At present we have not experienced the real consequence to a person, family, church, or nation if a whole nation were to cast aside the law of God.
Heaven experienced this when Lucifer and his angel followers rebelled. We are told: “Satan stood in amazement at his new condition. His happiness was gone. He looked upon the angels who, with him, were once so happy, but who had been expelled from heaven with him. Before their fall not a shade of discontent had marred their perfect bliss. Now all seemed changed. Countenances which had reflected the image of their Maker were gloomy and despairing. Strife, discord, and bitter recrimination were among them. Previous to their rebellion these things had been unknown in heaven. Satan now beheld the terrible results of his rebellion. He shuddered, and feared to face the future and to contemplate the end of these things.
“The hour for joyful, happy songs of praise to God and His dear Son had come. Satan had led the heavenly choir. He had raised the first note; then all the angelic host had united with him, and glorious strains of music had resounded through heaven in honor of God and His dear Son. But now, instead of strains of sweetest music, discord and angry words fall upon the ear of the great rebel leader. Where is he? Is it not all a horrible dream? Is he shut out of heaven? Are the gates of heaven never more to open to admit him? The hour of worship draws nigh, when bright and holy angels bow before the Father. No more will he unite in heavenly song. No more will he bow in reverence and holy awe before the presence of the eternal God.
“Could he be again as he was when he was pure, true, and loyal, gladly would he yield up the claims of his authority. But he was lost! beyond redemption, for his presumptuous rebellion! And this was not all; he had led others to rebellion and to the same lost condition with himself—angels, who had never thought to question the will of Heaven or refuse obedience to the law of God till he had put it into their minds, presenting before them that they might enjoy a greater good, a higher and more glorious liberty. This had been the sophistry whereby he had deceived them. A responsibility now rests upon him from which he would fain be released.
“These spirits had become turbulent with disappointed hopes. Instead of greater good, they were experiencing the sad results of disobedience and disregard of law. Never more would these unhappy beings be swayed by the mild rule of Jesus Christ. Never more would their spirits be stirred by the deep, earnest love, peace, and joy which His presence had ever inspired in them, to be returned to Him in cheerful obedience and reverential honor.” The Story of Redemption, 24–26.
By casting aside the law of God, their happiness, peace, joy and contentment were gone—everything was lost. It was so bad that Satan himself would gladly have gone back. In fact, we are told that he entreated the Lord to be readmitted and Jesus wept as He explained to Satan that he could not be accepted back into heaven. The seeds of rebellion were still in him and he was irretrievably ruined. Satan then carried on his rebellion against God’s law and caused the fall of our first parents.
What a devastating result from that first rebellion. The deception that there will be freedom, joy and happiness by casting off God’s law still abounds today. The Bible calls these temporary pleasures of sin, but in the process of disobedience, there is great loss. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, the enemy of God and man has had this world under his training. He has taught the world well to trample under foot God’s moral standard so that today we live in a time of gross lawlessness.
In talking about the last days in Matthew 24:12, Jesus says, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” This describes the time in which we are living. Ellen White, in describing her time, sounds almost like she was talking today. She wrote, “The signs of the times are plain and startling. Look into the papers that flood our world, filled with recitals of daily crimes, committed not only in the lower walks of life, but also among the higher classes. Those who occupy positions of trust, who are placed as guardians of the peoples’ interest, are untrue to their responsibility. There is embezzlement and fraud. Public money is stolen, and not one tithe of these corrupt transactions come to the light of day, and we do not see to what extent the wickedness of the world exists.
“The youth of our time are receiving their education from the evil doings of these wicked, but honored men of the world. Theft, murder, adultery, corruption, every sin that has a name, prevails to an awful extent.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893. This was true then and it is even more true now. When God called His people out of Egypt, the children of Israel were the depository for the law of God. It was given to them to guard and keep it, teach it to their children and to make it known in the world.
Paul wrote, “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1, 2). Israel was given the law of God and they were instructed what to do with it. Deuteronomy 6:6–9 says, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Childhood is when a person’s mind is the most plastic and most receptive to new ideas, whether good or bad.
If the children of Israel had actually done this, the whole history of the world would have been different. But they continually fell into idolatry. The second commandment was violated because the children were not learning from their parents, from babyhood on up, the principles of God’s law. The Lord said to talk about it when you are sitting, when you are rising up, when you are traveling. Whatever you are doing, teach your children the principles of the law.
Ellen White wrote, “Had fathers and mothers followed the direction given by Christ, we should not now read and hear of sins and crimes committed not only by adults, but even by youth and children. The evil condition of society exists because parents have disregarded this instruction, and neglected to train and educate their children to respect and honor the holy commandments of God. Even religious teachers have failed to present the holy standard by which character is measured … .” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893.
The devil attacks any religious teacher or preacher who teaches God’s law. One of his favorite methods of attack is to accuse him or her of being a legalist. By using smears or slogans he attempts to intimidate them to keep them from teaching God’s principles, yet this is something that should be prominent in every Christian church. If there is no law, there is no sin, because sin is the transgression of the law. If there is no sin, then there is no need for the gospel. If you do not need the gospel, what is a preacher supposed to preach? Religion becomes an empty shell with nothing to teach. It is hollow, without substance, unless you believe that the foundation of the Christian religion is God’s law, which is a reflection of His character. The law is valid and binding.
The world is being held captive by the belief that the law can be disregarded. Christian churches believe you can sin, but you do not have to pay the penalty for it. Just confess and be forgiven and the sin is erased. But forgiveness does not erase sin in itself; there are always consequences to be dealt with. Study the life of David, for instance. After David committed his sin with Bathsheba, he repented, and was forgiven. But was the sin erased as if it never happened? No. The prophet Nathan used a metaphor to draw out David’s response, which was that the guilty man should repay four-fold. He then told David that he would indeed pay four-fold and that the sword would dwell in his family from that time on, mentioning a whole series of terrible things that would happen. (See 2 Samuel 12:1–7.)
David lost four of his sons as a result of his crime. Every one of those losses hurt him more than if he had died himself. He was forgiven and he will be in the kingdom of heaven, but in this world, he had to pay consequences for his sin.
It seems that Protestants understand this principle even less than the Roman Catholics, who teach that there are temporal consequences for sin. Ellen White said that many people “… are so hardened that they do not think it possible that certain punishment will fall upon the evil doer.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893.
There is eternal punishment for sin if it is not forgiven, and even if those sins are forgiven, there are temporal consequences that occur in this world that will be paid. By the way, the temporal consequences of sin are not at a discount price. Everyone pays full price. Sometimes the price is damage to a person’s physical or mental health or other damages that occur in a person’s life.
Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13 talks about this problem. It says, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will He prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”
There are limits to the forbearance of God. Ellen White says, “God has drawn a line … .” The Signs of the Times, May 15, 1884. We don’t know exactly where that line is, but God has drawn a line. An exact record is being kept of individuals, families, institutions, and nations and when an individual passes the limit, that person experiences judgments. When a nation passes the limit, that nation experiences judgments. Ellen White said, “O that every living teacher would teach both in word and doctrine that there are limits to God’s longsuffering. Many have gone beyond the limits of His forbearance. The world should be aroused to a wholesome fear of the Lord God of hosts. The time and age in which we live is one of marked depravity. … Erelong God will arise and vindicate His honor.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893.
An example is found in Genesis 15:13–16 when God was making promises to Abraham. “Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete [or full].’ ”
So, the Lord said, I can’t give you the land yet because the Amorites are living in it now. Your descendants are going to dispossess them, but I can’t give it to them now because the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
In the fourth generation what happened? Exodus 12:40, 41: “Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”
When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they dispossessed the Amorites. The Amorites had had a long period of probation, but the time came when their transgression was so large that the Lord said, They must be dispossessed, as the city of Jericho. Not only the boundary of their probation was past, but they were doing the things that are listed in Leviticus 18. Because they were doing all these things, the Lord said, Enough! The types of things listed in Leviticus 18 are being done today and God hasn’t changed. “The time will come when all the transgressors of His law will know that God will by no means clear the guilty.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893. The Lord told Moses in Exodus 34:6 and 7, “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful, and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.’ ”
God is merciful. In God’s government there is a mingling of mercy and justice. The devil challenged that principle. When Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, that charge was completely answered. Jesus’ death on the cross paid a just penalty for the sins of the world. It is by means of the cross that mercy is extended to the whole world. It was demonstrated at that time, in an irrefutable way, so irrefutable that at the end, the devil himself is going to bow and say, Yes, my sentence is just.
Another example of God’s forbearance is His dealing with the Jews. When Jesus came as the Saviour of the world, He said in John 6:37, “The one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out.” He has promised not to cast me out, but to save me, and to cleanse me. Jesus was speaking to the Jewish people when He said that. He died on the cross to save even the worst of sinners.
Great light was given to the Jewish nation, but they rejected the light and the truth. They rejected the counsel of God against themselves. They set themselves stubbornly against the messages and warnings that God sent. The time came when they had exhausted the patience of God by their repeated rejection of truth and the messengers that God sent. When people are going in the wrong way, God sends them a message of reproof through a minister, a prophet, or a secular statesman. When the people of Nineveh listened and turned around at the reproof of Jonah, the Lord did not destroy them. But had they not listened, the outcome would have been different.
Now, the same God, with the same accuracy, keeps a record of what is happening in the world today. The Lord is still offering to nations, churches and to individuals the wedding garment that is woven in the loom of heaven so that they will be prepared for the coming of Christ and be fit to go into the wedding supper of the Lamb. Every effort is being made that none would be lost, for God does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men (Lamentations 3:33). The Lord says, “What could have been done more to My vineyard that I have not done in it” (Isaiah 5:4, literal translation)?
Today, there is a land that has had unrivaled mercies and blessings from God, a land that has been the greatest land of liberty that has ever existed. It has been the glory of the whole earth and blessed of heaven more than any other country on the face of the globe. But, instead of returning gratitude to God and honoring Him and His law for His multitude of blessings, professed Christians of America have become leavened with pride, covetousness, and self-sufficiency. Ellen White described the situation as follows: “The love of money, which is the root of all evil, has had a large place in their hearts. Many whose names are upon the church records have oppressed the poor, and grasped every possible advantage over those who were under them. They have lived to gratify appetite, to make extravagant display; and pride is fast making a Sodom of our world. But God is keeping His reckoning. The treatment of the poor, the robbery of the widow and the fatherless by those who are lifted up against the weak and helpless, is all written in the book of heaven. The cries of those who are oppressed have reached the ears of Him who judgeth righteously.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893.
And the result of this: “The time has come when judgment is fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey. But the Lord’s arm is not shortened that it cannot save, and His ear is not heavy that it cannot hear. The people of the United States have been a favored people; but when they restrict religious liberty, surrender Protestantism, and give countenance to popery, the measure of their guilt will be full, and ‘national apostasy’ will be registered in the books of heaven. The result of this apostasy will be national ruin.” Ibid.
National apostasy is followed by national ruin. It will also be a time of persecution of God’s children. The prayer that we are instructed in inspired writings to pray when that happens is Psalm 119:126: “It is time for You to act, O Lord, for they have made void Your law” (literal translation).
To the people who keep the commandments of God when under the hand of oppression will come these words of comfort found in Revelation 3:10–12: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial [or temptation] which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”
From God’s people in the last days the truth of the law is going to go to the whole world. It is at the heart of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6–12. God’s people in the last days will preach the message of the judgment in Revelation 14:6 and 7.
You cannot preach the judgment unless you preach about the law. The law of God is the basis of the judgment (James 2:10–12). In the third angel’s message it is pointed out that God’s people in the last days will keep the commandments. In both the first and the third angel’s messages, you have a distinct presentation concerning the law of God. If you compare Revelation 14 with Revelation 17 you will find that the second angel’s message is a condemnation of those that are breaking the law.
People have been told by false teachers that the law has been nailed to the cross. Jesus said in Luke 16:17, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle [part of a letter] of the law to fail.”
Paul said in Romans 3:20 that it was by the law that we had a knowledge of what sin is. People think that the apostle Paul is the one that taught that the law was nailed to the cross. Notice what Romans 4:15 says: “… because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.” And people say, We are not under the law, but under grace. Paul said in Romans 3:19, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
In Romans 6:14 Paul says that we are “not under the law but under grace.” But you need also to read Romans 6:15 which says: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” Sin is the transgression of the law. “What then? Shall we … ‘transgress the law’ … because we are not under the law, but under grace? Absolutely not!”
Paul tells who it is that is not under the law in Galatians 5:18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Romans 8:14: “… as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” And notice in verse 13, he says, “… if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
Verse 4 says, “… that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Notice, Romans 8:4 is a key text. Romans 8:4 shows that if I am walking according to the Spirit, the righteous requirement of the law is going to be fulfilled in my life.
The person who is not under the law is a person who has come to the Lord, confessed and forsaken his sins. The Lord has taken away all of his guilt and given to that person the Holy Spirit which gives power to live in harmony with His law. Paul says that those who are led by the Holy Spirit are not under the law. Sinful deeds of the body will be put to death and the righteous requirement of the law will be fulfilled in your life. It is the rest of the world that is under the law.
The person who is not obedient to the law is not subject to the law and is not a Christian, but is a person who is unconverted. Romans 8:7 says, “… the carnal (unconverted) mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” They are the people that are not converted.
As Adventist Christians in these latter days, we have been given the responsibility to give the warning to the world that we are living in the day of atonement, in the midst of the judgment and that the basis for the judgment is the law of God. Our job is to take that message to the world. It is not a popular message. Neither was the message of Noah, but he was very thankful that he had given the message to the world when, while the rest of the world was drowning outside he was safe inside the ark.
May God help us all to be faithful witnesses in all the world by giving the message out to the world that we are living in the time of judgment, a time when there is going to be a penalty applied to those who persist in breaking God’s law.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.