Unity In Diversity, Part I

A statement written by Ellen White and published in the March 9, 1905, Review and Herald defines the attitude we should have right now: “Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand.” It will take all the power that God has given us! It is important to remember that apart from the power He will supply, He will make up for our deficiencies, but we must strive; we have to put forth that effort.

Revelation 7:1–4 clearly identifies the period of time in which we are living: “And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: [and there were] sealed an hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.”

Upside Down

The winds of strife indeed are being held, being held until God’s people have received His seal. As we see all the problems in the world right now, does it not cause us to wonder what is going to happen once the four winds are let loose? Mrs. White stated: “Every city is to be turned upside down every way. There will be confusion in every city. Everything that can be shaken is to be shaken.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 248. That is almost unfathomable to us—thinking of every city being “turned upside down in every way.”

The city of Seattle, Washington, seemed to be turned upside down when it received six inches of snow—an unusual amount of snow for that area. The worst thing was that it came at 4:00 p.m., right at the beginning of rush hour when everyone was trying to get home from work. On the freeways, if there is just one accident it backs up traffic for miles, and when there are so many accidents you cannot even number them, that is a huge problem. Many people were still trying to get home from work the next morning, because of all the backed up traffic.

I was going to a Bible study when it started to snow. Having grown up in Iowa, I am familiar with snow, and it does not scare me a whole lot. The road was kind of slick, but I just kept driving—and noticing the cars going this way and that way and every which way along the road. Then I reached the major road where all the traffic was, and I thought, I am not getting on that road! I tried to find a different route, but that did not work any better. Finally, I realized that I was not going to make it to the Bible study because of all the jammed up traffic. By that time, the roads back to my home were closed. Fortunately, I was able to get home before morning, but all of this inconvenience for hundreds of people was caused from just a little snowstorm. What is it going to be like when everything is turned upside down in every way?

Mrs. White also warned, “Whole cities and villages will be blotted out.” Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 13, 16. We must be clinging to the Lord during this time.

From Deceiver to Overcomer

As the passage in Revelation says, those four winds are being held until the “servants of our God” are sealed in their foreheads. Who are the “servants of our God”? From where do they come, and of what are they comprised? They are all the tribes of Israel. Our friends in the evangelical circle take this to mean literal descendants of Abraham, particularly the literal geographic nation of Israel. However, we understand, by comparing Scripture with Scripture, that it is the spiritual descendants of Israel.

As a side note, consider this: Who was Israel originally? It was Jacob. When did Jacob become Israel? When he struggled with the angel. What does the name Jacob mean? Supplanter, deceiver. Although Jacob was a supplanter or deceiver, he overcame. He struggled; he saw God face to face; he overcame; and his name was changed to Israel. Israel means, “a prince of God.” So Israel was a man who was a deceiver but struggled with God and overcame.

Who were the twelve tribes of Israel? They were the sons of Jacob. So, as we look at the sons of Israel, remember that Jacob was a man who had been a deceiver, but through his struggle he overcame and became Israel, the prince of God. The sons of Jacob, now known as the sons or tribes of Israel, are the children of the one who struggled and overcame.

Jesus struggled with the devil and overcame him. Jesus had twelve apostles, the spiritual descendants of the One who had struggled and overcame.

So, the sons of Israel were the descendants of the one who had been a deceiver but overcame. The twelve apostles were the spiritual descendants of the One who had struggled with the enemy, defeated him, and overcame. The twelve gates of the New Jerusalem have “names written thereon, which are [the names] of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.” The twelve foundations of the Holy City have “in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:12, 14. Twelve tribes, twelve apostles—both the descendants of ones who had struggled and overcame.

So, the children of Israel spiritually are those who are the descendants of the overcomers—the ones who have the experience that Israel had; who had been guilty, had guile in their mouths, but who struggled and strived with God, overcame, and became royalty with God.

Everyone who enters the New Jerusalem is going to be a descendant of the one who has overcome. They are not the literal twelve tribes, but those with the characteristics of descendants of Israel, those who have struggled and have overcome.

Family of Differences

What were the lives of the sons of Israel like before their conversions? The very fact that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem indicates they will be saved. But before their conversions, did they have difficulties in getting along together? Obviously! The most well-known story, of course, is when the brothers sold Joseph into Egyptian slavery. No doubt there were other things as well. They were apparently of very different dispositions and experiences. (See Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 32.)

In spite of their differences, God brought them together into one family that they might learn to get along together as one. Do you ever notice how the Lord does this today too? The Lord brings those who have different dispositions, different ways of doing things, together in one family that our characters might be refined, and we might learn to get along.

Have you ever wondered how so many different people end up in the same family? Ellen White wrote:

“Marked diversities of disposition and character frequently exist in the same family, for it is in the order of God that persons of varied temperament should associate together. When this is the case, each member of the household should sacredly regard the feelings and respect the right of the others. By this means mutual consideration and forbearance will be cultivated, prejudices will be softened, and rough points of character smoothed. Harmony may be secured, and the blending of the varied temperaments may be a benefit to each.” The Signs of the Times, September 9, 1886.

What better way is there to prepare us for heaven? We need to be thankful for this.

Harmonious Whole

So it was in Israel’s family—totally different dispositions, different ideas. There were those such as Simeon and Levi who had quick tempers, and there were those who were slower. All types of different character traits were exhibited in Israel’s family.

In the disciples, as well, the various dispositions may be seen. Included in Jesus’ inner circle of disciples were tax collectors and zealots. The zealots carried about daggers hidden in their clothes, ready at any moment for an insurrection to overthrow the Romans, especially the tax collectors. Can you imagine the discussions that might have occurred between the zealot and the tax collector? Then there was Peter, who always had something to say, and John, who was much quieter and possessed totally different mannerisms. Of course, Thomas was dubbed “Doubting Thomas,” although he overcame that characteristic. Jesus brought them together, because He knew that His work needed every different manner of working and every different perspective. Certainly there were those whom Peter could reach, but Thomas could not, and vice versa. Thomas could sympathize with those who were struggling with doubt, and although Peter probably could not sympathize with that, he could sympathize with those who were always sticking their foot in their mouths! Do you think this might have a parallel for us today—totally different dispositions, different ideas, different ways of working?

God brought them together. He used them as a harmonious whole. So it is that the 144,000 are not only going to be a victorious, guileless company, but they will be a united company as well. The 144,000 will be as different as were Joseph and Simeon and all the other sons of Israel, but through the power of God, they are going to be overcomers. They are going to come into unity.

Speaking of what she was shown in vision, Ellen White wrote: “We heard the voice of God like many waters, [Ezekiel 43:2; Joel 3:16; Revelation 16:17] which gave us the day and hour of Jesus’ coming. [Ezekiel 12:25; Mark 13:32.] The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked thought it was thunder and an earthquake. [John 12:29.] When God spake the time, he poured on us the Holy Ghost, and our faces began to light up and shine with the glory of God as Moses’ did when he came down from Mount Sinai. [Isaiah 10:27.]

“By this time the 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united.” A Word to the Little Flock, 14. [Emphasis added.]

This is the time when the voice of God will deliver the everlasting covenant. It occurs between the sixth and seventh plagues. We do not know how long it will take for the 144,000 to come into perfect unity, but she tells us that it is done by this time.

A Process

The sealing takes place before the close of probation. By this time some effort and a process is going to be involved. In Israel’s family, there had been effort and a process. When Joseph brought all the brothers together, he seated them by birth order, and when he set the food before them, giving Benjamin five times the amount that he gave the others, he was watching to see if they were going to be bitter, if they were going to start finding fault or start fighting among themselves. Those were the dispositions in his brothers with which he was familiar; that is what they had done when he lived with them—that is why they sold him into captivity, because they had been fighting and bickering. Joseph wanted to see if there had been a change since they had sold him years before. When he saw that a change had taken place in them, he then revealed himself to them. It took a process, and for God’s people it is also going to take a process, but they will be a united company.

Some very interesting information is given about this in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 11:11, a description is given of the Lord setting His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people. This is the second gathering or recovering of the Jews at that day. Then, in verse 13, it says, spiritually speaking, “The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.” The tribes of Ephraim and Judah were both strong. The last of Israel’s history after Solomon, with Solomon’s son, was a divided kingdom. In this passage of Isaiah this was the condition; it was a divided kingdom, and Isaiah was looking prophetically into the future. Isaiah saw a time when there would be a united company.

Referring to this, Ellen White counsels: “O that all might repent and do their first works. When the churches do this, they will love God supremely and their neighbors as themselves. Ephraim will not envy Judah, and Judah will not vex Ephraim. Divisions will then be healed, the harsh sounds of strife will no more be heard in the borders of Israel.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 385.

Soon the time is coming when the divisions will be healed and “the harsh sounds of strife will no more be heard in the borders of Israel.” Oh, how we need that time! That is one of our greatest needs today, because the 144,000 are going to be a united, not a scattered or divided, company.

“Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.” Isaiah 52:8. The watchmen will see eye to eye! There is going to be agreement; there is going to be unity. If we see eye to eye, we are seeing the same way, are we not?

To be continued ….

Cody Francis is currently engaged in public evangelism for Mission Projects International. He also pastors the Remnant Church of Seventh-day Adventist Believers in Renton, Washington. He may be contacted by e-mail at: cody@missionspro.org.