Editor’s Note: Last month we looked in detail at the Alpha of apostasy, as Ellen White described it in her day, and also at the inspired predictions of what the Omega apostasy would be like. This month we will look at how these predictions are being fulfilled in our day.
Babylon, the Ecumenical Movement and the Three Angels’ Messages
Among Adventists, the clear understanding of the term “Babylon” is diminishing more and more and is giving way to confusion. A conference leader told me years ago that “Babylon is in us.” My question, of how would it be possible under these circumstances to follow the call to leave Babylon, remained without an answer. Some other definitions, from Adventist publications, are that Babylon is the “wickedness of my city,” “evil influences” and to “attempt to gain salvation through one’s own works.” Adventist Review, December 31, 1992; Signs of the Times, June 1992; Adventist Review, December 31, 1992.
Here in Germany, “Babylon” is a hot topic. The reason for this is the membership of both of the Adventist German unions in the ACK (confederacy of Christian Churches), the national ecumenical council. This membership was brought about secretly, and the people were only informed afterwards. Discussions were forbidden.
To cover themselves, the Adventist leadership, here in Germany, has tried to show that our historic definition of “Babylon” cannot be true. R. Nickel, a high-ranking minister, said this about the Adventist’s membership in the ACK, in a sermon at the Adventist theological seminary of Friedensau. “In the classic exegesis of our denomination “Babylon” means the following: the mother whore of Revelation or the Roman Catholic Church. Her corrupted daughters are the fallen Protestant organizations of the different churches of Protestant faith. . . . The question is, Is what was once valid and present truth still valid? I want to come back to the discussion about the ACK, because here it can be shown: If the Protestant churches are truly a part of Babylon, how can one possibly unite with them and obtain membership in the ACK? If we would take the classic interpretation seriously, all of us would have to be against the ACK.” R. Nickel in a sermon held in Friedensau on November 2, 1996.
It is a fact that (nearly) all the ministers and leaders are in favor of an ACK membership. The logical conclusion therefore is that we cannot hold to the historic interpretation of “Babylon” and at the same time be a member in the ecumenical alliance. (See Luke 16:13; 2 Corinthians 6:14.) The content of the Three Angels’ Messages is opposed directly to the ecumenical movement, because we are warned explicitly of the image to the beast. The proclamation of this message is contrary to the rules of ecumenism, because no church is allowed to proselytize members of other churches. How then is it possible to proclaim, “Come out of her, my people!” if one is a member of that alliance?
Of one thing we can be assured: neither Catholics nor Protestants accepted Adventists as a member in the ecumenical ACK without a prior confirmation from them that the historic understanding of the Three Angels’ Messages had been rejected. And that is precisely what happened. In the ACK meeting, where the recommendation was given to accept the SDA Church as a member, the Adventist representatives were asked directly whether the historic interpretation of the Three Angels’ Messages was still valid.
The protocol documents of the ACK meeting, on June 3 and 4, 1992, in Arnoldshain gives this report. “On request of the Roman-Catholic representative, Dr. H.J. Urban, it was asked concretely, whether the traditional Adventist interpretation of Revelation 13, to identify the beast as being popery, which was equaled with the Antichrist, was still held as true. The answer to that question was that this was a case of tradition which dated back to the Reformation and doubtlessly would still exist, but that they were for the most part cured of institutionally identifying the office of the pope with the Antichrist. Rather it is held that the Antichrist is characteristics, which possibly could also be found in the Adventist denomination. Therefore the traditional critique of Revelation 13 could, in principle, also be directed against the Seventh-Day-Adventist Church. This explanation satisfied the Catholic side. After that the leadership of the ACK decided to recommend the application of the Adventists approvingly to the united members to be voted upon.” 54 Fragen, Document 3, 3. [Emphasis supplied.]
The president of the Northern German Union, Mr. Rupp, also denied our God-given message in his letters to the president of the ACK, Bishop Held, and in his personal communication with him. Babylon was only identified as a condition of things that could also be found in the SDA church. Bishop Held obviously interpreted the opinions in the union president’s letters as not a mistake, as can be seen in his answer:
“Dear Mr. Rupp. . . . Above the views are explicitly confirmed that you—as speaking at least for the leadership of the SDA Church—told us that SDA’s no longer believe that ‘in the historical development of the religious-political power of popery is seen the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies. (Daniel 7, Revelation 13 and 17.)’ ” Document 1. [Emphasis supplied.]
K. Schwarz, a high-ranking official of a Protestant Church in Germany writes: “For the guest-membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the ACK, it is understood that . . . the tensions you mentioned [the Adventist belief that the pope is the antichrist] . . . no longer exist as a part of SDA doctrines.” (In Kobialka, M. 1994. Ecumenical Movement and World Government, 100.)
The leaders of the SDA Church have always said that the affiliation with the ecumenical movement is a wonderful occasion to witness for our faith. They say that in that way the Advent Message can be given much more effectively to other churches. What a mockery and hypocrisy! Membership in the ecumenical movement is a betrayal of our message and means crucifying Christ anew. (“I saw that as the Jews crucified Jesus, so the nominal churches have crucified these messages.” Early Writings, 261.)
There are many inspired instructions concerning alliances with unbelievers or believers of a different faith. I just want to point you to two quotations from the pen of Ellen White: “The wicked are being bound up in bundles, bound up in trusts, in unions, in confederacies. Let us have nothing to do with these organizations. God is our Ruler, our Governor, and He calls us to come out from the world and be separate.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, 87.
“Let the watchmen on the walls of Zion not join with those who are making of none effect the truth as it is in Christ. Let them not join the confederacy of infidelity, popery, and Protestantism.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol.4, 1141.
We should realize what the ACK really is and how the pope sees this ecumenical entity. While visiting Germany, Pope John Paul II declared in Paderborn on June 22, 1996: “Good ecumenical connections have been formed to the churches in this country. They work actively together with the ecumenical committees, especially in the ‘Alliance of Christian Churches in Germany’ (ACK). By that, some helpful suggestions for the formation of church community came to Germany. . . . The unity we aim for has to grow step by step. . . . Therefore, it is our duty to reduce barriers and to seek for a greater amount of communion, trusting firmly that the Lord will lead us to that glorious day when full unity of faith is accomplished and we are able to celebrate harmoniously the holy Eucharist of the Lord together.” Verlautbarungen des Apostolischen Stuhls, 126, Bonn 6/1996, 22ff.
What are Adventists looking for in the ACK? Do they want to celebrate the Eucharist together with the Catholics? The Omega is already here. May the Lord help us to see it and to act accordingly.
What is to be Done?
How do we need to respond to this situation? Many Adventists are confused and do not know what to do. It seems as if no one expected the vast dimensions of apostasy, although Sister White wrote: “The omega will be of a most startling nature.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 197. As Adventists we have heard about the soon coming test and talked about it ourselves, but now it is present and only a few are aware of it.
The question of how we are to deal with the Omega crisis is answered clearly in the inspired writings concerning the Alpha crisis. In the Omega crisis the same principles have to be applied, for history is repeating itself.
What advice did Ellen White give during the Alpha crisis? Here is one example:
“Elder and Mrs. Farnsworth have been requested to spend some time in Battle Creek, laboring for the church. I encourage them to do so, and shall counsel them how to labor. It will be well for Elder Farnsworth and Elder A. T. Jones to stand shoulder to shoulder preaching the Word in the tabernacle for a time, and giving the trumpet a certain sound. There are in Battle Creek souls who need bracing up. Many will gladly hear and distinguish the note of warning. But Elder Farnsworth should not remain in Battle Creek long. I write these things to you, because it is important that they should be understood. God would have men of talent who will not deviate from the principles of righteousness to stand in defense of the truth in the tabernacle at Battle Creek. One man should not be stationed in Battle Creek for a long time. After he has faithfully proclaimed the truth for a time, he should leave to labor elsewhere, and some one else be appointed who will give the trumpet a certain sound.” Paulson Collection, 108.
In this testimony the inspired pen gives us an exact description of our duty in both the Alpha and the Omega crisis. Two aspects are explicitly emphasized. On the one hand we are called to give the trumpet a certain sound to warn our brothers and sisters. On the other hand we are warned not to expose ourselves to the influence of apostasy for too long.
The first aspect, giving the trumpet a certain sound, should be our first step if we are part of a church infected with apostasy. Over and over again Ellen White called for decided action during the Alpha crisis. Here are some quotations:
“I was shown a platform, braced by solid timbers—the truths of the Word of God. Someone high in responsibility in the medical work was directing this man and that man to loosen the timbers supporting this platform. Then I heard a voice saying, ‘Where are the watchmen that ought to be standing on the walls of Zion? Are they asleep? This foundation was built by the Master Worker, and will stand storm and tempest. Will they permit this man to present doctrines that deny the past experience of the people of God? The time has come to take decided action.’ ” Selected Messages, Book 1, 204.
“The battle is on. . . . Where are His watchmen? Are they standing on the high tower, giving the danger signal, or are they allowing the peril to pass unheeded?” Ibid., 194.
“Will the men in our institutions keep silent, allowing insidious fallacies to be promulgated to the ruin of souls? . . . Is it not time that we asked ourselves, Shall we allow the adversary to lead us to give up the work of proclaiming the truth?” Ibid., 195.
“Vigilant action is called for. Indifference and sloth will result in the loss of personal religion and of heaven.” Ibid.
“If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 281.
To help us really understand the horrible danger of this emergency we are in, God gave Ellen White a vision of an iceberg. “One night a scene was clearly presented before me. A vessel was upon the waters, in a heavy fog. Suddenly the lookout cried, ‘Iceberg just ahead!’ There, towering high above the ship, was a gigantic iceberg. An authoritative voice cried out, ‘Meet it!’ There was not a moment’s hesitation. It was a time for instant action. The engineer put on full steam, and the man at the wheel steered the ship straight into the iceberg. With a crash she struck the ice. There was a fearful shock, and the iceberg broke into many pieces, falling with a noise like thunder to the deck.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 205.
“I am instructed to speak plainly. ‘Meet it,’ is the word spoken to me. ‘Meet it firmly, and without delay.’ . . . In the book ‘Living Temple’ there is presented the alpha of deadly heresies. The omega will follow, and will be received by those who are not willing to heed the warning God has given. . . . I have an intense longing to see them standing free in the Lord. I pray that they may have courage to stand firm for the truth as it is in Jesus, holding fast the beginning of their confidence unto the end.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 200.
“They have seen wrong transactions and heard wrong words spoken, and seen wrong principles followed, and have not spoken in reproof, for fear that they would be repulsed. I call upon those who have been connected with these binding influences to break the yoke to which they have long submitted, and stand as free men in Christ. Nothing but a determined effort will break the spell that is upon them.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 197.
How possibly can a call to decided action be more urgent? Everyone who perceives the apostasy has the duty to protest against it without compromise. If there ever was a time to sit and keep silent and to listen to an erroneous sermon up to the end (which I doubt), so that the pernicious error can be addressed to the whole congregation, that time is over. It is not enough just to talk to the minister afterwards, privately, when error has made its way to the minds of the people.
“Let every man now arouse, and work as he has opportunity. Let him speak words in season and out of season, and look to Christ for encouragement and strength in welldoing. . . . My message to you is: No longer consent to listen without protest to the perversion of truth. Unmask the pretentious sophistries which, if received, will lead ministers and physicians and medical missionary workers to ignore the truth. Every one is now to stand on his guard. God calls upon men and women to take their stand under the blood-stained banner of Prince Emmanuel. I have been instructed to warn our people; for many are in danger of receiving theories and sophistries that undermine the foundation pillars of the faith.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 195, 196.
Save Our Youth
Ellen White many times warned that the young people should not be sent to the college in Battle Creek. She feared for the Adventist youth because of the pernicious influence prevailing there. “Those who have crowded into Battle Creek, and are being held there, see and hear many things that tend to weaken their faith, and engender unbelief.” Paulson Collection, 109.
But what about our colleges and seminaries today? Is the condition any better than it was then in Battle Creek? I do not have that much information about the condition of Adventist schools in the U.S., but I know something about the German seminaries. In these schools, the historical Adventist sanctuary teaching is rejected, Bible criticism is taught, the seven-day-creation period and the expectation of the imminent second coming of Christ are denied, etc. These things are well documented and confirmed by students of the German seminary.
What is the professed purpose of such a school? It is to pass on the truth of our faith to the next generation? But, if the school imparts error to the students today, the ministers of tomorrow will impart these errors to their churches. In this manner the truth is torn down and the people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
This situation is very dangerous, especially for our young people. What is the condition of the Adventist youth today? I remember one night, when my wife and I had a season of prayer in which she prayed for the Adventist friends she had during her youth. Thinking about them, my wife sat down and cried and cried and could not stop. Very few of her old friends were still in the truth. Almost all had gone into the world; some as members of the SDA church, others having completely rejected their profession.
But is that surprising to anyone? What are the young people doing when they gather together on Sabbath afternoon? I have seen it so often: after an obligatory short devotion (if at all) they begin to play basketball, table tennis or whatever. Once I met a minister who gathered the young people of his church for a night session to watch videos. They watched movies with sex and crime scenes till morning.
I wonder how many Adventists think that they have fulfilled all their duty when they trust their children to ministers and Sabbath schools for religious education. How few consider how their children are effected by the influence of the church they go to every Sabbath?! Even in the Alpha crisis Ellen White warned over and over again that we should not expose ourselves to such a faith-destroying influence. That applies in a special way to the moldable youth. She wrote: “I would say, be careful what moves are made. It is not God’s design that our youth should be called to Battle Creek.” Battle Creek Letters, 4.
“We protest in the name of the Lord God of Israel, against the calling of our youth into a place to which the Lord declared they should not go.” Battle Creek Letters, 4, 5.
“The light given me by the Lord—that our youth should not collect in Battle Creek to receive their education—has in no particular been changed. The fact that the Sanitarium has been rebuilt in Battle Creek does not change the light. All that in the past made Battle Creek a place unsuitable for our youth exists today, so far as influence is concerned.” Battle Creek Letters, 4.
When the faithful Elder Haskell and his wife received a call to come to Battle Creek, Ellen White counseled: “That you should receive an invitation to go to Battle Creek, and give Bible lessons to the nurses and medical students, is not a surprise to me. I have been instructed that an effort would be made to obtain your names as teachers to the nurses at Battle Creek, so that the managers of the Sanitarium can say to our people that Elder and Mrs. Haskell are to give a course of lessons to the Battle Creek Sanitarium nurses, and use this as a means of decoying to Battle Creek those who otherwise would heed the cautions about going there for their education.” Paulson Collection, 108.
Some say that Ellen White’s calls to leave Battle Creek were given only to prevent centralization at that place. But this is only part of the truth. The following statement to Brother and Sister Haskell may sound incredible to many easy-loving souls: “There is a little hope in one direction: Take the young men and women, and place them where they will come as little in contact with our churches as possible, that the low grade of piety which is current in this day shall not leaven their ideas of what it means to be a Christian.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 333.
If your protest against the apostasy is unheeded you have the choice: either you stay and tolerate the apostasy or you leave and save yourself and your family from these influences. The influence you allow to affect your soul will decide your eternal destiny. “Every one will reveal the character of the bundle with which he is binding himself.” 1888 Materials, 995. Ellen White brings this point home to us: “‘Out of Battle Creek’ is my message.” Paulson Collection, 111.
Application and Conclusion
Some might say: “In my church there is no pantheism being taught. I cannot apply these statements to my local situation.” Maybe you are right. Praise God for every local church that is still standing on the fundamental truths of the Three Angels’ Messages. There are still some of them, but their number decreases day by day. Remember, however, when you are evaluating your church, that pantheism alone is not the topic of the Omega crisis, it embodies many more principles. Ask yourself the question, How do they treat the Spirit of Prophecy? Is it upheld as the inspired and infallible word of God given to us through His last time prophet? How did the church leaders react when you tried to correct them? Did they understand and repent?
“Of those who are constantly working to undermine faith in the message God is sending to His people, I am instructed to say, ‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate.’” Review and Herald, July 23, 1908.
Is your church part of an ecumenical organization? How did the men in responsible positions react when you stood up to protest against it? Did they understand and repent?
Maybe you can agree with me on being separated from the ecumenical movement, but not on being separated from professed Adventists who approve and uphold an ecumenical membership. You would do well to consider the example of faithful Nehemiah. “When those who are uniting with the world, yet claiming great purity, plead for union with those who have ever been the opposers of the cause of truth, we should fear and shun them as decidedly as did Nehemiah.” Prophets and Kings, 660.
Is strange fire offered in your church in the form of theater performances, worldly or charismatic music? Does your minister use NLP or anything similar? How did your church react as you protested against it? Did they understand and repent?
“As the men of Israel witnessed the corrupt course of the priests, they thought it safer for their families not to come up to the appointed place of worship. Many went from Shiloh with their peace disturbed, their indignation aroused, until they at last determined to offer their sacrifices themselves, concluding that this would be fully as acceptable to God, as to sanction in any manner the abominations practiced in the sanctuary.” Signs of the Times, December 1, 1881.
Will we learn our lessons from the past? Will we recognize the time of our visitation? Will we act upon right principles? May the Lord help us in this most crucial hour when our eternal destiny, and that of our families, is being decided.