The Road to Persecution, Part II

Editor’s Note: Last month we looked at the road which the Roman power traveled to persecution, which began when she added to what God had commanded and ended with her commanding what God had not, and persecuting those who would not agree with her.

We also studied what the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy say the sure results will be for anyone who calls good evil and evil good, even for Adventists. This month we will consider how we should respond to these solemn truths.

Tearing Down the Wall

In Ezekiel 13, the prophet deals with breaking down, or the making of a gap, in the wall of the law of God. The result is that a terrible flood of sin pours into the church. God is calling for people who will be restorers of the breach. In Isaiah 58, God’s people are pictured as Sabbath keepers who restore that breach in the law. But, Ezekiel 13 deals with the false prophets of Israel that follow their own spirit, and are compared to desert foxes, who, when driven from one hole, come up in another. These leaders do not fill in the gaps in the wall, verse five says they have not “made up the hedge, for the house of Israel to stand in the battle of the day of the Lord.” (In other words, those who follow this plan will be unprepared when the last crisis breaks.)

Notice, especially, God’s message on this in verse 19 and 22. “And will you pollute Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to My people that hear your lies?” What are these false prophets doing? They turn the criminal out and let him go free, but the good men they put to death. They are too charitable to allow any criminal to receive the death penalty, even if he has killed or tortured his victims, but they are willing to put in jail the very ones that uphold the law of God. How is that for crooked thinking? Does it sound like what is happening today? Are there those who are very determined that criminals should not receive the death penalty, who, prophecy foretells, will eventually make a death decree against those who keep the law of God? Read Revelation 13:15.

Ezekiel 13:22 says, “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life.” There we have it. Every influence that leads to toleration of evil in the church eventually leads inevitably down the road to persecution of the righteous.

False Love Leads to Hatred

Do you know who it was that crucified Jesus? Did the Roman governor, Pilate, sign Christ’s death warrant? No, it was the leaders of the professed people of God that committed this terrible atrocity against the Son of God. And remember, it was in the name of God that the martyrs were put to death in the dark ages, and it will be in the name of God that commandment keepers, in the last days, will be boycotted and put under a death decree.

How does this come about? It comes about through the road of false charity. “Ministers of the gospel sometimes do great harm by allowing their forbearance toward the erring to degenerate into toleration of sins and even participation in them. Thus they are led to excuse and palliate that which God condemns, and after a time they become so blinded as to commend the very ones whom God commands them to reprove. He who has blunted his spiritual perceptions by sinful leniency toward those whom God condemns, will erelong commit a greater sin by severity and harshness toward those whom God approves.” Acts of the Apostles, 504. [All emphasis supplied.]

We must face the issue squarely. Do you think this warning is needed only in Roman Catholicism? Do you think it is needed only in the large Protestant churches? Or might it be possible that Adventists could be in danger on this question? Is there a liberalizing element among us that desires to make us more acceptable to other churches and to the world? Is there a false charity that manifests itself by calling reproof and rebuke of sin criticism and faultfinding, thereby clothing the servants of God, who are commanded to do this work, in filthy garments? (See Testimonies, vol. 1, 321.) Are there some who allow socially acceptable sins to come into the church unrebuked and undisciplined so that the church becomes polluted and even drunk with the wine of Babylon? (One of the central features of the wine of Babylon is allowing sin into the church and the doctrine that you can be saved while you are still sinning.)

Has not a false charity, a liberalizing element, which has attempted to make the church more acceptable to the professed Christian world, come into Adventism? Was not this the very reason that was given for the development of the evangelical conferences and the publishing of the book Questions on Doctrine? A positive answer to the previous question cannot be denied because this writer has heard the answer given in public from the lips of Elder R. A. Anderson himself, and the answer is yes.

Have there not been many instances when, instead of dealing with crimes or unethical behavior, in ministers or other workers in the denomination, we have simply moved the offenders to another conference or institution and allowed the evil to appear there? What has happened to the New Testament teaching that before sin is forgiven and the person restored to work or office in the church the sin must be confessed to the parties wronged, forsaken and restitution made, as far as possible? Have we come to a time when the standards among God’s professed people are not even as high as in some worldly organizations?

Whether it be in Rome, fifteen hundred years ago, or in the professed Protestants of our time, or even among professed Adventists, every influence of false charity, every effort that works to widen the door so that the sins of the world can come into the professed church, leads us down the road to persecution. This road leads its travelers to becoming a part of a persecuting movement.

Who Will Someday Oppose the Loud Cry?

In the Review and Herald Extra, December 23, 1890, the servant of the Lord spoke of the loud cry when the power of the last movement will bring a great multitude into the church, while, at the same time, many will be losing their way. (Editorial comments on the following statement by Ellen White are in brackets.) “There is to be in the churches a wonderful manifestation of the power of God, but it will not move upon those who have not humbled themselves before the Lord, and opened the door of the heart by confession and repentance. [If I have done something wrong I must repent and confess my wrong to those I have injured. And if I have injured the whole church then I must confess to the whole church. If I do not, even if I am retained in the work in a different area, I will not receive the latter rain or have a part in the Loud Cry. There is no statute of limitations in God’s law. Whenever it comes to my knowledge that I have committed a wrong, no matter how long ago, I am to repent and confess that wrong to the appropriate individuals and make restitution, as far as possible, if I am really serious about salvation.]

“In the manifestation of that power which lightens the earth with the glory of God, they will see only something which, in their blindness, they think dangerous, something which will arouse their fears, and they will brace themselves to resist it. Because the Lord does not work according to their ideas and expectations, they will oppose the work. ‘Why,’ they say, ‘should not we know the Spirit of God, when we have been in the work so many years?’—Because they did not respond to the warnings, the entreaties of the messages of God, but persistently said, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.’ [Why did they not respond to the warnings and entreaties of the messages of God? Because they called these warnings criticism and faultfinding and instead of yielding to the divine influence they called it the influence of the adversary. They referred to those bringing the message as fanatics, offshoots, extremists and legalists, and in so doing, braced themselves against the message of God until there was no further way to reach their heart and spirit.]

“Talent, long experience, will not make men channels of light, unless they place themselves under the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and are called, and chosen, and prepared by the endowment of the Holy Spirit. When men who handle sacred things [Notice that the people who reject the loud cry in this paragraph are described as ministers of talent and long experience.] will humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, the Lord will lift them up. He will make them men of discernment—men rich in the grace of His Spirit. Their strong, selfish traits of character, their stubbornness, will be seen in the light shining from the Light of the world. ‘I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.’ ”

Do you see the danger you and I are in? We may have been in this church for many years. We may have preached this message. We may have brought many into the truth. But if we allow the false charity of the Beast and his Image to get into our hearts, eventually we shall follow the Beast and his Image in resisting and opposing the very message of God which demands a cleaning up of the church, and a restoring of His straight testimony and the high standard. Which side will we be on in this closing conflict? Will we be with those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus or will we be with the Beast and his Image?

War Rather Than Compromise

Hebrews 1:9, speaking of Jesus, says, “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.” There is no such thing as really loving righteousness, without hating lawlessness. One can not be a child of God and a friend of the Devil. There is no such thing as working with God to cleanse the church from every lawless deed and at the same time sympathizing with elements that weaken the influence of the church in dealing with evil, until sin is tolerated in the church without protest. Those who do this will eventually embrace that which they once hated, because they chose to tolerate it in the interest of love (false charity) and unity.

It is better to stand alone and have war than to purchase peace by compromising and tolerating lawlessness. This is the exact decision that the Waldenses had to make. “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.

“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.” The Great Controversy, 45, 46.

We must be on the side of exalting the law of God as the standard and not allowing open sin to remain in the church unrebuked and undisciplined. If the church that you are attending will not tolerate the rebuke of sin, and the majority is determined to allow sin in the church, your marching orders are contained in the above statement. (Notice that this statement is written especially for Seventh-day Adventists.)

Wisdom From Leaders of the Past

Elder Wilcox, former Review editor, writing in the Review and Herald, June 26, 1947, gives Adventists the following warning: “Some today…fail to point out in their personal labor besetting sins which if not overcome, will shut men and women out of the kingdom of God. There is a failure to bear a strong and decided testimony against the attendance of the movies and theaters, skating rinks, and ice carnivals, against the desecration of the Sabbath, against robbery of God in tithes and offerings, against worldly and immodest dress, against the violation of health principles, against the growing divorce evil of severing the marriage relation for trivial causes, when the Bible permits it for but one reason; against the marriage of young men and women with unbelievers, a union that is strongly condemned in Scripture, against the seductive influence of fictional magazines and books, and equal sinful practice of listening to much that comes over the radio.”

He then asks, “Will not men and women who are fully converted forsake these sinful practices. They should indeed. But many do not recognize the true character of these evils and therefore need instruction regarding them.”

Here Elder Wilcox is dealing with the idea, which some well meaning people advance in the church, that all you need to do is preach Christ and pay no attention to the details of life. And he is hitting that right where it ought to be hit, laying the axe at the root of the tree. “Our church members should be earnestly and kindly warned of these influences, destructive to vital and living Christian experience. For lack of restraint, testimony which should be borne by some of our church leaders, these evils are increasing in our midst. Will not God hold us as His representatives responsible for failure in these matters? He surely will.”

Also applicable to our study is the address which Elder J. L. McElhany, former President of the General Conference, gave to Adventist educational leaders. He stated: “Would the pioneers know this movement if they should awaken. To me this is a very important question. Oh, some may say, ‘they were a lot of old fogies, they were out of date, they were entirely behind the times. Today’s standards have changed.’ This is a favorite expression with some, but I do not believe it. Too many of our young people today are being led into worldly conformity by some leaders who are themselves adhering to forms of worldly amusements. My friends I wish our young people could be kept away from all the beach parties, and nudity parades, and moving picture shows, and other questionable places where they ought not to go, but where they are sometimes led by their leaders.” Review and Herald, October 14, 1937.

What was the General Conference president talking about? Was he talking about what he saw going on, or merely a ghost that he was shooting at? Most of us can easily answer from our own experience. The godly are heart-burdened and greatly grieved as they see church standards lowered and the world coming in like a flood through a hole in the dyke. What side are you standing on? Are you protesting lawlessness? Are you openly in opposition (a true protestant) to “All acts of injustice that tend to shorten life; the spirit of hatred and revenge, or the indulgence of any passion that leads to injurious acts toward others, or causes us even to wish them harm (for ‘whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer’); a selfish neglect of caring for the needy or suffering; all self-indulgence or unnecessary deprivation or excessive labor that tends to injure health?” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 308.) Are you openly opposed not only to sensual thoughts and desires, but to any practice that tends to excite them? (Ibid.) Are you openly opposed to “every attempt to advantage yourself by the ignorance, weakness, or misfortune of another?” Ibid., 309. Do you abhor all intent to deceive, such as intentional overstatements, every hint or insinuation calculated to convey an erroneous or exaggerated impression and even the statement of facts in such a manner as to mislead? Will you tolerate without protest efforts to injure your neighbor’s reputation by misrepresentation or evil surmising, by slander or tale bearing or by the suppression of truth? (Ibid.) Has selfishness become abhorrent to you? Are you against it in any guise? Or are you willing to tolerate it and eventually call it good and finally disfellowship and persecute those who refuse to go along with it?

Do you see that we are on the road to persecution and we are so far down the road that persecution against the faithful started, in Adventism, years ago. We are all on the road to persecution. The only difference is that some of us are going to be among those persecuted for standing faithful and true to the principles of righteousness and truth vouchsafed to us by God Himself through the writings of the prophets and apostles. The others, by first seeking to supplement the authority of God with that of the church, and by enjoining what God has not forbidden, are now forbidding what He has explicitly enjoined and are at the place right now where they are ready to persecute their former brethren. The solemn truth is that there are only two groups. One is getting ready to be the persecuted and the rest are getting ready to be the persecutors. There is no third group. We must ask ourselves, which of these two groups are we in?

No Longer Brethren

When persecution takes place, the people who are persecuting you are not your brethren anymore. You may be attending the same church for a little while longer. You may have the same name and claim to believe the same doctrines. You may have attended the same schools. You may even have worked together in evangelism in the past, but you are no longer brethren for two reasons.

It is the followers, the disciples of Christ who are called brethren in Scripture (Matthew 23:8) and Christ never fights Himself. Christ in one person will never, even once, fight Christ in another person. When persecution takes place, a spiritual war is occurring and at least one side has to be motivated either by the natural carnal heart, which is by nature destined to wrath, or by the devil or his angels. When people were taken to the basement of the church and put on the rack, their tormentors were not their brethren. Since they were not the brethren, it should be more than obvious that they were not serving the same Lord and therefore they were not really members of the same church, no matter what the profession was.

Concerning the “elect church” (Desire of Ages, 680), Jesus said that He was their divine Lord and Master. (John 13:14–17.) Therefore, the two groups are not part of the same church, are not really brethren (although they may be so in name) and are not both going to be saved. “There [outside the Holy City at the end of the millenium] are papist priests and prelates, who claimed to be Christ’s ambassadors, yet employed the rack, the dungeon, and the stake to control the consciences of His people.… Christ identifies His interest with that of His suffering people; and they feel the force of His own words: ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.’ Matthew 25:40.” The Great Controversy, 668.

It is impossible to be a disciple, one of the brothers of Christ (Hebrews 2:11) and a disciple of Satan at the same time. “With what amazement do angels hear men judging and condemning their brethren, causing them most cruel suffering of body and mind, and claiming that they do it under the sanction of God? Instead of being under the leadership of Christ, they are following the leadership of Satan. Paul at one time pursued this course, actually believing that he was doing God service; but Jesus spoke to him, and told him that in persecuting His saints he was persecuting Him. All persecution, all force employed to compel conscience, is after Satan’s own order; and those who carry out these designs are his agents to execute his hellish purpose. In following Satan’s cruel proposals, in becoming his agents, men become the enemies of God and His church.” Review and Herald, January 10, 1893. (It is time to discard shibboleths and think clearly. If you do not know who your brethren are or are not, your chances of falling in time of test are greatly increased. This has proven true in the past and will prove true in the future.)

From the Review and Herald of May 8, 1958, Elder Dickson declares: “We see dangerous trends resulting from a diminished spiritual emphasis in much of our service in all levels of the movement. The spiritual possessions that distinguished the Apostolic life of the early church and the pioneers of our faith have leaped from us to a very alarming degree. . . .There seems to be a fear of standing alone if necessary, in speaking forth against evils that are apparent. This fear of man and his power to demote and retaliate must be dismissed from among us. The domination of man must give way to the domination of God’s Holy Spirit.”

Are you standing true to the testimonies of the Holy Spirit, fearing not the face of man? Will you be one of those who stands for truth and righteousness even if the heavens seem to fall? Will you be true even if you are disfellowshipped, your reputation destroyed and you are finally persecuted, perhaps imprisoned or put to death by God’s professed people?

Rome began by adding much that God had never commanded, and she ended by forbidding obedience to God’s commandments. Rome began by introducing worldly trends under the plea of making it easier for the heathen to accept Christianity, and she ended by persecuting the very people, within the church, that stood up against that worldliness. Rome began with false charity by closing her eyes to sin in a plea for broad mindedness and brotherly love toward even the lawbreakers, and she ended up where? Showing brotherly love? No, certainly not!

Think of the crusades against the Waldensees and the Albigenses. Think of those thousands of armed troops who entered their villages with swords and spears and cut down men, women and children, until streams ran red with blood. Think of those who in inhuman cruelty hurled mothers and infants together over the cliffs to be dashed on the rocks below. How did that cruel persecution begin? With so called love and charity that would let sin linger on in the church.

Sin is a terrible thing. It is like the serpent, which when chilled may not seem to be very dangerous. But take that poisonous snake into your bosom, warm it with your loving interest, and it will turn and bite you. And so it is when sin is allowed into the church. Little do we realize what we are asking for when we allow the standards of God to be dragged down by the worldly element. Little do we realize what is ahead. Oh, that God may stir our hearts.

I urge you to a renewed study of the book The Great Controversy. May I urge a renewed study of how Rome began, and how these principles are working in the great religious movements of our day. And, may I urge that in our own Christian experience, we will pray that God will so completely purge us from this false charity that we will hate sin as God hates it, and love righteousness as God loves it.

A very important point we must remember when we study this subject is that we must never confuse the sinner with the sin. Jesus, while He hated sin, was always ready to forgive, and welcome the repentant sinner. The Prodigal son was welcomed home, but I want to tell you something, he did not bring his whisky and his harlots home with him. And the church of Christ is loving enough, and charitable enough to forgive the worst sinner, if he will come to Jesus and experience repentance, make confession to the wronged parties, forsake sin and make restitution as far as possible. In other words, He must receive cleansing from his sins by the blood of Christ and have his heart purified by the Holy Spirit so that the guilt and enslaving power of his sinful life is in the past. The gate of heaven is narrow, too narrow to admit one cherished sin remaining in the heart. (See Our High Calling, 38.)

Let us pray for ourselves that we will be purged from sin. Let us pray that God will bless in holding back the flood of persecution that is about to sweep over this world. Let us pray that God will bless the Second Advent movement—God’s remnant in these latter days—the apple of His eye. Let us pray that God will sustain those who are enduring the present shaking time, who are giving the trumpet a certain sound, reproving and rebuking lawlessness even though it is costing them their jobs and they are threatened with hostile legal actions, fines and imprisonment from so-called “brethren” in “the church.” Let us pray that God’s true watchmen will continue to seek to uplift the standard to the level of the divine blueprint. And let us pray that He will bless us all with that love for righteousness and that hatred for lawlessness which will identify us, in the judgment, as belonging to Christ, not just in name, but in a character of righteousness and holiness.