Positions Reversed

Millions of God’s people have been persecuted and killed, both in ancient and in modern times. But the time is coming when the position of the oppressors and the persecuted will become completely reversed. Those who have been persecuted will receive their eternal inheritance, and those who have been the oppressors will be raised to receive their doom. On which side will you be? Each one of us will either be on one side or the other. How do you know on which side you will be?

The book of Revelation clearly predicts that as we approach the end of the world, the entire world will be deceived, but God’s children will not be deceived. This is spoken of over and over again in the latter chapters of the book of Revelation. Not only will the whole world be deceived, but the book of Revelation tells us that they will be deceived by evil spirits. The devil is the chief evil spirit, and he is the one who deceives the whole world in the last days by means of miracles. Read Revelation 13:13–17 and Revelation 16:13, 14.

People are also going to be induced to build an image to the beast. They will be commanded to worship this image, and if you do not worship this image, it will be decreed that you be killed. In Revelation 13:15, it says, “He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”

Verses 16 and 17 continue: “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

If you do not worship the beast or receive his mark, you will not be able to buy or sell. This is very serious. When the powers of this world declare that you must worship God by worshiping the image to the beast, you must remember that the Ten Commandments say that you are not to worship any image. In Exodus 20:4–6, it says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” This is clear instruction not to worship any image.

When the powers of this earth say that you must worship the image, or be killed, what is God going to do? The answer is given in Revelation 14:9–12: “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’ Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

Notice, God says that if you worship the beast and his image and receive his mark, you are going to receive of His wrath, undiluted. In other words, it will be unmixed with mercy. This has never happened before. All judgments of God in the world, up to the present time, have been mingled with mercy.

We are living in the day of mercy, the day of grace, called in the Bible, the day of salvation, as you can read in Isaiah 49:8: “Thus says the Lord: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard You, and in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You as a covenant to the people, to restore the earth, to cause them to inherit the desolate heritages.’ ”

It is the acceptable time, a day of salvation for the person who has been sinning. When a person is sinning, he has been following the devil, because he who sins is of the devil (I John 3:8). During this time, a person who has been living in sin, following the devil, can decide to repent, to turn around, to be converted, and follow Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.

If we follow Jesus Christ, we are to walk as He walked. He lived a holy life. We are to learn to live the way He lived. We are living in that day of grace, but the day of grace will not last forever.

When the world rejects the third angel’s message, as stated in Revelation 14:9–12, the day of grace will come to an end, and God’s wrath will be poured out. A description of this is found in Revelation 22:11, 12. It says, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”

The time is coming when you won’t be able to turn around. You won’t be able to forsake your life of sin and follow the Lord Jesus. Whatever condition you are in, you are going to stay that way. You are either saved or lost, and you are going to stay that way. You might be lost today, but we are not yet living in the time when probation is closed, so you still have the opportunity to turn around. You could choose to turn and follow the Lord Jesus. But when probation is closed, it will be too late for you to turn around. It will be too late to change your mind. You will either be saved or lost. And when that happens, then will be what the Bible calls, “the day of His wrath.”

Remember, the third angel’s message tells us that those who do not listen to this will receive God’s wrath unmixed with mercy, unmingled. What is God’s wrath? In Revelation 15:1 it says, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” If you reject the third angel’s message, then when probation closes, you will receive the wrath of God, and it is contained in the seven last plagues. “So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.” Revelation 16:2.

Those who reject the Three Angels’ Messages will receive the seven last plagues, which are God’s unmingled wrath. They do not just receive the first plague; they receive the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, and when the seventh plague is poured out, life in this world, as we know it, will come to an end.

Notice what it says in Revelation 16, starting with verse 17: “Then the seventh angel [this is the seventh plague] poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ ” Notice, it is over now! “And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” Verses 18–21.

Then the second coming of Christ will occur; the day and hour for the coming of Jesus will be announced from heaven [see “My First Vision,” Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White (1922), 57–61], and when Jesus comes, it says in the Bible, every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7). Jesus said to His disciples, before He left them, “If I go away, I am going to prepare a place for you, and I am going to come again, and I am going to receive you to Myself” (John 14:2, 3).

The apostle Paul described this wonderful, exciting event in I Thessalonians 4:16, 17. He said, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

The Bible says, concerning God’s children, that, “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:16, 17.

In this world, in all ages, the chosen of Jesus Christ have been educated and disciplined in the school of trial. God’s children walk in narrow paths on this earth. Jesus said it is a narrow way that leads to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:14). God’s children, in this world, are purified in the furnace of affliction, and for Jesus’ sake, God’s children have endured opposition and hatred. The children of our Lord have followed Jesus through conflicts, trials terrible, and through self-denial, and they have experienced bitter disappointments. However, by their own painful experience, they have learned the evil of sin and of its power, its guilt, and its woe, and they look upon sin with abhorrence. A sense of the infinite sacrifice that the God of heaven made to cure sin will keep us humble forever. And it will fill our hearts with gratitude and praise for the One Who offered His life on Calvary’s cross to save us from sin and death.

If we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings here, we will be partakers of His glory in the future. The heirs of God, when Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven, will come from hovels, dungeons, scaffolds, mountains, deserts, from the caves of the earth and also from the caverns of the sea. In this world, as Paul says in Hebrews 11, they were destitute, afflicted, and tormented, because they followed Jesus. Millions of people have gone down to the grave, loaded with infamy, because they steadfastly refused to listen to the deceptive claims of Satan that had taken the world captive. By human tribunals they have been judged to be the vilest of criminals, but when Jesus comes, the Bible says, “God Himself is Judge.” Psalm 50:6.

At that time, the decisions of this earth will be reversed. The Bible tells us that the rebuke of His people He will take away. “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 25:8.

Isaiah 62:12 says, “And they shall call them The Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called, Sought Out, a City Not Forsaken.” And also, “Proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes ….” That is talking especially about people who have been burned at the stake. “The oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:2, 3.

No longer will God’s children be feeble, afflicted, scattered, oppressed and tormented. From now on, the Bible says in I Thessalonians 4:17, they will “always be with the Lord.” They will stand before the throne of God, clad in richer garments than anyone in this world has ever worn. They will have crowns that are more glorious than any monarch of this world wears. The days of pain and weeping will be forever ended. The King of Glory will have wiped away every tear from every face. Every cause of grief will have been removed. They will wave palm branches and pour forth a song of praise, clear, sweet, and harmonious. In fact, the song of praise they will sing is recorded in the Bible in Revelation 7:10, 12. This is what it says they will sing: “Crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ … saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever.’ ”

Are you going to be in that throng singing that song? In this world we can only begin to understand the wonderful theme of Redemption. With our finite comprehension, we may consider most earnestly the shame, the glory, the life, the death, the justice, and the mercy that meet in the cross.

With the utmost stretch of our mental powers, we cannot grasp the full significance of the plan of salvation or the cross of Jesus Christ. People in this world dimly comprehend the length and breadth and depth and height of redeeming love. The plan of salvation will not be completely understood, even when we are taken to heaven. It will take eternal ages for us to understand the love, the mercy and grace of God. Your happiness will be constantly increasing. You cannot afford to miss this.

The cross of Jesus Christ will be the science and the song of the redeemed throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Never will it be forgotten that He Whose power created and upheld unnumbered worlds in space—the Beloved of God, the Majesty of Heaven, the One Whom cherubim and seraphim delighted to adore, that Person—humbled Himself, to uplift fallen man. He came to this world and bore the guilt and shame of sin and the hiding of His Father’s face, until the woes of a lost world broke His heart and crushed out His life.

As we look upon Christ glorified, we will remember Christ crucified. The idea that the Maker of all the worlds, the arbiter of all destinies, should lay aside His glory and humiliate Himself from love to man, will always excite the wonder and adoration of the universe.

The Bible asks, “What do you conspire against the Lord? … affliction will not rise up a second time.” Nahum 1:9. The plan of salvation will work a permanent cure to the rebellion and disobedience of sin. As the nations of the saved look upon their Redeemer and see the eternal glory of the Father shining in His countenance, as they behold His throne, which is from everlasting to everlasting, and they know that His kingdom is to have no end (Daniel 7), they will break forth into a rapturous song.

We are told in Revelation 5:11–13 what heaven’s inhabitants are going to declare: “I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ ”

The mystery of the cross explains all other mysteries. When we look at the light that streams from Calvary, then the attributes of God that used to fill us with fear and awe begin to appear beautiful and attractive, because we see that mercy and tenderness and parental love blend with holiness, justice and power. While we behold the majesty of God upon His throne, high and lifted up, we will see in His character the gracious manifestations and comprehend, as never before, the significance of that endearing term by which Jesus taught us to address Him Who is in heaven, “Our Father.”

It is going to be seen, in the future, that God the Father, the One Who is infinite in wisdom, could devise no plan for the salvation of fallen man except the sacrifice of His Son. The compensation for this sacrifice is the joy of peopling the earth with ransomed beings, holy, happy and immortal. Jesus asked of His Father, in the Garden of Gethsemane, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39. And, the chief priests, when Jesus was on the cross, spoke the words inspired of them by the devil, “If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.” Matthew 27:42. Jesus could have come down from the cross. Jesus could have walked away from the Garden of Gethsemane. He could have left this world to perish in its guilt. But, because He did not walk away, because He did not come down from the cross, because He died on the cross to pay the price of sin, He has the authority and the right to forgive your sins, to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, if you confess them (I John 1:9). He has the right to give to you the gift of eternal life.

If we follow Jesus, we must obey His law; we must follow Him in holy living, but our obedience has nothing to do with merit. All merit for eternal life is of grace, none of works. Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith … not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9. It is a gift, but it is a gift that can be given only to those who are fit to receive it.

There are going to be some wonderful consequences of the Saviour’s conflict with the powers of darkness. It is going to be joy to the redeemed, redounding to the glory of God throughout all eternity. The big question is, Are you going to participate in this great salvation?

We do not comprehend what it means, because we do not live very long. How many people do you know who are over a hundred years old? We do not live very long in this world, but if you are saved, if you are redeemed, if you are taken to the Father’s house, you will then be given a life that measures with the life of God. You will be alive, not just a hundred years from now, not just a thousand years from now, not just ten thousand years from now; you will have a life that will never end. Can you comprehend the value of a gift like that? If you are given life that will last forever, that would have more value than you could write down or compute. It has infinite value.

The value of your soul is so great that the Father saw fit to send His Son to this world, to pay the price for your sins so that you could be restored and redeemed. The value of the soul is so great, that the Father is satisfied with the price that is paid. Not only is the Father satisfied with the price that is paid, but Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for your sins, will also be satisfied with the price paid. Notice what it says in Isaiah 53:11, 12: “He shall see the travail [labor] of His soul, and be satisfied. … Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Jesus will be satisfied. He wants to take you to that place and give to you eternal life. The question is, Will you let Him do it? Will you choose to be His disciple, to follow Him today, in obedience and holy living?

[Bible texts quoted are NKJV translation.]

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.