It is important to understand
what God’s Word really says. Certainly
it is important to understand what the Bible says concerning the people of
God. The phrase “people of God” is many
times used in the Bible. The Jews
understood themselves to be the people of God.
Even at the time when they crucified the Saviour on the cross, they
understood themselves to be the people of God.
For us, it is important to know how God looks upon us, not what our own
A Vital Distinction
There is a vital distinction between the true people
of God and the professed, or so-called, people of God. Let us see what the Word of God says in
“But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my
voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all
the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.”
Many Christians in various denominations, journeyed
for a time on the path of God, but then they took another way. However, these Christians still believe they
are the people of God, and they claim all the promises, which can be claimed
only by the people of God. Today, when
asked, Catholics affirm that they belong to the people of God just as do the
Seventh-day Adventists. So it is not our
own opinion of ourselves that is important; it is important for us to know how
God sees us. That is the decisive
question, if we want to be in heaven.
God defines His people as those who obey His
voice. That is true for the people of
the Old Testament as well as for those of the New Testament.
Jeremiah 31:33 says, “But this [shall be] the covenant that I will
make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the Lord, I will put my law in their inward
parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel lost the privilege of being God’s chosen people. They became a whore. We need to understand how they became a
whore, for if we do not understand this, we cannot discern our own
situation. We read, in Hosea 1:2, 9: “And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a
wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms:
for the land hath committed great whoredom, [departing] from the Lord.”
“Then said [God], Call his name Loammi: for ye
[are] not my people, and I will not be your [God].”
Is a whore God’s people? What did God do to this whore? Did He cast her away immediately? He gave warning after warning, but when they
cast away and disregarded all His warnings, He then allowed punishment to
come. His punishment came step by step,
and in the end, God asked, “Why shall I still bid you,
that you should recognize that I am your God?
Let the people understand God’s punishment.” History tells us that they did not. So God despised and cast out His people.
In the Old Testament, there was a separation between
the people of God. Both Israel and Judah called themselves the people of God, but who of them
were really the people of God? God
separated and divided that which caused the most apostasy among Israel. When the
kings tried to reunite what God had divided, for instance, when the king of Judah wanted to help the king of Israel fight against the Amorites, God told this king,
“Should you help those who forsake Me?”
God was against Judah and Israel getting together to fight against their enemies. From a human standpoint, we may think that it
is only common sense for two groups that are related to each other to connect
to fight a common enemy. But God told Judah, “You will not stand before the enemy if you take the
help of Israel.” The history
is teaching for our time.
When God very clearly said that He cast off Israel because of her apostasy, Judah should have been awake. Did Judah learn from the experience of Israel? We read in
“And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed
adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her
treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.”
No Longer a People?
What? Did God
no longer have a faithful people? The
ten tribes had fallen; now Judah became a whore.
God has always had a people, a remnant.
In all time, God has had a church on earth. We read, in Isaiah 1:8, 9, how God looks
upon His people: “And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a
garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
Except the Lord of hosts
had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, [and] we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”
Very similar words are recorded in Isaiah 10:22, 23: “For though
thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea,
[yet] a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow
with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the
Both groups—Israel and Judah—had fallen.
The people of God consisted of a small group, a remnant. Does it sound familiar to you—a people of a
God’s People Defined
In the New Testament, we read from the apostle Paul a
similar definition: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither [is
that] circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he [is] a Jew, which is
one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and] not
in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:28, 29. And, in Romans 9:6, 7, we read: “Not
as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they [are] not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, [are they]
all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.”
There is a teaching for us in these verses. God’s people are defined. We can draw out of it the teaching, What is God’s church?
Is there a difference between God’s people and God’s church? Ellen White answers that question by drawing
a parallel of the New Testament Israel in the following words:
“ ‘As a wife treacherously departeth
from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord;’ ‘as a
wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!’ Ezekiel 16:8, 13–15, 32; Jeremiah 3:20.
“In the New Testament, language very similar is
addressed to professed Christians who seek the
friendship of the world above the favor of God. Says the apostle James: ‘Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the
friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever
therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.’ [James 4:4.]” The Great Controversy, 381, 382.
If the adulteresses in the Old Testament were not
God’s people, can the adulteresses in the New Testament be God’s people?
“The alliances made by the Israelites with their
heathen neighbors resulted in the loss of their identity as God’s peculiar
people. . . .
“The experience of Israel will be the experience of all who go to the world for
strength, turning away from the living God. Those who forsake the mighty One,
the source of all strength, and affiliate with worldlings,
placing on them their dependence, become weak in moral power, as are those in
whom they trust. . . .
“No semblance of nearness to God, no assertion of
connection with him, will be accepted from those who persist in dishonoring him
by leaning upon the arm of worldly power.”
Review and Herald, August 4, 1904.
The identity of God’s peculiar people got lost through
their connection with the world. People
who make a connection or union with the world are not looked upon as God’s
people. If people who look for their
strength in the world are looked upon as people who are dishonoring God, how
does He look upon us if we look for strength in other humans? He is a God in anger, because His people are
looking for another source of power and strength. He is a jealous God. We find this description of God’s jealousy in
the Ten Commandments: “I the Lord
thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the
children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me.” Exodus 20:5. Has God
“It was by departure from the Lord, and alliance with
the heathen, that the Jewish church became a harlot; and Rome, corrupting herself in like manner by seeking the
support of worldly powers, receives a like condemnation.
“Babylon is said to be ‘the mother of harlots.’ By her daughters must be symbolized
churches that cling to her doctrines and traditions, and follow her example of
sacrificing the truth and the approval of God, in order to form an unlawful
alliance with the world. The message of Revelation
14, announcing the fall
of Babylon must apply to religious bodies that were once pure
and have become corrupt.” The Great Controversy, 382, 383.
What churches do we know that were once pure? Yes, the Protestant churches were once
pure. They made mistakes, but in God’s
eyes, they were pure. He saw their
trying to follow the truths they discovered, and they paid for their
faithfulness to these truths even with their lives. Although they did not understand all truth,
still they were God’s people and were considered pure and clean in God’s
eyes. “At the time of their rise these
churches took a noble stand for God and the truth, and His blessing was with
them.” Ibid, 382.
We have not yet stood the test, which numbers of
Protestant martyrs have stood. We have
not stood at the stake because of our faith.
We have not been cast before lions because of our faith. We have not been sawn through because of our
faith. But those Christians stood such
tests of their faithfulness.
Turn into Babylon
God states very clearly through His messenger how once
clean and pure churches turn into Babylon: “Many of the Protestant churches are
following Rome’s example of iniquitous connection with ‘the kings of the
earth’—the state churches, by their relation to secular governments; and other
denominations, by seeking the favor of the world. And the term ‘Babylon’—confusion—may be
appropriately applied to these bodies, all professing to derive their doctrines
from the Bible, yet divided into almost innumerable sects, with widely conflicting
creeds and theories.” Ibid.,
Ellen White also wrote: “The term ‘Babylon’ is derived
from ‘Babel,’ and signifies confusion.
It is employed in Scripture to designate the various forms of false or
apostate religion.” Ibid.,
Can you identify some of these false religions which
belong to Babylon? All of the heathen
religions are false religions, are they not?
They were faulty from their inception.
They did not come from a true religion.
There have been false and apostate religions from the beginning. The mark of those religions is that they have
been once pure. The term “Babylon” has
two applications. This study is not addressing
the religions that have fallen anyway, but rather those that are apostate
religions. A connection with the state
and a friendship with the world are the marks of an apostate religion. Remember the quotations from The Great
History as Our Textbook
We need to look back into history in order to
understand how these churches came to pass, for history is our textbook. Paul recommends in the Book of 1 Corinthians that we
should learn from history. (See 1 Corinthians 10:11.) In her introductory words in The Great
Controversy, Ellen White recommends that we learn from the history of
Israel and the first disciples, so that we may make the right decisions at the
end of time.
“What was the origin of the great apostasy? How did the church first depart from the
simplicity of the gospel? By conforming to the practices of paganism, to facilitate the acceptance
of Christianity by the heathen.
The apostle Paul declared, even in his day, ‘The mystery of iniquity
doth already work.’ 11 Thessalonians 2:7. During the lives of the apostles the church
remained comparatively pure. But ‘toward
the latter end of the second century most of the churches assumed a new form;
the first simplicity disappeared, and insensibly, as the old disciples retired
to their graves, their children, along with new converts, . . . came
forward and new-modeled the cause.’—Robert Robinson, Ecclesiastical
Researches, ch. 6, par. 17, p. 51.” Ibid., 384, 385.
Does this description of apostasy sound familiar to
us? Do the people of God today try to
confirm the practices of reason? Do we
not see the people of God lowering their standards to win converts? What is the result of this? It is the same as when the first church did
not watch in keeping the heathen from coming into the church. History shows the outcome of this
Satan has tried to use the same tactics in all times,
in all churches: “Has not the same process been repeated in nearly every church
calling itself Protestant? As the
founders, those who possessed the true spirit of reform, pass away, their
descendants come forward and ‘new-model the cause.’ . . .
“Alas, to what a fearful extent is that friendship of
the world which is ‘enmity with God,’ now cherished among the professed
followers of Christ!” Ibid.,
Ellen White posed the rather rhetorical question, “Has
not the same process been repeated in nearly every church calling itself
385. The answer given is: “The spirit of worldly
conformity is invading the churches throughout Christendom.” Ibid., 388.
Was the prophet mistaken in this? Did she make an error? When God speaks of all churches in the whole
of Christendom, then it would be illogical to think that she did not write what
Ellen White also wrote of the apostasy of the church
that occurs because it casts off and disregards the Three Angels’
Messages: “Revelation 18 points to the time
when, as the result of rejecting the threefold warning of Revelation 14:6–12, the church
will have fully reached the condition foretold by the second angel, and the
people of God still in Babylon will be called upon to separate from her communion.” Ibid., 390. Which
is the only church that can disregard and cast off the Three Angels’
Messages? She is talking about a
church—singular, not plural.
Example of Apostasy
I want to give you an example of this apostasy, which
is documented in Germany.
There were communications between the Seventh-day
Adventist leaders and councils of the Ecumenical Movement that dealt with the
question of whether or not the Seventh-day Adventists would be accepted into
the Ecumenical Movement. The Catholic
Church was one that said, “No, the Seventh-day Adventist Church cannot
participate unless certain things are changed.”
Then, letters were written back and forth between the
leaders of the church, their supporters, or their lawyers and the leaders of
the Ecumenical Council. These letters
were kept under closure, but through indiscretions of a secretary, who could
not live with this burden and who could not believe what she was ordered to
type, these documents were made public.
We published them and spread thousands of copies among the Seventh-day
Adventists to open their eyes to what extent the apostasy had gone in the
In these papers, it was clear that the Catholic Church
requested clarification as to whether or not the interpretation of Revelation 13, which was
traditionally understood to be the papacy, also identified as the Antichrist,
was still valid today. The answer from
the Seventh-day Adventist representatives was that these beliefs were some sort
of a tradition, which came from the old Reformation, which, without doubt,
still has its effects today, but that they had given up the institutionalized
identification of the Antichrist as the Pope.
They stated as well that there were anti-Christian characteristics in
their own denomination, meaning that the traditional criticism of Revelation 13 could be also
applied to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
This statement was sufficient for the Roman Catholics, and the Catholic
Church gave the green light for the Seventh-day Adventist Church to enter into
the Ecumenical Movement.
Concerning the beast of Revelation 13, which traditionally
has been applied to the papacy, the church leadership said that they could get
unused to this view, but that there were some fanatic Adventists who still
believed it. Do we believe that the
beast with seven heads and ten horns that came out of the sea is the
papacy? Is it the papacy? Yes, but what do the leaders say? “Well, this view we can get unused to. There are still some fanatic
Adventists, but they are not really a part of us. They believe it, but we in Germany, as a
whole, no longer hold that position.”
I recall a former leader of the General Conference,
many years ago, making a similar statement.
In connection with some law issues, he stated that the view of
Seventh-day Adventists regarding the papacy belonged to the historical trash
heap. In Germany, that went around like
a wildfire! We can see that the apostasy
is starting behind closed doors.
The prophet Ezekiel was shown what happened in the
temple, behind closed doors—they bowed down before the sun; they put unholy
pictures in the temple. The same
situation is represented here. (See Ezekiel 8.)
God gave the people the opportunity to open their eyes
to what the leaders were doing.
Regarding the ecumenical cooperation with each other, the Seventh-day
Adventists were asked how they imagined themselves working with the Ecumenical
Movement, if they cherished doctrines such as the teaching of Babylon and the
teaching of the beast of Revelation 13. The answer
given was that, on an international level, an ecumenical cooperation was still
possible, despite certain prophetic interpretations. For over three decades, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has belonged to the World Council of Churches.
Ellen White counseled against such action: “Let the
watchmen on the walls of Zion not join with those who are making of none effect
the truth as it is in Christ. Let them
not join the confederacy of infidelity, popery, and Protestantism in exalting
tradition above Scripture, reason above revelation, and human talent above the
divine influence and the vital power of godliness.” Review and Herald, March 24, 1896.
She further wrote: “Let us not form unholy bonds of
union with the friends of the world; for God has pronounced His curse upon all
such unions.” Testimonies
to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 277.
All is Possible
Is it possible to unite with the ecumenical
cooperation, when we have these warnings before our eyes? Oh, sure, it is possible. We see it happening. It was also possible for the Jews to unite
with the heathen. The apostate churches
united themselves with the state force, the Romans, and thus the Roman state
All of this is possible, but how does God look upon
such confederacies? “The world must not
be introduced into the church, and married to the church, forming a bond of
unity. Through this means the church
will become indeed corrupt, and as stated in Revelation, ‘a cage of every
unclean and hateful bird.’ [Revelation 18:2.]
“Through association with the world our institutions
will become unsubstantial, unreliable; because these worldly elements,
introduced and placed in positions of trust, are looked up to as teachers to be
respected in their educating, directing, and official position, and they are
sure to be worked upon by the spirit and power of darkness; so that the
demarcation becomes not distinguished between him that serveth
God and him that serveth Him not.” Ibid., 265, 266.
“The world must not be introduced into the church, and
married to the church, forming a bond of unity.” The Ecumenical Movement is such a bond. Is this a plain message? Could God make it any clearer?
In another quotation, Ellen White says, “We are in
danger of becoming a sister to fallen Babylon, of allowing our churches to become corrupted, and
filled with every foul spirit, a cage for every unclean and hateful bird; and
will we be clear unless we make decided movements to cure the existing
evil?” Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, 380. While the context deals with sexual disorders
in the church, it is spiritual adultery that God abhors more than physical
adultery. What does the Bible say? To lust or look upon a woman is sin. (Matthew
5:28.) The thoughts are sin before God, even though
nothing has happened with bodily connection or union. The connection with Israel—the spiritual union—God sees as adultery, for there
is no difference. We may sometimes draw
a difference, but God does not.
To be continued . . .
Dr. Bernd Korinth is a physician living in Berlin, Germany. He is very active in spreading the Three
Angels’ Messages throughout Europe. He and his family have a printing press in
their home and have had tracts translated in most of the different European
languages. He is a promoter of home
churches and is very interested in working with other historic Seventh-day
Adventist groups worldwide. He may be
contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.