As the disciples stood looking at the beautiful temple gleaming in the sun, in their admiration, they began to speak to Jesus. But, with these words, He dashed all their grand hopes: “And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:2. All their understanding, their visions, their imaginations and their hopes were centered upon Jesus as a king, who would set up an earthly kingdom. Suddenly, in one brief statement, He wiped all their hopes away.
Now Jesus starts to walk. He is going to the Mount of Olives, one of His favorite places. The disciples fall in behind and talk among themselves whispering, “What is He trying to tell us?” When they reached their resting place, the disciples came to Him and asked, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and the end of the world?” Matthew 24:3.
Christ’s first words are, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Verse 4. Who is Jesus warning against being deceived? It is the ministers in the church. He is not talking to the Gentiles. He is warning the church people that as we come to the end of the world, there will be great deceptions in the church, and we need to beware or we will be deceived.
When I used to preach this sermon, I looked at the other churches, and thought Jesus was talking about them, but now I must look at my own church. Jesus said, “For many shall come in my name.” Verse 5. When we take the name Seventh-day Adventist, we come in His name. But if we do not allow the plan of salvation to be worked out in our own lives, we are just coming in His name. We are not truly His until we surrender our will, our mind and our lives completely to God.
Signs in the Earth
In the next three verses Jesus lists world events that will signify that His coming is near: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” Verse 6.
When I was in World War II, I thought that it surely must be the end of the world. I believed that, certainly, when that war ended Jesus would come. I was just a young man in those days, and now I am old and Jesus has not come yet. Why? The sole reason lies with us. Soon after 1844, if the church had entered into the experience of the Third Angel’s Message, Jesus would have come. (See Selected Messages, vol. 1, 68.) In 1888, God made another great attempt to bring the people into line with an experience of surrendering themselves so He could pour out His latter rain. But again the message was rejected, and over one hundred years later we are still here. However, I believe Jesus is coming soon. He will not tarry much longer. We have been around the mountain too many times, and the signs of His soon coming are too clear to be mistaken.
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places.” Verse 7. This verse has been fulfilled time and time again in recent years. Nations who rise against other nations are a permanent part of the daily news. One night one man goes to sleep as the king or president of a nation, and the next morning he is in jail and someone else is in power. We call those coups, and they happen all the time in our world.
“There shall be famines.” If you have been to the mission field or a third world country, you know that famines are horrible things. I remember in Africa when the rains did not come, and the gardens did not grow and all that the people had to eat was cassava. The little children were malnourished, and the weak ones died. The ladies would come to my wife in the dispensary and ask, “What are we going to do? We have no food.” It is heart-rending to face people that are dying because there is no food.
As we come to the end, it says that there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places. No one could deny that we now have pestilence and disease on every side. In Kenya, one hundred thousand cattle have died from Mad Cow disease, and now people are dying from the same thing. When I traveled to Australia some time ago, I sat beside a scientist who is working with AIDS in Australia. He told me that there are about thirteen million people who have been diagnosed with AIDS, and at the rate of increase, by the turn of the century there might be as many as sixty million people with AIDS.
Medical science has developed many “wonder drugs,” but, as we come to the end, they do not seem to have an affect on these diseases. People are dying of all kinds of diseases and many times doctors are helpless.
Signs in the Church
We could continue our list of horrors which fulfill Christ’s prophecy of the time just before His coming, but Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Verse 8. What could be worse than wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes? Inspiration says, “We have far more to fear from within than from without.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 122. From verse nine on, Jesus pictures trouble in the church, and warns us that our worst problems will come from within the church. “And then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake.” Verse 9.
In Matthew 10:16–22, Jesus talked about the same situation: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: [He is talking about church people here] for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues [their churches]; And ye shall be brought before Governors and Kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up brother to death, and the father the child: And the children shall rise up against the parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that endureth unto the end the same shall be saved.”
Continuing on in Matthew 24:10: “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another,and shall hate one another.” From verse nine forward, Jesus is talking about the shaking of the church when everything that can be shaken will be shaken. Only that which cannot be shaken will remain. (See Testimonies, vol. 7, 219 and vol. 9, 15–16.)
“And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many.” Verse 11. Inside the church, there will be many false prophets. Ellen White gave a picture of what would happen with our own ministers: “Unsanctified ministers are arraying themselves against God. They are praising Christ and the god of this world in the same breath. While professedly they receive Christ, they embrace Barabbas, and by their actions say, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas.’ . . .Let the sin of deceit and false witness be entertained by a church that has had great light, great evidence, and that church will discard the message the Lord has sent, and receive the most unreasonable assertions and the false suppositions and false theories. Satan laughs at their folly, for he knows what truth is. Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled with the hellish torch of Satan. If doubts and unbelief are cherished, the faithful ministers will be removed from the people who think they know so much. ‘If thou hadst known,’ said Christ, ‘even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from their eyes.’ ” Testimonies to Ministers, 409–410.
False prophets are the greatest tragedy that has ever happened to Adventism. Tragically, many of these false prophets stand in very high positions. On Sabbath mornings, instead of preaching the real message that God has delivered to the Seventh-day Adventist Church to prepare a people for eternity, the message is what the Baptists or some other church is saying. It is tragic! If Ellen White were alive today, I think she would be busy night and day writing to those from the very top of this church to the bottom.
A Message for Laodiceans
The majority of Adventists do not know the truth. Why? They listen to men and are not studying the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy for themselves. The greatest weakness we have in Adventism today is that hardly anyone is reading the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy. They would rather just listen to a sermon and pay their tithe. It is like joining a club. You walk through the door, pay the dues, go home and go to sleep. That is why we are still here.
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Verse 12. In other words, sin is going to be tolerated because of these false prophets that have come in. When sin comes into a church unreproved, problems multiply. You can read about it in Revelation 3:14–19: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. And as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: Be zealous therefore, and repent.”
Ellen White wrote in Testimonies, vol. 5, 136, “To stand in defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord, when champions are few—this will be our test.” Our people in the Adventist churches today are being tested, and many of them are failing. God can only trust with eternal life those that are willing to make a full surrender of the will, mind and body to Him.
It is true—we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, but we think we are increased with goods and in need of nothing. We are so happy with our situation, that we say, “God we want you to come, but wait a little while until we get through with what we are doing.”
“The message to the church of the Laodiceans is a startling denunciation, and applicable to the people of God at the present time . . . The Lord here shows us that the message to be borne to His people by ministers whom He has called to warn the people is not a peace and safety message. It is not merely theoretical, but practical in every particular. The people of God are represented in the message to the Laodicean as in a position of carnal security . . . What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right when they are all wrong? The message of the true witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception. They know not that their condition is deplorable in the sight of God.
“According to the light that God has given me in a vision, wickedness and deception are increasing among God’s people who profess to keep His commandments. Spiritual discernment to see sin as it exists and then to put it out of the camp is decreasing among God’s people; and spiritual blindness is fast coming upon them. The straight testimony must be revived, and it will separate those from Israel that have ever been at war with the means that God has ordained to keep corruptions out of the church. Wrongs must be called wrongs. Grievous sins must be called by their right name. All of God’s people should come nearer to Him and wash their robes of character in the blood of the Lamb. Then will they see sin in the true light and will realize how offensive it is in the sight of God.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 252–253.
Our redemption is much nearer than our minds are capable of comprehending. We are comfortable in our daily routine, comfortable homes, comfortable cars and all our possessions, but one of these days everything will change. We talk about it. We read The Great Controversy, especially the last chapters. We believe it, but it is hard for us to get our mind into that framework.
Preparation for the Final Crisis
When Betty and I were in Africa, we went through two revolutions. It was terrible! In the late 1950s, we were at Korrinda mission near Stanleyville, in the Congo, when the place blew up. We escaped three days ahead of Lamumba’s army. They killed thousands. It was only by a miracle that we made it into Uganda. From there, we were sent to Rwanda.
We had pictures of white priests leading five hundred Bhutus, drunk from banana beer, to burn Tutsi villages. There were Belgian paratroopers sitting in their jeeps watching, and if the Tutsis began to win, they turned their machine guns on them.
One morning the Belgian paratroopers went by my house in a jeep, down to the African village, and yelled in French for a Tutsi to come out of his house. It was just daybreak and he was scared to death so he did not come out. They turned their machine gun on the hut, killed him, jumped back in their jeep, and drove by my house, never saying a word.
These are the types of experiences we may have to face one day. People will lose their lives because they refuse to bow to the beast and keep Sunday. (Revelation 20:4.) Where will you and I be in those days? We can stand up in peace and prosperity and preach the truth, but will we stand in front of the courts when we face a death sentence and preach as boldly? We need to pray, because the only way we can do what Huss and the other martyrs did is with God’s special power in our lives.
We also have a preparation to make. If I have to stand in front of a judge and cannot use my Bible, I want to have God’s Word in my mind. It cannot be taken away from me there. And God has promised that if I will put it there, He will take it out when the time comes and give me the words to speak.
The Endurance Race
In Matthew 24:13 there is a most precious promise: “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” We are all in an endurance race. Paul gives a vivid picture of what it takes to win this race in 1 Corinthians 9:24–27: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away.”
The symbol that Paul used was not unfamiliar to the Corinthians. Corinth was a Greek city and the Greeks were the originators of the Olympic games. I can imagine the apostle Paul looking out of his window, watching these young men prepare themselves for these Olympic games. He said, “Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” These men wanted to be sure they were going to win the gold, and no sacrifice was too precious to be made to reach their goal.
Yet, some Seventh-day Adventists have a real struggle with the health message. Many Adventist churches now serve coffee, doughnuts and tea after services. It is a social event, not a strenuous race. But without the preparation of mind and body by temperance and exercise, we will not endure.
I want the gold. How about you? We are in the greatest Olympics that have ever taken place in the six thousand-year history of Planet Earth. Only those that are getting ready for what is about to burst upon us as an overwhelming surprise will endure. Only those who are preparing through study and prayer are going to make it through.
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14. Once God’s people understand what the gospel is and bring their lives into harmony with the truth without any compromise, the end will come. It did not happen in 1844. It did not happen after 1888. And here we have lived one hundred and ten years more and it still has not happened. But it will happen when we are faithful, loyal and obedient to all truth.
The evidence that the end is near is overwhelming and our stay is short. We have to change. We have to get into the Word of God like we have never studied before.
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” John 5:39.
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.
“And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.
Anything less is lost. Why? Because sin is so terrible that God can only trust those who are complete overcomers. We must have a complete and total change: “All who consecrate soul, body, and spirit to God will be constantly receiving a new endowment of physical and mental power.” The Desire of Ages, 827. Transformation, how we need it! “And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we will be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God, as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.” Ibid., 668.
We have to hate sin! We have to stop sinning! Not by what we can do, but by what we know God will do in us. That is why we need to pray like we have never prayed before. We need to study like we have never studied before. We need to read the Spirit of Prophecy books and apply them to our lives today.
Jesus will come. There is no question about it. I wake up with it. I walk with it. I go to bed with it. I am excited about going to heaven. But we need to be ready now. We need to tell other people how to get ready for the coming of the Lord now. Now is the day of salvation.