The Road to Persecution, Part I

When I was growing up, my parents used to receive sermon tapes from Elder W.D. Frazee in Wildwood, Georgia. My parents had worked with Elder Frazee in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in evangelistic work before I was born so they were well-acquainted with him and he had visited in our home when my Father was working for Madison Sanitarium and hospital in Madison, Tennessee.

One of the tapes that we listened to from Elder Frazee was entitled “The Road to Persecution.” Back in those days, many things that were written in the Spirit of Prophecy, we understood as only applying to the churches in “Babylon.” But as you will see, decades ago, even most of a century ago, there were leaders in Adventism who foresaw the situation today in Adventism and tried to warn the church of the very things that we are now experiencing. The experience of true and faithful Adventists, who are censured or disfellowshipped by the majority in Seventh-day Adventist churches, was foreseen by godly leaders decades ago as you will see in this article.

The subject which Elder Frazee developed in that sermon is applicable today and is screaming in siren tones to warn us of what we are about to experience in the very near future from Seventh-day Adventists. The major points from that sermon are included in this article.

In those days, we did not perceive (perhaps in the mercy of God) that many of the prophecies about faithful Adventists being persecuted would be fulfilled not only in Babylon, but also in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. But as these prophecies have been in the process of fulfillment, and we read the inspired statements again, we have found over and over that the prophecies were not all directed at Babylon. Some have been given specifically to God’s professed remnant in these last days; for example:

“He [Dr. Kellogg] is working under the advice of the one who talked with Eve. Through this subtle reasoning the future of the cause is imperiled. I shall now have to be far more explicit than I have been in the past. I shall be compelled to make statements that I have not wanted to make, but I must be more explicit in order save the flock of God from deceptive influences.

“Every movement made now is to be carefully guarded, for the forces of Satan have minds under their control, and will strive through them to unsettle faith in the experience of the past, which bears the signature of Heaven. The delusive influences working upon human minds are of a character to unsettle the faith of the people of God in the experience of the past, which has borne the signature of Heaven.

“In His Word the Lord declared what He would do for Israel if they would obey His voice. But the leaders of the people yielded to the temptations of Satan, and God could not give them the blessings He designed them to have, because they did not obey His voice but listened to the voice and policy of Lucifer. This experience will be repeated in the last years of the history of the people of God, who have been established by His grace and power. Men whom He has greatly honored will in the closing scenes of this earth’s history pattern after ancient Israel.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, 378, 379.

“We want to understand the time in which we live. We do not half understand it. We do not half take it in. My heart trembles in me when I think of what a foe we have to meet, and how poorly we are prepared to meet him. 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.

Compare with this statement the following: “The people whom God had called to be the pillar and ground of the truth had become representatives of Satan.” Desire of Ages, 36.

“Satan’s skill is exercised in devising plans and methods without number to accomplish his purposes. He works to restrict religious liberty and to bring into the religious world a species of slavery. Organizations, institutions, unless kept by the power of God, will work under Satan’s dictation to bring men under the control of men; and fraud and guile will bear the semblance of zeal for truth and for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Whatever in our practice is not as open as the day belongs to the methods of the prince of evil.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 180, 181.

“The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity, she will have to do in a terrible crisis, under most discouraging, forbidding, circumstances. The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld, must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith. And at that time the superficial, conservative class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith, and take their stand with its avowed enemies, toward whom their sympathies have long been tending. These apostates will then manifest the most bitter enmity, doing all in their power to oppress and malign their former brethren, and to excite indignation against them. This day is just before us. The members of the church will individually be tested and proved. They will be placed in circumstances where they will be forced to bear witness for the truth. Many will be called to speak before councils and in courts of justice, perhaps separately and alone.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 463.

We know that persecution is coming because Revelation 13:15–17 says, “He had power to give life unto the Image of the Beast, that the Image of the Beast should both speak and cause that as many as would not worship him, should be killed. And he causeth all both small, and great, rich, and poor, both free, and bond to receive a mark in their right hand or in their foreheads. And that no man might buy or sell save he that had the mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name.”

A great persecution is coming. There will be a boycott against those who will not receive the mark of the Beast or worship the beast or his image. They will not be able to buy or sell and eventually a death decree will be issued against all those who honor all the commandments of God.

Jesus predicted that this persecution would come from organized religion—from those who call themselves God’s people: “These things have I spoken to you that you shall not be offended. They shall put you out of the Synagogues, yes the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he does God service.” This persecution is not going to be carried on simply by pagans or infidels. The men who lead out in this persecution will think that they are doing service for God. How do men come to a point where they can persecute the people of God and think that they are doing Him a service? Is there any possible danger that you and I, or that Seventh-day Adventists or those who claim to be the remnant of God could do such a thing. There most definitely is. But it does not happen in a moment, rather it generally takes a generation or longer. There is a road that leads men to the place where they will finally persecute their former brethren in the name of God. This is the road to persecution.

Revelation 13 speaks about the image to the Beast. We know that the Beast, in Revelation 13, which God warns us is a union of church and state, is the Papacy or Roman Catholicism. She became the greatest persecuting power of all times. And that is why she is pictured there in Revelation as drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

But now the issue that is ahead of us here in the United States, according to Revelation 13, is the issue of making an Image to the Beast or an Image of the Beast—both expressions are used. Now, what is an image anyway? An image, by definition, is a likeness of something else. So, there is to be formed, or should I say there is already being formed before our eyes, a likeness of that Roman power, which was drunken with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And, as the Beast was formed, so the Image is being formed. The likeness is striking. That is one of the great reasons why God, in His providence, gave us this wonderful book The Great Controversy.

Rome was Christian in its beginning. There was a church at Rome. Peter was there and Paul was there. Those are facts of church history. However, that very city eventually became the headquarters of that vast persecuting system which filled the earth with blood, in the name of Christ.

How did Rome begin its work and how will that Image be formed today? The Great Controversy, 289, 290 reads, ” The very beginning of the great apostasy was in seeking to supplement the authority of God by that of the church. Rome began by enjoining what God had not forbidden, and she ended by forbidding what He had explicitly enjoined.” Now this is one of those wonderful statements in the Spirit of Prophecy which shine out like a great beacon. Let us ponder these things.

The great apostasy began when men started to supplement the authority of God with that of the church. When Jesus left this world, He gave His church a commission and told them what they were to teach. Matthew 28:18–20 says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Was that enough? Rome did not think so.

Rome did not begin by taking away from what God had said. Rome began by adding to what God has said was necessary. For example, it took centuries to accomplish the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. First the Christian world remembered the death and resurrection of Christ every year at passover time—we can well understand how those who witnessed this most awesome event of all the ages would especially remember it every passover season, for Jesus died during that time.

The Christians wanted to avoid being associated with the Jews, who the apostles stated were contrary to all men. Thousands and thousands of their heathen neighbors paid particular attention to the first day of the week which bore the name of the sun god. And they noted that Jesus Christ had arisen from the dead on the first day of the week. That was, no doubt, in their mind a happy coincidence. And, it appeared to be good public relations, to take advantage of the honor that was given to the Sun god, on the first day of the week, and connect with it the historical fact that Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, had risen on the first day of the week, And so, over decades and decades, there gradually came to be a certain honor attached to that first day of the week, and the Christians in some places began to meet on that day every year to celebrate the resurrection.

In fact, by the middle of the second century, the Bishop of Rome decreed that the resurrection should be celebrated not on passover day, but on the Sunday nearest to passover day. And, if Passover day fell on a Sunday, then it was to be celebrated not on that Sunday but on the next Sunday, thus being as much unlike the Jews and as much like the Sun worshippers as possible.

The time soon came when it was decided not to celebrate the resurrection just one Sunday a year but every week. Since there is no commandment for any of this in the Bible, this is “enjoining what God had not forbidden.” But, for hundreds of years, even in churches that met on Sunday, the Sabbath was also kept. But gradually the honor given to Sunday was increased and the honor given to the Sabbath was decreased. Finally, the Roman Catholic church, in the council of Laodicea (over three hundred years after Jesus went back to heaven) dared to come out in the open and officially abolish the observance of the Sabbath and substitute Sunday. Three hundred years. That is a long time, but that is how long it took from when Rome began to enjoin what God had not forbidden, until she ended by forbidding what He had explicitly enjoined. And from then there were still more steps to the point where she began to persecute dissenters who were determined to be true to their conscience. A few martyrdoms occurred before the end of the fourth century, but later tens of thousands were put to death because they chose to obey what Christ had said instead of what the church said. That was the issue.

The setting of these sentences we have been studying from The Great Controversy, 289, 290 is very interesting. They appear in the middle of that book, in the chapter called The Pilgrim Fathers. In the paragraphs around this sentence, Sister White discussed the days of the reformation and the distinction of two types of reformers, those who were willing to come only part way out of Rome and those who felt that they ought to come all the way out of Rome. I encourage you to read the entire chapter.

Now, I want to study with you a little more on the point of adding to or supplementing Divine Authority. Remember, “Rome began by enjoining what God had not forbidden, and she ended by forbidding what He had explicitly enjoined.” In doing this, Rome set herself against the word of God. God foresaw the results of all such things and He told us in advance not to put our feet on this forbidden ground. In Deuteronomy 4:2 we read, “Ye shall not add unto the word that I command you neither shall ye diminish ought from it. That ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I commanded you.” You must not do what? You must not add. What else must you not do? You must not diminish. If you do the first you are bound to do the second.

No one ever added anything to what God said, who did not eventually turn around and cut off something else that God had commanded. Do you know why that is? It is because there is only so much room. There is just four quarts in a gallon, just sixteen ounces in a pound, just twelve inches in a foot, and because there is only so much room there is only room for so much. Whenever you add something that God has not commanded, you crowd out something that He did command. That is the way Rome sank into apostasy.

That is the issue today. Did you know that Jesus did not go to the schools of His time for that reason? In Education, 77 we are told, “The schools of His time with their magnifying of things small and their belittling of things great, He did not seek.” What was the problem? They magnified the little things and, as a result, they had only time to belittle the big things.

Oh, that we might understand the implications of this. Thousands, not only in Babylon but thousands in Adventism, are traveling the road which Rome has traveled before us, and we are so far down the road that persecution already began several years ago. But it is going to get worse, much worse. We will learn even better, before it is over, that we have much more to fear from within than from without and that our worst enemies will come from the same direction that Jesus’ worst enemies came from—God’s professed people. We do well to ponder what road we are traveling before we come to the end of it.

There is a gradual change, which starts with the apparently innocent, and ends up with the image of Satan. It starts by calling evil good. In Isaiah 5: 20-23 we read: “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink. Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!”

Those against whom the wrath of God is announced are those that call evil good and good evil. The two things inevitably are joined together and they come—watch the preciseness of the Scripturein this order. How did the verse start out? “They call evil good” and then they call “good evil.” I wonder why they would do that. Notice in the 23rd verse it says, “they justify the wicked for reward and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him.” Again it is the same sequence. Here is a bad man but they say he is a good man. And inevitably, when they start in to do that, they are forced to call the good man bad.

That is exactly what happened in Rome. Rome first opened her doors and let in a whole multitude of image worshipping idolaters. But as the inevitable result, they came to the point that they were able to kill the true saints of God. And so it is happening today. “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil.”

Every man who gets so broad minded–watch this point–so tolerant, so kind, and so charitable that he can put his arms around iniquity and fellowship with sinners who defy the law of God, is preparing himself, whether he knows it or not, to come to the place where he can persecute the men that God calls righteous in this world.

This is what is happening in the United States as she prepares to set up an image to the Beast. “As the Protestant churches have been seeking the favor of the world, false charity has blinded their eyes. They do not see but that it is right to believe good of all evil, and as the inevitable result they will finally believe evil of all good.” The Great Controversy, 571. Oh, friends, what a warning against false charity.

What is false charity? Charity, in the sense that it is being used here, means to be tolerant of sin or to tolerate wrongdoing. It is said today that we should not blame the sinner because Jesus said, “he that is without sin among you let him cast the first stone.” Reproof and rebuke of sin is termed criticism and faultfinding. Toleration of sin is excused by saying that we must allow the wheat and the tares to grow together until the harvest. As a result of this type of thinking, there are people in the church, even in leading positions, who have been divorced and remarried without Biblical grounds and who attend social gatherings, fairs, and parades etc. on the Sabbath and buy food on the Sabbath. (Some call it witnessing.) We have people, even leaders in the church, who have deceived church members about business matters or the relations of the church to other churches and the ecumenical movement. A person may break the Sabbath, lie, kill, steal, commit adultery, go with the world and be worldly, but God is merciful, and “we ought to be all things to all men and be kind and be charitable and not be hard on people.” All that sort of talk, with the many variations and adaptation we hear today, is false charity.

The Protestant churches of our time, with their false charity, have opened up the doors and let all kinds of sinners into the church. The drunkard, the profligate, the lawbreaker, the grafter, the politician who gets caught in some great scandal, may be members of the church. Right? Today this type of person may not only be a member of the church, he may be the leader or the president of the church, but everyone thinks that it would be highly uncharitable if he received just discipline for his behavior. He must simply be transferred to some outlying district until people have forgotten the past scandal and then he may even be promoted and the same sins repeated again. Any careful observer has seen this happen in Adventism.

We are living in a time when the scandal of leading clergymen of different churches is frequent news. Today, as I am editing this article, national news is reporting about the leader of a Protestant church who might receive up to five or more years in prison for, what the church leaders say, is the result of some failed business ventures. The reports do not say he has been disfellowshiped however, or even had his credentials taken away for these crimes. It is thought that that would be absolutely uncharitable. The way to get your ministerial credentials taken away or to be disfellowshiped from a church today is to stand up and protest the iniquity and preach and teach the straight testimony and attempt to fulfill the gospel commission. That is happening all over the world today.

False charity blinds the eyes of all churches that allow it and the inevitable result of accepting, as good, that which is evil, is to soon begin believing evil of all good. They will take the very people who stand for truth, who stand for law keeping, who stand for God’s standards, and will make them the mark of the most bitter persecution that this world has seen.

There is no middle ground in this issue. Every soul in this world is either going down the road of false charity and will end up persecuting, or he is going to stand with God against iniquity and end up being among the persecuted. Out of the two there is no middle ground.