Editorial – Purification of the Church, Part I

“They fell all the way along the path one after another, until 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.” Word to the Little Flock, 14. This statement shows that the separation process which is necessary for the purification of the church takes place over a period of time.

What is involved in the purification of the church? How does it happen? And why is it necessary? We will look at the last question first. The purification of the church is necessary because Jesus is returning to this earth to receive a purified people who are without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:25-27). Every man who has hope of being part of this glorious church at the end “purifies himself even as He is pure.” I John 3:3. Revelation 19:7, 8 again reveals the fact that the church, the “bride”, who is ready to meet Jesus, will have “made herself ready” and will be clothed in a garment of character bright and clean. It is distinctly stated that this garment of character represents righteous acts of this group of holy people. So the purification of the church is necessary before the church can be ready for the second coming of Christ.

We will look at the first question next. What is involved in the purification of the church? We will look at this involvement not so much from the human side as from the divine side. “The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people.” Desire of Ages, 671. So this is not something that would simply be nice to have happen. The honor of God and Christ, the honor of the government of God is at stake in this development. “The great matter to be decided in the conflict was not merely between God and man; every creature that God had created was involved in the conflict. The unfallen worlds saw that the character of God could be vindicated only through this trial and conflict of the two forces. The attributes of God must be made to appear. Of the stability of his government there must be no question. And the Son of God himself proposed to carry forward the work to the end, to gain the victory over the prince of darkness and over all his allies.” Youth Instructor, April 15, 1897.

But now we come to the question, How does the purification of the church occur? First of all, God through chosen messengers initiates reformatory movements to purify His church. This was done in the time of the 16th century reformation, and in the 19th century God sent a special message of warning of judgement to purify His church. It is called the first angel’s message. The great mass of professed Protestant Christians rejected it.

“The message was designed for the testing and purification of the church. They were to be led to see whether their affections were set upon this world or upon Christ and heaven. They professed to love the Savior; now they were to prove their love. Were they ready to renounce their worldly hopes and ambitions, and welcome with joy the advent of their Lord? The message was designed to enable them to discern their true spiritual state; it was sent in mercy to arouse them to seek the Lord with repentance and humiliation.” Great Controversy, 353.

The message which God had sent for the testing and purification of the church revealed all too surely how great was the number who had set their affections on this world rather than upon Christ. The ties which bound them to earth were stronger than the attractions heavenward. They chose to listen to the voice of worldly wisdom and turned away from the heart-searching message of truth.” Great Controversy, 380.

“Angels were watching with the deepest interest the result of the heavenly message, and when the churches turned from and rejected it, they in sadness consulted with Jesus. He turned His face from the churches.” Early Writings, 235.

It was because of the rejection of this heavensent warning that the Protestant churches have found it impossible to come into a purified condition to the present day.

Instead of developing into Christ’s final purified people, which was the great privilege offered them, they refused to come completely out of Babylon and chose to retain significant features of antichrist. (See Great Controversy, 384.)

The next great question is: What happened to those who accepted the message of warning that God sent? Those who accepted Bible truth point by point were established on a “firm platform” (Early Writings, 258) composed of the three angels’ messages (Rev. 14:6-12).

After l844, the work of purification proceeded in earnest with them. We plan to look at this next month.


Editorial – Purification of the Church, Part II

The door of salvation was shut for many in the 1840’s: “God was in the proclamation of the time in 1843. It was His design to arouse the people and bring them to a testing point, where they should decide for or against the truth . . . they [ministers and laymen] helped to sound the cry, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.. . . Angels were watching with the deepest interest the result of the heavenly message, and when the churches turned from and rejected it, they in sadness consulted with Jesus. He turned His face from the churches and bade His angels faithfully watch over the precious ones who did not reject the testimony.” Early Writings, 232–235.

Notice the way that the church was purified in 1843: God sent them light which brought them to a testing point. Would they accept or reject it? The second angel’s message revealed that those who rejected the first angel’s message had “rejected light from heaven and fell from the favor of God.” Early Writings, 237. Many were disfellowshipped and many left their former churches. (Early Writings, 260, 261.)

Any church that received and then rejected the first angel’s message in 1843 fell from the favor of God and the beloved of God had to separate from such a church. (Involved in the first angel’s message is the 2300 days terminating in 1844, the cleansing of the sanctuary, including both an open and a shut door and the call to worship God as the creator.)

“Near the close of the second angel’s message, I saw a great light from heaven shining upon the people of God. The rays of this light seemed bright as the sun. And I heard the voices of angels crying, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him!’ This was the midnight cry, which was to give power to the second angel’s message.” Early Writings, 238.

The early Adventists thought that the midnight cry was at the end of the path to the city of God, but the Lord revealed to Ellen White that the midnight cry was at the beginning of the path and was of vital importance to the purification of the church. She wrote, “I raised my eyes and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On this path the Advent people were traveling to the City, which was at the farther end of the path. They had a bright light set up behind them at the first end of the path, which an angel told me was the midnight cry. This light shone all along the path, and gave light for their feet so they might not stumble. And if they kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, who was just before them, leading them to the City, they were safe . . . Others rashly denied the light behind them, and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and got their eyes off the mark and lost sight of Jesus, and fell off the path down in the dark and wicked world below. It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another, until we heard the voice of God like many waters.” A Word to the Little Flock, 14.

Are you still on this path? Is your lamp burning and do you have extra oil? Or have you accepted Satan’s sophistry “that God had deceived the people”? (Early Writings, 248.) Is your religious experience vitally involved with the cleansing of the sanctuary, beginning in 1844? Do you know what it means to enter the “Most Holy Place”? Do you understand who and what the spiritual entity called “Zion” is and who and what “Babylon” is? Will you eventually fall off the path? When all who are going to deny the light behind them (the first and second angel’s messages and the midnight cry) have done so, then the church will become purified.

This is taking place with alarming rapidity all around us. As we will see, from the 1950s until the present, many Adventists all over the world have been falling off the path. (Just as the Christians in the 1840s still went to their churches, many of these today are still going to church and calling themselves Adventists, but they have fallen off the path.) Are you going to stay on the path?


Editorial – Purification of the Church, Part III

Question: How does the work of purification begin in the church?

[Emphasis supplied]

“Let the churches who claim to believe the truth, who are advocating the law of God, keep that law and depart from all iniquity. Let the individual members of the church resist the temptations to practice evils and indulge in sin. Let the church commence the work of purification before God by repentance, humiliation, deep heart searching, for we are in the antitypical day of atonement—solemn hour fraught with eternal results.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 378.

Question: What is the church to be purified from?

“The Church is in great need of purification. There are sins that are unrepented of and unconfessed. The poison of sin must be cleansed from the Church. Many have been so deceived, their principles so corrupted, that they have no pleasure in the word of God, and it has no power over their lives. God will test character. In the day of final judgment, when every man shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body, nothing will seem to have existence but character and the law of God. Man will be stripped of everything but the character he has formed. All will be seen to be either righteous or unrighteous.” Review and Herald, February 12, 1901.

Question: When is this purification to take place, and what will happen to church members if this work of purification is delayed?

“Many are asleep, and what can be said to arouse them from their carnal slumber? The Lord would have His church purified, before His judgments shall fall more signally upon the world. [Malachi 3 and 4 quoted.]

“I am instructed to urge upon our people most earnestly the necessity of religion in the home. Among the members of the household there is ever to be a kind, thoughtful consideration. Morning and evening let all hearts be united in reverent worship. At the season of evening worship, let every member of the family search well his own heart. Let every wrong that has been committed be made right. If, during the day, one has wronged another, or spoken unkindly, let the transgressor seek pardon of the one he has injured. Often grievances are cherished in the mind, and misunderstandings and heartaches are created that need not be. If the one who is suspected of wrong be given an opportunity, he might be able to make explanations that would bring relief to other members of the family. [Hebrews 12 is quoted, showing that the purification of the church and the shaking are one and the same.

“The Lord will show His loving favor to those who will keep His commandments. The Word, the living Word, received and obeyed, will be a savor of life unto life. The reception of the truth will regenerate and cleanse the sinful soul. This work of individual purification of character can not be safely delayed. Let our brethren and sisters take hold diligently of this work, co-operating with Him. . .

“Put away all deception. Let no one idolize his own opinions. Take your position decidedly to be fully consecrated to truth and righteousness. Christ is ready to receive all who will come to Him. Exercise a firm faith in all the promises of God. With confession and prayer, take your stand to be wholly the Lord’s henceforth and forever.

“To my ministering brethren I would say, Unite in a work of humbling your souls before God. Some have lost their first love, and need a new experience. Be determined that you will not yield to the enemy. Be patient toward all men, remembering that Christ has died for them. Improve every capability for the Lord’s work, and labor faithfully, untiringly, to save souls. Seek to arouse the churches by your own zeal.

“We all have a part to act in the Lord’s great plan for His work in the earth. We shall all have something to do, though it may be in jots and tittles, as opportunities present themselves. If these warnings are not heeded, if diligent work is not made to overcome and put away defects of character, God will soon have finished the work of judgment, and many will be found wanting. Shall we now, at once, cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God? We can not afford to delay this work of confession and humbling of soul, that our offerings may be acceptable unto God.” Review and Herald, November 8, 1906.

Editorial – Purification of the Church, Part IV

What is the objective of the purification of the church?

The objectives are:

  1. that the church reach perfection here (that each church member becomes faultless in character with every impurity destroyed),
  2. perfect unity in the church with no discord,
  3. to keep the church free from false doctrine, as the references below describe.

“No unlikeness to Christ will be permitted in the holy city. The process of gaining perfection of character is to be carried on in this life, that we may be prepared for the future immortal life. It is God’s purpose that His church on earth shall reach perfection. It is essential that His directions be strictly obeyed. The members are to help and strengthen one another. No self-exaltation or accusing or harshness are to be shown in our dealings with one another. . . . We must purify our souls through love and obedience to the truth. We must act like saints toward one another,preparing ourselves, drilling ourselves, to be without fault in character, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, 171.

“God is leading out a people to stand in perfect unity upon the platform of eternal truth. Christ gave Himself to the world that He might ‘purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.’ This refining process is designed to purge the church from all unrighteousness and the spirit of discord and contention.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 17.

“The churches must be guarded, and warned against deception. Christ gave Himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, that He might purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good orks. His church must be kept free from all false doctrine.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1083.

“The Lord is willing to help us, to strengthen and bless us; but we must pass through the refining rocess until all the impurities in our character are burned away. Every member of the church will be subjected to the furnace, not to consume, but to purify.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 485.

What hinders this work of purification that God is attempting to perform in His church?

The willingness of church members and leaders to tolerate sin in the church:

“Do not think that you show love for one another by allowing that which God condemns. Do not let sin strengthen in the church. God requires His servants to exercise faithful watchcare. But be sure to manifest Christ’s love. Go to the erring one, and pray with him. . . .God would not justify any man to place himself as dictator [over] what others must do when [he] himself needs the converting grace of Christ.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, 150.

What means does God use to purify His church?

  1. In addition to the prophetic Word in the Bible, God has given the testimonies of His Spirit to His remnant people as manifested in the messages given to Ellen White by the Holy Spirit.
  2. the “strait testimony,”
  3. trials and suffering,
  4. judgements. “He [Satan] seeks by all the means in his power to shake the confidence of God’s people in the voice of warning and reproof through which God designs to purify the church and prosper His cause.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 211.

“I have been shown that the Lord is reviving the living, pointed testimony, which will develop character and purify the church.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 216. (See also Testimonies, vol. 5, 222.)

“The purification of the people of God cannot be accomplished without their suffering.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 85.

“The Lord will work to purify His church. I tell you in truth, the Lord is about to turn and overturn in the institutions called by His name. Just how soon this refining process will begin, I cannot say, but it will not be long deferred.” Paulson Collection, 415.

What will happen if the “church” is not purified as God is attempting to do?

“The Lord Jesus will always have a chosen people to serve Him. When the Jewish people rejected Christ, the Prince of life, He took from them the kingdom of God and gave it unto the Gentiles. God will continue to work on this principle with every branch of His work. When a church proves unfaithful to the work of the Lord, whatever their position may be, however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities. But, if these in turn do not purify their lives from every wrong action, if they do not establish pure and holy principles in all their borders, then the Lord will grievously afflict and humble them and, unless they repent, will remove them from their place and make them a reproach.” Upward Look, 131.