Some time ago I preached a sermon about six ways to fight reformation based on the experience of Nehemiah. It appears that it is difficult for God’s people to recognize these types of attacks. The same thing is happening again, and thousands of Adventists are falling into the same snares that Nehemiah avoided. In the Bible, seven is the number of spiritual perfection. God’s perfect day of rest is the seventh day. Man was created on the sixth day of Creation. Six symbolizes man’s imperfection. Six is also the number of the serpent—the serpent was created also on the sixth day of creation. In the story of Nehemiah there are six steps of opposition to the work of God. Today we are facing the same type of opposition. Everywhere God’s people begin to work, the devil attacks just as he did with Nehemiah.
We will look at the six steps one by one.
- “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.” Nehemiah 2:10.
Sanballat and his men were deeply disturbed when they heard what Nehemiah had come to do. This is often the first kind of opposition that God’s workers face. People are concerned about our preaching, publishing, evangelism, everything we are doing. Often there is no concrete reason; they just do not feel that we should be doing what our conscience tells us that we should. In 1989, when we had a revival and reformation camp meeting in Texas, the local Seventh-day Adventist pastor was so disturbed that he preached a whole sermon against the camp meeting and the speakers. He said that he was in favor of revival and reformation, however, he was opposed to the people promoting it and their way of seeking revival and reformation. That was 8 years ago. When will the revival and reformation, that even this pastor said he was not opposed to, be seen there? This is the general pattern and has been for decades in Adventism. No doubt many Adventists have never become involved in the revival and reformation movement in Adventism because leaders in whom they have confidence have condemned it. This has happened countless times down through the ages and many people will be lost because they fall for the very first attack against the reformation. In Jesus’ time, “a nation’s sin and a nation’s ruin were due to the religious leaders.” The Desire of Ages, 738. “In order to maintain their own power, these leaders determined to break down the influence of Jesus.” Ibid., 205.
“It was not that they could not yield; they could, but would not. It was not alone because they were guilty and deserving of death, not alone because they had put to death the Son of God, that they were cut off from salvation; it was because they armed themselves with opposition to God. They persistently rejected light and stifled the convictions of the Spirit. The influence that controls the children of disobedience worked in them.” The Acts of the Apostles 61, 62.
If the revival and reformation movement in Adventism is of the Lord, if the Holy Spirit inspired and brought it about, then those that are fighting it are doing exactly what the Jewish leaders did in the time of Christ. If it is not of the Lord, “it will come to nothing” (Acts 5:38), and indeed should do so very soon, since it is being attacked from every quarter both within and without God’s professed remnant people.
As the Jews rejected and crucified Christ, it is predicted that many in Adventism will reject the Holy Spirit: “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?’ ” Review and Herald, December 23, 1890.
Nehemiah did not turn around because of the pressure. He had a work to do, and he was determined to complete it by God’s grace. The people who knuckle under to social pressure, will never do God’s work. Every true Christian in this world will face opposition and sadly, millions of people will lose eternal life because they are not willing to stand against opposition. If you are not willing to stand against opposition you cannot be saved.
From the beginning there were people deeply concerned and disturbed about Nehemiah’s plans, but he made plans to build the wall anyway. In the same way there are many people deeply concerned (according to their letters and telephone calls) about the revival and reformation movement in Adventism today. Not understanding the true nature of the church, they are caught in the very same trap that the Jews were in during the days of Christ. Remember, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were not the church in Christ’s day, contrary to what you probably have been taught. They could say that the Lord started their organization and that they were the chosen people, but as Jesus said, they were the children of the devil and not the children of God at all. “The people whom God had called to be the pillar and ground of the truth had become representatives of Satan. They were doing the work that he desired them to do.” The Desire of Ages, 36.
Then Nehemiah encountered more severe opposition.
- “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?’” Nehemiah 2:19.
The second kind of opposition Nehemiah faced was ridicule. They laughed at him and said, “What do you think you are doing?” Ridicule is hard to endure. Peter could not take it, and after a few simple questions he knuckled under and denied his Lord. Ridicule, mocking and despising are the second type of opposition that you must be willing to endure if you want to work for the Lord. Nehemiah was accused of being in rebellion to established order, just as the revival and reformation movement today is accused, and on equally absurd grounds. The truly loyal pastors and Adventist leaders will tell the truth about our present condition and situation and declare what must be changed if we are to be ready for the Lord to come. Those who despise the revival and reformation movement, scorn, deride and ridicule it, cause many more to cave in to the social pressure and decide to stay with the majority in their group.
The Bible and Spirit of Prophecy say that those who stay in a Laodicean condition will have the same destiny as Babylon: “Will the churches heed the Laodicean message? Will they repent, or will they, notwithstanding that the most solemn message of truth—the third angel’s message—is being proclaimed to the world, go on in sin? This is the last message of mercy, the last warning to a fallen world. If the church of God becomes lukewarm; it does not stand in favor with God any more than do the churches that are represented as having fallen and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. Those who have had opportunities to hear and receive the truth and who have united with the Seventh-day Adventist church, calling themselves the commandment-keeping people of God, and yet possess no more vitality and consecration to God than do the nominal churches, will receive of the plagues of God just as verily as the churches who oppose the law of God. Only those that are sanctified through the truth will compose the royal family in the heavenly mansions Christ has gone to prepare for those that love Him and keep His commandments.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, 176.
Multitudes of Adventists who know what the Spirit of Prophecy teaches are disregarding it because of the social pressure from family, church members and church leaders. Friend, if you are not living up to all that you know to be right, what answer do you plan to give the judge at the end of the world? If you are persuaded, as many are today, to delay giving the Third Angel’s Message because you are told that the time is not right yet, (this is in direct opposition to the Spirit of Prophecy) what do you plan to do when there is a national Sunday law and you will have to risk loss of property, imprisonment and death in order to give God’s message to the world?
- “But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, ‘What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?’ Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall’ ” Nehemiah 4:1–3.
The third type of opposition was anger and hostility, added to the sarcasm and mocking. Day after day, Nehemiah and his helpers had to listen to the taunting and the threats. Sanballat’s men were working as hard as they could to make them discouraged. But Nehemiah would not give up.
Today, the threats are first of all censure or disfellowshipping, but also various types of financial threatening or pressure has been used to try to discourage people from being involved in a movement for revival and reformation within Adventism. There is an attempt to force the faithful and true, who are trying to obey the counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy, to be ostracized from Adventism. They are threatened with lawsuits for telling the truth. If you are a Seventh-day Adventist in belief, and cannot deny it, you are threatened from those who claim that only those under their authority can be called Seventh-day Adventists. My brother, Marshall used to say, one of these days you will be the off-scouring of all things if you are a Seventh-day Adventist and then we will see who still wants to be called a Seventh-day Adventist.
When anger and hostility did not work on Nehemiah, the opposition became more open.
4.“Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.” Nehemiah 4:7, 8.
This is the fourth kind of opposition. Sanballat and the others determined to get an army together. They said, “We will attack these people and stop their work.” The sarcasm, anger and threats had failed, so they reached for means beyond words. It is no longer just words being used in the opposition against the faithful now either—it is lawsuits and even beatings.
God’s prophet predicted these things: “If we are to bear a part in this work to its close, we must recognize the fact that there are good things to come to the people of God in a way that we had not discerned; and that there will be resistance from the very ones we expected to engage in such a work.” 1888 Materials, 1024. This opposition comes from the very ones we expected would be helping us.
Some people think that by the time you come to number four and you are dealing with open opposition, that is as bad as it can get. But open warfare is not the most serious form of opposition. There is something more serious than that. Nehemiah had to face it, and we will have to face it also.
- “Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.’ ” Nehemiah 6:1, 2.
Here we see the same men who had only a short time before been raising up an army to attack Nehemiah, asking to meet and talk with them. Nehemiah realized that their motives had not changed—they still wanted to destroy him, they were just trying a new method. This is happening in Adventism right now. We have conference and union officials who have tried to destroy us over and over again and now we are receiving letters that say, “We want to get together and talk.”
I must warn you, if you volunteer to go and talk to those who have already demonstrated that they are trying to destroy you, you are presumptuous and God will not work a miracle to save you. You could be spiritually destroyed. It is happening all over the world. Whole ministries can go down to nothing. Whole churches can be divided, disbanded and split up into individual atoms.
God did not prevent the Hussites from being destroyed when they got to this phase of opposition and went to negotiate with their enemies who now wanted to talk: “The papal leaders, despairing of conquering by force, at last resorted to diplomacy. A compromise was entered into, that while professing to grant to the Bohemians freedom of conscience, really betrayed them into the power of Rome . . . The papal authorities at last ‘agreed that the four articles of the Hussites should be accepted, but that the right of explaining them, that is, of determining their precise import, should belong to the council—in other words, to the pope and the emperor.’ Wylie, b. 3, ch. 18. On this basis a treaty was entered into, and Rome gained by dissimulation and fraud what she had failed to gain by conflict; for, placing her own interpretation upon the Hussite articles, as upon the Bible, she could pervert their meaning to suit her own purposes. The Great Controversy, 118. The Waldenses were overcome with the same methods by Pianezza. (See The History of Protestantism by J.A. Wylie.)
Since it is presumption to negotiate with those who have already demonstrated that they will try to destroy you and the work God has committed to your hand, if you do this, God will not protect you from the consequences whether you are a Hussite, a Waldensean, or an Adventist. We recently have seen large numbers of Adventists go back into the very same apostasy that they had left for conscience sake, as a result of continuing to talk to those who had demonstrated themselves enemies of the work of revival and reformation (while claiming to be friends of the same). We have watched this happen over and over again and the results are astonishing. In a relatively short time, the revival and reformation begun in the life is usually lost and, most unfortunate of all, the victim does not know that anything has happened. If you believe that there is a set of men that you need to go to for counsel, regardless of their betrayal of sacred trust in upholding wickedness in others, you will lose your soul. “They were not to put implicit confidence in those who knew not God, and open to them their counsels; for this would give Satan’s agents an advantage. Man’s inventions often counterwork God’s plans. Those who build the temple of the Lord are to build according to the pattern shown in the mount,—the divine similitude. God is dishonored and the gospel is betrayed when His servants depend on the counsel of men who are not under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Worldly wisdom is foolishness with God. Those who rely upon it will surely err.” The Desire of Ages, 354.
“There can be no unity between truth and error. We can unite with those who have been led into deception only when they are converted.” Upward Look, 88.
“But they sent me this message four times.” Nehemiah 6:4.
Four times they asked, “Will not you please come and talk to us?” But Nehemiah firmly refused. He had seen their past actions, and knew the trap they wanted him to fall into. Repentance and confession, evidence of a change of heart must come before Nehemiah could talk to them—the same is true today.
“Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.” Nehemiah 6: 5–7.
Sanballat said, “These rumors are going around and will destroy you. We need to talk to you so that we can solve this problem.” What was Sanballat’s real plan? He had not changed. He still wanted to destroy Nehemiah. Nehemiah was not fooled, and you and I must understand what he did.
What does the Spirit of Prophecy say about those who have once betrayed us? “We must obey the orders from above. Any suggestions made by those who receive not the truth, who know not what the work of God is doing for this time, weaken the power of the work.” 1888 Messages, 934.
“If a man proves a traitor once he is apt to become a traitor the second time . . . The dreams I have had are very striking. One I had while on the boat, and one since coming to Sidney. We need to be very guarded as to how we place responsibilities upon any man who has once betrayed sacred trusts.” Ibid., 965.
You hear much today about the church going through, but there is only one way we can be certain of making it through. “I was shown that the follies of Israel in the days of Samuel will be repeated unless men have greater humility and less confidence in themselves, and greater confidence in the Lord God of Israel, the Ruler of His people. The ability and wisdom of any man is only derived from God . . . God has wisdom underived. He is the Infinite One; the human is finite, erring. He is the Fountain of the light and life and glory of the world. One leak will sink the mightiest vessel that ever rode the proud ocean; so will the church make shipwreck amid the perils of these last days unless the holy Captain of her salvation shall not only serve as Captain but Pilot.” Ibid., 919.
If we trust in the counsel of men, especially those who have been proven traitors and fought the truth in the past like Sanballat and Tobiah, and have not brought forth fruits of repentance, we will make shipwreck. The Lord has to be not only the Captain but also the Pilot.
Who Will Turn Traitor?
How can we know who will turn traitor? “Every soul who will now evade through sophistry, the plain ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and misinterpret and evade the plainest conclusions of the written inspired Word, will become instruments to tempt and coerce, and stirred with a satanic spirit purpose to afflict and oppress and compel the human agents to dishonor God’s law.” Ibid., 1200. As in former times there will be some who “will unite their influence with the avowed enemies of God’s truth if they can only be honored among those who are honored of men.” Signs of the Times, November 16, 1888.
When God’s professed people unite with people and organizations who openly oppose God’s law and have deliberately shed the blood of His saints, you may know that anyone who goes along with this without protest will become your enemy in the great crisis which is upon us. You may be deceived now by pleasant talk, that they are part of the church, but if you are faithful to God’s Word, those who betray the cause of God in times of peace will still do so in times of trouble.
Who will turn traitor and try to compel others to dishonor God’s law? It is those who evade a plain “thus saith the Lord.” If you present an inspired statement to someone, and they do not accept it, and instead try to excuse it all away, inspiration predicts that they will eventually turn traitor. These are the people who will try to force you to disobey the law of God. They will become agents of Satan. For many years Adventists have looked forward to a time of revival and reformation when “there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” The Great Controversy, 464.
Over and over again the Spirit of the Lord has moved upon men and groups of Adventist believers in various parts of the world that this necessary revival and reformation might become a reality. But unfortunately, the vast majority have rejected the appeals to come into line with inspired writings so many times, that appeal has little or no weight with them anymore. The revival and reformation of all the professed church will never come. It will not ever come to even the majority. But it must come to you if you are going to be ready to meet Jesus when He comes. Instead of coming closer to this experience, the professed Adventist church has been going farther and farther away from the divine instructions into a deeper and deeper apostasy. Just as with the Jews, every reformation has been followed by deeper apostasy. (See The Desire of Ages, 28.) We are not predicting what can or will happen to the Adventist structure, the door of mercy was open to the Jews until a few days before the crucifixion of Christ, but to receive mercy, there would have had to be repentance and a willingness to come into line with God. Just as we must all be willing to do today.
There are even some people who we have been forbidden to associate with. “Some of those who know the truth but do not practice it, are trampling upon the law of God in their business transactions. We should have no intimate association with them lest we catch their spirit and share their doom.” Ibid., 1332.
“I call upon God’s people to open their eyes. When you sanction or carry out the decisions of men who, as you know, are not in harmony with truth and righteousness, you weaken your own faith and lessen your relish for communion with God.” Ibid., 1336.
In the book of Nehemiah, this is the order in which the opposition comes—first was concern; second, derision and ridicule; third, wrath and indignation and more ridicule; fourth, open opposition and an attempt to destroy, and fifth, requests to meet and counsel together. Number six is the last and most dangerous opposition of all. Many who stand firm up to number six fall because of its deceptiveness.
- “Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, ‘Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.’ And I said, ‘Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!’ Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all.” Nehemiah 6:10–12.
In the sixth form of opposition for Nehemiah, a religious person comes to him with a religious suggestion. The messenger seemed interested in his welfare. He said he wanted to keep him from harm, but actually he was a secret informer, he was on the other side. Nehemiah said, “Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.” Nehemiah 6:12.
Sanballat and the others knew that if they came in person, Nehemiah would never listen, so they hired a secret informer to go and pretend to be Nehemiah’s friend. Pretended friends are the most dangerous enemies we have. The devil is not foolish. His policy is deception from the beginning to the end. He knows that he can reach many more, those who are unsuspecting and unprepared, by using this guise of false friendship. “We have far more to fear from within than from without.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 122.
Does God ever use deception and secret devising? “Those engaged in the cause of reform must in no wise be dissemblers, so that it will be difficult to discern upon which side they are, there must be no underhand working, no secret devising, for this is the way in which Satan works; but those who follow Christ must be resolute and unflinching.” 1888 Materials, 970.
Beware when you meet someone who does not stand firmly on one side of an issue. Remember that God never works underhandedly. His followers will be resolute, not crowd pleasers who try to appear on two sides of the issue, but instead they will stand unflinchingly for the truth.
“Satan was at work to cause apostasy in the early church; and in accomplishing his purpose, doctrines were introduced through which the church was leavened with unbelief in Christ and His coming . . . That which Satan has led men to do in the past, he will if possible lead them to do again. The early church was deceived by the enemy of God and man, and apostasy was brought into the ranks of those who professed to love God; and to‑day, unless the people of God awake out of sleep, they will be taken unawares by the devices of Satan.” Review and Herald, November 22, 1892.
The majority of professed Seventh-day Adventists are deceived and unaware of it. Sister White predicted over 100 years ago, that the devil would do this if he could. I do not think we realize how serious this really is. Never forget that those who are deceived do not know they are. They think they are on their way to heaven. That means that you and I could be deceived. We need to go to our closets and pray earnestly, “Lord, if I am deceived, show me what my deception is and help me to get onto the narrow road that leads to the city of God.”
Today after all other manner of attacks have failed to subdue some people, historic Adventists are being skillfully attacked by the ploy of supposed friendship. The very same people in the conferences, unions and the General Conference who have demonstrated over and over again through lawsuits and threatened lawsuits, through every manner of political maneuvering, through ridicule and verbal attacks at large Adventist gatherings, through attacks from official publications and through many books and letters, without any repentance or confession or change of heart, now propose to be the friends of the historic Adventist people. Thousands who have stood firm for truth through all manner of attacks are succumbing to this one. It is a new and near the end twist in the shaking process. Thousands of Adventists are being destroyed spiritually and they do not know it. If you are not studying and praying day by day, you will be one of those destroyed and never know what happened until it is too late.
Quotations about Pretended Friends
“At the present day, Satan gains power over God’s people, by means of those false brethren who, while at heart friends of the world, exert an influence in the church. These are the most efficient workers that the great deceiver can employ. They are constantly seeking to lessen the enmity between the church of Christ and his deadliest foe. They supply the connecting link whereby he can unite the church and the world. Here lies our present danger,—a danger against which we must constantly guard. While we should make all possible effort to save souls, deeming no self‑denial or sacrifice too great to effect this purpose, we must at the same time maintain our allegiance to God.” Review and Herald, July 18, 1882.
“The gospel of Christ has little to fear from its open opponents. Its most dangerous foes are the pretended friends of Christ . . . He who is a friend of Christ studies the word of God, and brings its principles into his daily life, making every thought, word, and deed subject to the control of the Spirit of God.” Youth’s Instructor, June 14, 1894.
“The opposition and discouragement that the builders in Nehemiah’s day met from open enemies and pretended friends is typical of the experience that those today will have who work for God. Christians are tried, not only by the anger, contempt, and cruelty of enemies, but by the indolence, inconsistency, lukewarmness, and treachery of avowed friends and helpers.” Conflict and Courage, 266.
“All that he [Martin Luther] had endured from the opposition of both the pope and the emperor had not caused him such perplexity of mind or anguish of soul as did this deceptive work now linking itself with the Reformation. From the cause itself had arisen its worst enemies. Pretended friends were tearing down what he had labored at tremendous odds to build up. The very truths which had brought peace to his troubled heart had been made the cause of dissension in the church.” Signs of the Times, October 18, 1883.
Concerning the opposition that Ezra and Nehemiah had, Ellen White said: “That which made their work most difficult was not the open hostility of the heathen, but the secret opposition of pretended friends. Who, by lending their influence to the service of evil, increased tenfold the burden of God’s servants.” Prophets and Kings, 675.
The opposition that Nehemiah met is the kind of opposition that we are now meeting. Now is the most deceptive time in the history of the world. All the experience that the devil gained before and after Nehemiah’s time he is bringing to bear upon the people of God. We cannot put our confidence in men, they can fail us. Counseling a conference worker, Ellen White said: “You who are finite, erring, and unsanctified, have supposed that God’s children were put under your jurisdiction, for you to plan for them, and bring them to your terms. The policy you have labored so hard to establish in your connection with the work is an offense to God. He has never justified any arrangement, through organization, discipline, or laws, whereby men who have evidenced that they are not susceptible to the Holy Spirit’s moving shall use their power to sustain others in a like disregard of the Spirit’s work.” 1888 Materials, 1367.
It does not matter if a person is a member of any organization or a leader in an organization. If they do not give evidence that they are under the control of the Holy Spirit, they could lead you astray. Anyone you associate with will have an influence on your mind and spirituality. The more you associate with that person, the greater effect he will have on you. The devil is working full time to get God’s people tied up by marriages or friendships with those who pretend to be friends of the cross of Christ, but are not under the control of the Holy Spirit.
What will we do when we are in a situation similar to the one Nehemiah was in? If the Holy Spirit is not leading our minds, we will be trapped. It is so deceptive that we cannot even tell from outward evidence what is going on. It may look so holy, righteous and so religious, but it is really a trap. If we trust in ourselves or in men we will be deceived. Our only refuge is in God. There is nothing that the devil can do that the Holy Spirit does not know all about. If your mind is under the control of the Holy Spirit, He will protect you from all of these things. Every time we make decisions we need to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and develop the habit of saying, “Lord, is this the decision that You want me to make?” If you do this, God will be your constant help, and He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.