History shows that when a person, family, church, or nation casts aside the law of God, there are real consequences. This process started in heaven before the creation of the world when Lucifer rebelled against the government of heaven, consequently he was cast out.
“Satan stood in amazement at his new condition. His happiness was gone. He looked upon the angels who, with him, were once so happy, but who had been expelled from heaven with him. Before their fall not a shade of discontent had marred their perfect bliss. Now all seemed changed. Countenances which had reflected the image of their Maker were gloomy and despairing. Strife, discord, and bitter recrimination were among them. Previous to their rebellion these things had been unknown in heaven. Satan now beheld the terrible results of his rebellion. He shuddered, and feared to face the future and to contemplate the end of these things.
“The hour for joyful, happy songs of praise to God and His dear Son had come. Satan had led the heavenly choir. He had raised the first note; then all the angelic host had united with him, and glorious strains of music had resounded through heaven in honor of God and His dear Son. But now, instead of strains of sweetest music, discord and angry words fall upon the ear of the great rebel leader. Where is he? Is it not all a horrible dream? Is he shut out of heaven? Are the gates of heaven never more to open to admit him? The hour of worship draws nigh, when bright and holy angels bow before the Father. No more will he unite in heavenly song. No more will he bow in reverence and holy awe before the presence of the eternal God.
“Could he be again as he was when he was pure, true, and loyal, gladly would he yield up the claims of his authority. But he was lost! beyond redemption, for his presumptuous rebellion! And this was not all; he had led others to rebellion and to the same lost condition with himself—angels, who had never thought to question the will of Heaven or refuse obedience to the law of God till he had put it into their minds, presenting before them that they might enjoy a greater good, a higher and more glorious liberty. This had been the sophistry whereby he had deceived them. A responsibility now rests upon him from which he would fain be released.
“These spirits had become turbulent with disappointed hopes. Instead of greater good, they were experiencing the sad results of disobedience and disregard of law. Never more would these unhappy beings be swayed by the mild rule of Jesus Christ. Never more would their spirits be stirred by the deep, earnest love, peace, and joy which His presence had ever inspired in them, to be returned to Him in cheerful obedience and reverential honor.” The Story of Redemption, 24–26.
Peace, joy, contentment and happiness were now only a memory of the past. Everything worthwhile was lost. It was so bad that Satan himself would gladly have gone back. Ellen White saw that he entreated the Lord for readmission, but he was irretrievably ruined. The seeds of rebellion were still in him and he could not be accepted back into heaven. He then carried on his rebellion against the law of God and caused the fall of our first parents.
People today are still deceived by the same Satanic sophistry, believing that by casting off the law of God and any restriction, they will find some kind of joy and happiness. The Bible describes this as “temporary pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25), but in the process, they actually lose their happiness, they lose their joy, and they lose their peace.
Since the fall of Adam and Eve, the enemy of God and man has taught this world to trample under foot God’s moral standard so that we are living in a time of lawlessness. Talking about the last days, Jesus said, “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).
“The signs of the times are plain and startling. Look into the papers that flood our world, filled with recitals of daily crimes, committed not only in the lower walks of life, but also among the higher classes. Those who occupy positions of trust, who are placed as guardians of the peoples’ interest, are untrue to their responsibility. There is embezzlement and fraud. Public money is stolen, and not one tithe of these corrupt transactions comes to the light of day, and we do not see to what extent the wickedness of the world exists.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893.
The condition of this world has not improved. We have very little idea about how wicked the world is. “The youth of our time are receiving their education from the evil doings of these wicked, but honored men of the world. Theft, murder, adultery, corruption, every sin that has a name, prevails to an awful extent.” Ibid. When God called His people out of Egypt, the children of Israel were the depository for the law of God, which was given to them to guard, keep and teach it, and be a witness in the world.
Deuteronomy 4 tells of the privileges the Jews had because of the law of God. Deuteronomy 6:6–9 says: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
It is during childhood that a person’s mind is the most plastic and most receptive to new ideas, good or bad. God’s laws were to be handed down to each generation. Had the children of Israel actually done this, the whole history of the world would have been different. However, the history of the children of Israel shows how they fell into idolatry over and over again. Had they been taught the law, they would never have been in violation of the second commandment. Children did not learn from their parents the principles of God’s law.
“Had fathers and mothers followed the direction given by Christ, we should not now read and hear of sins and crimes committed not only by adults, but even by youth and children. The evil condition of society exists because parents have disregarded this instruction, and neglected to train and educate their children to respect and honor the holy commandments of God. Even religious teachers have failed to present the holy standard by which character is measured.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893.
The devil has continually tried to attack any religious teacher or preacher who teaches the law of God. One favorite method of attack is to accuse people of being legalists, but is it not our duty to obey God?
People are attacked with smears or slogans in an attempt to keep them from teaching the principles of God, yet this is something that should be prominent in every Christian church. Think it through. If there is no law then there is no sin, because sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4 KJV). If there is no sin, then there is no need for the gospel. If there is no need for the gospel, there is nothing for a preacher to preach and your whole religion is an empty shell. If there is no sin or wickedness then how do we know what is right or wrong behavior? Thieves and murderers would not be held accountable because all would be doing what seemed right in their own eyes. Each government has laws and without them there would be total anarchy. The same is true within God’s government.
There are consequences to all actions. The devil says you can sin, but you don’t have to pay for it; just confess it and it will be forgiven and erased. But forgiveness does not erase. Study the life of David. When he committed that sin with Bathsheba, he repented and was forgiven, but his sin was not erased. The prophet said that the sword would dwell in his family from then on, before mentioning a whole series of terrible things that would follow.
In response to Nathaniel’s question, David said that whoever committed that crime should repay fourfold, not knowing that it was he who would repay. David lost four of his sons as a result of his crime. Each loss hurt him more than if he had died himself. Surely he was forgiven, but he had to pay the consequences.
There are both eternal as well as temporal consequences to be paid for a person’s choices. Sometimes the price is damage to a person’s health, either physical or mental. The wise man said, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13).
There are limits to the forbearance of God. He has drawn a line. The nation or individual who passes the limit will experience judgments.
“O that every living teacher would teach both in word and doctrine that there are limits to God’s longsuffering. Many have gone beyond the limits of His forbearance. The world should be aroused to a wholesome fear of the Lord God of hosts. The time and age in which we live is one of marked depravity; for many disregard the precepts of the law of God. The commandment of God is treated with indifference, and even with open contempt, and the inhabitants of the world are fast approaching the limits of the forbearance of the grace of God. Erelong God will arise and vindicate His honor.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893.
A familiar example is in Genesis: “Then He said to Abram, ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete [full]’ ” (Genesis 15:13–16).
The Amorites had not yet crossed the line the Lord had set. But things changed in the fourth generation. “Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:40, 41).
What God spoke to Abraham came to pass on the exact same day predicted. When the children of Israel came out of Egypt they dispossessed the Amorites. The Amorites had had a long period of probation, but the time came when their transgression was so large that the Lord said, Enough! They had crossed the line and were guilty of those things recorded in Leviticus 18, a chapter that is rarely read in church because it is too awful.
The scary thing is that the types of things listed in Leviticus 18 are being done today and God has not changed.
“The time will come when all the transgressors of His law will know that God will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:7).” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893.
It says in Exodus 34:6, 7, “The Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’ ”
God is merciful. In God’s government there is a mingling of mercy and justice. The devil challenged that principle and asserted that God could be just or He could be merciful, but He couldn’t be both just and merciful. However, that charge was completely answered when Jesus died on the cross of Calvary. The rest of the universe has no question about that anymore. They know that God is both just and merciful. A just penalty was paid for the sins of the world and God is merciful at the same time.
We see the limits to God’s forbearance in the example of the Jews. Jesus told them, “The one that comes to Me I will in no case cast out” (John 6:37, literal translation). If I come to Him, as bad as I am, He has promised not to cast me out, but to save and cleanse me. Paul said He died on the cross to save even the worst, the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
But the Jewish nation rejected the great light and truth that was given to them. As a nation they refused to listen. They rejected the counsel of God against themselves and set themselves stubbornly against the messages and warnings that God sent them.
The time came when they had exhausted the patience of God. When people are going in the wrong way, first God sends them a message of reproof. When the people in Nineveh listened to Jonah’s message and turned around, the Lord did not send the judgments to destroy them.
The same God, with the same accuracy, keeps a record of what is happening in the world today. Nations, churches, and individuals are still being offered the wedding garment that is woven in the loom of heaven, to be prepared for the coming of Christ. The Bible says that God does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men (Lamentations 3:33).
The Lord says, “What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it” (Isaiah 5:4)? It is impossible to say that God could have done more, because when Jesus Christ came, that gave all of heaven in one gift.
There is a land that has had unrivaled mercies and blessings from God, a land that has been the greatest land of liberty that has ever existed. It has been the glory of the whole earth. It has been blessed by God more than any other country on the face of the globe. But sadly, instead of returning gratitude for His multitude of blessings by honoring God and His law, the inhabitants of the land are turning their backs on God’s law, and professed Christians of America have become leavened with pride, covetousness, and self-sufficiency.
Ellen White described the situation in America a hundred and twenty-five years ago when she said, “The love of money, which is the root of all evil, has had a large place in their [the professed Christians of America] hearts. Many whose names are upon the church records have oppressed the poor, and grasped every possible advantage over those who were under them. They have lived to gratify appetite, to make extravagant display; and pride is fast making a Sodom of our world. But God is keeping His reckoning. The treatment of the poor, the robbery of the widow and the fatherless by those who are lifted up against the weak and helpless, is all written in the book of heaven. The cries of those who are oppressed have reached the ears of Him who judgeth righteously.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893.
As judgment has fallen in the streets and equity cannot enter, and the one who departs from evil makes himself a victim, when this nation restricts religious liberty and sacrifices and surrenders the principles of Protestantism, and accepts again, the doctrines and the principles of the papacy, Ellen White says, Then “the measure of their guilt will be full, and ‘national apostasy’ will be registered in the books of heaven.” Ibid.
The result of this apostasy will be national ruin. It will also be a time of persecution for God’s children. Then we are instructed to pray the prayer found in Psalm 119:126: “It is time for You to act, O Lord, for they have made void Your law” (literal translation).
When the peoples of this world make void the law of God, God will intervene. These are the words of comfort that the Lord will give to His children who are faithful in keeping His law during this time of persecution that’s coming. “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:10–12).
There are limits to the forbearance of God and there is no such thing as breaking the law of God without penalty, even during this lifetime.
Bible writers have this to say about the character of the law of God and our relation to it:
- “The law of God is perfect” (Psalm 19:7, literal translation).
- “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Psalm 37:31).
- “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, you people in whose heart is My law: do not fear the reproach of men” (Isaiah 51:7).
- “I delight to do Your will, O My God, and Your law is within My heart” (Psalm 40:8).
- The righteous man says, “His delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2).
- The whole of Psalm 119 is about the law of God.
- “The commandment is a lamp, and the law a light” (Proverbs 6:23).
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2, 3).
The third angel’s message, to be given to the world in the last days, will be given by people who keep the commandments. The judgment hour message cannot be preached without a distinct presentation concerning the law of God. If you compare Revelation 14 with Revelation 17, you will find out that the second angel’s message is a condemnation of those who break the law.
Paul said, “The carnal [unconverted] mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).
We as Adventist Christians have been given the responsibility to give the warning to the world that we are in the midst of the judgment right now. The standard of judgment is the law of God. Like Noah’s unpopular message of a pending flood, our message is not popular and mostly not welcome. Soon it will be too late to do what we can do right now. May the Lord help us to be faithful witnesses in getting the message out to the world.
(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 in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.