Ellen White tells us how we can discern a true church from a professed church: “ ‘And now also,’ said the prophet, ‘the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’ [Matthew 3:10.] Not by its name, but by its fruit, is the value of a tree determined. If the fruit is worthless, the name cannot save the tree from destruction. John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life. Profession was worthless. If their life and character were not in harmony with God’s law, they were not His people.” The Desire of Ages, 107.
To confess to be a part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church but not do what God requires depicts a certain tree. A bad tree or a fruitless tree is, in God’s eyes, worth nothing. “For if God spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in [his] goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Romans 11:21, 22.
The Adventists had to learn this lesson, but a couple of generations have been passed over, and they have forgotten. We need to remember the divine fire of destruction in the sanitarium and publishing houses of Battle Creek. (The Battle Creek Sanitarium, the largest and best-known Adventist institution in the world, burned to the ground February 18, 1902. This was followed by the destruction of the Review and Herald Publishing Association, also by fire, on December 30, 1902.) Ellen White says that that was a judgment of God. Do we know why this punishment came?
“It was His [God’s] design that instead of rebuilding the one large sanitarium, our people should make plants in several places. These smaller sanitariums should have been established where land could be secured for agricultural purposes.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 227. The publishing house printed literature with error in it. (See Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 277–279.)
Should God think and deal differently today than in those days? Can He make a plainer sign for His people that He really means what He says? Is there dreadful warning for Seventh-day Adventists? “Of those who boast of their light, and yet fail to walk in it, Christ says, ‘But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven [in point of privilege], shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.’ [Matthew 11:22, 23.]” Review and Herald, August 1, 1893. Can we draw some special dealing with Seventh-day Adventists out of this quotation? Yes, and that is that God has no more mercy in tolerating sin with Adventists than He had with the Jews or any other churches.
There is another dealing. There is an extra punishment. The punishment will be even harder for the Seventh-day Adventist ministers than for the ministers of other denominations. That is a special dealing with the people who will be held responsible for the truth they know.
Spirit of Prophecy
One of the proofs on which we can discern the true church is the test of the testimony of the Spirit of Prophecy. Ellen White says that Satan will destroy faith in the Spirit of Prophecy. “The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 48.
You may be familiar with some of the methods through which Satan works to make of none effect the testimonies of the Spirit of God. Perhaps you have been told that Ellen White plagiarized other writers or that her counsel had a meaning only for her time.
In Germany, we saw terrible literature where the union with the ecumenical movement was proved and sustained by apparent quotations from Ellen White. Things were taken out of context and twisted. Parts of sentences were left out, which would have made clear the real meaning of the quote. Ellipses were inserted instead. I insert ellipses at times because the quote is too long, but not to change the meaning of it.
“There will be a hatred kindled against the testimonies which is satanic. The workings of Satan will be to unsettle the faith of the churches in them, for this reason: Satan cannot have so clear a track to bring in his deceptions and bind up souls in his delusions if the warnings and reproofs and counsels of the Spirit of God are heeded.” Ibid.
“Be not deceived; many will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. We have now before us the alpha of this danger. The omega will be of a most startling nature.” Ibid., 197.
True People of God
We see what is questioned from our original beliefs—the Spirit of Prophecy, the Three Angels’ Messages, and the sanctuary message, to name just a few. Does God no longer have a people on earth who can bear the name of the true people of God?
“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.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 102. Are you touched by this quotation? Are you seeing yourself in it?
We think we are historic Seventh-day Adventists, but do we ask ourselves whether or not we are truly faithful? Are we really obeying God? Does every one of us recognize the need to personally proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages? Can we be recognized as God’s church or as a member of God’s church as we go forward in our sanctification?
God Takes the Reins
“Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness. Those who are accounted good workers will need to draw nigh to God, they will need the divine touch. They will need to drink more deeply and continuously at the fountain of living water, in order that they may discern God’s work at every point.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 300.
There have been situations where the leaders of the church have told people that they are not allowed to preach the Three Angels’ Messages. They have been told that the church has decided on a different way for home missionary work, and they have been threatened with disfel-lowshipping if they persist. Because some in leadership do not believe the time for preaching the Three Angels’ Messages has come—first preach the love of Christ—many pastors have lost their credentials and many brethren have been disfellowshipped for their missionary endeavors. These leaders want to dictate what should be done and when it is done, but they do not recognize that the work of God may already have been taken out of their hands. The work of the Three Angels’ Messages is still continuing. It is going further faster.
From the little missionary societies that are developing in Germany, innumerable people have spread out with the Three Angels’ Messages. In the last 30 years, this has not happened through the great conference church in Germany, but the work is growing; no one can stop it.
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 12:17; 19:10.
“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.” The Upward Look, 315.
It is important for us who believe in the Three Angels’ Messages to spread these messages with power. We should strive to be among the 144,000 and have the process of sanctification always before our eyes. It is not sufficient for your brethren that you are just separated from those who persist in sin. It is not enough to believe in the Three Angels’ Messages; we need to proclaim them faithfully all the time. Use the opportunities of distributing leaflets. Never mind where you are; you can pull out a leaflet containing the Three Angels’ Messages, and give it to someone. That may be a test of faithfulness for us. If we are not ready to use our time for this message, our profession is worthless.
The parable in Ezekiel 9 is an example of the sealing in the end time. “Mark this point with care: Those who receive the pure mark of truth, wrought in them by the power of the Holy Ghost, represented by a mark by the man in linen, are those ‘that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done’ in the church. [Ezekiel 9:4.] Their love for purity and the honor and glory of God is such, and they have so clear a view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that they are represented as being in agony, even sighing and crying.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 267.
In the same context, Ellen White writes: “The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin in its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God’s professed people.” Ibid., 266. This true people of God will always have a faithful and plain dealing against sin.
What is a plain dealing of the church structure towards joining the ecumenical movement? What should our plain dealing be? What did the people in Ezekiel 9 do?
“Who are standing in the counsel of God at this time? Is it those who virtually excuse wrongs among the professed people of God and who murmur in their hearts, if not openly, against those who would reprove sin? Is it those who take their stand against them and sympathize with those who commit wrong? No, indeed!” Ibid., 267. We cannot harmonize with those who commit public sins. This is a plain statement.
In the history of the Reformation, there are many stories of the faithful being separated. In many parts of The Great Controversy we can read this—the Waldensees, the Albigenses, the Protestant churches, even the Adventists—always the faithful have separated. Because it is impossible for the minority to disfellowship the majority, there needs to be a separation.
“The angel with the writer’s ink horn is to place a mark upon the foreheads of all who are separated from sin and sinners, and the destroying angel follows this angel (Letter 12, 1886).” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1161. What is the consequence of this plain dealing with sin? To separate from the sinners and the sin. It is plainly stated here. I want to belong to the true church of God and be recognized with its mark written on me.
“These truths, as presented in Revelation 14 in connection with ‘the everlasting gospel,’ will distinguish the church of Christ at the time of His appearing. For as the result of the threefold message it is announced: ‘Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.’ [Revelation 14:12.] And this message is the last to be given before the coming of the Lord.” The Great Controversy, 453, 454. Here is the mark of the true church. As a result of this proclamation, they are sanctified and are keeping the commandments of God.
The sealing is going very quickly. Ellen White says, “My dear brethren and sisters, let the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ be in your minds continually and let them crowd out worldly thoughts and cares. When you lie down and when you rise up, let them be your meditation. Live and act wholly in reference to the coming of the Son of man. The sealing time is very short, and will soon be over. Now is the time, while the four angels are holding the four winds, to make our calling and election sure.” Early Writings, 58.
Always remember that the time of probation closes earlier for Seventh-day Adventists. This quotation makes it clear: “The time of God’s destructive judgments is the time of mercy for those who have no opportunity to learn what is truth. Tenderly will the Lord look upon them. His heart of mercy is touched; his hand is still stretched out to save, while the door is closed to those who would not enter. Large numbers will be admitted who in these last days hear the truth for the first time. The Lord calls upon every believer to consecrate himself wholly to his service. All are to work for him, according to their several ability.” Review and Herald, July 5, 1906.
May the Lord grant that we may belong with those who are following the cry to come out from sin and from those who persist in sin, that we may make our election and decision sure and secure, that we will be unwavering. If we are not certain, we must study the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy more. The light of God will shine on the whole path; we just need to follow the light. God will bless our efforts.
Dr. Bernd Korinth is a physician living in Berlin, Germany. He is very active in spreading the Three Angels’ Messages throughout Europe. He and his family have a printing press in their home and have had tracts translated in most of the different European languages. He is a promoter of home churches and is very interested in working with other historic Seventh-day Adventist groups worldwide. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.