We are living in very serious times. We must have divine power in our lives, or we will be eternally lost. As I have studied in the Spirit of Prophecy lately, I have noticed over and over that Ellen White writes, “As we draw near the end,” and then she states some things that are going to happen “As we approach the close of time.”
As we near the end, Scripture tells us, “And these things happened to them for types [some translations say for examples, or ensamples] and it is written for our warning unto whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11. Paul is here writing about the children of Israel, especially their experience in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan, and he says that things happened to them there that were types. Now types do not mean anything unless there is an antitype. What is the antitype? The antitype is what is going to happen to God’s people in the end of time. It is written, Paul says, for our warning.
Some people do not like warnings, but warnings keep us out of trouble. Inspiration writes, “The history of the wilderness life of Israel was chronicled for the benefit of the Israel of God to the close of time. . . . God would have His people in these days review with a humble heart and teachable spirit the trials through which ancient Israel passed, that they may be instructed in their preparation for the heavenly Canaan.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 293. I personally feel a great need for being instructed so that I can be prepared for the heavenly Canaan.
One of the things that we are instructed against in 1 Corinthians 10:8 is, “Neither commit fornication just as some of them committed fornication and fell one day 23,000.”
This story is first recorded in Numbers 25, but it is referred to over and over again in the Old Testament. Obviously it is an important lesson that God’s people need to understand. This story occurred as the children of Israel neared the end of their wilderness sojourn. They knew the 40 years were just about up—they were going into the Promised Land! It should have been the most exciting of all times, but instead, they had the following experience: “Israel dwelt in Shittim and the people began to commit fornication with the daughters of Moab. And the people were called to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and they bowed down to their gods, and Israel was joined to Baal Peor. [Baal Peor was the heathen religion, and associated with this heathen religion were temple prostitutes and all the trappings of the central practices that went along with heathenism.] The wrath of Jehovah glowed against Israel.” Numbers 25:1–3. How did this happen?
In the book Patriarchs and Prophets, pages 453–457, Ellen White goes into great detail about this story. Here are six points concerning this story that we need to keep clearly in mind:
- This sin happened just before they went into the Promised Land.
- The children of Israel were in very attractive surroundings. They were encamped on a high plain that had a tropical climate, and there was an abundance of acacia trees. On the western border of this plain was Jericho, with an abundance of palm trees.
- They were living a life of ease and inaction; they were at peace. Friend, if that is your situation, pay special attention to this story. Ellen White says that the devil is never more successful than when he comes to people in their idle hours, and in the Western World, especially in the United States, we have more spare time today than any previous generation. (See Messages to Young People, 214; The Adventist Home, 284.)
- This country was utterly defiled by Baal worship. It was a land polluted by vileness and licentiousness and the accompaniments of Baal worship.
- While they were at ease and inactive, with idolatry and the practices of idolatry around them, unconsciously they came into a condition where they fell prey to temptation.
- The people were not forced to sin, but they were seduced into sin.
As I looked through the statements in Patriarchs and Prophets about how they were seduced and how the same thing can happen today, I found 17 points.
1 There was friendship with the heathen, idolatrous women. Some of these women, no doubt, were temple prostitutes for the Baal worship. At first it was only friendship. Do you realize that there will be many millions of people lost because of who their friends are? You cannot have a friend without that friendship having an effect on you. Who are your friends?
2 They entered into social entertainment with these heathen people, and it seemed perfectly innocent. Is that not so often the way sin is—at first it seems as though nothing is wrong. Many people will lose their soul because of their social life. Everyone needs some social outlet, but you need social outlet with people who fear God and who keep His Commandments.
3 In these social entertainments, they did what we do today—they prepared a big meal. There was feasting. A person who has just eaten a big meal is more susceptible to sensual temptation than a person who is fasting.
4 They not only had feasting, they were “beguiled with music,” Ellen White says, brought in by the Midianitish women. Patriarchs and Prophets, 454.
5 They also had dancing. (See Ibid.)
6 They were “allured by the beauty of heathen vestals,” that is, by the heathen women who were the temple prostitutes. Ibid. Ellen White says that their consciences were defiled by lewdness. (See Ibid.) We are living in a land today where, unless we are continually on guard, our consciences are defiled by lewdness. If you are a man, you cannot even go through the checkout counter in the grocery store without having to avert your eyes, or you will be looking on women who are not properly dressed; your conscience will be defiled by lewdness. You will be looking at things you should not be looking at, and after you have done that over time, you will say things that formerly you would not say; you will do things that you would not formerly do.
7 There was mirth in these festivities. (See Ibid.) Mirth is when people are laughing and joking and acting frivolously.
8 They also had a little wine to go along with everything else. When an alcoholic beverage is consumed, one of the first things affected is the cerebrum, the very front of the brain. That is where your inhibitions, your judgment, your conscience are located. These become anesthetized—your inhibitions are gone; your judgment is gone, and the limbic system of the brain takes over. That is the pain and pleasure center of the brain. Study what Ellen White says about the animal passions controlling the higher powers of the mind when alcoholic beverages are used. (See Counsels on Diet and Foods, 433.)
It was not long before the poison had spread like a deadly infection through the camp of Israel. The children of Israel, who would have conquered these people in battle, were overcome by seduction; they seemed infatuated. The apostasy became national, and the Lord instructed Moses that these people would have to be killed. (See Numbers 25:4,5.) Between 23,000 and 24,000 people were killed that day.
In commenting on this, Ellen White says, “Satan well knows the material with which he has to deal in the human heart. He knows—for he has studied with fiendish intensity for thousands of years the points most easily assailed in every character.” Friend, do you know what your weak point is? The devil does! She continues, “Through successive generations he has wrought to overthrow the strongest men, princes in Israel, by the same temptations that were so successful at Baal Peor. All along through the ages there are strewn wrecks of character that have been stranded upon the rocks of sensual indulgence. As we approach the close of time, as the people of God stand upon the borders of the heavenly Canaan, Satan will, as of old, redouble his efforts to prevent them from entering the goodly land. He lays his snares for every soul. It is not the ignorant and uncultured merely that need to be guarded; he will prepare his temptations for those in the highest positions, in the most holy office; if he can lead them to pollute their souls, he can through them destroy many. And he employs the same agents now as he employed three thousand years ago.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 457, 458.
“A long preparatory process, unknown to the world, goes on in the heart before the Christian commits open sin. The mind does not come down at once from purity and holiness to depravity, corruption, and crime. It takes time to degrade those formed in the image of God to the brutal or the satanic. By beholding we become changed. By the indulgence of impure thoughts man can so educate his mind that sin which he once loathed will become pleasant to him.” Ibid., 459. When you watch what you are not supposed to be watching, the result is that impure thoughts come into your mind, and as you keep watching the impure, you cannot get the thoughts out of your mind and eventually you are going to do it.
Seduction in our Day
Here are some things Ellen White mentions regarding our day:
- “We cannot walk the streets of our cities without encountering flaring notices of crime presented in some novel.” The Adventist Home, 406. What are you reading? Somebody says, “I am just reading that for entertainment.” Oh? Do you want entertainment to take you to eternal destruction? Different people have different temptations.
- She continues, “. . . notices of crime to be acted out at some theatre.” Ibid. We act out, in our theatres today, all of the famous crimes that have been committed in the world. We watch them enacted in the theatres, on the television, or on video over and over again. Does that have any effect on us? “By beholding we become changed.” Ibid., 330. That is a law of the mind.
- Ellen White writes about the periodicals and the magazines too. She says, “The course pursued by the base and vile is kept before the people in the periodicals of the day, and everything that can excite passion is brought before them in exciting stories.” My Life Today, 87. Every time a magazine is published, if a large circulation is desired, something must be included that will grab people so they just have to read it! You know what is in those magazines, and they are getting worse and worse. It is so bad that, if you go to a bookstore to buy something, you almost feel that you have to have a blinder on so that you can only look straight ahead and not see all of the stuff scattered all over the place. It is evil, and if you look at it, evil thoughts will be injected into your mind. Concerning these periodicals, she says, “They hear and read so much of debasing crime [there are magazines that specialize in that] that the once tender conscience, which would have recoiled with horror from such scenes, becomes hardened, and they dwell upon these things with greedy interest.” IbidAfter these things have been going on, and a person has been involved in such, they still cannot seem to figure out why their marriage becomes ruined. As a pastor I hear many heartbreaking stories, and I feel terrible about each situation, but most of the time there is very little that I can do. There was not much that Moses could do either; he just ordered the transgressors to be killed.
- The drama. That is the motion picture industry today.
- The opera.
- The masquerade. That is pantomime. That was the beginning, in Ellen White’s day, of the motion picture industry that we have today.
- The dance.
- The card table. This is a tool of the devil’s to get people going down the road to sensuality. If you do not understand what is wrong with card playing, or
with a deck of cards, there is a book, written by a Protestant preacher, entitled, A Deck of Cards,
[Charles F. Weigle, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1955.] that explains exactly what is in a card game and what the symbols represent. Card games have been used for centuries as a sensual device, and it is used in the practice of fornication, even today. You have heard of something called strip poker? That is exactly what it is; it is evil. Ellen White says that Satan uses the card table to “break down the barriers of principle and open the door to sensual indulgence.” The Adventist Home, 515.
- “In every gathering for pleasure, where pride is fostered or appetite indulged, where one is led to forget God and lose sight of eternal interests, there Satan is binding his chains about the soul.” Ibid. That is something well worth thinking through.
There are some people who feel that they are immune to these things. They think the preacher is talking to somebody else, because these things are not their problem!
During the last few years there has been an increasing discussion among historic Adventists about the identity of Babylon and whether the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is part of it, and although that is not the subject of this study, it is definitely related to it.
I want to share a statement that Ellen White wrote to the General Conference President, G. I. Butler, in 1886: “We must as a people arouse and cleanse the camp of Israel. Licentiousness, unlawful intimacy, and unholy practices are coming in among us [Seventh-day Adventists] in a large degree; and ministers who are handling sacred things are guilty of sin in this respect. They are coveting their neighbors’ wives, and the seventh commandment is broken. 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 of 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.
People have read that statement and then said, “I have read this statement, and I know what happened in the General Conference session in Toronto [Ontario, Canada] in 2000, so I believe that statement has now been fulfilled. I believe the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is in the ‘fallen sister’ category.”
If that is your criteria about who Babylon is, then friend, there are many historic Adventist churches who are also part of Babylon. First, they are led by ministers whose divorce and remarriage is not recognized in heaven; and second, they have members who are in the same category.
Remember what Ellen White said?
“All along through the ages there are strewn wrecks of character that have been stranded upon the rocks of sensual indulgence. As we approach the close of time, as the people of God stand upon the borders of the heavenly Canaan, Satan will, as of old, redouble his efforts to prevent them from entering the goodly land. He lays his snares for every soul.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 457.
Friend, he has his snares laid for you, and he has his snares laid for me. We are walking, as it were, through a mine-field. What are we going to do? We are up against somebody who has thousands of years of experience, and he knows our weak points in character and how to trip us up.
Babylon or Pharisee
There are two courses of action that are common in these situations. I have seen these two approaches taken almost universally, in both conference churches where I have been a member and in independent Adventist churches.
One course leads directly to sisterhood with Babylon. If, in your church, people can practice fornication and still be a member, you are part of Babylon already. It would be good to come out of that church. Historic Adventists say, “We are not going to do that; we will take the second course.” That course leads directly to Phariseeism. Some people go one way, some go the other way, and the devil gets you either way. From my past experience, I am more afraid of the Pharisees in Adventism than I am of the Babylonians in Adventism.
I know this is sensitive, but we need to study this business of unscriptural marriages which are found throughout Adventism, especially in the western countries. I want to make a special appeal to people who are not yet trapped in an unscriptural marriage, who are not living in sin, to listen to the advice that the apostle Paul gave to a young minister. “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily [this is referring to not ordaining deacons, elders, or ministers of whom you know nothing—do not ordain people too quickly] neither be a partaker of other men’s sins. Keep yourself pure.” 1 Timothy 5:22.
Share not Sin
My young friends, do not let the devil, or any of his agents, ever convince you that you are missing anything because you are not engaging in the temporary pleasures of sin. You are missing sorrow and grief, but you are not missing anything else. The Bible calls it the temporary pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25), but after the pleasure is the pain, the trouble, the sorrow and the grief. For a short period of pleasure, a person makes repentance for the rest of their lives.
The time to decide that you are not going to get in the devil’s trap is before you get in the trap! You see, there are some traps, especially for the young, that the devil can get you in that you will never get out of in this world, even if you repent. Paul said, do not be a sharer in other men’s sins (1 Timothy 5:22). Keep yourself pure. Do not commit fornication. The Scripture says, “If anyone destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him.” God will make good on His Word. “Those that do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:21.)
There was a man who fell into this trap, and he wrecked his life and a whole nation. He himself eventually left the way of sin that had damaged him, but the nation he had wrecked was taken captive by the heathen. His name was Solomon. Before you yield to the temptations of Satan, listen to what Solomon has to say: “The lips of a strange woman drip honey, and her palate is smoother than oil, but afterwards she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. . . . Remove your ways far from her and do not come near the door of her house lest you give to others your honor and your years to the cruel one [that is the devil] lest strangers be filled with your strength and thy toil be in the house of a stranger and you moan at the last when your flesh and body are consumed.” “Her house leads down to death. None that go to her return again. Her guests are in the depths of sheol.” Proverbs 5:3, 4, 8–11, 6.
Oh friend, as we approach the end, the devil is going to do the same thing that he did with Israel just before they went into the Promised Land. Adventist preachers have never had so much trouble with this in the history of the church as they are having now. You do not want to be part of the 23,000 or 24,000 that went down. Those people, who were killed, not only lost their temporal life, they lost eternal life. They lost everything! There are multitudes today who are losing eternal life for a few moments of sensual pleasure. How stupid can we be!
The devil has a trap set for you. Many of the people I meet have already stepped into the trap. Let me tell you, it is a lot harder to get out of the trap than it is to just stay out of the trap in the first place. Pray that God will give you wisdom and guide your choices, so you are not caught in the devil’s snare.
Somebody may say, “I am already in an unscriptural marriage. Now what am I going to do?” Well, you are going to have trouble in this world, but you can be saved. We will study that in Part 11 of this article when we look at Babylon and at the Pharisees.
[All emphasis supplied. Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life Ministry and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas.