It is very clear in Sketches from the Life of Paul that, when the apostle Paul was thrown in prison in Jerusalem, it was the fault of the leaders of the Christian church. Ellen White makes the following, unbelievable comment. She says that when the apostle Peter was thrown in prison, the church prayed, and the Lord answered their prayers for his release.
Then she says the Lord would have done the same for the apostle Paul, but the church did not pray for the apostle Paul to be released from prison. Why? Because they thought he was preaching dangerous doctrines. What were these dangerous doctrines? The dangerous doctrines were the doctrines that would set the church free from all Judaism, from all of their rules and regulations.
Since she is a prophet, Ellen White goes behind and underneath and lets you know the why. A prophet can say things that we cannot. She says these people believed the apostle Paul was preaching dangerous doctrines. Why? They were trying to go along with Judaism as much as they could. Do you know why that was? It was cowardice and their fear of facing persecution. That is the situation we are in in Adventism today. The vast majority are so afraid that we are going to face persecution, they will not proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages anymore, and they do not want to have anything to do with the people who do proclaim it.
In fact, Ellen White says that before the battle is fought and the victory won, we are going to learn a lot more about the situation that the apostle Paul was in, because we are going to be in a very similar situation. (See Sketches from the Life of Paul, 252, 253. You should read the latter part of this book, if you have never read it.
Persecution Will Come
More and more people are going to say, "Do not do that! We are going to sue you. We are going to put you in prison if you do that. We are going to stop you from doing that."
"Do you not believe the same thing, too?"
"Oh, yes, we believe the same thing, too, but we just do not believe that you are doing it right."
I believe in tact. I believe we should be gentle and tender in all of our presentations. We should never act like the devil and put acid in our words. I believe that we should be loving and kind. But the most loving and kind thing you can do is to tell people the truth to save them from hell.
There is a text of Scripture that has come to my mind as I have watched these things developing. I cannot tell you where it is gong to end, but I want to share a verse of Scripture that might tell where you will end. This Scripture has very great import to Seventh-day Adventists today. When people, because of worldly conformity, are afraid to proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages anymore, they are afraid they are going to be persecuted. "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." Matthew 10:39. That has a great deal to say to Seventh-day Adventists today who are fearful.
There are so many ways that the devil is trying to destroy the work of God today. God’s people are being attacked from many different directions, and the most dangerous thing about it is that people do not even know they are being attacked. Of course, that is how deception works. If you knew you were being attacked, you would be in a much better situation.
The Fear Factor
We find this happening, not just in the United States, but in foreign countries as well, and it is having an absolutely devastating effect on God’s work. The historic Adventist ministers that I talk to all over the country are alarmed. I have a friend who recently went to the Philippines to try to work with this problem there. We have it in South America, and we have it in the United States. Adventists, just like the Jews and the Christians in the days of the apostles, are afraid they will be persecuted. The Jews were against Jesus because, as Caiaphas and the others said in John 11, they were afraid they would be persecuted by the Romans. Fear causes people to do many foolish and irrational things. Fear is deadly.
Have you ever noticed how often, when Jesus came to the disciples, He would open His remarks by saying, "Fear not?" When He came to them and they were frightened of the storm on the sea, He said, "Do not be afraid." (See Mark 4:36–40.) Why was Jesus always telling them, "Do not be afraid"? A person who is afraid and fearful does irrational things. They do foolish things and they get themselves in a worse situation than they were in to begin with.
We have many Seventh-day Adventists today who are fearful because of what they see coming. First of all, they are afraid to preach the Three Angels’ Messages, because they are afraid they will be persecuted if they do. But they are even more fearful than that. They say, Do you know what? Persecution is coming. Sunday Laws are coming. We are not going to be able to buy and sell. They are going to come and get us. We had better run. We had better get where they cannot find us.
We saw this happen to large groups of people in the early 1990s. There was a great fear that the New World Order was going to come in and take over everything. We were going to lose all of our liberties immediately; people were going to be taken to concentration camps. I am not saying that any of that could not happen; I am saying that you cannot fly out of the world.
People said, We are going to become invisible, and we are going to go where they cannot find us. I had a man from the state of New York call me a few years ago when this was all going on. He questioned me a little bit to see if I believed in country living. Yes, I believe in country living. I live out in the country myself.
He said he thought that he should sell his place and move farther out in the country, so I asked him where he lived. He lives several miles from a little, tiny town that has maybe a post office and a gas station in it, a long way from any city of any size. Right now he lives out in the country. He was thinking of moving to a place that was isolated, out in the mountains. There are lots of isolated mountains in New York. We have had people doing this sort of thing all over the world.
Some people in Central America were on fire for Christ just a matter of months ago. They wanted to get involved in getting the Three Angels’ Messages out to the whole country. A group of them would go into the city, and on Sunday mornings, when people came out of church, they would give them literature and talk to them about the Three Angels’ Messages.
They were doing a powerful work. They said, We need to get out printed material, we need to get the message all over. Then somehow, many people got scared. The people who were getting the message out decided they had better flee to some isolated, desolate area. They went to an area that is so isolated and so desolate that right now you cannot reach them by telephone. You could mail them a letter, and after a few weeks, they might get it. They are in a situation now where they are not doing much of anything to get the Three Angels’ Messages to the world.
This world is going to go on until we get the Three Angels’ Messages to all of the world, no matter how bad it gets. If you really want the Lord to come, you had better be sure you know what Ellen White teaches in regard to country living.
We are not living in the time when God’s people are going to be fleeing to the caves and the rocks and the mountains. That time is coming, and it could come very soon, but we are not living in that time right now. If you look up all the references where Ellen White talks about fleeing to these desolate places, to the rocks and the mountains, look at the context of the references. You will see that a large number of them are dealing with the time immediately following the death decree being passed. The death decree has not yet been passed.
Finish the Work First
You know, the Bible does say that everything is beautiful in its time and there is a time for everything. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1–8.) There will come a time when it will be time to flee. Do not worry about it. Do not think that it will not happen. It will happen, and if we are living close to the Lord, we will know when that time comes. Before we flee to a cave, we must take the Three Angels’ Messages to the world. That is our job. That is our responsibility as God’s people.
Five or six years ago, when this scare developed over the New World Order, there were many from the Pacific Islands living in the Los Angeles area who said, It is time to get out of here. It is going to be too dangerous to live here. So they quit their jobs. Some of them moved out so fast that they did not even have time to liquidate their assets and their possessions. They just figured time was too short, and they got on airplanes with their families and a few of their personal belongings, and they flew back to the Pacific Islands, like the Philippines.
There are over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, lots of desolate places. Those islanders and their families fled up to the mountains, because they thought that the New World Order was going to take over everything, and they would just subsist up there for a little while until the Lord came.
Year after year went by, and it began to be very difficult to live up there in the mountains. In the Philippines, they actually call them the mountain people, the mountain Seventh-day Adventists. The children were growing older, and they were living under very difficult and primitive conditions. Some of them decided they had made a mistake. You see, they were not getting the Three Angels’ Messages to either the Philippines or the United States while they were up there in the mountains.
They had no money to buy literature to spread the gospel, because they had no job, no income; they were just subsisting. Now, please do not misunderstand. I am not criticizing them for that. I believe that those people were very, very sincere, but you can be very sincere and make a mistake. In the last two or three years, some of them have been moving down from the mountains and coming back to Los Angeles. Now they have nothing, and they have to start all over again from scratch—find new jobs, find housing, and try to support their families.
Things very similar to this are happening in other parts of the world. Some of the most sincere and conscientious people, because of the delusion in thinking about the right time to do the right thing, have caused great injury to the proclamation of the Three Angels’ Messages.
What would you do? I do not know what church you go to, but suppose that you go to a 15-member home church. What would happen to your church if 60 percent of your members decided to flee to the mountains next month?
Matthew 10:39 says, "He who finds his life will lose it." We are not to spend the bulk of our time trying to figure out how we can be in a safe place, how we can escape persecution, how we can avoid the trouble. I meet people all the time who are trying to figure out how to do these things. It is interesting to me the way we, as human beings, think. I am not trying to be critical of anybody, but I think we ought to think things through.
The Terrorist Problem
Now we are having the very same thing all over again. We had it with the New Age Movement in the early ’90s; we had it with the Y2K problem, and now we have it with the terrorist problem. There are Adventists all over the country who think the way to prepare and be ready for the time of trouble is to have a generator with a two-year propane supply!
Please do not misunderstand. I am not criticizing anybody who has a generator. I am not against having generators. I think emergency power generators are a good thing, but you can never be ready for the time of trouble just because you have a generator or because you have enough seed for the next two years. I am not against making preparations and being prepared for times of trouble. Over 20 years ago, when we were in Southern California studying public health, we were taught that every family should have an emergency water supply in case something like an earthquake or flood happened to contaminate the public water supply.
Everybody ought to have a little bit of emergency food, but the preparation that we are to make as Seventh-day Adventists is mainly a spiritual work. It is not figuring out a way to be totally self-sufficient and independent of all the rest of the world.
I studied this whole question of being self-sufficient many years ago, before we even had these crises. Did you know that it is impossible for any of us to be totally self-sufficient? Did you know that Ellen White said that the Lord has arranged things so that no man is totally independent of his fellowmen? God has arranged it so that we are all dependent. None of us are totally independent. (See Review and Herald, August 6, 1901.) If being self-sufficient has become the big goal of your life, read Matthew 10:39 again.
Willing to Take the Risk
God has to find somebody who is willing to risk his life to get the Three Angels’ Messages to the world. In the process of doing it, some of us may lose our lives, but we do not have to worry about that. Whether we lose our life or not is not our problem, because when Jesus comes, if we have been faithful to Him, even if we have lost our life for His sake, the One we serve is going to give our life back to us. That is what this text is telling us. If you lose your life for My sake, you will find it.
"Many will get above the simplicity of the work. They will conform to the world, cherish idols, and become spiritually dead." She says, "The humble, self-sacrificing followers of Jesus will pass on to perfection, leaving behind the indifferent and lovers of the world." Testimonies, vol. 1, 609.
According to this prophecy there are going to be some Seventh-day Adventist Christians, she calls them the humble, self-sacrificing followers of Jesus, who will pass on to perfection, and the others will be left behind. (See Ibid., 608, 609.) I believe that we are living in the time when this prophecy is in the process of being fulfilled.
Why is there so much division? Because there are some of God’s professed people who are going on; they are still going up the path, who say, I want to go up the path; I want to reach spiritual perfection. There are some who are being left behind; they want to be in conformity to the world; they want to cherish idols, and they become spiritually dead. Only those who keep going up the path will reach spiritual perfection and will be in heaven.
When I was about 19 years old, I read The Great Controversy through again. I came to the place, toward the end of the book, where Ellen White talks about heaven and what a wonderful place it is going to be, where we will be with those who had perfected their characters.
As I read, I wondered, What about those who have not perfected their characters? There is a reason why she left that out and did not say anything about them. The reason is, they are not going to be there. The people who are in that place are going to be people in whom God has perfected their characters. (See Testimonies, vol. 1, 705, 706.) They will pass on to perfection, leaving behind the indifferent and the lovers of the world.
What is the Number One Goal, or Objective, of Your Life?
Is your number one goal to have a character that will be accepted into the mansions of bliss above? Are you attempting to follow the instructions in God’s Book so you will be among that number?
This is part of what the great division in Adventism is about today, because there are some people who have adopted the new belief that God is going to save people in their sins—which is not so, the Bible does not teach that!
You have heard the story about a person who, in Jesus’ time, was considered one of the most wicked people around. Her name was Mary Magdalene. In fact, she was so wicked that the Bible says she had seven devils cast out of her by Jesus. Ellen White makes it very clear that it was not seven devils at one time, it was seven different times that Jesus had to cast the devils out of her. (See Desire of Ages, 568.)
She was such a great sinner that other people thought there was no hope for her. Even her relatives had just about given up on her. Jesus understood all about her situation, and He saw that she was a person who would accept the provisions of salvation which He had come to offer. He made plain to her not just what sin was but how sin could be forgiven and overcome.
She was one of the two people, when Jesus Christ was crucified, who understood what was happening. She was one of the two people who understood that Jesus was dying on the cross for her sins. She chose to forsake and to overcome her sins.
Has your family given up on you? Have you given up on yourself? Jesus has not given up on you, and He can save you, if you will yield your life to Him! You can have perfection of character, even if you are the worst sinner in the world. The Lord can give it to you, if you cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Perfection of character is not something that happens in an instant, it is a process that happens as we live day by day. You do not have to be one of the many. You can be one of the few who are sanctified by the truth and saved by it.
Will you pray to the Lord and say, Lord, I want my heart to be clean? I want, not only to have forgiveness of my sins, but I want to receive power from the Holy Spirit to be purified and to live a new life. I want perfection of character.
Jesus would never tell us to be perfect, as His Father in heaven is perfect, if He did not plan to work that out in our lives. Do you want that miracle to be worked out in your life? Multitudes of Adventists today are being left behind. They may still be going to church every Sabbath, but they are being left behind. Some are still going up the path.
I would like to appeal to you, that you make that commitment to the Lord in your heart. Say, Lord, I want to be one of the few whose character is sanctified by the truth so that I will be ready for Jesus to come. Work this miracle out in my life. He will do it, because it is a command, and every command is a promise.