In the great family of heaven, each one has his own individual personality, each has freedom, yet no one misuses that freedom to act independently, for all are held together by the cords of humility toward self and love toward one another. As the bee extracts the honey and leaves the pollen, so in heaven, each one receives in order to give—each works so as to benefit one another. Thus there is perfect harmony, yet with each maintaining his own identity, uniqueness and function.
Even God does not act independently. In fact, we should say especially God! Everything He does is for the well being of His creatures. In all that He does, He elicits the love and cooperation of those He has created. Consider the creation of Adam. As soon as he was created, God set him to work to assist Him. God asked him to name the animals. How much easier it would have been for God to have named the animals without Adam’s help. When Adam was created God programmed his mind with words and language—but He intentionally left out of his vocabulary the names of the animals, so that Adam could unite with Him, as far as possible, in the work He was doing. The Bible says, “We are God’s fellow workers.” 1 Corinthians 3:9. [Texts are from the NKJ Version.]
Then God went far beyond merely having Adam name the animals. He told Adam and Eve that they and their descendants were to continue the work that God had begun of populating the earth. God created just enough people so that they could continue His work. Again, how much easier it would have been for God to simply create, in a moment of time, enough people to populate the earth at the beginning—and they would have all been perfect! No one would have been raised by faulty parents! What a risk God took, and how poorly most people have done in carrying on the pro-creation work of God by the way they have raised their children. Yet, in spite of failure, God has not taken the responsibility away from the human family. God would rather suffer loss than to act alone without our cooperation. God has gone to more trouble than any other being to elicit our cooperation, calling us “kings and priests” (Revelation 1:6), rather than to act alone and independent.
As it was on earth with Adam and Eve, so it was in heaven with the angels. God did not create a hierarchy or a dictatorship, but a family. That is why there was a war in heaven. When Satan chose to rebel, God could have simply spoken the word, and Satan would have been banished from the society of heaven. But God did not do that, for the angels were His fellow workers, and even in this crisis situation He did not take the reins into His own hands, but allowed the angels, as far as possible, to decide the issue. (See Revelation 12:7.)
Even after the war, Satan seems to have been allowed to come back to represent the earth at the councils of heaven. In the book of Job, God presented Job’s fidelity and challenged Satan’s claim to represent the earth. Satan did not represent all the inhabitants of the earth, but evidently the angels allowed him to remain. But that time of tolerance ended at the cross. I have often contemplated the account by Ellen White where she was shown that, “All the angels that are commissioned to visit the earth hold a golden card, which they present to the angels at the gates of the city as they pass in and out.” Early Writings, 37. Why must the angels who visit the earth present a golden card at the gate? Before the crucifixion of Christ, the angels continued to allow Satan access on what he considered official business (Job 1), because many still had some sympathy for him. At the cross, Satan’s “disguise was torn away . . . Henceforth his work was restricted. Whatever attitude he might assume, he could no longer await the angels as they came from the heavenly courts, and before them accuse Christ’s brethren of being clothed with the garments of blackness and the defilement of sin. The last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken.” Desire of Ages, 761. [All emphasis supplied.]
Thus the angels decided that Satan could no longer visit heaven as the representative of earth. Jesus was henceforth to be the only representative of this planet. But how were they to keep him out? They evidently decided to issue golden identification cards to all who were commissioned to visit the earth, which they were to present upon exit and entry. Heaven is a very real place, and the angels have far more to do with the running of the government than most realize. Heaven is not run like a communist hierarchy or like the totalitarian government of Satan, but as a loving family, each with his own part to act, each with a voice and each with total faith in the wisdom of the Father.
Today there is a judgment going on in heaven. And why a judgment? Does God need a judgment? Of course not! He knew who would be saved and who would be lost from the very foundation of the earth! (See Ephesians 1:4 and Isaiah 46:10.) The reason there is a judgment is because God is not running a hierarchical dictatorship. He has made the beings of heaven His fellow workers and in order for them to be a practical part of the process, they need a judgment. They do not have all knowledge like God has. They must keep records and review them. God could have decided the eternal destiny of each, with complete accuracy, in a moment of time. But what He could do instantly by Himself takes much longer when He involves the cooperation of the angels. He is willing to expend the extra effort and energy in order to work with His angels rather than apart from them.
What a lesson for parents. How much easier it is when children are young for parents to make the beds, do the dishes, fix the food and change the oil in the car by themselves without the help of the little ones. The “help” the little ones give takes so much more of the parents’ time! It is so much easier to simply tell a child to go off and play for awhile or to watch TV while we do the work without him. But that is not the way God works. He says: “I want the cooperation of men and angels, even if it costs more work, trouble and heartache.”
A CHANGE TAKES PLACE IN HEAVEN
So heaven is built on the principle of cooperation and unity, and thus it had always been throughout all the ceaseless ages of eternity, until one arose to begin his own independent ministry and organization. This was sinful independence, for it sought to work apart from God and His plans and organization. Independent ministry and self-supporting work were never a part of God’s original plan. But there was one who came along in a perfect environment, a perfect government, and began his own ministry in competition and opposition to the regular and established ministry of heaven which had been in operation for ages.
When that spirit of independence came to earth, this world entered into the darkness and misery of sin. The first great temptation of man was to be independent. The Bible says, “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God does know that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ ” Genesis 3:4, 5. Thus the serpent tempted Eve with the thought that she would be wise enough to act independently, knowing good and evil herself, without having to depend upon God for guidance. Multitudes still cling to this lie.
Thus this earth became a part of the independent ministry of Satan, which made things rather confusing on planet earth because nearly the whole population of earth, with a few exceptions such as Noah, became loyal to Satan’s independent ministry. Now those who remained loyal to God, became themselves independent of the rebellion that persisted on earth. Thus those who were independent with Satan became the establishment, while those who humbly remained loyal to God appeared to be independent. The appearance was the opposite of the reality.
GOD’S TRAINING FOR HEAVEN
God’s plan has always been for humble cooperation. God is trying to teach each one of us the essential character traits of humility and submission. This is the character of heaven. Every experience of life is to instill within us these precious traits of character so that we can fit into that society which Satan forfeited because of his pride and independence. That is why Paul tells us in Romans 13 that we are to learn to be submissive to the civil government and to obey their laws. Ephesians 6:5, 6 tells us that we are to learn to be submissive to our employers. That is what is fundamentally wrong with labor unions. We can choose where we want to work and whether we want to continue to work in a certain place, but, while there, we are to “be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh.” Peter tells us that the younger are to be submissive to the elders, that the elders are to learn the principle of submission also, and are to show themselves thus unto the younger. “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, ‘for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ” 1 Peter 5:5,6. Many people do not like the idea of submission, unless they are the ones who are “on top.” Many husbands revel in Paul’s counsel for wives to “submit to your own husbands,” but they overlook the verse before which says that both husbands and wives are to submit to each other. Ephesians 6 tells us that children are to learn the lesson of submission. God wants everyone to be saved—husbands, children, workers, older people and younger people, and thus He is trying to teach each one the lessons that will allow them to fit within the society of heaven.
The Spirit of humble submissiveness will be exemplified in the life and character of the 144,000 The Bible describes them as “the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” Revelation 14:4. There is no spirit of independence here. And yet they appear to be independent to human appearance, for “these are the ones that are not defiled with women, for they are virgins.” Ibid. Women, in the Bible, represent churches and religions; so the 144,000 are those who are not defiled with false religion and false religious philosophies that predominate throughout the world. They are independent from man-made tradition, yet the Bible says they are “followers”—followers of the Lamb.
BEING SUBMISSIVE YET INDEPENDENT
From the beginning of sin, those who have remained submissive and dependent upon God by “following the Lamb wherever He goes,” have found themselves out of step and independent from the world. Think of Noah. He was given the warning of the coming flood and he determined to follow the Lamb and to build the ark as God had directed, yet, the rest of the world remained independent of God and His counsels. The churches and religious leaders counseled and legislated against the project. Only Noah and his family remained submissive to God. How alone and isolated Noah and his family seemed. How aloof from counsel he appeared to be! How independent they were accused of being! And yet they were the only truly non-independent ministry on earth.
Satan scored a major victory in the days of Noah when he succeeded in causing the whole world to join him in his independence. Yet his greatest victory came when he caused the whole church, God’s church, to become independent of God and of His counsels. God established His church with the children of Israel and He led them out of Egypt by the hand of Moses. But the people rebelled against Moses and the leadership of God.
From the very beginning the “church in the wilderness,” Acts 7:38, showed their independence from the Lord’s direction. Upon the return of the faithless spies “all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation [the Old Testament word for church, see Acts 7:38] said to them . . . ‘Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt.’ So they said to one another, ‘Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.’ ” Numbers 14:2–4. This was the first great nominating committee of the Hebrew church. They were going to select their own leader instead of the one God had chosen for them.
Caleb and Joshua remonstrated with the people, saying, ” ‘Do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.’ And all the congregation said to stone them with stones.” Ibid., verses 9, 10. Caleb and Joshua, in this instance, became independent of the organized church—they did not accept the leader the church was choosing nor the decisions they were making—and so the church chose to disfellowship them by stoning! (Stoning is the ultimate in disfellowshipping.) Thus those who refused to become independent from God became independent from an independent church. And the penalty for independence from the church was disfellowshiping by stoning.
Now the question at stake is, Who was right—those who remained loyal to the church or those who appeared to be independent and were therefore disfellowshipped? It is easy to give the answer when looking back at the Bible account, but not so easy when faced with the situation.
In the old covenant types, God often revealed His pleasure or displeasure immediately as a “type” of the future reward and punishment of the new covenant which will be fulfilled at the last judgment. (See Revelation 22:12.) In this case, the unfaithful leaders “died by the plague before the Lord.” Ibid., verse 37. Yet, so entrenched was this spirit of independence and insubordination in the heart of the people that not even the direct intervention of God seemed to be able to uproot it from their midst—and yet they thought they were just right, the holy people of God!
MOSES ACCUSED OF BEING INDEPENDENT
Two chapters later in the book of Numbers, this sinful spirit of independence sprang up again in the rebellion of Korah. “Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown.” Numbers 16:1, 2.
Like our church, the Israelites had a representative form of government. Today, when representatives of the church come together, we call it a constituency meeting or a General Conference.
These “representatives of the congregation” were “men of renown,” and Korah was their chosen leader, with Dathan and Abiram his assistants. These leaders of the people “gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourself above the congregation of the Lord?’ ” Numbers 16:3.
Moses and Aaron were accused of being independent from the church and taking too much upon themselves without the approval of the church. After all, it was God’s church that Korah and his associates represented, and the church, they said, was holy, for God had chosen it for Himself. Surely, when the entire church, through their appointed representatives, decides on something, it is as the voice of God to the people! How could Moses and Aaron not come under the authority of the church and the leaders the church had chosen? How could they justify their “independent” ways?
Yet, Moses and Aaron were not independent—again, as in Noah’s situation, they were the only truly non-independent ones within the church. Appearance was again deceptive. The church body
had become independent, whereas those accused of being independent were the ones who had remained loyal and true to the government of heaven.
A peripheral reading of this story might lead to a false conclusion. I have heard ministers and leaders liken their ministry to that of Moses, and anyone who is not in harmony with their plans or the plans of the conference, regardless of their reasons or convictions, are likened to Korah, Dathan and Abiram.
But, in writing to the leaders of the church, Ellen White warns:
“The question of religious liberty needs to be clearly comprehended by our people in more ways than one. With outstretched arms men are seeking to steady the ark, and the anger of the Lord is kindled against them because they think that their position entitles them to say what the Lord’s servants shall do and what they shall not do. They think themselves competent to decide what shall be brought before God’s people, and what shall be repressed. The Lord inquires of them, ‘Who has required this at your hand? Who has given you the burden of being conscience for My people? By what spirit are you guided and controlled when you seek to restrict their liberty? I have not chosen you as I chose Moses—as men through whom I can communicate divine instruction to My people. I have not placed the lines of control in your hands. The responsibility that rested on Moses—of voicing the words of God to the people—has never been delegated to you.’ ” Manuscript Release, vol. 18, 223.
It should be noted that Moses was not the elected leader of the children of Israel—he was never elected by the people. Rather, Moses was the one whom the people rejected (Acts 7:35). Moses was a type of Christ (Deuteronomy 18:15) whom the leaders of the church hated and crucified. He was a prophet chosen by God. The elected leader whom the people chose was Korah! “And Korah gathered all the congregation [or church] against them [Moses and Aaron] at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.” Numbers 16:19.
Did God recognize Korah’s position simply because the whole church was behind him? Would to God that we, today, would remember the lessons of Korah and seek more for the will and direction of God rather than for position, victory at the polls, or referendum mandates. Will we learn the lesson that no committee or conference or power on earth has the authority to change one precept of truth, as the beast power claims to be able to do? God is seeking the cooperation of His fellow workers on earth, but He has not abdicated the throne, nor will He allow mankind to develop and assume kingly and controlling power over His heritage, which are His purchased possession.
To be continued…