Who are the Brethren?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I hope that it is the same with you. If, however, we are going to really understand the gospel, we need to do as the Bereans did. The Bereans “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11

It used to be that Adventists were known as people of the Bible, but those days are past. No longer are we studying as we once did, and in the place of spiritual food, we are being fed pabulum. As a result, we are being blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine that comes along. Paul told Timothy: Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed—[What?]—rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

I believe there are several scriptures that are misunderstood in Adventism today. One of the most misunderstood and misapplied passages of Scripture is the one found in Matthew 13 dealing with the wheat and the tares. This parable has been so twisted in Adventism that people today believe they are to accept any abominable thing that comes into the church. They look at you with a pious face and say; “Oh, we can’t say anything about it. Don’t you know about the ‘wheat and the tares’? The wheat and the tares grow up until the time of the harvest, and the time of the harvest is the end of the world—the Second Coming.”

So, are all of these abominations that are going on, to continue until the very end; and are we to do nothing about it? Are we to just sit back and piously say: “It’s the wheat and the tares”? Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30, but he then went on to explain it to His disciples in verses 36-43.

Many times Jesus had to explain His words to His disciples because they could not understand their meaning. They had been so misled by the religious leaders—brain washed, if you please, that their minds seemed incapable of expanding. They had listened to a perversion of truth for so long, from those blind leaders, that they could not understand these simple truths. So, once again, Jesus privately explains this parable of the wheat and the tares.

“Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house, and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth His angels and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:36-43

What is the harvest? It is the end of the world. I am embarrassed to admit it, but for years I believed that the harvest was the Second Coming. I never really thought much about it; I just thought that somehow the Lord was going to come down and the angels were going to suddenly separate the wheat and the tares. In one sentence, however, Ellen White makes so clear how this is to take place.

“The tares and the wheat are to grow together until the harvest; and the harvest is the end of probationary time.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 72. Do you know what that means? Clearly, the harvest must take place before the close of probation. Yes, the harvest takes place in the general time period of the Second Coming, but it takes place some time before.

While at our camp meeting in Kansas—the Steps to Life camp meeting—we saw a wonderful thing taking place; the combines going through the wheat fields, and what a sight it was. All day and into the night they worked. There were long lines of trucks, large, eighteen wheelers, waiting to be weighed. I asked one old timer how long this harvesting had been going on.

He said, “Oh, this has been going on for weeks.”

I said, “Well, when is it going to be over?”

He replied, “Well, we want to get it over before the rain gets it wet.” You see, the harvest is not an instantaneous process; it takes place over a period of time.

That is the way the harvest is with God. It is not an instantaneous thing. The angels are not going to suddenly come down and with a swish, the harvest is over and boom—we all go home.

If the harvest must take place before the close of probation and the harvest is not an instantaneous thing, but a process that takes place over a period of time, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the harvest is either here, or very near.

Let us consider the process that takes place in the harvest.

First of all, the wheat are bound together, aren’t they? There is a separation taking place, but there is also a unity, as they are being bound together.

What happens to the tares? They are being bound together in bundles, too; so among the tares, we see a unity also. But what is going to happen to these bundles? They are going to be burned.

I am firmly convicted that right now the harvest is going on. As never before, we are seeing a unity in separation among those who profess to be the people of God. The tares are uniting and the wheat are uniting. There is separation and unity going on at the same time, and it is taking place right now.

Do not ever let anybody try to tell you that the parable of the wheat and the tares says that we must allow sin and corruption and every abominable thing to come into God’s church, because the wheat and tares all grow together until the end. That is not what this parable teaches at all. In fact, do you know what it does teach? This parable teaches that we are not to disfellowship the wrong people.

We are told in Christ’s Object Lessons that the parable of the wheat and the tares teaches us that we are to judge people on open sin, but we are not to judge motives. If a person is keeping the commandments of God, you are to leave them alone. The workers in the parable of the wheat and the tares said, “Master, should we pull them up?” he said, “No! Leave them alone. Let them grow together until the harvest.” Now, when is the harvest? Right now. And who does the separating? The angels.

You see, according to Matthew 13, if someone is keeping the commandments of God, you have no right to touch them.

Now let us look at Matthew 18. I believe this is the most misused chapter of the Bible. According to Matthew 18, if I have seen a brother in private sin, I am to come to him and say, “I want to talk to you brother. You are doing thus, or so, violating the commandments of God.” It is just between myself and this brother. But if he says, “I do not accept that. I’m going to keep on doing it,” I am then, and not until then, to proceed to the next step.

It is now time to go to the elders. The elders say, “Brother, we need to see you. One person has already talked to you and you refused to repent, confess and forsake your sin. If you will not repent today, we are going to have to take it to the church.” If he still refuses to repent, you are left with no choice but to take it to the church, which in turn must disfellowhsip him.

When it is not a public sin, but a private matter, you are to go to the person privately and share your concern. Now, if he will repent, confess it to the Lord and say he is sorry, then you are to forget it. That is it. That is as far as it goes. But if he will not accept it or repent, then you are to take it to the elders. If he still will not accept the counsel and repent, then you are to take it to the church and he is to be put out and disfellowshipped.

If you read the passage where Mrs. White explains Matthew 18, she says very definitely that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven only if this procedure has been followed according to God’s plan. If it has been violated in any way, God does not recognize the decision. So, before we start saying we are going to Matthew 18 somebody, we had better know what Matthew 18 says. Never tell someone that you are going to “Matthew 18 them” when they are not in sin. If you want to read with someone, study with them or even talk over theology, then do what Paul did: reason with them. See Acts 17:2; 18:4-9. When you tell someone that in coming to them you are following Matthew 18, then, according to Scripture, you are coming to them as a brother reproving them for a sin they have committed, or that you believe they have done.

Matthew 18 does not apply to anyone who is threatening the prosperity of the church and leading our people into sin. Mrs. White makes this very clear in Testimonies, vol. 2, 15.
“My husband then stated that he should understand that these words of our Lord had reference to cases of personal trespass, and could not be applied in the case of this sister. She had not trespasses against Sister White. But that which had been reproved publicly was public wrongs which threatened the prosperity of the church and the cause. Here, said my husband, is a text applicable to the case: 1 Timothy 5:20: ‘Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.’”

What is Mrs. White saying? She is saying that Matthew 18 does not apply to anyone who is leading God’s people astray—open sin. Any time that somebody, a religious leader, or whoever, does anything that threatens the prosperity of the church, you are not to Matthew 18 them. And if you do, then you do not understand Matthew 18.

I am amazed what has happened in Adventism. Open sin is to be openly rebuked, but we have become such passivists, we are afraid to even speak up against it. We have clasped hands with this ecumenical spirit, that says: “oh don’t say anything; don’t rock the boat; let’s just all be friends.” We think it is so Christian, but it is of the devil. The devil would just love to sugarcoat these differences and have us say, “Well, let’s just put aside our differences and come together on the things that we don’t agree on.” But brothers and sisters, white is white and black is black, not gray, as the ecumenical movement would have us believe.

When you read the basics of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and realize that the whole premise of NLP is that a person’s mind can be changed without them even knowing it, making white black and black white, you realize that it is the most sinister evil of the twentieth century.

Constance Cumby, author of Hidden Secrets of the Rainbow, spoke with me several times on the telephone. She said, “John, I know a lot about Adventism; maybe more than you think I know, as a non-Adventist. But, I’m here to tell you, the other churches do know what’s going on in Adventism better than Adventists know.” She said: “In my research for Hidden Secrets of the Rainbow, I came across the facts that Seventh-day Adventists were doing more to embrace Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and more Seventh-day Adventist ministers have been trained in Neuro-Linguistic programming than all other denominations of America combined.” She went on to say: “If you are blowing the whistle on NLP in Adventism, you can tell them to write or call me and I will share with them the result of my research in my book Hidden Secrets of the Rainbow. I will say without reservation, and as an attorney, it is my opinion that Neuro-Linguistic programming is the most sinister and diabolical thing that has come into Christianity in the 20th century.”

“But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Matthew 3:7-10

Now, who were the Pharisees and the Sadducees? They were the religious leaders, the men who would not let John the Baptist speak at any of the churches. Was John part of the structure? He was an independent minister who said what had to be said. He had no degrees and carried no credentials. In fact, when the religious leaders came out to him, if he had had any training in public relations he would have baptized them; but instead, he turned to them and said, “You snakes.” More than that, he called them rattlesnakes—vipers. He said, “You bunch of rattlesnakes. You do the work of the Lord, and then I’ll baptize you. What you’re doing now is nothing but pretense. You are just trying to get on the right side of the people. You’re trying to be politicians.”

While they were putting up the facade of being so sweet, in their hearts, they really could not stand him.

Don’t be fooled; times have not changed. People, however, are so easily deceived. You will hear them say: “Oh, he is so sweet; any time we go to see him, he just invites us right in to his office and talks to us. We are so honored.”

It is snake oil folks. Whether you know it or not, these leaders of God’s professed people hate everything you stand for and they will try to destroy it in every way. They will use either the carrot or the stick, whichever they think will get the best result with you. If sugar coating you and rolling out the red carpet is the way to get your cooperation, they are going to do it; but don’t be deceived, because, if the carrot doesn’t work, they are going to use the stick.

John the Baptist knew what was in their hearts and he called them a bunch of rattlesnakes. There were no doubt, some who said: “Oh, John, you shouldn’t have said that to them. You did the wrong thing; don’t you know who those men are? Why, they could have given great success to your cause if you had just baptized them. Together we could all be one big happy family.”
Do you know why he said what he did? Because the Holy Spirit told him to say it. Man’s ways are not God’s ways.

“The forerunner of Christ’s first advent was a very plain-spoken man. He rebuked sin, and called things by their right names. He laid the ax at the root of the tree. He thus addressed one class of professed converts [we found out who they were—the religious leaders] who came to be baptized of him in Jordan: ‘O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit meat for repentance….And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the tree; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’” Testimonies, vol. 1, 321. Now listen to this. “In this fearful time, [What time is she talking about? She’s talking about the harvest] just before Christ is to come the second time, God’s faithful preachers will have to bear a still more pointed testimony than was born by John the Baptist. A responsible, important work is before them; and those who speak smooth things, God will not acknowledge as his shepherds. A fearful woe is upon them.” Ibid.

We read about Moses and Aaron. Everybody loved Aaron, but they thought Moses was so terrible. Oh, the way he yanked that golden calf down, burned it, ground it into powder, threw it into water and then made them drink it. They said, “Oh, Moses, you’re so harsh, but Aaron, is such a loving man. Why can’t you be like Aaron, Moses?’ God does not, however, see things as such. Moses was the one who was favored of God and Aaron was the one who was cursed for leading God’s people into apostasy. The same thing is taking place today. Idolatry is being brought into the church by these smooth talking Aarons, and our people are saying, “Ah, but he’s such a loving man.” Let me tell you something folks. These loving preachers who are preaching nothing but love, love, will love you right into hell.

There are people who say, “John, you ought to be more Christlike.” I could not agree more, but let’s understand what it means to be Christlike with apostate religious leaders. Did you ever notice that Jesus never talked to the laity the way He did to the apostate religious leaders? Why, Jesus addressed them just as John had done. See Matthew 23; John 8:44.

Was Jesus part of the structure? No, and yet I have had people tell me that you have to be a part of the structure. If you are not a part of the structure, then you are not a part of the church; and if you are not a part of the church, then you are out of God’s field and you are lost. Well, then John the Baptist was lost; Jesus was lost; all the disciples were lost.

Do you know what the ultimate disfellowshipping was in Jesus’ day? Crucifixion!

You may have been told that the structure is the seventh church of Revelation 3 and that there is no eighth church. Therefore, as the structure, is the church, you must stay with the structure. Let me ask you a question. Just because God started the Jewish structure, did that mean that the Jewish structure was able to hold Him hostage for eternity? No! When the structure apostatized, he separated Himself from it. While the structure can be a part of the church, it is not the church. If it apostatizes, it ceases to be a part of the church.

The structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church began in 1862. The seventh church, however, began in 1844. What was God’s church between 1844 and 1862? Can we conclude that God did not have a church because there was no structure? Certainly not; God has always had a church. God’s church was in existence before the structure, and if the structure apostatizes, the church will continue on. The church, God’s true church, is never dependent upon the structure for its existence.

The church is what the church has always been, and Revelation 12 identifies that church. The church is made up of those who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” What is the testimony of Jesus Christ? The Spirit of Prophecy. See Revelation 19:10.

Today, we attribute the Spirit of Prophecy to the works of Ellen G. White, but has the Spirit of Prophecy only been in existence since 1844? God always had prophets and they have always been part of His church. If you believed on them, you were a part of God’s church, and if you did not, you were not a part of His church. This has always been the criteria for determining who was a part of God’s church and who was not. With God there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. He is not going to change the rules for the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the end of time. Where do we get this type of twisted of reasoning? He rejected the structure in A.D. 31 because they apostatized from Him, and he can and will do it again. Who do we think we are that we can hold God hostage, and no matter what we do, God has to take us into heaven, whether He wants to or not?

The question is raised: Does this mean that we are going to start another church? Nobody is starting another church. In 1844, God started the last church—the Advent Movement. And, yes, God started a structure eighteen years later; but if that structure apostatizes from Him, He still has His church because the structure never was the church. It was only a part of it; the church still goes on.

I find people who try to make Mrs. White contradict what it says in Revelation 12, making her concept of what the church is different from all the prophets that came before her.

Let us look at Revelation 12:1-6. The first five verses tell us of God’s true church, that pure woman in the first century. Then in verse 6, we are taken to the second and third century. But, we know that an amazing thing happened at the end of the second century and the beginning of the third; the church apostatizes. How did they apostatize? Over their style and day of worship. You see, there was a wild solar holiday that the pagans kept and the church members said, “Look, if we have a special evangelistic series on Sunday, we can get our pagan friends to come.” Sure enough, it worked. In fact, it became so successful that they started having these special church growth evangelistic meetings on Sunday every week, and the pagans came by the thousands. You know the story.

We do not know the exact date, history does not tell us, but some time between the second and third century, the church of Rome, the Christian apostolic church of Rome that was founded and nurtured by Paul, had an official church business meeting and decided to start keeping the first day of the week—Sunday—and to quit going to church on Sabbath. But, there was a small group of dissident trouble makers. These divisive people who caused problems in the church stood up and said, “No, we’re not going to go to church on Sunday; we’re going to keep going to church on Sabbath.” Can you believe that?

Do you know what the majority in the church did? They disfellowshipped those who wanted to go to church on Sabbath. Do you know what it says in verse 6? It says that the church went into the wilderness. Now, let me ask you: Who went into the wilderness, the majority that disfellowshipped them or the little group that was disfellowshipped? It was the little group (who had had been disfellowshipped by the majority) who went out into the wilderness because the majority had left the truth, attaching themselves to falsehood. What then is God’s definition of the church? The little group of disfellowshipped and persecuted believers who were faithful to the truth.

On the other hand, what was man’s definition of the church in the second and third centuries? It was the large group who made up the majority, and who were celebrating on Sunday. They were the group who had money, power and the credential card-carrying pastors. They had the church buildings; they had the wealth and the worldwide organization. The majority in Rome who had disfellowshipped them had everything, or almost everything. There was one thing, however, that they lacked, and that was the truth. But, as God defines the church as the ones who have the truth, none of the other things mattered.

Do we find Seventh-day Adventists apostatizing over their method and style of worship?

“And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” Revelation 12:10. Have you ever been called an accuser of the brethren? Do you know who are the accusers of the brethren?
First, let us establish who the real brethren are.

“And they [the brethren] overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.” Revelation 12:11

We find that throughout the book of Revelation, when it is explaining and classifying God’s people, the people who are going to be saved in the last days are referred to as overcomers. They find victory over sin in their life through the power of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It says, “They [the brethren] overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.” This means that they are overcomers and they are willing to die for the truth. In verse 17 it says that they keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. That is the definition of who the brethren are. This means that anyone who does not teach victory over all sin in this life through the power and blood of Jesus Christ, is not one of the brethren. It means that if they do not keep the commandments of God and love, teach, read and practice the Spirit of Prophecy, they are not one of the brethren.

In days past I was rather careless about whom I called the brethren. I used that term for different sets of people. I want to tell you, after understanding Revelation 12, I am very careful of whom I call the brethren. Oh, yes. Now who are the brethren that it is talking about there? Well, let us go on to the next verse. If I come against a messenger that God has raised for the last days to preach the straight testimony to God’s people and I try to stop him in every thing that he does and I disfellowship him, what have I become? I have become an accuser of the brethren, because that man is one of the brethren in the eyes of God. Regardless of what men say, do not let anybody scramble your brain on this issue. The brethren are those who fulfill the criteria of Revelation 12. If a person does not fulfill the criteria of Revelation 12, he is not one of the brethren and you can just slice that any way you want. Those who come against the true and faithful brethren are doing the work of Satan and are the accusers of the brethren.

For so many years, Adventists have been led to believe that staying with the structure is synonymous with staying with the church; but, where are we told that? The definition of God’s church today is what the definition of God’s church has always been. Why is that so hard for us to see and accept?

Jesus had the same problem with His disciples when He said to them, “I can not tell you everything; you can’t handle it, You have been so brainwashed by your religious leaders that I have to couch everything I say and preach to you in parables, because if I came out and told you the truth, it would just blow you away.”

Unfortunately, God’s people are in the same condition today. Have we been brainwashed for so long that we cannot see that the definition of God’s church is what it has always been? Things have not changed. God’s last day prophet to his last day church told us: “From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth.” Acts of the Apostles, 11. Nothing has changed.

“God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep his commandments. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ [Matthew 18:20]. Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.” Upward Look, 315

It is not any organizational structure that constitutes God’s church. The structure can be part of God’s church, but God’s church today is what God’s church has always been—faithful souls. Oh, may God take the blinders from our eyes. May we be Bereans. May we read and study like we have never read and studied before, because if we are not Bereans, if we are not last day Bereans, we are going to be lost.

The End