I would like to study with you this evening about a topic that is developing in my mind. Actually I have studied just bits and pieces of it for a few decades and so I should know something about it and yet I feel like I am just starting to learn about it. There is going to be a sudden change in our world. Everybody is going to recognize it, and when that sudden change happens, the world will never, ever again be the same until Jesus comes.
Now this sudden change is spoken of a number of places in the Bible. And I will also read about it to you from the pen of Ellen White. For instance, in Isaiah 66:15,16 NKJV, it says, "For behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword the Lord will judge [or plead] with all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many."
Now we have read many of these Scriptures for many years and we have, more or less, casually assumed without checking things out carefully, that it was talking about the second coming of Christ. Now there is no question that the second coming of Christ will be a great surprise to unbelievers in the world. But what I want to study with you tonight is a sudden change that is going to happen before the second coming of Christ, before the close of probation. Before God's people are sealed, there is going to be a sudden change. Ellen White talks about it in many places. In Christ's Object Lessons, in the last chapter "I'm Preparing to Meet the Bridegroom" she talks about a sudden, unlooked-for calamity that brings the soul face-to-face with death. What is that sudden, unlooked-for calamity that brings the soul face-to-face with death?
Let me read to you a couple of statements. First of all from Fundamentals of Christian Education, 356, 357, "There will soon be a sudden change in God's dealings." Suddenly there is going to be a change. Now what is this change going to be? "The world in its perversity is being visited by casualties,--by floods, storms, fires, [no this is not the second coming] earthquakes, famines, wars, and bloodshed. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power; yet He will not at all acquit the wicked. [That is a quotation from the Bible, of course.] 'The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.' [Another quotation from Scripture.] O that men might understand the patience and long-suffering of God! He is putting under restraint His own attributes. His omnipotent power is under the control of Omnipotence. O that men would understand that God refuses to be wearied out with the world's perversity, and still holds out the hope of forgiveness even to the most undeserving." Do you like that? But notice the next sentence. "But His forbearance will not always continue." Are we living in a time when God is exercising forbearance? Yes we are. But is there coming a time when that forbearance will suddenly be removed? Yes that will happen.
The next sentence says, "Who is prepared for the sudden change that will take place in God's dealing with sinful men?" Is there going to be a sudden change in the way God deals with men in this world? That is what it says. All of a sudden there is going to be a change. "Who will be prepared to escape the punishment that will certainly fall upon transgressors?" You will find, if you have the book Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, a very similar statement to that, almost exact, on pages 415 and 416.
I have been wanting to know for a long time something about this sudden change that is going to happen. In Testimonies to the Church, vol. 5, 208 in the chapter on the "Seal of God", she talks about some changes that are coming. She says, "With unerring accuracy the Infinite One still keeps an account with all nations. While His mercy is tendered with calls to repentance, this account will remain open; but when the figures reach a certain amount which God has fixed, the ministry of His wrath commences. The account is closed. Divine patience ceases. There is no more pleading of mercy in their behalf."
Now when we try to understand (I am still trying to understand) the sudden change that is going to come, where are you going to notice the sudden change first? In the church. She continues here in vol. 5, 209. She talks first of all, on page 208, about the nations, how they have had unprecedented mercies and have not taken advantage of it.
But now she says, "But that which causes me to tremble is the fact that those who have had the greatest light and privileges have become contaminated with the prevailing iniquity. Influenced by the unrighteous around them, many, even of those who profess the truth, have grown cold and are borne down by the strong current of evil. . . . As the disrespect for God's law becomes more manifest, the line of demarcation between its observers and the world becomes more distinct." Is that happening today? "Love for the divine precepts increases with one class according as contempt for them increases with another class." And then she says, "The crisis is fast approaching." What is this crisis? It is going to be a sudden change and she calls it here, "the time for God's visitation."
Now Jesus told the Jews(they met with destruction)Jerusalem was destroyed because they did not understand the time of their visitation. But God is going to visit again, in our time. She says, page 209 and 210, "The rapidly swelling figures show that the time for God's visitation has about come. Although loath to punish, nevertheless He will punish, and that speedily. Those who walk in the light will see signs of the approaching peril; but they are not to sit in quiet, unconcerned expectancy of the ruin, comforting themselves with the belief that God will shelter His people in the day of visitation. Far from it. They should realize that it is their duty to labor diligently to save others. . .
"The leaven of godliness has not entirely lost its power. At the time when the danger and depression of the church are greatest, the little company who are standing in the light will be sighing and crying for the abominations that are done in the land. But more especially will their prayers arise in behalf of the church because its members are doing after the manner of the world.
"The earnest prayers of this faithful few will not be in vain. When the Lord comes forth as an avenger, He will also come as a protector of all those who have preserved the faith in its purity and kept themselves unspotted from the world. It is at this time that God has promised to avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them."
It is at this time, what time is that? Well, it is when He comes forth as an avenger. It is not the second coming, it is not the seven last plagues. It is these judgments she talked about, these "floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, famines, wars and bloodshed", that all of a sudden are going to get so terrible that everybody is going to recognize that something horrible is happening. What did Ellen White mean when she talked about the thousands of cities that were going to be destroyed? That did not happen, friends, in World War II. That has not been fulfilled yet. What was she talking about when she described in her vision in the night over New York City, she saw balls of fire come down and instantly everything was destroyed. What was she talking about? If we live just a little bit longer, we are going to see destruction, that we can scarcely imagine, both of property and of human life.
When you read the prophecies and you read where she says thousands of cities are going to be destroyed, that could easily involve, friends, billions of people. And at that time, when these judgments of God are falling on the earth, it is these judgments of course that are going to bring on the final crisis, going to bring on the death decree. And it is during that time that she says here, "He will also come as a protector of all those who have preserved the faith in its purity and kept themselves unspotted from the world." Ibid.
Oh, friend, I want to be in that category, do you? When God comes forth and there are thousands of cities destroyed and there are millions or billions of human beings destroyed in a very short time by judgments, when that time comes, she says, He is going to be the Protector of those who have preserved the purity of their faith and kept themselves unspotted from the world. Are you going to be in that category? Will you be one who has preserved the purity of the faith? Is preserving the purity of your faith important? Evidently! If you want God to be your Protector, you better have the same faith that the prophets and the apostles had. You had better keep yourself unspotted from the world, if you want to be protected when this happens.
I doubt that any of us can really imagine, or comprehend, the magnitude of what is very soon going to happen. We talk about the New World Order and we talk about Sunday laws and these things. What we do not realize is, or maybe some of you do, when these things happen, when you have national councils passing Sunday laws, God is going to do something. And I want to tell you, when God does something, millions or billions of people are going to be destroyed. It is not going to be something small. Everybody in the world is going to recognize it. It is going to look, for just a little while, like all of God's people, of course, are going to be destroyed. But when He comes as an avenger "He will also come as a protector of all those who have preserved the faith in its purity and kept themselves unspotted from the world. It is at this time that God has promised to avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them. . . .
"In the time when His wrath shall go forth in judgments," [notice it is the time when God's wrath is going to go forth in judgments] "these humble, devoted followers of Christ will be distinguished from the rest of the world by their soul anguish, which is expressed in lamentation and weeping, reproofs and warnings. While others try to throw a cloak over the existing evil, and excuse the great wickedness everywhere prevalent, those who have a zeal for God's honor and a love for souls will not hold their peace to obtain favor of any." Ibid.
Oh, friend, what category are you in? Are you in the category of those who will throw a cloak over what is going on? Or will you not hold your peace to gain favor from any one? When you see something that is wrong, you have to speak up because your conscience will not let you be quiet.
"Their righteous souls are vexed day by day with the unholy works and conversation of the unrighteous. They are powerless to stop the rushing torrent of iniquity, and hence they are filled with grief and alarm. They mourn before God to see religion despised in the very homes of those who have had great light. They lament and afflict their souls because pride, avarice, selfishness, and deception of almost every kind are in the church. The Spirit of God, which prompts to reproof, is trampled underfoot, while the servants of Satan triumph. God is dishonored, the truth made of none effect." Ibid., 210, 211
Oh, friends, are you prepared for what she predicted will be happening? She says, "The class who do not feel grieved over their own spiritual declension, nor mourn over the sins of others, will be left without the seal of God." Ibid.
Then she talks about Ezekiel 9, how that the leaders of the church are going to be destroyed and then she says, "Here we see that the church--the Lord's sanctuary--was the first to feel the stroke of the wrath of God. The ancient men, those to whom God had given great light and who had stood as guardians of the spiritual interests of the people, had betrayed their trust. They had taken the position that we need not look for miracles and the marked manifestations of God's power as in former days. Times have changed. These words strengthen their unbelief, and they say: The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil. He is too merciful to visit His people in judgment. Thus 'Peace and safety' is the cry from men who will never again lift up their voice like a trumpet to show God's people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins. These dumb dogs that would not bark are the ones who feel the just vengeance of an offended God. Men, maidens, and little children all perish together." It is going to be a time of great destruction. I want to tell you, friends, it is going to happen all of a sudden. And you may be surprised at all who will be destroyed when these judgments come.
I want to look just a little bit at the order of some events. We cannot predict order closer or more than God specifies in inspired writings. But I want to look at the order of some events. This is from Letter 55, we published part of this letter in one of our latest Landmarks magazine in the editorial page. It says, "We are to be ready and waiting for the orders of God. Nations will be stirred to their very center." Okay, the nations are going to be stirred to the very center. What are they going to be stirred with? There is going to be a controversy. Well that controversy is developing right now in the religious right. What is the controversy going to be over? It says, "Support will be withdrawn from those who proclaim God's only standard of righteousness, the only sure test of character." Support is going to be withdrawn from who? Those who support the law of God. Support is going to be withdrawn. What is going to happen? It says, "All who will not bow to the decrees of the national councils and obey the national laws to exalt the sabbath instituted by the man of sin, to the disregard of God's holy day, will feel, not the oppressive power of popery alone, but the Protestant world, the image of the beast." So there are going to be national laws instituted to enforce Sunday observance. That is the image to the beast and that is the triggering event that is going to trigger everything else that is going to happen.
Remember, in Testimonies to the Church, vol. 5, 451, she says, the national Sunday law will be followed by what? National ruin. Now let me tell you something, friends. When God says ruin, it means ruin. We have no comprehension what is going to happen to this country. The national Sunday law will trigger the judgments of God. By the way, this is the message that we must get out to the entire United States.
If you pass a national Sunday law, it will be followed by the judgments of God and the country will be ruined. People need to know ahead of time. Don't you think they ought to know? If you pass a national Sunday law, it will trigger the judgments of God and it will bring ruin upon this country. People need to know, they need to have an opportunity to make a choice. She also says, in Testimonies to the Church, vol. 5, 451, that we may know then "that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan. . ."
Now when the time comes for the marvelous working of Satan, do you know what is going to happen? It is going to look like God's church is going to fall to pieces. She says, again in Letter 55, "Satan will work his miracles to deceive; he will set up his power as supreme. [This is after the national Sunday law.] The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless, it must take place. None but those who have been overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony will be found with the loyal and true, without spot or stain of sin, without guile in their mouths. We must be divested of our self-righteousness and arrayed in the righteousness of Christ." Maranatha, 195. Do you want that experience?
"The remnant that purify their souls while obeying the truth gather strength from the trying process." Ibid. What is this trying process? Well, it is pressure that is brought by a national Sunday law, from Protestantism and popery combined. That is the image to the beast. The pressure that is brought by a national Sunday law to disobey God's law and the appearance that everything of God's work is falling apart. It says, " 'All these, He says, I have graven upon the palms of My hands.' Isaiah 49:16. They are held in everlasting, imperishable remembrance." Selected Messages, book 2, 380. But I tell you, you are going to have to have faith to believe it.
"We want faith now, living faith. We want to have a living testimony that shall cut to the heart of the sinner. . . The great issue. . ." Ibid., 380, 385
What is the issue she has been describing? The national Sunday law, the image to the beast, that will be enforced that will test the people of God and you are going to find whose who and find out which people are going to remain true whether they are threatened with imprisonment or death or whatever else. And which people, when the pressure is on and they do not know how they are going to get anything to eat or any clothes to wear or any place to stay and how they are going to pay their bills, they are going to succumb to the pressure. "The great issue so near at hand, will weed out those whom God has not appointed and He will have a pure, true, sanctified ministry prepared for the latter rain." Ibid.
Now that is quite a statement. Because, if you have been following the order of events, at least the greatest power of the latter rain is going to occur after the national Sunday law because the national Sunday law is going to weed out all the chaff, the tares. It is going to weed them out and there is going to be "a pure, true, sanctified ministry prepared for the latter rain." Would you like to be part of it?
So the greatest power of the latter rain is going to occur after the image to the beast is set up. There is going to be a series of events, Ellen White says, that will show that God is the master of the situation. And as the members of the body of Christ, grow up into Christ, as they partake largely of His Spirit and receive the latter rain, they will give the loud cry.
Review and Herald, May 27, 1862, says, "As the members of the body of Christ approach the period of their last conflict, 'the time of Jacob's trouble,' they will grow up into Christ, and will partake largely of his Spirit. As the third message swells to a loud cry, and as great power and glory attend the closing work, the faithful people of God will partake of that glory. It is the latter rain which revives and strengthens them to pass through the time of trouble. Their faces will shine with the glory of that light which attends the third angel."
Well, now what is just about to happen is going to look like the biggest trouble there has ever been, but that is just to prepare you for the real trouble. You see there is going to be a gigantic change, a national Sunday law, that image to the beast, is not only going to separate out the chaff in the church, but it is going to bring the judgments of God that will bring this country and perhaps the entire world, as they follow its example, to the brink of starvation and every kind of ruin.
And at the time that happens, God's people, the faithful and true, will receive the latter rain and will give the loud cry and God's work will be finished in a very short time. It is during that time, also, that you find many references in the Spirit of Prophecy about eleventh hour workers that God is going to raise up. I believe that He is raising some up right now, but there are going to be a lot more, from every type of background, raised up to finish God's work.
I want to tell you, friends, there is a reason the Bible says, "Take heed that no man take your crown." Be careful. If we are unfaithful to our mission--you know what the Jews thought, you can read about this in Christ's Object Lessons, about 294, that they were the people of God. Ellen White says that they defied earth and heaven to take away from them their rights. Imagine that! John the Baptist told them straight. He said God could raise up children to Abraham from the stones. He did not need them. You know, friend, we need God, but we need to remember that God could finish His work without us if we are not faithful to our mission. God can finish His work without us. He can raise up others who will be faithful, that will do the work and finish it.
But then, if that happens, you and I would lose out on the blessing that we should have. I do not want to lose out on the blessings that God wants me to have, do you? I want to be faithful. I want to go through this test and be ready to give the last message and be part of giving the last message of mercy to the world. Would you like to be part of that? So, what is the sequence of events? One of these days there is going to be the development to the image of the beast and as that is developed, there are going to be a lot of storms, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, famines, and natural disasters of all kinds. But when that is passed and the national Sunday law is passed, then there are going to come judgments of God on this world and on this nation that you and I cannot even imagine right now. It is going to bring it absolutely to ruin, that is what inspiration says.
The church is just going to appear to fall, like not much is left and if we go through that test, we are going to receive the latter rain and hear the loud cry. When you receive the latter rain and give the loud cry, then just before probation closes (now that is not a long period of time, by the way. When Ellen White talks about that period of time, she never uses the expression "years", she always uses the expression "months". It is not a long period of time we are talking about) just before probation closes, we will receive the seal of God and our destiny will be secure. It will not seem like it though. It will seem like we are going to be killed during the time of trouble.
I will read to you about that. Ellen White wrote this in 1846. She said, "About four months since, I had a vision of events, all in the future. And I saw the time of trouble, such as never was--Jesus told me it was the time of Jacob's trouble, and that we should be delivered out of it by the voice of God. Just before we entered it, we all received the seal of the living God." The Day Star, March 14, 1846
Let's look at the events we have studied. There is going to be a sudden change. The judgments of God are going to be brought upon the land. The image to the beast is going to be set up and that is going to result in absolute ruin to this country.
The judgments of God, well, thousands of cities, she says, thousands of cities destroyed. Whole navies will go down and human lives will be sacrificed by the millions. By the way, that has never happened. We have tried to figure out if that happened in World War II. Be assured that prediction has not yet happened. There has never been a time before when whole navies go right to the bottom of the sea. What kind of judgment would that be? It would be some type of natural disaster such as, at the present time, we do not have the capacity to even imagine. Because nothing like that, at least since the flood, has ever happened. A disaster of that kind did not even happen at the flood.
And after this time of terrible judgment has occurred, God's people are going to receive to the fullest extent, I am not saying it will not start before that time, but I know from the inspired writings that the fullest extent of the latter rain and the loud cry are going to occur after that time. And then just before probation closes, God's people are going to receive His seal.
That is what it says here. And then, "I saw the four angels cease to hold the four winds. And I saw famine, pestilence and sword, nation rose against nation, and the whole world was in confusion. Then we cried to God for deliverance, day and night, till we began to hear the bells on Jesus' garment." Ibid. Did you know that? You are going to hear the bells on Jesus' garment. "I saw Jesus rise up in the Holiest, and as He came out we heard the tinkling of bells, and knew our High Priest was coming out." That is exciting, isn't it?
"Then we heard the voice of God which shook the heavens and earth, and gave the 144,000 the day and hour of Jesus' coming. Then the saints were free, united and full of the glory of God for He had turned their captivity. And I saw a flaming cloud come where Jesus stood and He laid off His priestly garment and put on His kingly robe, took His place on the cloud which carried Him to the east where it first appeared to the saints on earth, a small black cloud, which was the sign of the Son of man. While the cloud was passing from the Holiest to the east which took a number of days, the synagogue of Satan worshiped at the saint's feet." Ibid.
Well, that is a very interesting description, isn't it? Their captivity was turned. It is at the time the captivity is turned that the special resurrection occurs. And then for a number of days, while Jesus is passing from the Holiest to the east, the wicked worshiped at the saints' feet. You can find that also in the little tract Little Remnant Scattered Abroad which was also written by Ellen White in 1846.
Oh, friend, we must never allow ourselves to just look at the present troubles that are coming on the world. We must have faith to realize that just beyond this and this and this, the time is coming, and it is going to be soon, we are going to be out of this world, if we are faithful. Oh friend, are you preparing? Are you ready? Do you want to get out of this world? A sudden change is going to happen very soon in God's dealing with men. This sudden change is going to bring on, quickly, a series of events. God's work, after this sudden change happens, is not going to be finished anymore in years, it is going to be months. It is not going to be years that people will have to prepare for the close of probation, it is just going to be months. Right now is the time to prepare.
When we see what is happening in the world today, we ask the question that Ellen White asked. Who is prepared for the sudden change that will take place in God's dealing with sinful men? Who is prepared for the sudden change? That is why we are here. We want to be prepared. We want to pray before we go and say, "Lord, I'm surrendering myself totally to You. I want to be ready for the sudden change that is about to happen."
Here in the book of Zephaniah it talks about this sudden change that is going to happen. Zephaniah 1, we could read the whole chapter, but it says in verse 2, "I will utterly consume all things from the face of the land, says the Lord." And it shows a sequence of events that is going to happen.
Notice what it says in verse 15, "That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess." Verse 16 says, "A day of trumpet. . . [that is of war]" Verses 17 and 18, "I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land." The whole land is going to be devoured.
Now what should we do when we see this sudden change is coming that is described in chapter 1? Look at chapter 2, it says, "Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, [that is before this sudden change happens] before the day passes like chaff, before the Lord's fierce anger comes upon you. . . Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger."
Oh, friend, will you be one of those who are hidden in the day of the Lord's anger? When all of a sudden there is a change in the way God deals with the human race. And once that change happens, this world will never be the same again. By fire and by sword the Lord will plead with all flesh and the slain of the Lord will be many. It will be the last call. It will be too late, by the way, for many Christians.
Ellen White is very clear on this. For those who have never heard the message, the Lord will still hold the door of mercy for them so that they can hear, while for those who refuse to go in, the door is going to be shut.
Oh, friend, when that sudden change happens, are you going to be ready? When God comes forth as an Avenger, will He be your Protector? Will you be one of those who have preserved the purity of your faith and have kept yourself unspotted from the world as it says in James 1:27? Will you be one who will be hid in the day of the Lord's anger?
There will be some people who will be hid. Here in Isaiah 26 it talks about this time as we draw right down to the end. Isaiah 26:20, 21, "Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain."
Are you ready for that? Up until now, when people die we always bury them, even in wartime. Sometimes we make mass graves, but we bury them. But there is coming a time when they are not going to bury them anymore. There are going to be so many people dying they will not be able to bury them anymore. It is going to happen. There are some people who are going to be hid. There are going to be some people who will be delivered.
This deliverance is spoken of again in Isaiah 30:29, 30, it says, "You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept, and gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute, to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the Mighty One of Israel. The Lord will cause His glorious voice to be heard, and show the descent of His arm, with the indignation of His anger and the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, tempest, and hailstones." That is the seventh plague.
Oh, friend, are you going to be hid? Are you going to be one who is protected? When God comes forth as an Avenger, will He be to you a Protector? He is going to avenge His own who cry day and night. He is going to destroy the world, but to some people He is going to be a Protector. Will you be one of those? Friends, if you are going to be, now is the time to make your calling and election sure. Now is the time to get serious with God. Do not play games, friends. Say, "Lord, I am choosing to surrender my heart, my mind, my will, everything to You. I am choosing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Please work out the plan of salvation in my life." If that is what you want to do, I want to give you an opportunity right now.