Since the days of Adam to our own time, our great enemy, Satan, has been exercising his power to oppress and destroy. Now he is preparing for his final campaign against the church in an effort to deceive the world.
We have been told, “The enemy is preparing for his last campaign against the church. He has so concealed himself from view that many can hardly believe that he exists, much less can they be convinced of his amazing activity and power. They have to a great extent forgotten his past record; and when he makes another advance move, they will not recognize him as their enemy, that old serpent, but they will consider him a friend, one who is doing a good work. Boasting of their independence they will, under his specious, bewitching influence, obey the worst impulses of the human heart and yet believe that God is leading them.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 294.
Never forget that Satan is the father of lies. He deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden and has become bolder with his success in fooling the nations ever since then. “Satan is preparing his deceptions, that in his last campaign against the people of God they may not understand that it is he.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 341.
How did we get into such a situation that many people believe the devil is really a friend to help them?
The devil has been around for a long time and he has mastered the art of controlling the majority of the human race. “Satan is a diligent student of the Bible, and much better acquainted with the prophecies than many religious teachers. He has ever kept well-informed concerning the revealed purposes of God, that he might defeat the plans of the Infinite.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, 87.
The devil does not come to the Christian parading some atheistic philosophy. He has great success in quoting the Bible, but with the slightest twist. He came to Jesus quoting the Bible and claiming to be an angel sent from heaven to help Him out. “Satan knows better than many professed Christians what is written, for he is a diligent student of the Bible, and he works to pervert the truth, and lead men into the paths of disobedience.” The Signs of the Times, August 28, 1893. He is an expert in misinterpretation and presents things in such a way that you will think you still believe the Bible while not practicing its principles.
In the message of Jesus to the church at Sardis (“I know your works …” Revelation 3:1) was imbedded the first angel’s message, “the hour of God’s judgment is come” (Revelation 14:7 literal translation). It is in the heavenly sanctuary where God’s judgment takes place. The first angel’s message is the announcement of a present day event. The fact that God is going to judge His people constitutes Bible truth all the way back from the time of Moses. The devil has known at least since that time that the day would come when that event would take place.
Moses wrote about it in Deuteronomy 32:36: “For the Lord will judge His people.” David wrote about it in Psalm 135:14: “For the Lord will judge His people …” In both the Old and New Testaments, the future tense is always used in referring to this subject. Luke wrote in Acts 17:31, “… because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, we can know that there is an impending judgment. On another occasion when Paul had only one opportunity to speak to the heathen ruler, Felix, he talked about three things, one of which was a coming judgment. (See Acts 24:25.)
Notice what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in II Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
Ellen White wrote about the judgment, which is brought to light in the three angel’s messages. She said, “The interests of the cause of present truth demand that those who profess to stand on the Lord’s side shall bring into exercise all their powers to vindicate the advent message, the most important message that will ever come to the world.” Sermons and Talks, Book 1, 385. The advent message, of course, is the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6–12. It is a message about God’s judgment and it is here right now. If you study the first angel’s message carefully in Revelation 14:6, 7, you will see that the hour of God’s judgment begins while the gospel is still being preached. The exact time the judgment began can be determined by studying the prophecies in the book of Daniel.
The devil’s plan has always been to deceive the world, to overthrow the church of God, and to cause all to be lost. He has followed closely the history of the world since the beginning of time, knowing full well that time was limited. He knew what Moses wrote; he knew what was in the Psalms; he knew what Daniel and Paul wrote. He understood perfectly the meaning of the three angels’ messages delivered to John on the Isle of Patmos. So he has invented his own alternate interpretation of them to deceive the people. The only defense against his deception is to be careful and diligent Bible students and be settled into the truth of the Word.
The crafty enemy of souls started setting traps thousands of years ago so that the message of the judgment and the warning to get ready would be rejected or ignored and that the church would be in a comatose state. The message to the church at Sardis reveals the startling announcement that the devil would be amazingly successful in this plot. In fact, he would be so successful that only a few people in the church at Sardis would be saved. Of all the letters to the seven churches, the letter to the church of Sardis is one of the saddest. Revelation 3:1–6: “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things say He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ ”
Never forget that the devil put his lies into operation to set his traps thousands of years ago. When a mouse gets caught in a trap, it kills the mouse. When the church gets caught in a trap, it does not receive the message that we are living in the judgment hour and it dies. Ellen White wrote many times on the importance of this message:
“The warning to the Sardis church is applicable at this time.” The Review and Herald, November 2, 1886.
“To the church of the present day this message is sent. I call upon our church members to read the whole of the third chapter of Revelation, and to make an application of it.” The Review and Herald, August 20, 1903.
“The message that God gave to the churches in Ephesus and Sardis are applicable to those who in this age have had great light but have not opened the door of the heart to the knock of Christ. The Lord has shown plainly that He has a controversy with His people. The fires that have lately raged in New York and other cities were no accident. It was the hand of omnipotent power. The Spirit of God is withdrawing from the world because the warnings of heaven have not been heeded. We need to beware, for a similar condition of things is coming in amongst us as a people.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, 321. (Written in 1902.)
“Among those to whom this message [to the church in Sardis] was sent, there were those who had heard and been convicted by the preaching of John the Baptist, but who had forsaken the faith in which they once rejoiced. There were others who had received the truth from Christ’s teaching, and who were once ardent believers, rejoicing in the faith, but who had lost their first love, and were without spiritual strength. Because they did not hold the beginning of their confidence firm unto the end, they were believing as men without faith. They quibbled about matters of no special importance which were not given by the Lord as tests, and dwelt upon their differences of opinion till these differences became as mountains, separating them from Christ and from one another, destroying unity and love.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 242, 243.
We are admonished to avoid getting caught in the trap of becoming so occupied arguing about unimportant things while salvation issues are lost to sight. This trap devised by the devil kills the church, blinding it from the most important message ever given to man—to prepare to meet God when He returns to redeem the faithful or face Him when it is too late and give an account and be lost.
Satan’s traps have caught the majority of the inhabitants of this world. Most of the Christian world today, hundreds of millions of people who claim to be Christians, do not know that we are living in the hour of God’s judgment, yet that is the most important message to be given to the world.
One very successful trap the devil has used in the past involved a promise of higher, more spiritual Christianity. Claiming to be more spiritual, Gnostic Christianity contained the deadly poison of the serpent, resulting in sensuality, but it lacked the development of Christian perfection. Gnostic Christianity had its roots in Greek philosophy, which had its roots in the ancient philosophies of Egypt and Babylonia, and therefore is rightly called in the book of Revelation, Babylon.
The Greek philosophy of Gnostic Christianity was very dangerous because it was mixed with a lot of Bible truth. People believing in this philosophy claimed that they believed the Bible, called themselves Christians and prayed to God in the name of Jesus. They claimed that the highest goal of their life was to receive the Holy Spirit but unfortunately for them the spirit they received was another spirit.
People believe today that Gnostic Christianity has disappeared. Actually it did disappear as a sect by the sixth century, but the doctrines of Gnostic Christianity did not disappear. These doctrines are present today and are presently being taught all over North America and the Christian world by both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches. Some of these doctrines have resulted in many Christians not being susceptible to present truth, rejecting the messages in Revelation 14.
God has sent a crucial message of warning to the world and many people scoff at it. Books have been published saying there is no need to fear the mark of the beast because Christians will be raptured away before any trouble starts. Others are not concerned, believing that when they die, they either go straight to heaven or to hell, thus avoiding judgment.
When the Protestants came out of the blackness of Babylon, they did not come to the light of all Bible truth in one generation. The two most prominent reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, broke away from the teachings of Babylon, making some advance steps. However, both John Calvin and Martin Luther were highly educated and versed in the teachings of a man by the name of Augustine. Today, both Protestants and Roman Catholics can trace their theology back to him. For at least nine years before Augustine became a member of the Roman Church, he was a Gnostic Christian. During his own lifetime he was correctly accused of bringing the doctrines of Gnosticism into the Christian church. Augustine was probably the leading theologian responsible for Greek philosophy being brought into the Christian church.
Because Martin Luther and John Calvin were highly trained and educated in the writings and teachings of Augustine, it should not be surprising that they brought some of this Greek philosophy and some of the poisonous Gnostic doctrines with them into the Protestant church. Remember, Greek philosophy has its roots in ancient Babylonia. There were many Gnostic sects, but there is one Gnostic sect that is mentioned by name in the book of Revelation, the Nicolaitans. Both times when mentioned by Jesus in Revelation 2, He says He hates their deeds (verses 6, 15).
During the fourth century, Martin Luther and John Calvin espoused two doctrines already in the church, derived from Greek philosophy, using them to try to fight Catholicism. One of these was the doctrine of eternal security, commonly called “once saved always saved.” That belief does not come from the Bible but directly from Greek philosophy. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin believed these doctrines. However John Calvin became the greater champion of the second—the doctrine of predestination.
The doctrine of eternal security is the idea that salvation at some point becomes locked in and makes you eternally secure. The person that believes he is saved and eternally secure and that nobody can take away his or her salvation will have no need to heed the warning that “the hour of God’s judgment is come” (Revelation 14:7). The Bible states that we all are sinful and need a continual daily dependence on Jesus. If a person is convinced that his salvation is eternally secure he may lean back and relax and eventually die spiritually. That is exactly what happened to the church in Sardis.
The second doctrine that was promoted predominantly by John Calvin is predestination. A person believing he or she was predestined to be saved will never heed the judgment hour message. It is a trap. Jesus did say, “Nobody can pluck you out of My hand” and you are safe as long as you do not choose another Master, but do not ever think that your salvation is eternally secure and can never be taken away. That promise is conditional on obedience to God and resisting anything else that would be a master over you.
The Bible itself was used in an attempt to prove the philosophy of once saved always saved. It is still happening today. The common texts used are Ephesians 1:13; John 10:28; Romans 8:1; Hebrews 10:14; I Corinthians 3:13–15. But this doctrine does not come from the Bible. It was brought into the church by Augustine, resurrected and taught a thousand years later by Martin Luther and John Calvin and has become mainline Protestantism.
However, there are also many texts that refute this doctrine: Hebrews 6:4, 5; Hebrews 10:26–31; Romans 8:12, 13; Matthew 10:22; and Galatians 5:21.
One of the key points of the doctrine of predestination emphasizes God’s sovereign will and teaches total depravity so that a person cannot make a choice until God regenerates him. Common texts used to try to prove that belief are Ephesians 2:1–5, Romans 8:7, and the most popular of all, the book of Romans chapter 9.
An important concept to understand is that no group of people has ever earned an exclusive right to the kingdom promises, either Jew or Gentile—no group and no church. The fact that Christ stated plainly that the covenant promises could be taken from the Jewish church and transferred to “a nation bearing the fruits of it” is powerful proof that predestination is not a Biblical teaching. In Matthew 21, the Jews were not predestined that they had to be God’s people forever. In Matthew 21:43, it says, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.”
Ellen White wrote, “The Lord Jesus will always have a chosen people to serve Him. When the Jewish people rejected Christ, the Prince of life, He took from them the kingdom of God and gave it unto the Gentiles. God will continue to work on this principle with every branch of His work. When a church proves unfaithful to the word of the Lord, whatever their position may be, however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities. But, if these in turn do not purify their lives from every wrong action, if they do not establish pure and holy principles in all their borders, then the Lord will grievously afflict and humble them and, unless they repent, will remove them from their place and make them a reproach.” The Upward Look, 131.
The Bible does not teach either the doctrine of eternal security (once saved always saved) or the doctrine of predestination. The Jews were not predestined that they would always have to be the people of God. People are so confused about this that they still believe the nation of Israel are God’s chosen people. To be caught in Satan’s trap and believing in these doctrines will blind you to the truth of the final warning given to the world before the return of Jesus in the clouds of heaven. We need to face reality. No one is saved yet. Jesus is going to save us if we stay loyal to Him and never choose another Master but we are still living in a world where Satan believes he reigns supreme. He lays temptations and for us in every direction.
The texts used to promote the doctrine of predestination are as follows: John 6:37, 44; Matthew 11:27; John 5:21; Romans 8:29, 30; Ephesians 1:5; Revelation 17:8. But the honest seeker for truth must also consider the texts that refute this doctrine: Acts 14:1; John 7:16, 17; Matthew 23:37; II Peter 3:9; I John 2:2; Luke 13:24.
In Revelation 2 Jesus said he hated these Gnostic doctrines of the Nicolaitans that originated from Babylon. The question for you and me today is, “Do you hate what Jesus hates?” If you love what He loves, then you will hate what He hates.
Salvation is not complicated. John 20:31 says, “… these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” If you have belief, you will have life. Life comes when you hear the gospel and have faith in the promises it contains. Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ ” Romans 1:16, 17.
The devil is skillful. He has many traps. As time runs out Satan becomes more desperate for a bigger catch. In this article, we have touched very briefly on one major trap that the devil devised so that the church living in the time when the judgment hour was preached would feel no need of the final warning and reject it. The judgment hour message is the most important message there is because your response to it will determine your eternal destiny. The three angels’ messages are true; they are infallible; and they need to be studied, memorized, and meditated upon. Pray that the Lord will help you have the experience therein mentioned so that you will be ready for the final judgment.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.