What is a Harlot Church?

When a church becomes what the Bible describes as a harlot, that church cannot go to the kingdom of heaven. The Lord gives it opportunity, but if that opportunity is not taken, it will be shut out from the kingdom of heaven unless it repents and stops its fornication.

We read the experience of the Jewish church in Jeremiah 3:2, 3. It says, “Lift up your eyes to the desolate heights and see: Where have you not lain with men? By the road you have sat for them Like an Arabian in the wilderness; And you have polluted the land With your harlotries and your wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, And there has been no latter rain. You have had a harlot’s forehead; You refuse to be ashamed.”

The Jewish church had become a harlot church, but they had not committed the unpardonable sin. They could still return. In verse 14 it says, “ ‘Return, O backsliding children,’ says the Lord; ‘for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.’ ”

What were they to do? They were to return. Verses 12, 13 say, “ ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you: For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the Lord your God, And have scattered your charms To alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord.”

How did the Jewish church become a harlot and how does the Christian church become a harlot today? In James 4:4 it says, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

It is by some type of friendship with the world that the church becomes a harlot or loses her virginity. How does the church become united with the world? Ezekiel 16:15 is talking about Jerusalem which was God’s people in his day. Ezekiel said: “You trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it.

“Moreover you multiplied your acts of harlotry as far as the land of the traitor, Chaldea; and even then you were not satisfied. ‘How degenerate is your heart!’ says the Lord God, ‘seeing you do all of these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot.’ ” Ezekiel 16:29, 30.

It was by connecting with the Gentile nations that she lost her virginity. Look at Ezekiel 23:19–21: “She multiplied her harlotry In calling to remembrance the days of her youth, When she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt. For she lusted for her paramours, Whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys, And whose issue is like the issue of horses. Thus you called to remembrance the lewdness of your youth, When the Egyptians pressed your bosom Because of your youthful breasts.”

By aligning herself and making alliances with the world—by connecting with the world, by using the powers of the world instead of depending on the Lord, she lost her innocence and became a harlot.

Ellen White describes it in The Great Controversy, 381, 382: “The unfaithfulness of the church to Christ in permitting her confidence and affection to be turned from Him, and allowing the love of worldly things to occupy the soul, is likened to the violation of the marriage vow. The sin of Israel in departing from the Lord is presented under this figure; and the wonderful love of God which they thus despised is touchingly portrayed: ‘I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest Mine.’ ‘And thou wast exceeding beautiful and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee. … But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown.’ ‘As a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord;’ ‘as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!’ Ezekiel 16:8, 13–15, 32; Jeremiah 3:20.”

In summary, “It was by departure from the Lord, and alliance with the heathen, that the Jewish church became a harlot.” Ibid., 382.

It was by departure from the Lord; the affections were weaned away from the Lord and placed upon the power and things in the world. How does the church use the power of the world? In The Great Controversy, 443, Ellen White says, “When the early church [the true church] became corrupted by departing from the simplicity of the gospel and accepting heathen rites and customs, she lost the Spirit and power of God; and in order to control the consciences of the people, she sought the support of the secular power.”

Notice what happened. By “accepting heathen rites and customs, she lost the Spirit and power of God.” Without the Spirit and power of God, she was powerless.

Concerning Christians in the fourth century, the pagans would say, Why would you want me to be a Christian? I know Christians who have lied to me and I have never lied to anybody. I know a Christian who has stolen goods and I have never stolen from anybody. I know a Christian who has been unfaithful to his matrimonial vow and I have never been unfaithful to my matrimonial vow. Why would the pagans become Christians when they considered the Christians not as good as they were?

Because they had accepted heathen rites and customs and had lost the Spirit and power of God, the early Christian church had no power over their own members and no power to influence the world. What does a church do when it is powerless? “When the early church became corrupted by departing from the simplicity of the gospel and accepting heathen rites and customs, she lost the Spirit and power of God; and in order to control the consciences of the people, she sought the support of the secular power.”

When the church has lost the Spirit and power of God, she does not have any power from within to help the people be good, and she resorts to the power of the state. “It was apostasy that led the early church to seek the aid of the civil government, and this prepared the way for the development of the papacy—the beast.” Ibid.

Apostasy in the church will also prepare the way for the image to the beast. It was apostasy in the church that resulted in the church seeking power from the secular government and the result was the development of the papacy. In a similar way, the image to the beast will be formed. “When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.” Ibid, 445.

Notice it says, “shall influence the state”; the church will use the power of the state. “When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state …” The church uses the state.

It was the church using the power of the state that caused Jesus to be crucified. The Romans would have never crucified Jesus, but it was the church that used the power of the state to kill Him and it was that same church that had the apostle Paul beheaded and the apostle James martyred.

How does a church lose its virginity and become a harlot church?

The first thing that happens for a church to lose its virginity and become a harlot church is that they accept heathen rites or customs and go into apostasy because they have withdrawn their affections from the Lord and begin to love something in the world.

In the 4th century the church could not get the people to attend church so they made a law to help the people to be good. The first Sunday law was passed in 321, but it was not strong enough because it merely required that people not go to work. When the people could not work on Sunday, they went to the circus so a law was then made that would close down the circus so that the people could not go there on Sunday. The people then just stayed home on Sunday. Finally, a whole series of laws were made stating that not only must you stop working or conducting business on Sunday, but you had to go to church as well.

Why did that happen? When heathen rites and customs are accepted into the church it loses the spirit of God and the church has no power. If the church is devoid of power, why would anybody want to go? If nobody wants to go, the church will die. Then the church has to do something to keep it from dying and in order to do that she needs to get some help from the state and pass laws. In this way the Christian church used the state to enforce her teachings. These laws progressively became stricter over the following 100 years.

First the Jewish church, and then the Christian church lost its power by departing from God and relying on the world.

Any time a church begins to use civil power to enforce her laws or her institutions, her will or her teachings, that church has become a harlot church devoid of the Holy Spirit because of her apostasy and cannot go to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Remember that Christ is the High Priest and only a virgin—a pure church—can become His bride.

In this world, once a woman has become a harlot she can never again become a virgin. But Jesus is able to take a sinner, take away all of the guilt and the power of sin so that the person who was a sinner becomes as though he had never sinned. Jesus can take away the sin and recreate a pure person again. That same thing can also happen to a harlot church if she repents. A church can begin to use civil power to enforce her laws and institutions in three ways:

Appealing to the king or the president to enforce her will. This has been done thousands of times in past history.

Using the civil power to enforce her will by going to the legislature—the congress—appealing that specific laws be passed to enforce her teachings.

Ellen White states that when the churches go to the state to enforce her will, they will have made an image to the beast. See The Great Controversy, 445.

Those alive in Nebuchadnezzar’s day could have watched his image being formed, first the feet and then the legs until the whole image was completed. They may have felt very safe and secure watching it go up, but once it was completely finished, the people were commanded to worship it or be killed.

That same thing is happening today. The image to the beast is being formed right now before our eyes. We may be living in America, the land of the free, but when that image to the beast is completed, everyone will be commanded to worship it.

Appealing to the court system

Any time a church goes to the courts to enforce her will, that church has already become a harlot church and will never go to the marriage supper of the Lamb unless there is repentance and her sins are forsaken. That act is religious harlotry. The Seventh-day Adventist church has been doing this now for many decades. To make it plain, the Seventh-day Adventist church is not going to the marriage supper of the Lamb in her present condition, unless there is repentance, and she stops taking people to court.

There is a principle in Revelation 18:4. It says, “I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’ ” For over 150 years the truth about the Bible Sabbath has been proclaimed and rejected by the Sunday keeping Protestant churches of the world. These churches are referred to in Revelation as Babylon, and the Lord says that you are going to have to get out of there because if you stay in there then you are participating in their sins.

One lady who attended our prophecy seminar said she believed everything we taught, including the Sabbath. She said she was going to keep the Sabbath, but she was also going to continue going to the Baptist church because that was where her friends were. She planned to keep the Sabbath at home without really understanding the principle involved that if you attend the church on Sunday, you are supporting that church in her sin with your presence, your influence and your money. You are participating in the sin by even going there. The Lord says that if you stay there, you are going to receive the seven last plagues. If you do not want to receive the plagues, then you cannot participate in the sin and obey the command to “come out of her My people.”

This principle must apply to any harlot church. I do not want to be misunderstood, and I did not call the Seventh-day Adventist church Babylon. I have never done that, but at the present time it is a harlot church and no harlot church is going to the marriage supper of the Lamb unless that harlotry is confessed, repented of and forsaken.

People have a difficult time getting around this. Some people say that the organization is doing this, but I am not part of it. If you are a member and you are supporting it with your influence, your time and your money, you are a part of it. In the books of heaven you are accounted as part of it. The sins that they are doing, you are part of if you are supporting it. Look at the following example.

“The trades unions and confederacies of the world are a snare. Keep out of them, and away from them, brethren. Have nothing to do with them. …

“We are not to unite with secret societies or with trades unions. …

“These unions are one of the signs of the last days. Men are binding up in bundles ready to be burned.” Notice—they are binding up into a bundle—what is the bundle? It is the trade unions and secret societies. They say, I am not part of it, but when that bundle is burned, they will burn right with it because they are bound up with it. She then says, “They may be church members, but while they belong to these unions, they cannot possibly keep the commandments of God; for to belong to these unions means to disregard the entire Decalogue.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 142, 143.

Then is quoted the following text in Luke 10:27: “So he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” These words sum up the whole duty of man. They mean the consecration of the whole being—body, soul, and spirit—to God’s service. How can men obey these words, and at the same time pledge themselves to support that which deprives their neighbors of freedom of action? You cannot love God with all of your heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself and belong to an organization which is deliberately depriving others of freedom of action. That is impossible, and in the books of heaven you are accounted as a commandment breaker, not as a commandment keeper—even if you call yourself a Seventh-day Adventist.

Somebody can say, Yes I know that I am in an organization that is in open sin, but I am not part of it, so I am all right. People use the parable of the wheat and the tares to excuse it and say they both grow together until the harvest. That is a gross distortion of the words of Jesus. Read the meaning of the wheat and tares in the book, Christ’s Object Lessons. Jesus never taught in the parable of the wheat and tares to just let all the good and the evil to go until the harvest. She explains that a tare is described as a person who appears, by human vision, to be keeping the commandments of God, but their heart is not right. However, when the tare goes to seed (meaning when open sin is involved), Christ taught that they were to be disfellowshipped from the church. You do not allow the wheat and tares to grow together when there is open sin.

I hear people say, “I know there is open sin in the organization, but I am not part of it so I am all right.” No, you are not all right. Do you want to go to the marriage supper?

Those who are serious about going to the marriage supper cannot voluntarily be a member of an organization that is in open sin without being accounted a commandment breaker in heaven.

When God asked Adam and Eve in the garden where they were, He knew exactly where they were, and He knows where you are too. Since God knew already where they were, why did He ask? He wanted Adam to think through the answer to the question just as He wants you to think through the answer to this question: Where are you? You can say, “I am not in Babylon”; then where are you?

If you support with your presence, your influence, your time, your money, a church that is involved in harlotry, you are part of it and you are not going to the marriage supper. Either you will have to persuade whatever church you are in to quit the harlotry business and repent, or you will have to get out if you want to go to the marriage supper.

Jesus is our High Priest and He is not going to unite Himself with a harlot. He will only unite Himself with a church that is pure, that has been made into a virgin.

Where are you? God wants you to figure out where you are. There are a lot of people who do not know where they are but only you can answer the question. The answer depends on where your sympathies and where your affections are. Where your heart is, that is where you are.

“As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls.” The Great Controversy, 608.

What a tragedy! These people have been in the Seventh-day Adventist church, but their sympathies and affections are in the world. When the test is brought, you will not go where your intellect tells you but you are going to go where your sympathies and affections are. That is why you need to ask yourself the question now. Where are your sympathies? Where are your affections? Wherever your sympathies and affections are right now can indicate where you are going to be in the future.

Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: (316) 788-5559.