God will bring His work closer and closer to test and prove every one of His people.’ Some are willing to receive one point; but when God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find that it strikes directly at some cherished idol. Here they have opportunity to see what is in their hearts that shuts out Jesus. They prize something higher than the truth, and their hearts are not prepared to receive Jesus. Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness. …
“Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 187.
The Church Militant
Some are teaching that the church militant will become the church triumphant at the coming of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain, the refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Other people believe that the church militant changes to the church triumphant when they receive their crown from Jesus at the entrance of the gates to the Holy City. Others are not sure when this transformation occurs.
The importance of a correct understanding of this subject is seen in the influence it has on the type of character preparation individuals make for the closing events. An incorrect belief concerning the beginning of the church triumphant may lead many to make a false preparation for the crowning deception, the final test and the time of Jacob’s trouble. Only when it is too late to make the necessary changes will the tragic results of this belief be realized.
“The church of Christ may be fitly compared to an army. The life of every soldier is one of toil, hardship, and danger. On every hand are vigilant foes, led on by the prince of the powers of darkness, who never slumbers and never deserts his post. Whenever a Christian is off his guard, this powerful adversary makes a sudden and violent attack. Unless the members of the church are active and vigilant, they will be overcome by his devices. …
“The church is to conduct an aggressive warfare, to make conquests for Christ, to rescue souls from the power of the enemy. God and holy angels are engaged in this warfare. Let us please Him who has called us to be soldiers.” The Review and Herald, July 17, 1883.
“Christians are engaged in a warfare. The church militant is not the church triumphant. The followers of Christ, marching toward Zion, must fight at every step. His adversary is the one who once stood in the heavenly courts as the first of the covering cherubs. The beams of glory enshrouding the eternal God, once rested constantly upon him. But, not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he began to covet the glory with which the Father had invested the Son. Lucifer desired to be first in heaven. Thus he introduced sin into the universe. Entering the Garden of Eden after his expulsion from heaven, he succeeded in deceiving our first parents. Ever since he has claimed this world. Declaring that no human being can keep the law of God’s kingdom, he claims all men as his subjects.” The Signs of the Times, June 10, 1903.
The Church Militant
- Are Christians engaged in warfare
- Is not the church triumphant
- Are followers of Christ who are marching toward Zion
- Began its warfare in the Garden of Eden
“God’s workers today constitute the connecting link between the former workers, the church of history, and the church that is to be called out (from the world and prepared to meet their Lord). The tide of spiritual life is to flow through the appointed channels, as in the history of the past. From age to age the light which God has for the world has been imparted to the church militant, and God is continuing to impart precious light. All who receive light are to diffuse it to those who sit in darkness. All the excellencies that have come through the belief of the truth from past ages to the present time, are to be treated with the utmost respect. Let not the truth entrusted to our keeping lose its force and power through our careless misuse of body or mind.” Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers, No. 7, 11.
1. Three time periods of the church militant are here brought to view
a) The church of history
b) The church of the present time
c) The church that is to be called out
2. The church militant
a) Of the present time is the connecting link between the church militant of history and the church militant that is to be called out
b) Is the recipient of the light God has for the world
c) Is to diffuse this light to those who sit in darkness
“The church is yet militant in a world that is apparently in midnight darkness, and growing worse and worse. While the requirements of a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ remain unheeded by the worldly element in the church, the voices of God’s faithful servants are to be strengthened to give the solemn message of warning. The works that should characterize the church militant and the works of the church that has had the light of truth for this time, do not correspond. The Lord calls upon church-members to clothe themselves with the beautiful garments of Christ’s righteousness. Praise and prayer and thanksgiving should now be heard coming daily from converted hearts and lips.” Review and Herald, April 22, 1909.
The church militant is composed of two groups
1. God’s faithful servants who
a) Give the solemn message of warning
b) Have works that correspond with the light of truth for this time
c) Clothe themselves with the garments of Christ’s righteousness
2. The worldly element who
a) Do not heed the plain requirements of God
b) Have “had the light of truth for this time” but whose works “do not correspond”
“Whatever may be the needed discipline of the church militant amid the dragon’s wrath against those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus, the benediction is pronounced upon all who love and obey God. The words are positive, but mark their significance. The Alpha and Omega does not utter words that will lead any soul to suppose that a profession of faith without willing, genuine love and obedience, will secure to him the entrance into the Holy City and a right to the tree of life. The Lord declares, ‘This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me’ (Matthew 15:8). This is mockery to God, speaking with a mouth of guile.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 90.
This reference gives additional characteristics of the two groups in the church militant
1. God’s faithful servants
a) Need discipline, even amid the dragon’s wrath
b) Keep the commandments of God
c) Have the faith of Jesus
d) Love and obey God
2. The worldly element in the church
a) Make a profession of faith, without willing, genuine love and obedience
b) Draw nigh to God with their mouth, but their heart is far from Him
c) Are a mockery to God
“God has a church upon the earth, who are His chosen people, who keep His commandments. He is leading, not stray offshoots, not one here and one there, but a people. The truth is a sanctifying power; but the church militant is not the church triumphant. There are tares among the wheat. ‘Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?’ was the question of the servant; but the master answered, ‘Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them’ (Matthew 13:28, 29). The gospel net draws not only good fish, but bad ones as well, and the Lord only knows who are His.” The Review and Herald, September 12, 1893.
“Let every one who is seeking to live a Christian life, remember that the church militant is not the church triumphant. Those who are carnally minded will be found in the church. They are to be pitied more than blamed. The church is not to be judged as sustaining these characters, though they are found within her borders. Should the church expel them, the very ones who found fault with their presence there, would blame the church for sending them adrift in the world; they would claim that they were treated unmercifully. It may be that in the church there are those who are cold, proud, haughty, and unChristian, but you need not associate with this class. There are many who are warmhearted, who are selfdenying, selfsacrificing, who would, were it required, lay down their lives to save souls. Jesus saw the bad and the good in church relationship, and said, ‘Let both grow together until the harvest’ (Matthew 13:30, first part). None are under the necessity of becoming tares because every plant in the field is not wheat. If the truth were known, these complainers make their accusations in order to quiet a convicted, condemning conscience. Their own course of action is not wholly commendable. Even those who are striving for the mastery over the enemy, have sometimes been wrong and done wrong. Evil prevails over good when we do not trust wholly in Christ, and abide in Him. Inconsistencies of character will then be manifested that would not be revealed if we preserved the faith that works by love and purifies the soul.” Ibid., January 16, 1894.
More specific details are given in the two paragraphs above concerning the two groups in the church militant:
1. God’s faithful servants
- a) Are His chosen people
- b) Keep His commandments
- c) Are called wheat
- d) Are not to sustain the carnally minded
- e) Need not associate with this class (worldly element)
- f) Are warm-hearted, self-denying, self-sacrificing
- g) Are willing to lay down their lives to save souls
- h) Are striving for the mastery over the enemy
- i) Preserve the faith that works by love and purifies the soul
2. The worldly element
- a) Are called tares
- b) Are carnally minded
- c) Are found within the borders of the church militant
- d) Are not part of the church militant although within her borders
- e) Are complainers and accusers
- f) Are those whose actions are not wholly commendable
3. The wheat and tares grow together until the harvest
Note: That they “grow together” of necessity needs to be understood that they do not work or “associate” together. The characteristics of each group are not compatible. This prevents a working relationship. God’s people are not to work with those who are “a mockery to God.” It is better understood to mean that they exist together within the borders of the church militant.
4. The church militant is not the church triumphant
- a) This point is emphasized in both references
- b) The reason given in both of these statements is that the “worldly element” is present
- c) The worldly element (tares) will be removed at the harvest
Note: After this worldly element is removed, the church militant becomes the church triumphant. See The Great Controversy, 644–646, for a clear description of the transition of the people of God from the church militant to the church triumphant. This reference is in the setting of the Battle of Armageddon. Following the first resurrection the people of God are taken from this earth to the Holy City to join the church triumphant which is in heaven.
“The work is soon to close. The members of the church militant who have proved faithful will become the church triumphant. In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” The Review and Herald, October 12, 1905.
“The life of Christ was a life charged with a divine message of the love of God, and He longed intensely to impart this love to others in rich measure. Compassion beamed from His countenance, and His conduct was characterized by grace, humility, truth, and love. Every member of His church militant must manifest the same qualities, if He would join the church triumphant. The love of Christ is so broad, so full of glory, that in comparison to it, everything that men esteem as great, dwindles into insignificance. When we obtain a view of it, we exclaim, O the depth of the riches of the love that God bestowed upon men in the gift of His only begotten Son!” Ibid., November 17, 1891.
“The work is soon to close”
1. This sentence is a reference to the close of probation
2. The faithful members of the church militant join the church triumphant after the close of probation
3. If they would join the church triumphant, the members of the church militant must manifest the qualities of
- a) Grace
- b) Humility
- c) Truth
- d) And love
“What if half the soldiers in an army were idling or asleep when ordered to be on duty; the result would be defeat, captivity, or death. Should any escape from the hands of the enemy, would they be thought worthy of a reward? No; they would speedily receive the sentence of death. And if the church of Christ is careless or unfaithful, far more important consequences are involved. A sleeping army of Christian soldiers–what could be more terrible! What advance could be made against the world, who are under the control of the prince of darkness? Those who stand back indifferently in the day of battle, as though they had no interest and felt no responsibility as to the issue of the contest, might better change their course or leave the ranks at once.” Ibid., July 17, 1883.
The church militant
1. Began at the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
2. Will continue until “the harvest” (the second coming of Jesus – Revelation 14:14–20)
3. Is composed of two groups
- a) God’s “chosen people, who keep His commandments” – “the wheat”
- b) The “worldly element” – “the tares” – “the carnally minded”
4. Has “the carnally minded” “within her borders” but she “is not to be judged as sustaining these characters”
5. Must manifest the same conduct which characterized Christ’s life if they are to join the church triumphant
6. Are those “who have proved faithful” and these “will become the church triumphant” when they are transported from this earth to heaven
The Church Triumphant
Some are teaching at the present time that the people of God who receive the Holy Spirit in the latter rain will at that time become the church triumphant. In this study we will consider instruction from the Spirit of Prophecy relating to this subject.
“The Lord desires us to realize that it is of great importance that we stand in these last days upon the platform of eternal truth. Those who think that the church militant is the church triumphant make a great mistake. The church militant will gain great triumphs, but it will also have fierce conflicts with evil, that it may be firmly established upon the platform of eternal truth. And every one of us should be determined to stand with the church upon this platform.” Sermons and Talks, vol. 1, 340.
1. God considers it of great importance that His people in these last days stand on the platform of eternal truth
2. The church militant
- a) Is not the church triumphant
- b) Will gain great triumphs
- c) Will have fierce conflicts with evil
- d) Must be firmly established on the platform of eternal truth
3. It is a great mistake to think that the militant church is the church triumphant
“We need to remember that the church militant is not the church triumphant. The difference between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the world is to be carefully considered, else we shall draw threads of selfishness into the web that we are weaving.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, 312.
1. The statement “the church militant is not the church triumphant” is repeated more than ten times in the Spirit of Prophecy
2. In this reference
- a) The church triumphant is related to the “kingdom of Christ”
- b) The church militant is related to the “kingdom of this world”
“The Church militant is not the church triumphant, and earth is not Heaven. The church is composed of erring, imperfect men and women, who are but learners in the school of Christ, to be trained, disciplined, educated for this life, and for the future, immortal life. No one of us can in our own strength represent the character of Christ; but if Jesus lives in the heart, the spirit dwelling in Him will be revealed in us; all our lack will be supplied.” The Signs of the Times, January 4, 1883.
1. In this reference, the church militant is again related to this earth
2. It is implied that the church triumphant is in heaven
“The members of the church triumphant—the church in heaven—will be permitted to draw near to the members of the church militant, to aid them in their necessity. Let us ever remember that we are laborers together with God. In this heavenly union we shall carry forward His work with completeness, with singing and rejoicing.” The Southern Watchman, September 8, 1903.
1. This reference plainly states that the “church triumphant” is “the church in heaven”
2. The members of the “church triumphant” in heaven are permitted to aid the members of the “church militant” on earth
3. This working relationship confirms that the church triumphant already exists in heaven
“The church militant is not in this world the church triumphant. From generation to generation, the enemy has been marshaling his forces against God. … But God’s children will not be frightened from their purpose by the proud, presumptuous opposition of evildoers. By faith they see a crown of life awaiting those who are victorious, and they press forward toward the mark for the prize of their high calling in Christ Jesus.” The Review and Herald, July 26, 1898.
1. This reference clearly states that the church triumphant is not in this world
2. God’s children are in the warfare of the church militant in this world
3. By faith they see a crown of life awaiting those who are victorious, and they press toward the mark
Following is a description of the church militant receiving their crown of victory and entering into the church triumphant.
“Before entering the city of God, the Saviour bestows upon His followers the emblems of victory and invests them with the insignia of their royal state. The glittering ranks are drawn up in the form of a hollow square about their King, whose form rises in majesty high above saint and angel, whose countenance beams upon them full of benignant love. … Upon the heads of the overcomers, Jesus with His own right hand places the crown of glory. For each there is a crown, bearing his own ‘new name’ (Revelation 2:17), and the inscription, ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ In every hand are placed the victor’s palm and the shining harp. Then, as the commanding angels strike the note, every hand sweeps the harp strings with skillful touch, awaking sweet music in rich, melodious strains. Rapture unutterable thrills every heart, and each voice is raised in grateful praise: ‘Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever’ (Revelation 1:5, 6).
“Before the ransomed throng is the holy city. Jesus opens wide the pearly gates, and the nations that have kept the truth enter in. …Then that voice, richer than any music that ever fell on mortal ear, is heard, saying, ‘Your conflict is ended.’ ” The Great Controversy, 645, 646.
In this scene, we see that at the entrance to the city of God
- The saints receive their crown of victory
- Jesus places the crown of glory on the heads of the overcomers
- The voice of Jesus is then heard saying, “Your conflict is ended.”
- It is at this time that the church militant joins the church triumphant in heaven
“The work is soon to close. The members of the church militant who have proved faithful will become the church triumphant. In reviewing our past history, having travelled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment and with confidence in Christ as Leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history. We are now a strong people, if we will put our trust in the Lord; for we are handling the mighty truths of the word of God.
We have everything to be thankful for. If we walk in the light as it shines upon us from the living oracles of God, we shall have large responsibilities, corresponding to the great light given us of God.” The General Conference Daily Bulletin, January 29, 1893.
1. Only the faithful members of the church militant will join the church triumphant
2. The conditions are
- a) If we will put our trust in the Lord
- b) If we walk in the light as it shines upon us from the living oracles of God
“The Church militant is not the Church triumphant. Unless the people of God wage a valiant warfare against every species of sin, they will never pass through the portals of the holy city. And we shall have no second trial. Now is the accepted time, the time in which we are to obtain the education that will enable us to live in the heavenly courts. The whole heavenly universe is watching with the deepest interest to see who in this primary school is practicing the lessons of Christ.” The Review and Herald, December 31, 1901.
“God knows what is best for His people, and He will help them when they fall into difficulty. We wish we had heaven here below, but we have not. The church militant is not the church triumphant. The church militant must wrestle and toil. She must strive against temptations and fight severe battles, because Satan is not dead.” The General Conference Bulletin, April 22, 1901.
“Christians are engaged in a warfare. The church militant is not the church triumphant. The followers of Christ, marching toward Zion, must fight at every step.” The Signs of the Times, June 10, 1903.
“The injunction to each one of us is, ‘Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth’ (Colossians 3:2). The ardent desire of the apostles was to know God, and Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent. Jesus lives; He is before the Father in the heavenly courts, making intercession for those who are still upon the earth in the turmoil and strife of life; for the church militant is not yet the church triumphant.” Ibid., July 24, 1893.
The church militant
- Must wage a valiant warfare against sin
- If they don’t, they will never enter the holy city to join the church triumphant
- Will “have no second trial”
- Must wrestle and toil
- Must strive against temptations
- Must fight severe battles
- Must fight at every step
- Must set her “affection on things above, not on things on the earth”
– Christ’s work as intercessor ceases at the close of probation (The Great Controversy, 613)
– The turmoil and strife of life ends after the time of Jacob’s trouble, at the date to kill God’s people (Ibid., 635)
– The church militant becomes the church triumphant after the above events have taken place (Ibid., 644–646)
- The church militant is not the church triumphant
- The church militant is on this earth
- The church triumphant is in heaven
- The faithful members of the church militant will join the church triumphant when Jesus bestows on them their emblems of victory—the crown of glory, the victor’s palm and the shining harp—at the gates to the holy city.
Maurice Hoppe is Director of the Steps to Life training programs and a member of the Steps to Life Board. The Training Program for Ministers and Church Leaders is a correspondence course that prepares individuals to serve as pastors or Bible workers. Preparing for the Final Conflict is a correspondence course for the laity. Both of these courses teach present truth that will be an anchor for the soul during the storm of opposition and persecution just ahead. He and his wife also have a correspondence course offered through Revelation Ministry. He can be contacted at: email@example.com.