“They fell all the way along the path one after another, until we heard the voice of God like many waters, [Ezekiel 43:2. Joel 3:16. Revelation 16:17] which gave us the day and hour of Jesus’ coming.” Word to the Little Flock, 14. This statement shows that the separation process which is necessary for the purification of the church takes place over a period of time.
What is involved in the purification of the church? How does it happen? And why is it necessary? We will look at the last question first. The purification of the church is necessary because Jesus is returning to this earth to receive a purified people who are without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:25-27). Every man who has hope of being part of this glorious church at the end “purifies himself even as He is pure.” I John 3:3. Revelation 19:7, 8 again reveals the fact that the church, the “bride”, who is ready to meet Jesus, will have “made herself ready” and will be clothed in a garment of character bright and clean. It is distinctly stated that this garment of character represents righteous acts of this group of holy people. So the purification of the church is necessary before the church can be ready for the second coming of Christ.
We will look at the first question next. What is involved in the purification of the church? We will look at this involvement not so much from the human side as from the divine side. “The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people.” Desire of Ages, 671. So this is not something that would simply be nice to have happen. The honor of God and Christ, the honor of the government of God is at stake in this development. “The great matter to be decided in the conflict was not merely between God and man; every creature that God had created was involved in the conflict. The unfallen worlds saw that the character of God could be vindicated only through this trial and conflict of the two forces. The attributes of God must be made to appear. Of the stability of his government there must be no question. And the Son of God himself proposed to carry forward the work to the end, to gain the victory over the prince of darkness and over all his allies.” Youth Instructor, April 15, 1897.
But now we come to the question, How does the purification of the church occur? First of all, God through chosen messengers initiates reformatory movements to purify His church. This was done in the time of the 16th century reformation, and in the 19th century God sent a special message of warning of judgement to purify His church. It is called the first angel’s message. The great mass of professed Protestant Christians rejected it.
“The message was designed for the testing and purification of the church. They were to be led to see whether their affections were set upon this world or upon Christ and heaven. They professed to love the Savior; now they were to prove their love. Were they ready to renounce their worldly hopes and ambitions, and welcome with joy the advent of their Lord? The message was designed to enable them to discern their true spiritual state; it was sent in mercy to arouse them to seek the Lord with repentance and humiliation.” Great Controversy, 353.
The message which God had sent for the testing and purification of the church revealed all too surely how great was the number who had set their affections on this world rather than upon Christ. The ties which bound them to earth were stronger than the attractions heavenward. They chose to listen to the voice of worldly wisdom and turned away from the heart-searching message of truth.” Great Controversy, 380.
“Angels were watching with the deepest interest the result of the heavenly message, and when the churches turned from and rejected it, they in sadness consulted with Jesus. He turned His face from the churches.” Early Writings, 235.
It was because of the rejection of this heavensent warning that the Protestant churches have found it impossible to come into a purified condition to the present day.
Instead of developing into Christ’s final purified people, which was the great privilege offered them, they refused to come completely out of Babylon and chose to retain significant features of antichrist. (See Great Controversy, 384.)
The next great question is: What happened to those who accepted the message of warning that God sent? Those who accepted Bible truth point by point were established on a “firm platform” (Early Writings, 258) composed of the three angels’ messages (Rev. 14:6-12).
After l844, the work of purification proceeded in earnest with them. We plan to look at this next month.