Perhaps at some time we have all experienced a feeling of being in a familiar place, or going through the exact scenario that we have gone through before, or beholding for the first time a situation that we have already seen. Psychologists term this phenomenon, the experience of perceiving a new situation as if it had already occurred, déjà vu. Déjà vu is a French term that literally means already seen.
While déjà vu may be an illusion or a strong sense of familiarity, there is a real déjà vu that the church of God is now experiencing and is not a figment of one’s imagination. In Ecclesiastes 1:9 we are told: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” The thing that has been in the past is that which shall be in the future. The technical word for this is a parallel. The prophet of God tells us, “The trials of the children of Israel, and their attitude just before the first coming of Christ, have been presented before me again and again to illustrate the position of the people of God in their experience before the second coming of Christ—how the enemy sought every occasion to take control of the minds of the Jews, and today he is seeking to blind the minds of God’s servants, that they may not be able to discern the precious truth.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 406.
When God repeats something to you it is significant. The trials and the attitudes of the people of God before the first coming of Christ will be experienced before the second coming of Christ. Those things that have been shall be again.
What was the attitude of the church structure toward Jesus and His ministry? At the first Passover Jesus cleansed the temple of all the profanation that was conducted there. Then at the second Passover, He tried to appeal to the Jewish leaders but received a certain attitude and response. John chapter 5 verse 16 says, “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day.”
I have heard it said that even today if Christ were on earth to conduct His labors, many people would consider Him to be unchristlike. Yet He was the very Son of God, the Messiah Himself; but He was so hated by the Jews that they actually wanted to kill Him. He was considered an outcast, an outlaw, breaking their man-made traditions by healing the paralytic at the pool of Bethsaida on the Sabbath. Jesus deliberately chose that place and time to draw out the intentions of the Jewish leaders.
“In order to maintain their own power, these leaders determined to break down the influence of Jesus. His arraignment before the Sanhedrin, and an open condemnation of His teachings, would aid in effecting this; for the people still had great reverence for their religious leaders.” The Desire of Ages, 205. They wanted to maintain their own power and not lose their positions and authority.
The Bible is clear about where their inspiration came from. Jesus Himself said, “You are of your father, the devil.” John 8:44 NASB. Inspiration magnifies this in The Desire of Ages, 205: “But the plans which these rabbis were working so zealously to fulfill originated in another council than that of the Sanhedrin.”
We don’t take these things to heart like we should. As Seventh-day Adventists we think we are ready for heaven because we know the truth. But the prophet of God says that not all who profess to keep the Sabbath will be sealed. There are many, even among those who teach the truth to others, who will not receive the seal of God on their foreheads. They had the light of truth, they understood their Master’s will, understood every point of our faith, but they did not have corresponding works. So it’s not a matter of what we know; it is a matter of what we are doing with the knowledge we have.
The prophet goes on to say, “After Satan had failed to overcome Christ in the wilderness, he combined his forces to oppose Him in His ministry, and if possible to thwart His work. What he could not accomplish by direct, personal effort, he determined to effect by strategy. No sooner had he withdrawn from the conflict in the wilderness than in council with his confederate angels he matured his plans for still further blinding the minds of the Jewish people, that they might not recognize their Redeemer. He planned to work through his human agencies in the religious world, by imbuing them with his own enmity against the champion of truth. He would lead them to reject Christ and to make His life as bitter as possible, hoping to discourage Him in His mission. And the leaders in Israel became instruments of Satan in warring against the Saviour.” Ibid., 205, 206.
The things that have been, the things that were in the past with the leaders in the first advent, are being repeated today. “It is Satan’s plan to weaken the faith of God’s people in the Testimonies.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 672.
Satan is still aiming to fulfill that plan. “Next follows skepticism in regard to the vital points of our faith, the pillars of our position, then doubt as to the Holy Scriptures, and then the downward march to perdition. When the Testimonies, which were once believed, are doubted and given up, Satan knows the deceived ones will not stop at this; and he redoubles his efforts till he launches them into open rebellion, which becomes incurable and ends in destruction.” Ibid.
That statement was written in 1875, approximately 12 years after the church officially organized. Early in the experience of the remnant church, the devil was weaving himself in to cause division and souls to lose their faith. In 1879, the prophet said, “For years the Lord has been presenting the situation of the church before you. Again and again reproofs and warnings have been given. October 23, 1879, the Lord gave me a most impressive testimony in regard to the church in Battle Creek. … I had no confidence in the course which many were pursuing, for they were doing the very things which the Lord had warned them not to do.” Ibid., 63.
This laid the foundation for what occurred in 1888. In Testimonies, vol. 2, 441, we read, “Like ancient Israel (déjà vu!) the church has dishonored her God by departing from the light, neglecting her duties, and abusing her high and exalted privilege of being peculiar and holy in character. … and Christ has departed.”
“Many who have a form of godliness, whose names are on church books, have a spotted record in heaven. The recording angel has faithfully written their deeds.” The Review and Herald, May 5, 1885. In Testimonies, vol. 8, page 67, after that great disappointment in 1888, Ellen White said, “Jerusalem is a representation of what the church will be if it refuses to receive and walk in the light that God has given. Jerusalem was favored of God as the depositary of sacred trusts. But her people perverted the truth, and despised all entreaties and warnings.” That is what took place then and what is taking place now. People are not really studying the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy as they should.
The truth is being perverted before our eyes and we don’t even recognize it. We are told: “Christ turned from them, saying, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,’ how can I give thee up? ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not’ (Matthew 23:37)!” Ibid. If He was sorrowing and weeping in 1898, how much more He must sorrow and weep today?
Year after year God appealed to His people warning them to get them on the right track but year after year they only got worse and after rejecting the many warnings their hearts became hardened. That was in 1898. “That these men should stand in a sacred place, to be as the voice of God to the people, as we once believed the General Conference to be—that is past. What we want now is reorganization. We want to begin at the foundation, and to build upon a different principle.” The General Conference Bulletin, April 3, 1901. It was attempted at that time to have that reorganization with A.G. Daniells being made the president, but two years later it was decided to discontinue the reform that was attempted in 1901.
“The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 204, 205.
What has happened in the past is happening today. In 1914, the year in which World War I commenced, Germany selected men to fight in the army, forcing these men to bear arms and to kill, even upon God’s holy day. G. F. Schubert, who was the president of the Eastern German Union of Seventh-day Adventists wrote to a minister of the war in Germany. He said, “At this time, even though we stand on the platform of the Holy Scriptures, and do our best to bring the principles of Christianity into our lives and thus observe the day of rest given by God, Saturday, and avoid any work on this day, we, nonetheless, consider ourselves obligated at the present serious military time, and under these circumstances to defend our fatherland with weapons in hand even on the Sabbath.” Letter from G. F. Schubert, President of the Eastern German Union of Seventh-day Adventists, to the Minister of Military Affairs at the Prussian Military Ministry of War in Berlin, Charlottenburg, August 4, 1914.
One of the things the prophet of God said would begin to take place is that our brethren would begin to lightly regard the Sabbath.
When the Jewish leaders in the days of Christ rejected Jesus, John wrote, “After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberius. And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.” John 6:1–3. This was after He was rejected in chapter 5 by the Jewish leadership. Here we find Him going over to Galilee, and it is here that Jesus has a following. More detail is provided in The Desire of Ages, 232: “The jealousy and distrust of the Jewish leaders had ripened into open hatred, and hearts of the people were turned away from Jesus.
“The Sanhedrin had rejected Christ’s message and was bent upon His death; therefore Jesus departed from Jerusalem [the church headquarters], from the priests, the temple, the religious leaders, the people who had been instructed in the law, and turned to another class to proclaim His message, and to gather out those who should carry the gospel to all nations.”
Because of the rejection of truth by the leaders, Jesus departed from the organized church and gathered a following that was independent of the organization. In other words, He had a little independent following. Now what happened to the independent movement in the days of Jesus? John 6:66 tells what happened: “From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.”
So we find that in the days of Jesus, even those whom you could call independent, who were called out, even they did not go all the way through. Even they turned back and walked no more with Christ. This is when Christ presented to them Who He was, the Bread that came down from heaven. Many of His disciples went back, unable to follow through with their conviction. He told them that if they eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, they would have eternal life (John 6:53). But these were truths that the people did not understand and they could not accept. As a result they turned away. This rejection took place among the people of God.
“When Jesus presented the testing truth [truth that weeded out the false] that caused so many of His disciples to turn back, He knew what would be the result of His words; but He had a purpose of mercy to fulfill.” The Desire of Ages, 394.
Notice in John 6:67: “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?” You see how small that movement became? And Jesus says, “Are you also going to turn back?” And then the answer comes from Peter in verse 68: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
The prophet of God explains the reason for the testing truth. She says, “He foresaw … His agony in Gethsemane, His betrayal and crucifixion, would be to them a most trying ordeal. … But Jesus brought about this crisis while by His personal presence He could still strengthen the faith of His true followers.
“Compassionate Redeemer, Who in the full knowledge of the doom that awaited Him, tenderly smoothed the way for the disciples, prepared them for their crowning trial, and strengthened them for the final test!” The Desire of Ages, 394.
This testing truth concerning the identity of Jesus was designed by God, not only to separate false followers from the true, but to prepare the true followers for the final test. There is a parallel of this in the Second Advent movement.
On February 2, 1902, the Battle Creek Sanitarium was burned to the ground. The repeated rejections of the entreaties and warnings of God led to judgment upon the work at the heart of the church. Later that same year in December, the Review and Herald publishing house was also destroyed by fire. So again another judgment was sent to God’s people to arouse and awaken them. I am afraid that we still have not been awakened.
In 1904, God decided to use brothers Magan and Sutherland to start an independent ministry that was not dependent upon the dictates of the conference. Concerning that ministry, the following council was given: “When my advice was asked in reference to the Madison school, I said, Remain as you are. There is danger in binding every working agency under the dictation of the conference. The Lord did not design that this should be.” She counseled: “Remain as you are.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, 202, 203.
Since 1904, there have arisen various ministries independent of the Seventh-day Adventist Church organization, some of which are supportive of it. Not only have there arisen various ministries independent of the conference, but various independent movements, including the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement in 1916, the True and Free Seventh-day Adventists, Davidian Seventh-day Adventists and their Branch Davidians, Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, Sabbath Rest Advent Church, General Assembly of Free Seventh-day Adventists, International Association of Free Seventh-day Adventists, Creation Seventh-day Adventist Church, to mention just a few.
It is interesting that all these movements and ministries claim to believe in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. They profess to believe present truth and teach present truth, but for some reason, when examining these various ministries and independent movements, we begin to realize the sad fact that what we see is that which is properly termed confusion. There is division, confusion and no unity and we wonder how could this be when all profess to believe in the same Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. In many of these groups is seen a facade of godliness. All adhere to strict health-reform and uphold the Sabbath yet there is division, even among independents. The result of the independents in Jerusalem in the past will be repeated today. Being part of an independent ministry or movement is no guarantee that you will endure to the end and be saved.
Salvation is an individual thing; no one will be saved in a group. Just as the majority of Christ’s followers turned away from Him in Galilee, so will the majority of those who profess Adventism turn away from the truth concerning Christ, His mission and His priesthood. . (See The Kress Collection, 65, or Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, 174.)
We find the doctrine of the investigative judgment is often considered to be false, and the teaching that Christ is in the most holy place conducting the final work of the atonement is not being taught. Many preach that the atonement was done at the cross and all you have to do is come to Jesus and believe. There is no affliction of soul or of denying self. You can live as you want, continue in sin, and still have assurance of heaven because God loves you. This is not the movement that God originated but what it has degenerated into by whittling away at the foundation of truth.
Why is there a turning away from the truth that God once gave to His people? The prophet of God tells us why. “As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition.” The Great Controversy, 608. Notice it says “a large class.” Just as it was with the Jewish leaders, a large class rejected Jesus and even in Galilee among that independent group, a large class turned away. Why? They “have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth” … and “are going to abandon their position.”
Remember, Jesus, in Galilee, presented to the people a testing truth, many of whom, after they received that testing truth, turned back, and walked no more with Him. So it is with us. That testing truth was first to weed out the false followers, to separate the false from the true, and prepare the true followers for the final test. We know that every day we go through tests, but the prophet of God says, “The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. Those who have step by step yielded to worldly demands and conformed to worldly customs will not find it a hard matter to yield to the powers that be, rather than to subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 81.
The problem? Little by little they yielded to worldly demands. Step by step they conformed to worldly customs and as a result, they will find it easy to yield to the powers that be. They will not pass the testing truth prior to the great final test. And here we are, friends, thinking that the great, final test will be an easy matter. We must not yield to worldly demands. Many Christians are still watching things on television and listening to things that disturb and pollute the mind and are not getting ready for heaven. Many want to dress like the world and talk like the world, yielding step by step, compromising until they will find themselves leaving and turning back from Christ.
Belonging to a group will not save you. Salvation is an individual thing and each must have a personal and deep walk with Christ. Each must conduct a thorough heart search daily and surrender to the voice of the Spirit, rather than following personal inclination. “Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, ‘Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.’ … Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence should indicate.” Steps to Christ, 70.
Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13.
The prophet of God has magnified this for us. “Soon God’s people will be tested by fiery trials, and the great proportion of those who now appear to be genuine and true will prove to be base metal.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 136. “Today a large part of those who compose our congregations are dead in trespasses and sins. They come and go like the door upon its hinges. For years they have complacently listened to the most solemn, soul-stirring truths, but they have not put them in practice. Therefore they are less and less sensible of the preciousness of truth.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 426.
“God now calls upon you to repent, to be zealous in the work. Your eternal happiness will be determined by the course you now pursue. Can you reject the invitations of mercy now offered? Can you choose your own way? Will you cherish pride and vanity, and lose your soul at last? The word of God plainly tells us that few will be saved, and that the greater number of those, even, who are called will prove themselves unworthy of everlasting life. They will have no part in heaven, but will have their portion with Satan, and experience the second death.” Ibid., vol. 2, 293, 294.
“This work of preparation is an individual work. We are not saved in groups. The purity and devotion of one will not offset the want of these qualities in another. Each case must bear individual inspection. Each of us must be tested, and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” The Signs of the Times, May 29, 1884.
Déjà vu! This has taken place in the past and will take place again in the future. It is not an illusion, a figment of our imagination; this is something that is real, an experience that is happening now. Understanding that separation from Christ is the cause of division and strife in families and churches, we must look to the only solution—union with Christ.
Let us be determined to be among that number who are saved, regardless of the temporal cost. Let us hold firm to Jesus Christ.
This article came from a sermon delivered by Demario Carter, a speaker at Steps to Life camp meeting in 2014.