As we approach the Second Coming of Jesus, the signs of the times are coming in upon us so rapidly that it is difficult to keep up. We are seeing developments taking place with lightning speed just as Ellen White said that they would. We see God’s judgments in the land, and we see a new world order taking shape. We find Vatican insiders, such as Malachi Martin, writing books, The Keys of This Blood, which provide us an astounding picture of the developments taking place as the pope strives to gain control of the world, undoing all that Protestantism has done and establishing persecution once again.
One of the most significant factors facing humanity is the disintegration of the sense of reality. It is as George Orwell wrote years ago in his book 1984. The totalitarian systems rule by dislocating the people’s sense of reality. As God’s people approach the Second Coming of Jesus, one of the great challenges is to have a correct perception of truth, of reality, a correct understanding of what is happening around us in the field of human thought. This is particularly difficult and yet important when we have a media that is being used as a propaganda tool for the new world order.
Over and over again my thinking has been brought back to the fundamental statement in the first verse of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” One of the fundamental problems with humanity at this time, which has unleashed all manner of evil in the world, is a failure to recognize and worship the Creator. It is this issue that is addressed by the first angel’s message. “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him.” Revelation 14:7. The whole concept of worship rests upon the idea of the Creator-creature distinction which our society has lost. Having lost the concept of the creatorship of God, humanity today has lost its orientation. It no longer knows who God is, who we are, and who humanity is. The entire sense of reality has been shifted and warped in preparation for totalitarian systems to revive in the world.
The first chapter of the book of John begins much the same as the first verse of the Bible. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake [that is a literal translation right out of the Greek] it.” John 1:1-5
The very foundation of all human life is the Word of God. He spake and it was done. He commanded and it was done. He commanded and it stood fast. That Word is omnipotent, it is all powerful, and it is the voice of God to our souls, transforming human life and bringing us into contact with reality. So when we look at all of human life, we have to dig deep. As Ellen White says, hunt for the Rock and make sure we are grounded on the Rock, Christ Jesus, who is the Word of God.
In the time in which we live, and particularly since Vatican II, the Protestant churches, which are virtually asleep, are being led step by step back into the fold of Rome. Soon to be raised is the issue of whether a power on this earth can exalt itself against the law of God, challenging his sovereignty, and whether the rest of humanity will yield allegiance to that power. We must never forget that the fundamental question of the Sabbath-Sunday issue at the end of time is, will divine authority be in its rightful place or will human authority replace divine authority and pervert humanity? J.A. Wylie in his The History of Protestantism, which paints for us the struggle that has gone on through the centuries between the forces of Protestantism and the Papacy, points out that human liberty depends upon its recognition of divine authority.
In 1215, the barons of England forced King John to sign the Magna Charta. Wylie points out, however, that the great charter for England was not, in reality, the fundamental charter of liberty for the English-speaking people; it was the Word of God. When the Word of God sank down into the hearts of Englishmen, it transformed all of human life in England and exalted England to greatness. When divine authority is present, it demands freedom to obey God and is a fundamental principle of all liberty.
But we live in a society that has rejected the authority of God, laying the foundation for human tyranny. In England the teachings of evolution destroyed the concept of the creatorship of God. For some time the American nation has been driven hard to the left into immorality and homosexuality, and we may except to soon see a hard shift back to the right. Already, Patrick Buchanan, regarded as a staunch conservative, is holding seminars across this land asserting that the only way to save America is to make it Catholic.
Soon, every person in this nation is going to have to come to grips with issue of what they are going to do with the creatorship of God and with the authority of His Word. Even in Adventism we are wrestling with this issue, and it is the result of a regard for the authority of God’s Word that we see the independent movement today.
When Luther, in reading the Scriptures, found that Christ is the head of the body, he began questioning whether there was any head of the whole church other than Christ. There came a point in his experience where he was engaged in the Leipzig debates, and, as a result of that experience, Luther began coming to grips with the issue of authority in the church. He finally came to doubt whether, after all, any other head of the whole church had been appointed upon earth except Christ. Once he accepted the principle that the authority of God’s Word is above counsels, popes, and all human authority, it began to transform all human life, changing even people’s concept of the church.
Once Luther established the principle of the supremacy of the Word of God, he began energetically applying it to every phase of human life. The outgrowth of that principle is reflected in our Constitution in the principle of the free exercise of religion. The whole Bill of Rights rests upon this principle of the supremacy of divine authority. But what has happened in America? As the creatorship of God has been destroyed by the teachings of evolution, we have lost the concept of inalienable rights, and we now have a government that is contemptuous of the Bill of Rights.
In 1958, the year before the pope called for Vatican II, a European theologian sounded a warning. He did not know what was coming, but he pointed out that unless we begin to have an experience with the Word of God so that our entire life rests upon it and unless we have placed our feet so firmly on the Word that we can say we know with certainly what we believe, we will eventually come back under the dominion of Rome. He sent out that warning to the world. The next year, the ecumenical council was called. Vatican II met from 1962-1965, and the religious world has never been the same since.
But the people are not going deep enough. They are skimming the surface and are not rooted on the Word of God. Therefore, they do not know how to evaluate what is taking place, and after a while they begin to adjust, adapting to the new realities of Socialism as it comes in like a flood. Meanwhile, a totalitarian system of enormous proportions is being set up in our nation and around the world.
It was Luther who observed that, “A council cannot make divine right out of that which is not by nature divine right. To establish the Romish papacy by divine right is a ‘new dogma’ which is not binding. The church needs no head. The hierarchical system is not biblical, nor of divine right. The whole canon law [set up by Rome] begins to totter.” The History of Doctrines, 290
When the human being submits to the authority of God and His law of liberty, he finds true freedom; and he is delivered from human tyranny. The central orientation of the Protestant worship was the Word of God, not the charisma of the speaker. The movement of the three angels’ messages of Adventism will triumph as it adheres to this principle of the primacy of the Word of God.
And so, the principle of the supremacy of the Word of God was adopted by Luther in the Reformation, and it transformed his idea about the church. Because he had bowed to the supreme authority of Christ, who is the head of the church, he no longer felt that he had to somehow stay within the confines of the papacy. It was out of the fountain spring of personal salvation that a whole new conception of the church was born, bringing Protestantism into being.
Luther first develops this doctrine in detail in a tract in which he observed that the church is an assemblage of all Christian believers on earth and is made up of those who are of His flesh and of His bone, who are united with Him by faith. He further pointed out that as this is a community of saints and is represented as a spiritual fellowship, the principle of its unity is not to be seen in a body such as Rome, or the papacy, but in Christ. He went on to say that it is Christ operating upon the members that unites them into one community. (See Ibid., 291.)
Remember, Ellen White says that the groups of believers at the end of time are bound together by the truth; and the truth rests, of course, upon Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As the head, Christ infuses His disposition, temper, and will into the community. The church is, therefore, the spiritual association of those who believe on Christ, those established and sustained by Him.
“Where two or three are present who love and obey the commandments of God, Jesus there presides, let it be in the desolate place of the earth, in the wilderness, in the city enclosed in prison walls.” The Upward Look, 315
The idea that the true church is the spiritual fellowship where Christ presides is an entirely new concept of the church that came about from the study of the Word of God in the Protestant Reformation.
“By the word church is also understood the organized association of those who believe on Christ, ‘an outward thing with outward actions,’ and the order of the clergy. This ‘outward, bodily church’ and the ‘inner spiritual church’ are to be carefully discriminated, but not separated. They are related to one another as body and soul in man.” The History of Doctrines, 291. And in the Protestant Reformation, the concept that Jesus enunciated when He said the kingdom of heaven is within you, is an internal, spiritual kingdom of righteousness and peace. This is the non-negotiable element of the church that Luther seized upon in the Protestant Reformation. And then that spiritual fellowship that are of His flesh and of His bone have a visible, external manifestation as they gather together for the preaching of the Word and administration of the Lord’s ordinances, such as the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.
Luther recognized that the outward, bodily church and the inner, spiritual church are related to one another as body and soul to man. He asserted that, “It is, of course, of chief importance that we belong to the spiritual church, but this membership stand in close connection with membership in the external church.” Ibid. He went on to say that it is the Word of God, the preaching of the Word, externally set forth that calls into existence the inner, spiritual church. “The church is therefore in one aspect, an external, visible association. But this is not ‘the true church which is believed.’ Since, however, the Word and the sacraments are here operative, faith concludes that here in the external association may be found a community of saints. Thus the church is an object of faith and not the visible, ‘for what is believed is not bodily nor visible.’” Ibid., 292
Basically, what Luther was saying is that the invisible, inner relationship with Christ is the foundational concept of the church, just as Paul says here in Ephesians 5:30, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” And out of that inner relationship with Christ, there comes a visible, external manifestation of the church as the community of faith comes together and hears the Word of God preached to them. The church is the assembly of all believers, the holy Christian nation, the regenerated. It is holy because the Holy spirit reigns in it. Those who belong to it are all priests in the spiritual sense. It is the new creation of God, the product and sphere of the redemptive work of Christ, the kingdom of God in which Christ reigns through the spirit and faith.
The Reformers went on to say that, “If the question be raised, which of the two churches, the Romish and the Evangelical, is the ‘true’ one, the answer cannot be given on the basis of their comparative morality. But, sense the object of the outward organization of the church is to bring Christ to men through the Word, therefore, it can lay claim to the title, ‘true church,’ just in proportion as its preaching of the Word is in harmony with this purpose, i.e., is truly evangelical.” The History of Doctrines, 294. And so, the mark of the true church, Luther said, is that in it, the gospel is purely preached.
This entire movement of historic Adventism rests upon this principle of the primacy of the Word of God because we believe that, where the truth is purely preached is the sign of the true church. Martin Luther said that this true church must have the “teaching, faith, and confession of Christ. This can be known from the agreement of its doctrine with the ‘Word of Christ.’ That the true church holds with me to God’s Word.’ Our doctrine is ‘the Scriptures and the clear Word of God.’ The ‘pure doctrine’ is therefore of the highest importance, since every corruption of it must immediately influence the life. Hence, the church dare not tolerate false teachers.” Ibid., 295. That is the sixteenth century Reformation.
The struggle that we are involved in in Adventism today is that we are faced on the one hand with a structure that has very subtly shifted its emphasis from the authority of God and His Word to the authority of man, as is evidenced by the fact that we find men who profess to speak for the structure exalting the church manual as being an inspired document. Recently, a man from the General Conference, who was delivering a sermon at a baccalaureate service, asserted that, yes, we have the authority of Scripture, but we also have the authority of tradition which is to be interpreted for all by the community of faith. These are Roman Catholic concepts.
On the other hand, there is the celebration movement. This movement is right out of Vatican II.
The issue that Seventh-day Adventists are now having to come to grips with is, what are they going to do with a pastor who is going in a different direction, with a conference structure that is going a different direction? This is not a situation that is taking place only in Adventism but throughout the churches. We have Baptists who, as soon as their Adventists neighbors get Freedom’s Ring, want to borrow it. They recognize that this is happening in their church. I was just talking to Texe Marrs; some of you know who he is, exposing the occult, exposing spiritualistic forces, exposing the new world order in a remarkable way. He said to me, “You know, I was brought up as a Baptist. My mother was Pentecostal. But you know, I didn’t go to church very much; and when I was in the Air Force, Wanda, my wife, and I gave our hearts to the Lord and began pursuing truth. When we got out of the Air Force, we went to attend the Baptist church.” And he said, “It was nothing like the Baptist faith I had known about.” This is happening in all of the churches. I have a friend who went, just out of the appeal of his Lutheran family, to attend a Lutheran service in North Dakota. The whole sermon was New Age, about the God within. I have a book by a conservative Roman Catholic who tells how New Age is all through their schools and all through their whole movement.
As we approach the end, the people of God are called upon to proclaim the Sabbath more fully. The Sabbath rests upon the principle of the creatorship of God. It is the memorial of Creation, a sign of the power and love of Christ. As it is a sign and memorial of Creation and thus a memorial and sign of the power of Christ to recreate our hearts, every week it exalts the authority of Christ above all human authority. It is a foretaste of eternity; and as we proclaim the Sabbath more fully at the end of time, it involves this exaltation of Christ who is the head of the church, the true head of the church. As Luther said, “The inner unity of the church is established through Christ as its head, so its external unity is secured through the pure doctrine of the gospel.” The History of Doctrines, 295. This is why Satan is trying to attack this movement of historic Adventism with every form of fanaticism to pervert the pure preaching of the Word of God.
Our security from all of the forces that are harassing humanity at this time lies in our submission to the Word of God and the authority of Christ who is the Word made flesh. The power and love of Christ, and only a holy people, can keep the Sabbath day holy; therefore, the Sabbath is a sign of righteousness by faith. What a wonderful thing, every week to have the Sabbath come on Friday evening. Rest, rest from our labor that earns our living through the week and the rest of faith, as Paul said in Hebrews 4. A rest from our own labors and a resting in Christ. It is exactly what humanity needs. It is exactly what the whole human race needs. It exalts Christ to His proper sphere and thus eliminates human tyranny. It is the answer for a world that is racked with fear as it sees the new world order coming upon it.
We have no idea of what is hanging over the human race right now, but we are told in Early Writings that she saw a covering being drawn over God’s people, over all those who were settled into the faith of the three angels’ messages. But if their knees were shaking and they were not settled into the truth, intellectually and spiritually, that covering was not drawn over them, and they were left shelterless in the storm of human and demonic wrath at the end of time.
Martin Luther said, “This unity of the church is not said to be, and is not, the having and holding of any one form of outward government, law, or ordinance, and church customs, as the pope and his crowd profess and wish to have all excluded from the church who will not in this be obedient to him…It is called one holy catholic or Christian church, because there is here one pure and uncorrupted doctrine of the gospel and outward confession of the same.” Ibid.
And so, as we come to grips with what is happening in our own movement, we must come to grips with what is the church and the fundamental issue of where the church is really located. When we recognize that the head of the church is Christ and the church is made up of those who are of his flesh and of His bones, who keep His commandments and have the testimony of Jesus, when we understand the biblical definitions of the church, it sets us free to go ahead and proclaim the message to the entire world. The sovereignty of God is at the very foundation of this entire question. It is also at the basis of the entire question. It is also at the basis of the entire Sabbath-Sunday question. The point to which I am leading up to is that if we accept the exaltation of human authority above the authority of the Word of God in the sphere of the church, are we not setting ourselves up for the exaltation of human authority in the implementation of the mark of the beast? It is the same principle. Therefore, the Word of God calls upon us to be the Lord’s free people, secure in our understanding of our relationship with God, in our personal salvation, and in our understanding of what the Bible teaches regarding the nature of the church.
According to the Protestant concept, as brought forth from Luther’s writings, the church is first and foremost that invisible relationship with Christ of those who are of His flesh and of His bone, who are united with Him by faith. Therefore, it has an external manifestation of the preaching of the Word of God and the administration of the Lord’s ordinances. The next question is, What is the legitimate expression of the visible church? The answer is that it must be a part of the invisible church of those who are united with Christ, by faith, and who hold to the pure doctrine of Christ. There is no legitimacy for a visible church that is in apostasy from the Word of God, that is no longer teaching and preaching the pure Word of God. They cannot lay claim to being the visible church. This is the point that we are at in this struggle to understand what the church really is.
In Jesus’ day, He had to somehow break the chains of the hierarchy that were holding the people from following the word of God. That is why He preached the woes on the Pharisees in Matthew 23; the Pharisees had to be exposed. The whole system had to be exposed for what it was so that the people would be free to follow the Word of God and to join His kingdom. Many people, however, were afraid to confess Christ for fear of being put out of the synagogue. In John 9, when Jesus healed the man who had been born blind and this man confessed Christ, the One who had given him physical and spiritual eyesight, he was cast out because of his confession of Christ. Ellen White says that they did not throw him out in any gentle way. It was a very rough disfellowshiping. Jesus came to see this man, Ellen White says that Jesus took him into His fold. (See The Signs of the Times, December 4, 1893)
In John 10, which follows right on the heels of this incident, Jesus tells where His fold rally is. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” John 10:1-4. This is an entirely new concept regarding the fold of God. The Pharisees, priests, and scribes felt that they determined who was in the fold of God and that if they excommunicated and disfellowshiped this man who confessed Christ, and everybody else who confessed Christ, they were putting them out of the fold. They thought that they had the final authority over who was in the fold and who was not, but Jesus came to the man and told him that he was a member of His fold. Later on in John 10, He turned to those men who had disfellowhiped the healed man and told them that they were not His sheep. Not only were they not His sheep, they were not even in His fold. What was He saying? The fold depends upon the inner, spiritual following of Christ.
In verses 7-9, “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” And in verse 11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” He said, in verses 27, 28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.”
What can give you the assurance of following your conviction and the truth that you are on the right course when an entire local church may disfellowship you for following you conscience? It is found in these words: “My sheep hear My voice… they follow Me. And I give unto them eternal life.” And then he says, “They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” Christ is making it very plain that He is not only the head of the church, not only the good shepherd, but He is the guardian of the flock, and no one can take anyone out of His hand because that hand is omnipotent. And then He goes on to say, “My Fathers, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” Verses 29, 30. When that voice of Christ comes to you through the Word of God, do you acknowledge it and bow before it as the voice of One who is one with the Father? Jesus asserted that no man can take you out of His hand.
If you are listening to His voice, coming to you through His Word, and you are following it and no one can take you out of His hand, and the Father is grater than all and no one can take you out of the Father’s hand, you are absolutely secure. Then why is this issue such a big issue right now? I believe it is this: It is not going to be long and God’s people are going to have to be living outside of the confines of the legal and economic system of the new world order. You will not be able to buy or sell unless you have the mark of the beast and submit to the human authority that is a rival of God’s authority. You will be living in the most desolate places of the earth. You may be in caves and dens of the earth, in forests, in a torture chamber, or a prison cell. But if you are going to be faithful to the authority of God in your life, the Bible is very clear that you are going to be living outside of the legal and economic confines of the new world order.
When Jesus told the church of His day where the fold of God really was—in the final analysis where the church of God really was—it led them to want to murder Him. It was a critical issue in Jesus’ day because if you did not understand where the fold of God really was, you would have remained in subjection to the primacy of human authority and been destroyed in the destruction of Jerusalem instead of stepping out and following Christ.
What does all of this mean for the movement of historic Adventism and the proclamation of the three angels’ messages today? It is just this: When Luther finally discovered from the Word of God what the church really was, that Christ is the head of the church and that it is composed of those who are of His flesh and of His bone and have an inner, spiritual union with Him, it enabled him to break free from the chains that had bound him and to launch the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.
In our day, the same recognition of the primacy of the authority of God’s Word and the true understanding from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy regarding the nature of the church will enable us to have the power, conviction, and ability to take the three angels’ messages to the world and to give the loud cry. No longer crippled by an inadequate understanding of what the church really is, we will take our stand under the full authority of Christ and His Word and valiantly give this message to the world. And, regardless of where we may be found at the end of time, we will have the secure conviction of knowing that we are in the fold of God because we are hearing His voice and following it and are in submission to His authority above all else. Unless this principle of the primacy of Christ is deeply ingrained in our souls in every dimension of our life, we will never have the spiritual power or perception to even understand what is coming upon us and to range ourselves on the right side of the question of the Sabbath-Sunday issue. The temptations of Satan are being prepared for God’s people, and those who years ago thought that they would never drift have subtly drifted by the thousands and tens of thousands because they have accepted the principle of following human authority rather than the authority of the Word of God.
“It is the first and highest duty of every rational being to learn from the Scriptures what is truth, and then to walk in the light, and encourage others to follow His example. We should day by day study the Bible diligently, weighing every thought, and comparing scripture with scripture. With divine help we are to form our opinions for ourselves as we are to answer for ourselves before God…When the testing time shall come, those who have made God’s Word their rule of life will be revealed…. In summer there is no noticeable difference between evergreens and other trees; but when the blasts of winter come, the evergreens remain unchanged, while other trees are stripped of their foliage. So the falsehearted professor may not now be distinguished from the real Christian, but the time is just upon us when the difference will be apparent. Let opposition arise, let bigotry and intolerance again bear sway, let persecution be kindled, and the halfhearted and hypocritical will waver and yield the faith; but the true Christian will stand firm as a rock, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, than in the days of prosperity.” Maranatha, 94, 195. This will be the experience of the true Christian.
As I watched the Waco tragedy unfold, I saw the searchlights playing on those buildings night after night to keep the people awake so that could get no rest. Recordings of screaming rabbits being slaughtered, Tibetan chants, and rock and rap music were played to try to dislocate the sense of reality of those who were inside, destroying their ability to resist. I wondered what was really going on with those people inside. And now we have the testimony on video tape that has just been released of one person who was in there. She was questioned by one of the leading NBC newsmen and asked, “What was it like? What was the impact of all the psychological warfare that was unleashed on you?” She said, “It didn’t bother us at all. Our faith is greater than that. Our faith sustained us.” How will it be with the true Seventh-day Adventist?
Texe Marrs has just released a tape about all of the evil, psychological warfare that is being developed. It has now come out that in Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, our military tested all kinds of psychological and mental torture on Vietnamese prisoners to see what would drive the human mind mad. There are now men risking their lives to come forward and expose these things. What will sustain God’s people? Their faith and their knowledge of God’s Word and their conscious awareness of being in harmony with Christ.
The greatest hour in earth’s history is right upon us; and just as all or these evil forces are being unleashes, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard for His people and the Holy Spirit will be poured out as never before. We are told in Maranatha, 205, that the persecution will be more intense than it was when the papacy ruled the world and almost exterminated the religion of Jesus Christ. She says that it is impossible to describe the experience of God’s people because at the same time, they will walk in the light that streams from heaven through the gates ajar and they will receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as never before. Are we preparing for that? Do we have the depth of experience that will give us that kind of triumphant witness, even in the face of death? Is our faith supreme?
Our environment today offers many challenges. There is great danger that our thinking will become confused and the clarity of the features of our faith will become blurred, replaced with the desire for social prestige and other interests that will corrupt the purity of our faith. The challenge for us is to preserve our hours of communion with God, our time for personal study. If we preserve the primacy of Christ’s authority in our life above all else, He will bring us through to a triumphant victory.