Present truth has always been important. Peter speaks about being grounded and established in present truth. (See II Peter 1:12.) Before every significant event in the plan of salvation, there have been special messages given so that God’s people could be established in present truth. If, however, the people to whom the message is given leave that message and turn back from following the light, they’re leaving present truth; and they do so at the loss of their souls.
As an example, in the days of Noah, if you were going to have your sins forgiven, if you were going to have eternal life, it was the same plan of salvation as today. There is just one plan of salvation. There was present truth in the days of Noah; and the present truth was that if you wanted to be saved, you had better get into the ark. If, at that time, you failed to listen to present truth, could you still be lost? Most certainly you could.
It has always been the purpose of the devil to distract God’s people or in some way divert their attention from these messages of present truth. Paul tells us, however, that we are not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices. We must know what is going on so that we will be prepared to resist Satan’s advances and not be deceived.
We have also been warned, “So subtle and untiring are the efforts of the enemy of souls, that God’s people need to be very watchful, and to labour earnestly and unceasingly to counterwork evil in the church and in the world. Satan and his agencies are laying out special lines of labour for those who are controlled by his power. Deceptions of every kind and degree are arising, so that, if possible, he would deceive the very elect. With the same subtle power that he plotted for the rebellion of holy beings in heaven before the Fall, Satan is working today to operate through human beings for the fulfillment of his purposes of evil.” Australian Record, April 15, 1912.
If you leave the message of present truth that God has given, the devil is going to take control of your mind. It is just that simple. Did you notice that if he gains control of your mind, Satan is going to outline a special work for you to do?
Where is Satan working? “I say to all be on your guard for as an angel of light; Satan is walking in every assembly of Christian workers and in every church trying to win the members to his side.” Review and Herald, May 14, 1908. The great controversy is going on in every church, in every family. Every soul whom Satan can deceive and is lost brings dishonor upon the name of Christ, and it is his purpose to bring as much dishonor upon Christ’s name as he possibly can.
There are all kinds of theories present in the world today to cast doubt on what God has said so that His people will not have faith in what is written. The devil knows that if you do not have faith in His Word, when temptation comes, you are going to fall.
Speaking of the last days, we read: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; yours sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, and also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28, 29. According to these verses, in the last days God’s people are going to have the gift of prophecy. The New Testament teaches exactly the same thing. Notice also how important the gift of prophecy is as we prepare for the coming of Christ. “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.” I Corinthians 1:4–8. According to Revelation 19:10, the testimony of Christ is the spirit of prophecy.
The gift of prophecy is one of the gifts of the Spirit that has been promised the church. Unless the remnant church, which is waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, has the gift of prophecy, it cannot truly be said that it comes short in no gift.
This counsel was not written primarily for the people living in the first century. The apostle Paul says very clearly that these books were written to the Christian church. Though this book was addressed specifically to the church of Corinth, in his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul said, “Even if you receive this letter that is purported to be from us, do not think that the Second Coming of Christ is going to take place right away, because it is not.; the great apostasy is going to come first.” (See II Thessalonians 2:2–4.) The apostle Paul knew that the Second Coming of Christ was not going to occur in the first century. He is addressing the Christians and the people who are waiting for Jesus to come in the last days. We also read that these gifts were given “till we all come to the unity of the faith.” Ephesians 4:13. Are all of God’s people in the unity of the faith yet? No they are not; so we still have need of the gifts, including the gift of prophecy.
“The dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 12:17.
Now, if you were the devil, what would you do? You would do the same thing that you did in the Garden of Eden, the same thing that you have done all down through history; you would try to get God’s people to doubt the authenticity of that gift. You see, if the devil can get you to doubt the Spirit of Prophecy, you will lose your way. One of his methods is to ask questions that no one can answer. You do not have to have a Ph.D. to do that; little children can do it. One of the devil’s deceptions is to lead people to ask questions that God is not going to answer, even throughout eternal ages. If you allow yourself to start asking questions that no one can answer, the day is coming when you will become a skeptic. That is just the way the human mind works.
“The Lord has given me a special work to do in giving words of warning that should come to our people. Satan’s forces are preparing their seductive temptations to deceive, if possible, the very elect. Satan will work through those who have disregarded the warnings of God to the church. They will be exceedingly zealous unto the working of a deceptive influence and most strange manifestations will appear.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, 376.
Where are the warnings of God to the church found? They are found in the inspired writings of the Spirit of Prophecy.
What is the result of disregarding the inspired writings? The devil is going to take control of the mind of the one who is questioning, and then he is going to use that person to take control of someone else. In an attempt to accomplish this, he has aroused doubt using a whole new theology which attacks that foundation pillar of Adventism, including the Third Angel’s Message.
“The mark of the beast is to be presented in some shape to every institution and every individual.” 1888 Materials, 477. Now, if it must come in some form, can it come in more than one way? Evidently. The devil is studying your character to try to find out what the most attractive form of the mark of the beast would be for you. If he can induce you to disregard the warnings of God to the church, you are going to be taken in by the snare and not even know it until it is too late.
Oh friend, do you want to be kept from the deceptions that will take the world and most of the Adventist Church captive? How are you going to be kept? The people who will be kept are people who do not doubt the Spirit of Prophecy.
Today, the devil will attempt to bring into the church every kind of confusion, but creating doubt with regard to inspired truth is one of the main ones. Satan knows that if people have confidence in the Bible and in the writings of Ellen White and they start to study them, wonderful things will happen. This leads to harmony and unity among God’s people. Even people who have newly come into the faith gain such a clear understanding of present truth that they are safe from the deceptions coming upon the world. These books enlighten people’s minds.
When studying the counsel of God on a subject, do not just take one little verse or sentence here or there and build your whole theology on it. The Bible says that there is a principle involved in studying inspired writings. We find in Isaiah 28:9, 10 that “precept must be upon precept . . . line upon line . . . here a little, there a little.” What is the principle? You look at all of the instruction. Remember, the Bible is inspired by a mind that is infinite, that is so much greater than yours or mine, that we will not be able to understand it all. IF we take just a little piece, without the benefit of all of the instruction in any given area of study, we are prone to misinterpret it. But if all of the counsels on any subject are considered, there is little danger of being deceived. In the past, when I have heard of new doctrines and teachings and wanted to know, Does the Lord endorse these teachings? Are they according to the Spirit of Prophecy? I have followed this method of study over and over again. You may not be able to explain every statement or every text; but if you are willing to look at all of the counsel on he subject, considering, what is the weight of evidence? You will be led to the truth.
Have you ever met people who want to interpret certain prophecies differently? This is common, not only in Adventism today, but all across the Christian world. People are studying prophecy, and there is more confusion than I have ever seen in my entire life. When considering something of this nature, the first thing that you want to do is to go to the inspired writings and ask, “Is this interpretation in line with all of the statements in inspired writings on that subject?” If you do this, you will be kept from much of the wild speculation that is going about today.
“The church, soon to enter upon her most severe conflict, will be the object most dear to God upon earth.” Testimonies to Ministers, 20. We are also told that the last conflict will be the devil’s most deceptive. She says, however, that it will result in the worst defeat that Satan has ever had. It will not look like defeat for a while, but truth and righteousness will emerge triumphant.
There is another area of deception that the devil is seeking to use to deceive Seventh-day-Adventists. Before examining it more closely, let me ask you a question. Suppose that you enlist in an army (the church militant is an army) and your commander tells you, “We are now going to enter into the most severe conflict you have ever experienced. Now as we enter this conflict, the army in which you are fighting is invisible, and you cannot tell who is part of your army and who is not.” How would you like to be in a conflict of this nature?
Do you understand what I am getting at yet? There are some people who believe that the true church is invisible. Though we have been accused of teaching the idea that the true church is invisible and only God knows who they are, we do not believe this is true, nor have we taught it.
Speaking about the meaning of the times in which we live, Ellen White says, “Before the great trouble shall come upon the world such as has never been since there was a nation, those who have faltered and who would ignorantly lead in unsafe paths will reveal this before the real vital test. The last proving, comes so that whatsoever they may say will not be regarded as voicing the True Shepherd. The time of our educating will soon be over. We have no time to lose in walking through clouds of doubt and uncertainty because of uncertain voices.” 1888 Materials, 1002. God is going to arrange things so that those who would lead His people astray will manifest their true character so that people will know not to put confidence in them in the time of trouble. I believe that this helps us to understand a great deal about the meaning of the times in which we are living right now. If you think that in the last days, during the time of trouble, the 144,000 are not going to be able to know who each other are, you are sadly mistaken; and if you believe that God’s army in the last great conflict is so invisible that nobody can figure out who they are, you are sadly mistaken.
Do not sink into the trap of believing that you are to live a godly life and develop a godly character but no one will know who you are. God’s church is visible now, and it is going to be more and more visible. The Second Advent Movement is going to be public, and it is going to be visible until the end. Do not let anyone confuse you with the theory that the true church is invisible and that you cannot tell who it is. The true church is visible. In Testimonies to Ministers, 20, Sister White is talking about the church militant. The church is soon to enter upon her most severe conflict. Because we are entering a time of most severe conflict, it is a time to press together, to pray for unity of doctrine, faith, and spirit. It is a time to meet together to pray and to ask the Lord to send us the Holy Spirit—to bring us, to make us, a unified, organized army to finish God’s work in the world.
Present truth is going to triumph gloriously very soon. Do you want to triumph with it? Well, friend, if you want to triumph with it when it triumphs, you need to be part of it now. And being part of it is not being part of some invisible, amorphous mass that nobody knows who and what it is. I am sorry if that sounds hard to some, but it is important that we do not get mixed up and be lost because of false theological teachings.
If you belong to an invisible church, it is time for you to make a public profession of faith and become visible, because there is not going to be an invisible church that is going to triumph. The church that triumphs is going to be a people who have made a profession of faith publicly and are visible. The devil and all of his angels even know who they are, and they are going to see them triumph. I want to be a part of that group, do you? It will not consist of people who doubt the Spirit of Prophecy. It is going to be made up of people who have accepted the warnings and said, “Lord, whatever needs to be changed in my life, I am willing to change. I am willing to change my mind on anything; just show me.