The keynote of the New Testament is that the same Jesus who lived, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended to heaven, is returning to this world again. Jesus said that we would not know the exact time, but He did tell us how we could know it is near. Bible prophecy tells us that it is near. We are called Adventists because we believe that the second coming of Christ is imminent.
Bible prophecy also tells us that before Jesus comes, God will bring terrible, destructive judgments upon this world. These judgments are so terrible that they are beyond the power of our minds to comprehend.
Inspiration says of God’s people just prior to the coming judgments, “Before the final visitation of God’s judgments upon the earth there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” The Great Controversy, 464
Ellen White isn’t talking about fanaticism. Many people are confused about the difference between primitive godliness and fanaticism.
Godliness is a longing for God, a desire to glorify Him and to please Him. “Godliness is the fruit of Christian character. … We must have a close and intimate connection with heaven, if we bear the grace of godliness.” Peter’s Counsel to Parents, 19
“Supreme love for God and unselfish love for our neighbor—this is the foundation of true godliness.” The Signs of the Times, May 22, 1901
Unfortunately, many people believe that godliness is just doing certain things and checking them off the list—went to church, check; paid tithe, check; gave clothes to Dorcas, check; and so on. Some believe godliness is determined according to their understanding of Scripture.
Fanaticism on the other hand, goes beyond what God has actually said. Strange ideas and works that are attributed to the Holy Spirit come into the church. A person may be zealous about their beliefs, but their ideas can become extreme and obsessive, and can border on a kind of madness. The fanatic displays very strict standards and little tolerance for any idea or opinion that is contrary to what they believe.
Most of the world considers those who keep all the commandments of God, including the Sabbath, to be fanatics. But Mrs. White isn’t talking about godliness or fanaticism according to worldly standards. She is writing about primitive godliness, something that has not been seen since apostolic times. There is only one way that this primitive godliness can again be seen in God’s people.
“The Spirit and power of God will be poured out upon His children.” The Great Controversy, 464
Worldly churches think that when God’s Spirit is poured out, everyone will join together and acceptance and tolerance, love and unity will reign. But will that be true? No. In fact, there will be far more disunity than we see now or have ever seen. Why? Because the spirit that has fallen on these churches will not be God’s Spirit. Once the Spirit and power of God is poured out upon His children, Mrs. White says, “At that time many will separate themselves from those churches in which the love of this world has supplanted love for God and His word.” Ibid.
The “many” will include both ministers and laity. So, those who receive the Spirit of God, His children, will separate themselves from these unsanctified churches.
“The great controversy between good and evil will increase in intensity to the very close of time. In all ages the wrath of Satan has been manifested against the church of Christ; and God has bestowed His grace and Spirit upon His people to strengthen them to stand against the power of the evil one. When the apostles of Christ were to bear His gospel to the world and to record it for all future ages, they were especially endowed with the enlightenment of the Spirit.
“But as the church approaches her final deliverance, Satan is to work with greater power. He comes down ‘having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time’ (Revelation 12:12). … For six thousand years that mastermind that once was highest among the angels of God has been wholly bent to the work of deception and ruin. And all the depths of satanic skill and subtlety acquired, all the cruelty developed, during these struggles of the ages, will be brought to bear against God’s people in the final conflict.
“And in this time of peril the followers of Christ are to bear to the world the warning of the Lord’s second advent; and a people are to be prepared to stand before Him at His coming, ‘without spot, and blameless’ (2 Peter 3:14).” To Be Like Jesus, 349
How are we to have strength to meet the devil’s subtle and most terrible assaults? Unless we have received the Holy Spirit, we will be unable to stand against him. While people don’t really like to hear it, the truth is that separation has been the result every time, for the last 2,000 years, when God has poured out His Spirit on His people. And without His Spirit, we will not make it through what lies ahead of us.
We read in the Bible that Elijah asked Elisha what he wanted him to give to him when he, Elijah, was taken away. Elisha asked for a double portion of the Spirit that guided Elijah. The Bible records this account because today, and on through the end of time, judgements are coming, and to face them, we must first have received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and ultimately the outpouring of the latter rain that will generate a revival of primitive godliness.
Most Seventh-day Adventists will miss this revival of primitive godliness. (See Testimonies, Vol. 1, 608, 609; Ibid., Vol. 5, 136.) So, we each must ask ourselves, “How can I make certain that I will be part of this last revival, this final manifestation of God’s mercy? How can I be sure that I won’t be left out and not know what’s happening?”
“In the great final conflict, Satan will employ the same policy, manifest the same spirit, and work for the same end as in all preceding ages. That which has been, will be, except that the coming struggle will be marked with a terrible intensity such as the world has never witnessed. Satan’s deceptions will be more subtle, his assaults more determined. If it were possible, he would lead astray the elect. Mark 13:22, R.V.” The Great Controversy, xi (Introduction)
Everything from the past is meant to help us understand the coming events of the future. In the first century, after the Day of Pentecost, there was a separation of Christ’s followers from the Jewish establishment. The Jews clung to their belief that they were still God’s chosen people, but Inspiration says of them, “While claiming to observe rigidly the precepts of God’s law, they were transgressing all its principles.” Ibid., 27. They claimed to be God’s people, but while claiming to keep the law, they transgressed every principle of it. The very people who claimed that they were rigidly, exactly, keeping all of God’s commandments crucified the Son of God. Even a child can understand that in doing so they broke the sixth commandment that says, “You shall not murder.”
“There is no union between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness, and there can be no union between their followers.” Ibid., 45
We don’t like to hear that, either, because we really just want everyone to get along. But in context, this shows that there can be no union between those who follow the devil and those who follow Christ. Those who received the Spirit and power of God were called Christians because by that power and grace, they became Christlike. This brought about a separation between these true Christians and those who merely claimed the name, but did not have the Spirit.
“After a long and severe conflict, the faithful few decided to dissolve all union with the apostate church if she still refused to free herself from falsehood and idolatry. They saw that separation was an absolute necessity if they would obey the word of God. They dared not tolerate errors fatal to their own souls, and set an example which would imperil the faith of their children and children’s children. To secure peace and unity they were ready to make any concession consistent with fidelity to God; but they felt that even peace would be too dearly purchased at the sacrifice of principle. If unity could be secured only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war.” Ibid.
Every true Christian is a participant in the war between good and evil, between lawfulness and lawlessness. This war encompasses the entire world. Separation of good from evil is the result of the reception of the Holy Spirit. Speaking of the Christians of old, Ellen White makes this shocking statement: “Well would it be for the church and the world if the principles that actuated those steadfast souls were revived in the hearts of God’s professed people.” Ibid., 46
These early Christians that had the Spirit and power of God with their doctrines “were a terror to evildoers.” Ibid.
Unless the doctrines and beliefs we espouse are a terror to evildoers, then we do not have the same religion espoused by the apostles and the early Christians. This type of religion brought persecution to Christians throughout history because evildoers cannot tolerate their teachings. But when false doctrines and teachings began to work their way into the Christian church, separation occurred. “Almost imperceptibly the customs of heathenism found their way into the Christian church.” Ibid., 49
Many years ago, I obtained a copy of a secular book on ancient history titled Survey of the Ancient World, by James Henry Breasted. The book described a heathen festival observed by ancient civilizations all over the world on December 25. The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, falls on December 21 or 22. From that point on, the days start getting longer, adding a few more minutes of sunlight every day. To the different heathen cultures, December 25 was the birthday of the sun god—Tammuz, Nimrod, Nimbus—and they worshiped him at the time of the winter solstice.
So, if it is true that December 25 is simply the birthday of a pagan sun god, then why do Christians today celebrate Christmas, December 25, as Christ’s birthday? This is a deception of the devil. There came a time when Christianity and paganism were combined, and the Christians took December 25 as the birthday of Christ. But anyone who has studied ancient history knows that Christ was not born on December 25, and faithful Christians should not celebrate it as such.
This is just one example. We could look through the yearly religious calendar observed by the majority of Christianity today and clearly see that the observance of almost every special religious celebration is not from the Bible, but derived from paganism and incorporated into Christianity. “Sin was disguised in a garb of sanctity.” Ibid., 55
We have seen that there was a separation of God’s church from the Jewish nation after Jesus’ crucifixion. God’s people continued to separate from churches that accepted the mixing of paganism and Christianity. In the sixth century, another separation occurred. “Those who adhered to the ancient faith now withdrew.” Ibid., 64
They fled to the Alps in Northern Italy and to the Piedmont valleys. Because of persecution, God’s people had to separate from the rest of the Christian world and go into hiding.
“When error in one garb has been detected, Satan only masks it in a different disguise, and multitudes receive it as eagerly as at the first.” Ibid., 285
People, then and now, take evil and disguise it in a garb of sanctity, making it look righteous, when all the while it is not. “The very beginning of the great apostasy was in seeking to supplement the authority of God by that of the church.” Ibid., 289, 290
The same situation developed in the 16th century. Martin Luther began to preach the Biblical principle of justification by faith. Did this unify the Christians of his time? No. John Wesley began to preach the New Testament principle that in order to be ready for the Lord to come, Christians would need to reach a certain spiritual condition. Did that message bring unity? No. Mrs. White writes regarding the Puritans: “When first constrained [forced] to separate from the English Church, the Puritans had joined themselves together by a solemn covenant, as the Lord’s free people, ‘to walk together in all His ways made known or to be made known to them.’ Here was the true spirit of reform, the vital principle of Protestantism.” Ibid., 291
Throughout history, when Christianity accepted worldly principle into its midst, separation was always the result.
“The union of the church with the state, be the degree ever so slight, while it may appear to bring the world nearer to the church, does in reality but bring the church nearer to the world. …
“[T]hose … so highly favored in receiving the blessings of the Reformation, failed to press forward in the path of reform.” Ibid., 297
The reformation stopped.
“When the Saviour pointed out to His followers the signs of His return, He foretold the state of backsliding that would exist just prior to His second advent.” Ibid., 309
Bible prophecy says that there will be backsliding and that it will continue unless we receive the Holy Spirit.
“To prepare a people to stand in the day of God, a great work of reform was to be accomplished. …
“This warning is brought to view in Revelation 14. Here is a threefold message represented as proclaimed by heavenly beings and immediately followed by the coming of the Son of man to reap ‘the harvest of the earth.’ ” Ibid., 311
What happened at Jesus’ first coming will be repeated as He prepares to come the second time. “The Jews [God’s chosen people] were building monuments for the slain prophets of God, while by their deference to the great men of earth they were paying homage to the servants of Satan.” Ibid., 313. It was because of this, that when Jesus came, they did not know Him.
Would you be surprised to know that if the Holy Spirit was to be poured out on God’s people today, the great majority wouldn’t know it? They might know something was happening, but it would be of no benefit to them. On the Day of Pentecost, the Jews said that the disciples and those upon whom the Holy Spirit fell were simply drunk (Acts 2). Referencing this same condition when Christ came the first time, Ellen White said, “Oh, what a lesson is this wonderful story of Bethlehem! How it rebukes our unbelief, our pride, and a self-sufficiency. How it warns us to beware, lest by our criminal indifference we also fail to discern the signs of the times, and therefore know not the day of our visitation.” Ibid., 315
When the Holy Spirit is poured out, when revival comes, there is always a separation because there are two different types of people—Christians who truly have the Spirit and those claiming to be Christians, but lacking the Spirit. “Unless the church will … accept every ray of light, performing every duty which may be revealed, religion will inevitably degenerate into the observance of forms, and the spirit of vital godliness will disappear. This truth has been repeatedly illustrated in the history of the church.” Ibid., 316
“When the professed people of God are uniting with the world, living as they live, and joining with them in forbidden pleasures; when the luxury of the world becomes the luxury of the church; when the marriage bells are chiming, and all are looking forward to many years of worldly prosperity—then, suddenly as the lightning flashes from the heavens, will come the end of their bright visions and delusive hopes.” Ibid., 338, 339
Oh, friend, we are living in a time when an overwhelming tide of worldly conformity has come in among God’s professed people. Paganism slowly came into the church in the disciples’ time, but God poured out His Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the result was a separation of the righteous from the unrighteous. God is waiting to pour out His Holy Spirit on us and bring about another separation today.
“Revelation 18 points to the time when, as the result of rejecting the threefold warning of Revelation 14:6–12, the church will have fully reached the condition foretold by the second angel, and the people of God still in Babylon will be called upon to separate from her communion. This message of separation is the last that will ever be given to the world.” Ibid., 390
There is no message to be given to the world that will bring unity or acceptance or help people to get along. “Conformity to worldly customs converts the church to the world; it never converts the world to Christ.” Ibid., 509
The devil is very active. “He is now preparing for his last campaign against the church. … Though hidden from sight, he is working with all diligence to control the minds of the worshipers. Like a skillful general he lays his plans beforehand.” Ibid., 510, 518
His entire plan is to deceive you in such a way as to keep you occupied—pleasure loving, appetite [passion], presumption, love of the world—he doesn’t care how he does it. His purpose is to keep you from being ready for the future until it is too late to get ready.
Satan does all this because he hates Christ. He is the one who caused Christ to be crucified. He hates Christ and because Christ loves you and me, he hates us, too. He cares very little for us except to see us lost and to hurt Christ. Jesus’ whole desire in this world is to save. He would save everyone if every man, woman, and child would simply choose to accept His Spirit. But Satan only wants to see you dead. God draws us to Himself by love, but Satan uses every weapon in his enormous arsenal of sin to keep us separated from God. He knows full well the infinite value God has placed upon each one of us, so he causes us as much pain, hardship, and suffering as he can, to hurt the heart of Christ.
The devil will be successful with most people. “Little by little he has prepared the way for his masterpiece of deception in the development of spiritualism. He has not yet reached the full accomplishment of his designs; but it will be reached in the last remnant of time.” Ibid., 561. Today, spiritualism is everywhere. In magazines, on the television and the internet, and people don’t even recognize it for what it is. Only by the Holy Spirit living in our hearts will we be able to escape this and the many other deceptions that Satan is preparing to spread across this world. This is a matter of eternal life or death. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “ ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ ” John 3:5
In Paul’s day, new believers were commonly asked if they had received the Holy Spirit. It might seem like an impolite question, but if I asked you that question, could you answer yes? It is important to know if you can answer positively, because if you can’t, then you have no assurance of eternal life.
“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. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side.” The Great Controversy, 608
It is astonishing the number of times the subject of revival and the resulting separation is found in the book The Great Controversy. Many might wonder if the book ever talks about unity. It does, primarily in the last part of the book, but it speaks of a false unity, not the kind of unity we would want to be a part of.
“The ministration in the temple continued; sacrifices were offered upon its polluted altars, and daily the divine blessing was invoked upon a people guilty of the blood of God’s dear Son, and seeking to slay His ministers and apostles. So when the irrevocable decision of the sanctuary has been pronounced and the destiny of the world has been forever fixed, the inhabitants of the earth will know it not. The forms of religion will be continued by a people from whom the Spirit of God has been finally withdrawn; and the satanic zeal with which the prince of evil will inspire them for the accomplishment of his malignant designs, will bear the semblance of zeal for God.” Ibid., 615
“In the presence of the assembled inhabitants of earth and heaven the final coronation of the Son of God takes place. …
“As soon as the books of record are opened, and the eye of Jesus looks upon the wicked, they are conscious of every sin which they have ever committed. They see just where their feet diverged from the path of purity and holiness, just how far pride and rebellion have carried them in the violation of the law of God.” Ibid., 666. It is at this point that the wicked will be able to see just where they went wrong.
People really believe that they will be different than the Jews 2,000 years ago or the church during Martin Luther’s day. But sadly, they are deceiving themselves. History repeatedly proves that without the Holy Spirit, they will disregard the message of the third angel and in the end, be lost.
Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life? Are you ready for what lies ahead? Are you willing to be separate from the world, even if it is found in your own church, loved ones, or friends? Only the Holy Spirit can make you ready for what the faithful and obedient children of God will face in the very near future. We must pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and then be ready for a separation.
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: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.