Jesus was speaking to His disciples. They wanted to know when He would come again, and He told them that first there would be a time of great tribulation. It is most commonly referred to as the 1260 day period of tribulation. It is mentioned over and over again in the prophecies. See Revelation 11:3, Revelation 12:6, Revelation 13:5, and Daniel 7:25. Now this 1260 day/year prophecy happened during the new covenant—after the cross. For everything in the new covenant, there is a type in the old covenant, and there was a type for this. The old covenant type was during the time of Jezebel, Ahab and Elijah. We will study this time period.
The time period in the old covenant was 1260 days, just like in the new covenant. It is so important that it is mentioned twice in the New Testament. “I tell you truly many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah when the heavens were shut up three years and six months.” Luke 4:25. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.” James 5:17. This gives the exact time—1260 days. During this time, there was a great famine throughout all the land, because there was no rain. Rain is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. No matter how well things may be going, if the Holy Spirit withdraws because of sin, there is a spiritual famine.
Before we study the time of Elijah, and how it relates to our day; notice this description of God’s professed people—His church, during the 1260 year period of tribulation in the new covenant. “These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels.’ ” Revelation 2:18–27.
This is the period of great tribulation, the 1260 years during the dark ages. What was the problem? “Jezebel” was the head of the church. Now let us look back to Elijah’s time. Who was the king? Ahab was the king, but who was in control of Ahab? Was the Holy Spirit in control of Ahab? No, Jezebel was in control of Ahab. Consequently, the professed church (Jezebel) was in control of the state (Ahab.) Jezebel was the leader of their church organization and she had ultimate control over the state and it produced a period of great tribulation for God’s people. What happened to anybody if they would not go along with the program of the church organization? Well, they got destroyed.
During this three years and six months, a man named Obadiah was able to save a hundred prophets, by putting fifty each, in a couple of caves and giving them bread and water. But it was a time of great tribulation and many of God’s true people were killed. A proper understanding of this story answers many questions and accusations that people are using today against God’s messengers. We will go over some points used against rebuke of sin, and let the experience of Elijah give us the answer.
What Would Elijah Say?
1. Did God by divine arrangement, denominate the children of Israel as His special denominated people?
Answer: Yes, He did.
2. Were they called by a divinely appointed name and were they God’s chosen people?
Answer: Yes, they were.
3. Was their church organization organized by divine appointment and therefore, was it God’s chosen and organized church? History gives the answer.
Answer: Yes, it was. However, when the leadership decided to try to fight and destroy God’s people, and to go contrary to the historic truths of the organization, you cannot say anymore that the leadership had divinely constituted authority. They were no longer to be followed. In fact, if you followed the authority of the “church leadership” you were separated from God.
4. Would you say that the authority of the leaders was duly authorized or constituted church authority?
Answer: No. Elijah did not say that. In Elijah’s day, Jezebel was the ultimate leader. She had a big organization; over eight-hundred associates that were leading out with her. But, Jezebel exercised an usurped authority.
5. Is it not wrong to have a school or church not under the authority of the system that originally had been set up by God himself?
Answer: Elijah would say just the opposite. If the church structure asks you to do something contrary to the word of God, it is wrong for you to allow yourself to be under their authority. At Steps to Life we tried to work with church organization, but we came in to existence as a separate independent ministry because we were asked to do something that was contrary to our conscience. That is how it was for Elijah’s ministry, and those little home churches, out in the desert that were faithful, had to flee for their lives. The ones that had not gotten killed were, no doubt, called all kinds of names because they were not going along with the program.
An Organization or a People
6. If you had a home church somewhere in Israel, that was not recognized, could that be part of the church, or would it of necessity be an offshoot?
Answer: If you were following the principles that Moses had given to the children of Israel, you could not be an offshoot, you were part of the original historic movement that God had set up.
7. Would you have to be part of the organization to be part of the chosen people? Someone might say, “Elijah is not even part of the church organization and these other people in the caves aren’t either. They are offshoots.”
Answer: No! You would not have to be part of the organization to be part of the chosen people. In fact, those that were part of the organization would eventually have to repent or reform; otherwise, they would cease to be God’s chosen people. The home churches, in the caves, that were not recognized, were the real people of God. Those were the seven-thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal.
8. Elijah, you say things contrary to the organization, it is being critical and divisive or faultfinding—and that is wrong.
Answer: He would say, “If you say nothing there will never be a revival and a reformation.” Elijah said to Ahab, “I am not the one causing the trouble, you are the one causing the trouble because you are not obedient to the commandments of the Lord.” See I Kings 18:18. It is not the people that point out sin that are critical and divisive. It is the people that refuse to obey that are divisive.
9. You are a separationist because you have separated from the church organization.
Answer: Elijah would say, “You that stay with the organization are the separationists because you separated from obedience to the law of God.” The real separationists are people that are not obedient to the word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy. The people that stay with the message that God has given to His people, they are the true church.
Loyal to Whom?
10. Elijah, you are just not loyal to God’s people, to God’s movement, to His church. You have to be loyal, you can’t just split off like this and do God’s work all by yourself. God wants loyalty.
Answer: Elijah would say, “The people that have stayed loyal to the commandments of God, those are the people that are loyal, and I am loyal to the commandments of God. What are you doing?—worshipping idols, bowing down and breaking the second commandment—you are the one that is not loyal.” Loyalty is determined by whether we are obedient to the law of God or not, not whether we are obedient to an organization. Ahab said, “You are the problem.” Elijah said, “I am not the problem. You are the problem. Because you are breaking the commandments of God.” See 1 Kings 18:18. The people that are not loyal are ones that are disobedient to the commandments and the Spirit of Prophecy.
11. But Elijah, you have a church that is not recognized by the church organization and therefore you are making a new movement, a new church, a new organization.
Answer:“I am not making a new movement, I am faithful to the original movement that God established. You are the ones that made the new movement. I’m not, I’m faithful to the law of Moses. How did you get so mixed up? Everything you say that I am doing is what you are doing. I am just staying with the original movement. I am an historic Israelite, I am staying with the law of Moses. I am not going to worship Baal.”
12. Elijah you are pulling apart from God’s organization, that is not a good sign.
Answer: Elijah would say, “That is not true. The organization has pulled apart from the truth. That is what really happened. I am just staying with the original movement.”
13. Elijah, why are you turning from the church with reproach and disgust?
Answer: There is nothing the matter with being angry about sin. Sin caused Jesus to go to the cross. If you can sit by and watch people openly sin like they were doing during Elijah’s day, and it does not matter to you—there is a problem with you. What side of the great controversy are you on? Sin caused our Leader to go to the cross. To just watch is the same as saying, “Well, I guess Jesus will just have to go to the cross, it’s no concern to me.” That is what you are saying by your actions. Elijah could not do it. He came to the people that were in open sin with a stern rebuke.
14. Elijah, you are allowing Satan to deceive you because you are independent of the church organization. What would Elijah say about that?
Answer: “Well, it is just the opposite. The ones who are loyal to the church organization rather than to the Spirit of Prophecy, they are the ones who are deceived. The people that are deceived by Satan are the people that are loyal to a human organization in violation of the word of God. Numbers do not count. The offshoots can be the great majority. It is the law of God that tells you which side you are on.” The only ones in Elijah’s time that were not deceived by Satan were those that were independent of the church organization.
15. Elijah, you have separated from the organized body. What would Elijah say?
Answer: “I stayed with the original movement, but because almost the whole church was in apostasy, to be true and faithful and loyal to God, it was necessary for me to separate from the apostasy.” You see, in spiritual battles and wars, the reality of the situation can be completely opposite from the way it looks to the natural sight.
16. Elijah, you are charged with denouncing the failings of the church.
Answer: “Well, yes I have. I have denounced the apostasy, because if you don’t repent, you are going to lose your soul. You are going to lose eternal life. I have denounced the apostasy, because repentance and reformation of life is your only chance, so yes, I have done that.” That was not wrong for Elijah to denounce them. “Those whom God has chosen for an important work have ever been received with distrust and suspicion. Anciently, when Elijah was sent with a message from God to the people, they did not heed the warning. They thought him unnecessarily severe. They even thought that he must have lost his senses because he denounced them, the favored people of God, as sinners and their crimes as so aggravated that the judgments of God would awaken against them.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 261. Was he inspired with the Holy Spirit when he denounced apostasy? He was. That was the work of the Holy Spirit.
17. But, Elijah, you are dwelling on the failures and problems of God’s people. Preach love and unity, get people together, don’t dwell on the failures and the faults of God’s people.
Answer:“People want to get preached to about love and unity and they are walking straight to hellfire. That’s not love at all.” It is in the world today like it was in Elijah’s day. There are professed Seventh-day Adventists that have been told that you are just going to go on and sin until Jesus comes. Yes, it is true, people are going to go on and sin until Jesus comes and then they are going to get burned up. They do not want to hear that. Friend, unless we face our situation, we are lost.
18. Elijah, don’t worry so over the mistakes of the unconsecrated leaders, God will take care of His work.
Answer: “It is true, the Lord will take care of it all right, that is not the problem.” (Fortunately He had somebody around like Elijah that was willing to help Him.) “There is coming a day of judgment and God is going to come and people who are living in sin are going to get destroyed. The problem is, are they all going to lose their souls, or should I try to give them a warning message to give them a chance to turn around first, and be saved?” Elijah gave the message.
19. Oh, but Elijah, God is going to remedy the leader’s mistakes and guide His church into port. God is faithful that has promised.
Answer: Yes, it is true, God will surely remedy their mistakes, and if there is no repentance and reformation, He will destroy every single person and church organization that remains in sin. But He is trying to give people an opportunity to repent and reform so that the remedy does not involve their destruction. The ship that finally comes into port will be the ship that contains the true and faithful, and there will not be any sin on board.
20. Elijah, we have been told by Jezebel and the priests of Baal that you are dividing and fragmenting the church. And we just cannot cooperate with anybody that engages in anything so divisive and schismatic as this.
Answer: “We are in a spiritual war and it is time for you to stand up and be counted. Whose side are you on? Are you going to follow and obey the God of Israel and obey the Spirit of Prophecy? If not, you are the one that is dividing and fragmenting God’s people.” Jesus said, “He that confesses me before men, him will I confess before my Father and he that denies me before men, him will I deny before my Father.” Matthew 10:32,33. Are you so scared that everybody else might not stand with you that you are afraid to stand up and be counted? If everyone of God’s people would have stood up and been counted in Jezebel’s day, she could not have wreacked such havoc on God’s church.
21. Elijah, you are just an individual. You are alone and your individual judgment should submit to the authority of the church organization.
Answer: Elijah would have said, “My individual judgment submits to the authority of the word of God and you are in violation of the word of God. You are the one who needs to submit. I am already submitted to the word of God.” That is the Protestant position—that the authority of the church is underneath the authority of God’s word.
22. Elijah, don’t accuse and condemn and contend for your rights. Don’t try to have a home church. There is nothing worth contending for except the glory of God. Don’t do all that. What would Elijah say?
Answer: “There is a great spiritual war going on and I am on God’s side of the battle. What side of the battle are you on? Can you prove what side you are on?”
A Matter of Obedience
23. Elijah, you think that you are led directly by God, but He works through the leaders in the church.
Answer: Elijah would say, “Yes, it is true, when God says something, I obey. When God gives a commandment through His word, I obey. And that is how you can tell which side I’m on, and that is how you can tell which side you are on.” Someday the Lord is going to ask the disobedient a question. “Why did you disobey My law?” They will say, “Well, my church told me to.” How sick, how nauseating that is going to sound. Do not forget friends, Elijah is up there right now. God approved of what he did.
24. But Elijah, you must not be independent. God does not work that way. God works through church organization.
Answer: Who does God work through? “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” Acts 10:34, 35. God works with the person or people that fears Him enough to obey Him.
25. But you should not organize churches, or ordain ministers, or baptize people, without authorization of the church organization. You do not have a ministerial credentials card. Where does your authorization come from? Do you know what Elijah would have said?
Answer: “If God told you to do it in His word, the thing to do is to do it. If it is in the Bible, you are authorized.” It looked to Elijah that he was the only one left. It might look that way to you sometime. You may be accused of being unauthorized. Apparently, everybody else is on the opposing side. But, it does not matter if you are following the Word of the living God.
26. Elijah, there is no such thing as an individual like yourself, or these small groups in the caves, advocating something irrespective of the judgment of the church organization. God just doesn’t work that way.
Answer: But the trouble was that God was working that way. The issue in Elijah’s time was, were you going to be obedient to the word of God, or were you going to be obedient to the church organization. Every question you can ask about authorization, who can do what and who cannot do what, who is God working with, and all these questions, comes down to one basic question. Where is the authority coming from?
What is Destined to Triumph?
27. But Elijah, we are God’s chosen people. There will be no other church according to prophecy until the Messiah comes. And so we are destined to triumph. What would Elijah have said?
Answer: “Yes, you are God’s chosen people all right, but you can be divorced from being God’s chosen people.” The great majority of those people were divorced from the Lord hundreds of years before the Messiah came. “Yes,” Elijah would say, “there will be no other church according to prophecy, but the question is, who is the church?” The church were those little independent home churches in the caves, in the deserts, and in the mountains, that were fleeing for their lives. It is true, there was not going to be any other church. Who is the church? Who and what is destined to triumph? People love to say, just like they loved to say in Elijah’s day, “We are God’s chosen people and we are destined to triumph, we cannot be destroyed.” The truth is going to triumph. The three angels’ messages are going to triumph. The only question is, when it triumphs, am I going to be with it? If I am disobedient and disloyal to God by disobeying His word, I will not triumph with it. There will be people that will come right up to the end and call themselves Seventh-day Adventists that will be lost. You see, in Elijah’s time there were a lot of people that said “we are Israel,” but they still got destroyed. It is not your name that counts, it is whether you are obedient to the word of God and to His law. There are going to be a lot of people at the end of the world, they will have the right name, the right profession, maybe even the right theology; but their character is not in harmony with what they profess. How is it for you? Can you see through the mirage to spiritual reality and are you obedient to God’s word and His law? Oh, I hope that it may be that way for each one of you, because friends, very soon what happened in Elijah’s time is going to happen again. The worship of Baal is going on today. It is going to get destroyed at the end just like it did in Elijah’s day. We have to be with the people that obey God and keep His commandments, no matter what happens. If we do that, very soon when the truth triumphs, we will triumph with it.