation if we do not say it right and they say it three different ways?

Beloved, if I may say so, of all the strange stuff, this is the most weird that we have ever come across. The Jewish people stopped pronouncing the name of God at least five hundred years before Christ. And the orthodox Jew, today, will not pronounce the name of God. He will refer to the deity saying “Hashem” which means “The Name.” He will not pronounce the sacred name. It has not been pronounced for probably twenty-five hundred years. Yet there are people coming among us today who say, “We know exactly how that name should be pronounced and if you do not say it like we say it, you are going to hell.”

Dear hearts, what happens to the human mind? They will with great triumph, pull out a verse from the Psalms which says “My name is Yaw” and place that under your nose. David, who wrote that, put down the Y or J and he put down the H, but he did not put the A in there. There were no vowels in the Hebrew alphabet. They had only consonants.

How did they get along? Well, they got along just like you and I do with abbreviations. When you see Mt. Lassen, does anyone have to tell you what it means? It means Mount Lassen, of course. However, if you had never learned that, as a child, you could look at Mt. for a thousand years and never know it said Mount.

The Hebrew alphabet was entirely like that and that is the way they read all of their words. About seven to eight hundred years after Christ, they finally decided to invent some vowels and put them underneath the letters so that you could follow along if you did not know from memory.

So, just think, if there has been no one around for twenty-five hundred years to speak the name and tell you how it sounds and if the people who wrote the name did not even have vowels, how can someone come along in our time and say, “I know! You say it like I say it or you are going to hell.” Dear people, what goes on in the human mind? And what is surprising is that this is troubling our people.

The Godhead

Another man-made test deals with the Godhead. Is the Holy Spirit God? Most people do not argue about whether the Father is God, but they argue about whether the Spirit is God. Here are just a few lines from the Spirit of Prophecy. “The Spirit being God knoweth the mind of God;” “The three powers of the Godhead;” “The Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead;” “The Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit;” “The three powers of the Godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, 36; Review and Herald, July 18, 1907; Evangelism, 615; Australian Union Conference Record, October 7, 1907.

There are also those who are trying to chip away at the divinity of Christ. Consider this strong rebuke: “That doctrine that denies the absolute Godhead of Jesus Christ denies also the Godhead of the Father.” Signs of the Times, June 27, 1895.

Dual Application of Prophecy

Then we have a lot of “dual application of time prophecies.” When people approach me and say, “Would you not be interested in learning about a dual application of this prophecy?” I say, “No thanks, give me the tenth application. That is where my interest lies. Give me the fifteenth, the twentieth, the thirtieth, the fortieth, the fiftieth, the hundred and fiftieth, that is where my interest lies.”

Am I bewildering you? If an historic time prophecy can be re-applied, can it be re-applied twice or again and again and again? I do not know why not. So tell me about the twentieth one, that is where I want to plug in.

Then to a lesser degree, there are smaller items such as kneeling in prayer. I want to believe that these folk who come in and challenge us when we do not kneel for a benediction are sincere, dedicated, earnest, consecrated people, but I have a little trouble over this point. Almost invariably, when they detect that you are not buying their reasoning, they get furiously angry with you and are ready to denounce you as a false minister, a false prophet, a child of Satan, etc. It just makes me wonder, is this the spirit of Christ?

I have to share with you the bitter pill. There have been, and there are now, many thousands of earnest, sincere, dedicated, historic Seventh-day Adventists who in view of all the warnings that we have about error, have found it necessary to worship separately in little groups here and there. Inevitably, there come in among them people professing to be just like they are and, of course, they embrace them. They take them right in and pretty soon they start telling them, “You will surely be lost if you do not keep the Passover.” Or, “You will surely be lost if you do not pronounce the name of God right.” Or, “You will surely be lost if you think there are three divine beings who have the fullness of the Godhead, when Jesus and the Holy Spirit were not really God,” and so forth and so on down the list. They point out irrelevant texts and pile them around the issue, until, by their confused logic, they have convinced some that they are speaking the truth. 

Dear friend, as we have read, God has no use for man-made tests. The Sabbath is the test that we are all going to be called upon to pass. All man-made tests will divert the mind from the great and important doctrines that constitute present truth. Let us not descend from the Sabbath to man-made tests. The truth is pure; the truth is wonderful. The tests of God are like they ought to be. They do not need to be improved upon.

We know that the truth will prevail, the only problem is that we must hold fast to it. This message is going to go through. The only question is whether I will go through with it. And that is what we all need to be thinking about day-by-day. Let us accept the test of God and let us reject all man-made tests.

Watch out for the devil’s third brigade—fanatics.

August 1999 Table of Contents

 

       
 

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