God’s warnings serve to remind us of the conditionality of His promises to His church. If one forgets the conditionality of the promises, as the Jews did, he must first reject God’s warnings. God’s warnings often appear to contradict His promises, but properly understood, they are compatible. God always grants to us freedom of choice; and if we fail to comply with the conditions for receiving the promises, His warnings simply reveal His alternate plans.
In warning the people of Battle Creek of the danger of despising warnings and entreaties and of refusing to respect God’s counsels, Ellen White said that “By rejecting God’s warnings in this our day, men are repeating the sin of Jerusalem.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 68. To many of the Battle Creek people, these warnings were confusing and were misunderstood. Being seemingly unconscious of their wrong course, they felt Ellen White was speaking in parables or with idle tales. (See ibid.) Sincerity in believing is no protection against the result of failing to have a love for all of the truth. (See 2 Thessalonians 2.)
Today some are focusing only on God’s promises of prosperity, presenting those promises which reveal God’s optimal plan for His church while refusing to also present His warnings that reveal the conditionality of those promises and the alternative in the face of disobedience, While we all like to hear these messages, we must realize that they reflect a loss of love for part of the truth. In concentrating only on the promises of prosperity, those who present the messages are becoming sincerely deceived into believing that some of the promises for God’s church are not conditional! In seeking to prove their point, some even refer to the very same Old Testament promises which the Jews used, failing to remember that this became their fatal error.
Israel’s forty extra years of wandering was not part of God’s original plan for them. “It was not the will of God that Israel should wander forty years in the wilderness; He desired to lead them directly to the land of Canaan and establish them there, a holy, happy people. But ‘they could not enter in because of unbelief.’ Hebrews 3:19. Because of their backsliding and apostasy they perished in the desert, and others were raised up to enter the Promised Land.” The Great Controversy, 458
It was God’s plan that the Jewish organization and structure would remain pure. According to this plan, Jerusalem would have become the center of the universe; but as a people they rejected the only conditions under which this plan was open to them. Forgetting the conditionality of the prosperity of the church, the leaders, in their apostasy, still expected a future cleansing and triumph. They were thus blinded to the significance of what was taking place among them and the cleansing already going on in the minds of the faithful remnant who recognized the “good old paths” of truth which Jesus taught.
The vast majority of the leaders of the Jewish church and the structure as a whole maintained that they were the true professed church after Christ cleansed the temple. As most of the people did not study for themselves, they chose what seemed to them to be the next most reasonable approach. They followed their blind leaders into the same ditch and were lost. (See Testimonies, vol. 5, 747; Testimonies to Ministers, 109; The Great Controversy 19, 598.) They had concluded that Jesus’ warnings only confused them, so they chose not to listen to Him.
In arriving at truth, it is no less dangerous for us today to overlook God’s warnings. We are in just as great a danger of following in the tracks of the religious leaders of Christ’s day. If we fail to respond to the Laodicean message and its warnings, we, too, will go out into darkness as did the Jews. (See Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 354.) When one is deceived, he is unaware of the fact that he has been spewed from Jesus’ mouth. (See Testimonies, vol. 6, 408; Review and Herald, November 26, 1861.*)
God is merciful; but in allowing this freedom of choice, there is a limit beyond which He cannot go and still respect our freedom of choice. In the book, The Publishing Ministry, 171, Ellen White points out that a cleansing of the temple took place in the Review and Herald fire, during which the alpha of apostasy text book plates were burned. She then states that if the warning was rejected, God’s judgments of mercy would soon become judgments of retribution. “I want to tell you that if after the warnings given in these burnings the leaders of our people go right on, just as they have done in the past, exalting themselves, God will take the bodies next.” Ibid. We need to consider carefully whether or not we as a people have allowed the early rain to remove all of our inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil. Must we not admit that as a group we have employed man-made weapons, such as the Perth Declaration or the Issues book, thereby fighting against the very means that our God of mercy sends to prepare us to receive the latter rain?
While true faith leads God’s children to claim His promises, thereby partaking of godliness and overcoming sin in their lives, another class presumptuously claim the same promises in order to lightly pass over sin. In doing so, they forget God’s warnings and conditions. Inevitably, such are uncomfortable around the true “virgins” with a pure faith, just as was Cain with Abel. In continuing to presume upon God’s promises and sin by choice, they become members of the synagogue of Satan. (See Testimonies to Ministers, 16; Review and Herald, December 4, 1900.) Such can change leaders little by little without even knowing it, until God eventually sends them strong delusions and they believe a lie. (See Testimonies, vol. 7, 219; 2 Thessalonians 2.) Though they still claim to be the church of God and are often sincere in this belief, they are not telling the truth. (See Revelation 2:2,9.) Some maintain that those who comprise this group are tares and should, therefore, be retained in the church. Though this may make them more comfortable, it is failing to carry out the work that God has given us to do.
Very soon, the door of mercy will close. As in the past, it will close first for those of us with the greatest light. We have nothing to fear, however, for we can be a part of the loud cry if we will take full advantage of this present probationary time.
Our most urgent need, and that which will keep us from receiving a delusion, is a love for all of the truth. “Perilous times are before us. Everyone who has a knowledge of the truth should awake and place himself, body, soul, and spirit, under the discipline of God. The enemy is on our track. We must be wide awake, on our guard against him. We must put on the whole armor of God. We must follow the directions given through the spirit of prophecy. We must love and obey the truth for this time. This will save us from accepting strong delusions. God has spoken to us through His Word. He has spoken to us through the testimonies to the church and through the books that have helped to make plain our present duty and the position that we should now occupy. The warnings that have been given, line upon line, precept upon precept, should be heeded. If we disregard them, what excuse can we offer?” Testimonies, vol. 8, 298
It is because of God’s great love that He warns of the alternative to obedience. In mercy and love he lifts the veil from the future, revealing to us the results of a course of sin.
In the parable of the cursed fig tree, the Jewish nation was represented by the fruitless fig tree; but it also stands as a warning to us. The Jews, who did not profit by their increased blessings, were represented by the fruitless fig tree. In the parable, Jesus did not reveal the final outcome for it rested with those of His day to determine their own destiny. “In the rejection of their present mercies and warnings lay the guilt of that generation.” The Desire of Ages, 584
The leaves, representing the profession or form of godliness but which are unaccompanied by fruit, are less than worthless for they do the work of Satan in misleading others by denying God’s power. (See 2 Timothy 3:5.) The new theology which is coming into our midst is as fig leaves without fruit. Not only does it fail to urge men to bring forth the fruits of righteousness, but it actually excuses their sins. (See Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 16.)
“Will the churches heed the Laodicean message? Will they repent, or will they, notwithstanding that the most solemn message of truth—the third angel’s message—is being proclaimed to the world, go on in sin? This is the last message of mercy, the last warning to a fallen world. If the church of God becomes lukewarm, it does not stand in favor with God any more than do the churches that are represented as having fallen and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. Those who have had opportunities to hear and receive the truth and who have united with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, calling themselves the commandment-keeping people of God, and yet possess no more vitality and consecration to God than do the nominal churches, will receive of the plagues of God just as verily as the churches who oppose the law of God. Only those that are sanctified through the truth will compose the royal family in the heavenly mansions Christ has gone to prepare for those that love Him and keep His commandments.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, 176
Some are forgetting God’s warnings* and are seeking to downgrade the importance of the issue of who and what the church really is as it applies to Seventh-day Adventists. Let us not forget, however, that this issue had to be understood by God’s people when Jesus taught that it was not mere profession which counted but obedience to the truth.
Though some seek to distance the early Christian church from the papacy, disavowing that the papacy was derived from it, inspiration is very clear that it was through corruption and by a departure from the simplicity of the gospel that the early church found itself in need of the secular power of the state. “The result was the papacy, a church that controlled the power of the State, and employed it to further her own ends, especially for the punishment of ‘heresy.’” The Great Controversy, 443. So today, by ignoring the Spirit of Prophecy counsels and resisting the cleansing of God’s church, currently in progress, we are preparing to receive the mark of the beast. (See Testimonies, vol. 5, 81.)
If it was crucial for the Jews, the early Christians, the churches in 1844, and the eight souls who walked into the ark to know who and what is the church, can we possibly be so naive as to believe it is not significant to God’s people today? Is it possible that we could still be found waiting for what we believe will be our ultimate denominational triumph when, because of disobedience and rebellion, we no longer have any warrant for such expectations?
After pointing out the failure of the Jewish church to fulfill God’s expectations for them and the results that followed, the servant of the Lord poses the question: “Is not the church of today doing the same thing?…Are they less guilty than was the Jewish church?” (See Christ’s Object Lessons, 303-306.) Do we believe that these are merely rhetorical questions, or do we love the truth enough to dig deep to find out answers to these questions?
“Men cannot with impunity reject the warnings that God in mercy sends them. From those who persist in turning from these warnings, God withdraws his spirit, leaving them to the deceptions that they love.” The Acts of the Apostles, 266
Because the Jews allowed God’s Word to be replaced by the Talmud (their church manual) as their guide, they disfellowhiped Christ at Calvary. In reality, this did not remove Christ from His church but secured the fact that corporately they were not a part of God’s church. If John the Baptist was today in our midst calling for our repentance, could he not be disfellowshiped according to our church manual? Would we do so?
In writing to the Thessalonian church, Paul not only admonished them to faithfully adhere to the truth but told them to separate from their fellowship those persisted in disregarding instruction. Because we have failed to follow this counsel, the time has come when church committees and boards have as members such a significant proportion who are Seventh-day Adventists by name and profession only, but who deny in their lives the truths that were given to this church, that there is extreme danger that they cannot be depended on to differentiate between light and darkness. “The minds of many have been so darkened and confused by worldly customs, worldly practices, and worldly customs, worldly practices, and worldly influences that all power to discriminate between light and darkness, truth and error, seems destroyed.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 62
Past history reveals that in times of great apostasy, those who are most involved in apostasy, are most often promoted while those who are standing for truth are put out of the way. Jesus clearly warned us of this when He said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor Me.” John 16:1-3
We are not left to wonder as to what God’s alternate plan will be if we fail to accept His counsel. “Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan. If doubts and unbelief are cherished, the faithful ministers will be removed from the people who think they know so much.” Testimonies to Ministers, 409-410
Notice that the words to follow this prophetic statement are the same that were pronounced over Jerusalem (see Luke 19:42) when in their deception, they knew not their hour of visitation. “‘If thou hadst known,’ said Christ, ‘even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.’” Ibid., 410
At this time of crises, when above all other times there is need of faithfully rebuking sin and preparing a people for the latter rain, is the very time when, in the name of preserving the church, the confederacy of evil has brought in its unholy guns for warfare—the Perth Declaration and the Issues book. These are aimed at silencing those who are most faithful in reproving and upholding all of Gods’ truths, including His warnings. Such weapons are turned against the true church militant—those who are most faithful in reproving and upholding all of God’s truths, including His warnings. Such weapons are turned against the true church militant—those who are on God’s side in the great controversy, engaging their energies against the synagogue of Satan. We need to be surprised that this synagogue of Satan profess to be Jews while exalting apostasy over truth. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15. While professing to be and speaking as the church, they fight against God’s reproofs and corrections; but God does not own them as His.
“I am filled with sadness when I think of our condition as a people….And yet the general opinion is that the church is flourishing and that peace and spiritual prosperity are in all her borders.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 217
In the last analysis, it is not the profession or name but an adherence to God’s Word that draws the line of distinction between the professors and the true church of Christ. The history of the Jewish church is an eloquent testimony to the importance of recognizing this reality and that we not be found in the end with unrealistic expectations.
* “Those who separate from God and lose their spirituality, do not fall back all at once into a state which the True Witness calls lukewarm. They conform to the world little by little. As its influence steals upon them, they fail to resist it and maintain the warfare. After the first step is taken to have friendship with the world, darkness follows and they are prepared for the next. At every step they take in the downward course darkness gathers about them, until they are enshrouded. As they conform to the world they lose the transforming influence of the spirit of God. They do not realize their distance from God. They think themselves in good case because they profess to believe the truth. They grow weaker and weaker, until the Spirit of God is withdrawn, and God bids his angels, ‘Let them alone!’ Jesus spues them out of his mouth. He has borne their names to his Father; he has interceded for them, but he ceases his pleadings. Their names are dropped, and they are left with the world. They realize no change. Their profession is the same. There has not been so glaring a departure from the appearance of right. They had become so assimilated to the world that when heaven’s light was withdrawn they did not miss it.”