Which Church is Going Through? Part I

The following statement appeared in the Review and Herald almost one-hundred years before my brother was dismissed from employment with the Kansas-Nebraska Conference; “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs.” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 22, 1887.

In Christ’s day, the disciples (all of the church leaders) were out in a little boat. Think how dangerous it was for the Lord to allow all of the church leaders to get in a little boat and set out to sea. If they drowned, that would be it. Some of us would never have allowed that to happen. They got out there in the middle of the sea, and the devil tried to destroy them all by sending a big storm. Jesus came walking out on the sea. They thought it was a spirit, and they cried out in fear. Jesus said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27. You see, if Jesus is near, you do not need to be afraid, no matter what you are going through. If you are going through a storm in the sea, in your life, in your marriage, on your job, or wherever you are, if Jesus is close and you are looking to Him and trusting in Him, you do not need to be afraid. He knows how to work out every problem that you have.

Our Greatest Need

We need deliverance from fear; we need to know our Bible better, but of all the things we need, Sister White says that “a revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs.”

In life, some things are more urgent than others. This is true in our spiritual life as well. There are some things we have a great need for; they are very urgent and we need them right now! Our greatest need is a “revival of true godliness.” If this is our greatest need, and if it is our most urgent need, should we not try to figure out how it is going to happen? Yes, we should. In fact, it says in Mrs. White’s statement, “To seek this should be our first work.” Ibid.

My brother, Marshall, and I talked about this many times. If this is what we need the most, and if it should be our first work, what do we need to do so it can happen? That is what caused Marshall to be dismissed from employment with the Kansas–Nebraska Conference. He was trying to figure out how to make this revival happen in the church.

Who Needs It?

Notice a little two-letter word in the first sentence. “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs.” There is a little word there in the center, spelled u s. It is not talking about the United States: it is talking about us. “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs.” Who is the us? This statement was written in the Review and Herald in 1887. That is a church paper. To which group does it belong? The Seventh-day Adventist Church. This paper has been in publication since the 1850s, and Mrs. White’s statement was printed in that paper, an official organ of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. If it says “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs.…To seek this should be our first work,” to whom does the term “us” refer? It refers to Seventh-day Adventists. So, the greatest need of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, (not just the home churches or the worldwide historic Adventist movement, but every person, anywhere in the world, who professes to be a Seventh-day Adventist, including the conference churches, all the institutions, the General Conference—everyone) is “a revival of true godliness.”

What is It?

The question, “What is godliness?” is something that you need to understand. Read 1 Peter 1:1–25 very carefully and you will understand what godliness (Godlikeness) is. More important, however, is the question How does this godliness come about? It does not do you any good to know what needs to happen, unless you understand how it is supposed to happen. How is this revival of true godliness supposed to happen in the Seventh-day Adventist Church?

One of the big questions that people are asking today is, “Will the Seventh-day Adventist denomination (or structure) go through to glory?” It is interesting to note that there are a number of different answers being given to that question. Within the last year or so, there have been an increasing number of people who have given a resounding “No, the Seventh-day Adventist Church structure is not going through to glory, because it is Babylon, and it is just waiting to be destroyed.” A lot of people are preaching that today.

There are other people who believe similarly, but they say “The structure is not Babylon yet, but it is on the verge of becoming Babylon. We are not sure that the actual decree that it is Babylon has been pronounced.”

The issue of some people believing the church is Babylon must be addressed,
because there are people all over the world who are saying that it is. We have an obligation to help other people find the meaning of the times in which we live and how to get ready for the future. That is why we hold Prophecy Seminars. That is why each one of us needs to be praying and asking ourselves, “To whom do I have a moral obligation to share what is going to happen?”

Newborn Babes

There is an interesting passage in Isaiah which says, “Whom will He (that is the Lord) teach knowledge? And whom will He make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts?” Isaiah 28:9. That is, those who are spiritual babies? The Bible talks about spiritual babies as being people who have just accepted the Christian faith. Peter addressed people who had just accepted the Christian faith and he says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby.” 1 Peter 2:2.

If you were in trouble in your financial life, business life, or marriage, would you go to a baby to ask advice? No. But people do this spiritually all the time. People who have been Christians for two or three years feel that they know enough about Christianity that they can teach others. The apostle Paul gave some of the strongest rebukes in Scripture about this very thing. In fact, he told Timothy, “You do not ordain a new convert as an elder or a deacon until they have had time to become rooted and grounded in the faith.” (See 1 Timothy 3:6, 10.) You do not go to a baby Christian to find answers to your problems. They are babies. We all love babies, and we want them to grow, but we do not go to a baby to get answers to a hard problem. The same is true spiritually.


After a baby is three years old, would he then be able to help you solve your problems? No, he is still a baby! Yet people will do this spiritually. A three- year-old Christian knows enough to teach people who are not born into Christ yet, and can witness to them. If they have only known Christ for a month, they can share what they have learned about Jesus. But friend, if you are trying to find out who, when, and what is Babylon, you do not go to a three-year-old Christian. “Those just weaned from milk? those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept.” Isaiah 28:9, 10. You must compare Scripture with Scripture.

Have you ever met someone who knows two or three verses of Scripture, and they try to prove Bible doctrine by these few verses? I was in an interdenominational jail ministry where a man from another church said, “We know this because it says,”…and he quoted one verse of Scripture. In the verse of Scripture he quoted, the comma was in the wrong place. If you put the comma in the wrong place, it makes the meaning totally opposite of what is really being said. This man thought he knew something on the basis of one verse of Scripture. When people have a belief, and they only have one or two verses of Scripture to prove it, that is a sign of infanthood. They are not off the milk yet. Scripture says; “Precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” Isaiah 28:10. If you want to know what the truth is about any spiritual subject, you need to know what all the inspired writings say on that subject.

Let us look at another principle. “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” 1 John 2:21. What does it mean that “no lie is of the truth?” “All truth, whether in nature or in revelation, is consistent with itself in all its manifestations.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 114.

You can look up all the texts about Babylon in the Bible, or all of the passages in the Spirit of Prophecy, and if you know the truth, you will be able to see that they all agree. If they do not all agree, there is something wrong with what you believe; you have not studied it thoroughly. The truth is always consistent with itself; “no lie is of the truth.” If two things are the truth, they will not contradict each other.

Is the structure Babylon?

There are people today who, when trying to answer the question as to whether the Seventh-day Adventist Church structure is going to go through to glory, respond that they think we are in the same position that Israel was in just before the crucifixion.

Jesus was entering Jerusalem, and He paused on the crest of the hill.… “When the fast westering sun should pass from sight in the heavens, Jerusalem’s day of grace would be ended.” The Desire of Ages, 578. It was not yet too late. Right at that time, they could have turned around; they could have accepted the Messiah. The door was still open for them to do it, but they would not. Some people believe that our church structure is in that situation now. It is just about over; it is just about too late, but there is still time to turn around.

Saved From Sin

I meet people who wonder whether they have committed the unpardonable sin. They look at their past and at their many sins, and ask, “What shall I do?” Let me tell you something; the worse sinner you are, the more you need Jesus. He came into this world to save sinners. If you are a sinner, you qualify for salvation. Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15. Think this through for just a moment. When Jesus saves someone, He saves them from their sins. (See Matthew 1:20, 21.) Isn’t that the most wonderful news there is? No matter how many times you have sinned, Jesus has come here to this world to save you from that sin. Jesus does not save you so that you can keep on sinning, because you are not saved if you keep on sinning.

If your besetting sin is beating your wife, Jesus does not save you so you can go on beating your wife. He wants to save you from that, so that you do not do it anymore. You see, if this person is saved from beating his wife, he is not saved if he continues beating his wife. The person who has a problem with alcohol, is not saved from alcohol if he is still drinking. Jesus came to save you from your sins. That you can be saved while you are still living a life of sin is the gospel of the antichrist. That gospel has taken a hold over much of the Christian world today. There are actually people who are killing other people; yet, because they go and confess to their priest, they believe that they are saved. Friend, you are not saved while you are living in sin. No one will be taken to heaven while they are living in sin down here. Sin has to be in the past. The Bible tells us that Jesus justifies us, or forgives us, from sins that are past. (See Romans 3:25, 26.)

What is the day of grace all about? What is salvation all about? It is about having sins taken away. Jesus’ salvation from sin involves two things. First, Jesus delivers us from guilt. Secondly, He delivers us from the power of sin in our lives. Because of sinful habits, sin has power in our lives, and Jesus is going to deliver us from that power. That is what salvation is about; what revival is about; what primitive godliness is about; what our greatest and most urgent need is, and it should be our first work to seek for a revival of true godliness. Godliness is holy living, living according to God’s law, instead of transgressing it.

We have looked at two positions dealing with “us.” We know this refers to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and our greatest need is for true godliness. One position is that this does not apply to us anymore because the Seventh-day Adventist Church structure is now Babylon; it is going to be destroyed. The other position is that we are like the children of Israel just before the crucifixion of Jesus. They could have turned around, but their irrevocable sentence was about to be pronounced.

Going Through to Glory

However, the traditional, or the most common, belief among the majority of Seventh-day Adventists today, is not that the denomination will be cast aside as was the Jewish nation, but that the Seventh-day Adventist Church will go through to glory; and if it will go through to glory, you had better stay with it. Let me tell you friend, we had better find out what is true, and we better find out from the Bible.

A few years ago, not by my choice, the local Seventh-day Adventist conference church, of which I was a member, disfellowshipped me. So I am no longer part of that structure. After that happened, a friend wrote me a letter and indicated, point blank, that I was not part of the church anymore. If that is so, I need to do something about it right away, because I want to go to heaven. I do not want to have a false hope and think that I am going to heaven and have the Lord come and say, “John, you are not part of the bride of Christ. You are not part of the church of Christ, you will have to stay here.” We really need to understand the answer to this question. If we do not, if we have the wrong answer, it could involve our eternal destruction, because when Jesus comes back to this earth again, He is coming to take His bride home, and His bride is the church. (See Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, 277.) If you are alive when Jesus comes, and you are not part of His bride, you are lost. You need to know whether you are part of it or not, and if you are not part of it, you need to become part of it right away.

The people who believe that the Adventist Church structure will not be cast aside, as was the Jewish church, but will go through to glory, are not naive enough to believe that every member of the church will be part of that triumphant body. They generally explain it with the parable of the wheat and the tares. They say, “We know that there is a lot of apostasy and corruption in the church now, but before Jesus comes, He is going to remove it. That is encouraging, but how is that going to happen?

Some people say the church is just about to become Babylon, and some people say it already is. Some people say the structure is going through to glory, and the Lord is going to clear the apostates out while the true and faithful remain.

Who Do You Say the Church Is?

Has it crossed your mind, as we have looked over these different positions, that if you are going to find the truth, it might be of vital importance for you to know who and what the church is? You see, these different teachings are based on different definitions of who and what the church is, and the conclusion a person comes to is based on who and what he thinks the church actually is.

Let me ask you a few simple questions.

  1. Do you think that God knows who the church is? I am not asking this irreverently, but I want you to think it through. Do you believe that God knows who the church is?
  2. If God knows who the church is, do you suppose that any time He wanted to, He could tell one of His prophets who the church is?
  3. If a prophet came to you and told you who the church is, would you believe them?

That is a hard question. For almost forty years I have noticed that when prophets come and tell people who and what the church is, they do not believe it. There are sermons (not only spoken, but in print) where people have read some of the plainest definitions in the Spirit of Prophecy, (the writings of Ellen White) about who and what the church is. Then they explain it all away.

The question is, what does the prophet actually say, not what do I think it means. That is not what counts. Do we not tell people that in our Prophecy Seminars? Of course! We say, “Don’t believe anything I say unless you can find it in the Bible.” That is a valid position to take. Is it enough if a prophet says this is what it is? Somehow, with this subject, it is not. We have such a deep prejudice that most people will not accept it. They have another definition, and they say, “Well, there are balancing statements.” Red is red. “Oh no it is not; there are balancing statements.” It is another way of saying that there are other statements that contradict it.

1 John 2:21 says, “No lie is of the truth.” If it is all true, does it all have to agree? Yes, and there could never be a balancing statement that would contradict the truth. When the Lord says, “This is the way it is,” you do not say, “Oh no Lord, there has to be a balancing statement.”

God Said It—That Should be Enough

“God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one, nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept we should demand a plain, ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support. The Great Controversy, 595.

Every time I read that statement, it sounds so reasonable to me. If I am a Christian, and I profess to be serving the Lord, and He has all knowledge, if that is whom I serve, and if He tells me something, that should be enough evidence. Right? It seems so reasonable.

In the inspired writings [either the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy], are there plain definition statements about who and what the church is? Yes, there are.

John Knox was talking to the Queen of Scots. She asked him how she was to know whom to believe? Should she believe him or should she believe the Catholics? John Knox said that the Bible meant one thing and the Catholics said the Bible meant something else, how was she to know whom to believe? John Knox told her to believe God, who speaks plainly. Go to plain evidence and take the plain statements. That is the Protestant position.

Line Upon Line

I cannot explain every verse in the Bible, and I have been studying it for years. So I will not take a verse of Scripture that I cannot explain and say, “This is the basis of my faith.” Look for the plain statements all the way through. ‘Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.’ I do not know why these statements are not accepted, but they are not. Here is a plain statement that defines who and what the church is. Just one sentence—”From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth.” Acts of the Apostles, 10. Does that sound to you like a plain definition of who and what the church is? In other words, the church is the people.

Some may say that they have many objections that I have not yet answered. I will. I have checked a hundred or so objections out, and every one can be answered from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy in plain English. But the biggest question is, can you simply believe what God says? Does God have authority in your life? Jesus is looking for the same thing today as He was looking for in the Garden of Eden. He just wanted to know one thing from Adam and Eve and it was this, “Can I trust you?” That was it. The word trust, the word faith, the word faithful, the word believe, in the Greek it is all the same word. So who are the faithful souls? They are the people that believe, who have made a commitment to the Lord. You may have all kinds of sin in your life, but Jesus came to save sinners, so you qualify.

Are You Really Part of the Church?

Have you made the commitment? Are you really part of the church, or are you just going to church? Jesus is looking for people on whom He can depend, and there is no question that He is going to find them. The question is, am I going to be one of them? When things happen that you cannot explain, and it seems like other people have let you down, maybe people in your family, maybe people in your church, can Jesus still depend on you? The angels are keeping a record to see who is trying to follow Jesus.

“Those who keep God’s commandments, those who live, not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, compose the church of the living God.” Manuscript Release, vol. 1, 296. God knows who His church is, and He tells us it is the faithful souls, the ones who do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of His mouth. These are the people who compose His church.

When Jesus comes, what is going to matter is not whether I have my name on a book down here, but whether He will recognize me as being part of His own. Jesus is coming to get a bride. He is coming to get a people that He knows belong to Him. Do you belong to him? You can know you belong to Him for He says, ‘You know it if you live by every word that proceeds out of My mouth.’

To be continued…