The Alpha and the Omega of Apostasy, Part I

If we desire to climb the last part of the road to heaven, we must learn our lesson from history. This is not only true for the part of history recorded in the Bible (see 1 Corinthians 10:11) and the Great Controversy (see the Preface of that book), but it is especially for the history of Adventism. It was in this context that Ellen White talked about the Alpha and Omega of apostasy. She wrote, “We have now before us the alpha of this danger. The omega will be of a most startling nature.” Selected Messages, vol.1, 197.

As we will see, in the following statement, the most startling nature of the omega apostasy consists in the extent of the crisis. While the alpha of apostasy stands for the beginning and was to be limited to a certain local area, the omega of apostasy would develop to a most startling degree until the end. “One thing it is certain is soon to be realized,—the great apostasy, which is developing and increasing and waxing stronger, and will continue to do so until the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout.” The New York Indicator, February 7, 1906.

If we want to know what course is to be followed in the days of the omega apostasy we have to heed the counsels and instructions given by Ellen White during the alpha crisis. We have to learn from history in order not to repeat the mistakes made in the past. “It is presented to me that in our experience we have been and are meeting this very condition of things.” Battle Creek Letters, 124.

In the alpha crisis we find a description of the future (or already existing) condition and experience of the Adventist people. Ellen White tells us: “Past history will be repeated; old controversies will arouse to new life, and peril will beset God’s people on every side.” Testimonies to Ministers, 116. “We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us.” Testimonies to Ministers, 31.

How Did the Alpha Develop?

In the center of the alpha-crisis was one man, John Harvey Kellogg, an Adventist physician. Under his leadership, Battle Creek Sanitarium received worldwide fame at the turn of the century. But in the late 1890s, his zeal and energy were more and more mixed with a new idea—that God, not being personal, was in every living thing; in every flower, in every tree, in every morsel of bread. What Kellogg believed to be “new light” forced the prophet of God, even before 1881, to give him a warning message. “Those theories are wrong. I have met them before.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 278, 279.

Since he was married to a Seventh Day Baptist, Kellogg came in contact with a Seventh Day Baptist minister named Lewis. This man held pantheistic views as well. In Kellogg’s mind the pantheistic ideas were brought to maturity, so that, in 1897, he talked about this topic publicly for the first time. Others like Waggoner and Kress came to the same conviction and joined him in preaching this at the General Conference, of 1899, in South Lancaster, Massachusetts.

One month before that conference, Ellen White had written and sent warning letters from Australia, which arrived just at the right time. But sadly enough, these warnings were not heeded. Pantheistic ideas continued to be spread over the land. They were taught, in Battle Creek, in both the College and Sanitarium

Ellen White had to send warning after warning. On February 18, 1902 the Battle Creek Sanitarium burned to the ground. To finance the new sanitarium, Kellogg was asked to write a book, the royalties of which were to be taken for the new sanitarium building. The book Kellogg wrote was entitled “The Living Temple.” The finished manuscript was full of his erroneous ideas that had their origin in spiritualistic, pantheistic philosophy. Many discussions followed. Ellen White wrote about this book.

“In the book ‘Living Temple’ there is presented the alpha of deadly heresies. The omega will follow, and will be received by those who are not willing to heed the warning God has given.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 200.

Despite the reproofs from God’s prophet, Kellogg was determined to print his book in the way he wrote it. So he gave a printing order to the Review and Herald Publishing Company, which they accepted. But God Himself interfered. After the printing patterns were finished and the book was ready to be printed, the publishing house, on December 31, 1902, caught fire and burned to the ground. This did not happen unexpectedly, but was mentioned by the prophet of the Lord more than one year before. (See Testimonies, vol. 8, 91.) The sword of fire had fallen and all knew that God had spoken.

In spite of all this, Kellogg was not prepared to change his mind, and stubbornly went to another publishing house to get his book printed. He then took efforts to ensure that his book was widely circulated among Adventists and non-Adventists. So the pantheistic tares grew and became a danger for the whole work. Ellen White summed up the situation with these words: “Battle Creek has been the seat of rebellion among a people to whom the Lord has given great light and special opportunities.” Paulson Collection, 71.

What is the Omega?

  • In the context of the alpha crisis, Ellen White describes a vision about the soon coming omega apostasy among Adventists. “The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 204, 205.
    A reformation inspired by the devil was to take place, and it would consist “in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith.”

What are the pillars of our Adventist faith? They are as follows:

  • The nature of Christ
  • The sanctuary service
  • The spirit of prophecy
  • The Three Angels’ Messages (exposing the papacy, Babylon, ecumenism, explaining the Sabbath-Sunday-question, exalting the law of God, etc.)
  • The state of the dead and the exposure of spiritualism

What Happened to the Pillars of Our Faith?

In the 1950s a movement began which was to bring heavy consequences with it for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Every possible effort was taken by men in leading positions in the General Conference to keep Adventists from being called a “sect” by evangelical Christians. The issue came to a head when Donald Grey Barnhouse, editor of the journal “Eternity,” and Walter R. Martin, evangelical theologian, wanted to write a book about Seventh-day Adventists proclaiming that they were a non-Christian “sect.”

For this purpose they met with Adventist leaders to discuss the doctrines of Adventism, by which Barnhouse and Martin were convinced Adventists would be unmasked as a non-Christian sect. The central topic was the final atonement service of Jesus, in the second apartment of the sanctuary, during the judgment when He would blot out the sins of the truly penitent. Another topic was the nature of Christ.

When the Adventist leaders were confronted with quotations from our books, they soon realized that their declarations would not be enough to convince Barnhouse and Martin that the SDA Church was not a sect, but a Christian church. So they decided to publish a new book on Adventist doctrines. That book was Questions on Doctrine (1957), and it marked the beginning of the effort to remove the pillars of our faith.

About the first pillar, the nature of Christ, they wrote: “He was without sin, not only in His outward conduct, but in His very nature. . . . He was sinless in His life and in His nature. . .” Questions on Doctrine, 383; [All emphasis supplied.]

As God’s end time people that are sanctifying themselves to be as pure in character as Jesus was during His life on earth (1 John 3:3), it is of saving importance to believe that Jesus could remain sinless with the same (sinful) flesh we have. Of what use is a savior that reveals that unfallen flesh could resist sin? We need a Savior who shows us that it is possible to live a perfect life (Hebrews 2:14, 17), in our sinful nature. And that is what Jesus did. He left us the example that sinful man does not sin when his will is surrendered entirely to God. Paul tells us of “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh . . . ” Romans 8:3. He who does not testify to this, reveals the spirit of Antichrist. (1 John 4:2, 3.)

A second pillar that was removed is the Spirit of Prophecy. Barnhouse wrote in his article “Are SDAs Christians?” what he was told by Adventist leaders about the prophetic gift of Ellen White. “The Adventist leadership proclaims that the writings of Ellen G. White . . . are not a parity with Scripture. . . . They admit her writings are not infallible . . . Her writings incidentally are not a test of fellowship in the SDA church.”
Ellen White was shown: “The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 48. We see that the last crisis—the Omega—has already begun.

A third pillar that has been taken away is the sanctuary doctrine. Barnhouse wrote: “Mr. Martin and I heard the Adventist leaders say, flatly, that they repudiate all such extremes [that is the teaching that Jesus went into the most holy place on October 22, 1844, to make an atonement before His Second Coming]. This they have said in no uncertain terms.”

The rejection of this important doctrine has been confirmed in the book Questions on Doctrine. On page 381 it states: “Jesus . . . entered the ‘holy places,’ and appeared in the presence of God for us. But it was not with the hope of obtaining something for us at that time, or at some future time. No! He had already obtained it for us on the cross.” (See also 354, 355; emphasis in the original.)

If Jesus completed the atonement at the cross, the question arises, what is Jesus doing up in heaven now that could be so important? If everything was done at the cross, then there is no closing atonement, no investigative judgment and no blotting out of sin. The result of such a theology is the idea that we never can become perfect. And if no one can overcome all sin, why should keeping the commandments be so important? Wouldn’t it then be just as easy to be saved as a Sunday-keeper as a keeper of the Sabbath? Also the Three Angels’ Messages would mainly consist of the message that Jesus has done everything for you. It is easy to see that here lies the cause for many of the wrongs and sins in the Adventist Church.

Are the fallacies presented in Questions on Doctrine still believed by mainstream Adventism today? Walter Martin gives the answer to this question in his book The Kingdom of the Cults. “On April 29, 1983, W. Richard Lesher, vice-president of the General Conference, responded in a personal letter. His reply read in part: ‘You ask first if Seventh-day Adventists still stand behind the answers given to your questions in Questions on Doctrine as they did in 1957. The answer is yes.’ ” For this reason we find in later books, like 27 Fundamental Doctrines of SDA’s, the same false doctrines presented.

In Germany’s ministerial seminaries, the doctrines that make us Seventh-day Adventists are denied without shame. One instructor stated: “I believe that in 1844 nothing happened, neither in heaven nor on earth.” U. Worschech of Marienhoehe’s Ministerial Seminary, as copied during his class “Sanctuary Service.” On another occasion the same instructor said, “We have to Ford-develop our theology on the sanctuary.” U. Worschech on the occasion of Desmond Ford’s visit at the AWA meeting, October 24-26, 1986.

That is the exact fulfillment of Ellen White’s prophecies concerning the omega-crisis and truly describes the present situation: “The foundation of our faith, which was established by so much prayer, such earnest searching of the Scriptures, was being taken down, pillar by pillar. Our faith was to have nothing to rest upon—the sanctuary was gone, the atonement was gone.” The Upward Look, 152. [Emphasis supplied.]

The Omega and the Three Angels’ Messages

If the atonement being done in the most holy place is taken away, the whole foundation of the Three Angels’ Messages has to collapse, too, because these angels point directly to Jesus’ work of redemption in the most holy place. (See Early Writings, 256.) Ellen White says: “I was shown three steps—the First, Second, and Third Angels’ Messages. Said my accompanying angel, ‘Woe to him who shall move a block or stir a pin of these messages. The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance. The destiny of souls hangs upon the manner in which they are received.’ I was again brought down through these messages, and saw how dearly the people of God had purchased their experience. It had been obtained through much suffering and severe conflict. God had led them along step by step, until He had placed them upon a solid, immovable platform. I saw individuals approach the platform and examine the foundation. Some with rejoicing immediately stepped upon it. Others commenced to find fault with the foundation. They wished improvements made, and then the platform would be more perfect, and the people much happier. Some stepped off the platform to examine it and declared it to be laid wrong. But I saw that nearly all stood firm upon the platform and exhorted those who had stepped off to cease their complaints; for God was the Master Builder, and they were fighting against Him.” Early Writings 258, 259. [Emphasis supplied.]

When we go out doing missionary work and distributing pamphlets that contain the Three Angels’ Messages, how often do we hear professed Seventh-day Adventists say something like this? “It is not good missionary work to be putting the beast, his mark and his image to the front. It’s just not the right method. It’s too hard.”

Even though they claim only to reject the form or the method, it is obvious that they fear our message could be made known publicly. The public unmasking of popery as the whore and the professed Protestant churches as daughters of whoredom, makes them uncomfortable, lest these churches denounce the Adventists as a sect. They fear that the result would be to raise opposition and to lower the acceptance and influence of Adventism, and they are afraid that it might finally bring about persecution.

People start finding faults with the platform, complain about it and wish to have improvements made. (See Early Writings, 258.) They claim, maybe not explicitly in their words, but by their deeds, that the foundation was built the wrong way. These are not just the feelings of a few Adventist individuals, but this is a policy which is penetrating the whole SDA-organization, as can be shown by the following example.

The former General Conference President, Neal Wilson, said in the Pacific Union Recorder: “Our work is not to denounce the Roman Catholic Church.” February 18, 1985. That sounds good, but what does he really mean? In a civil court case, Wilson said, “Although it is true that there was a period, in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, when the denomination took a distinctly anti-Roman Catholic viewpoint, and the term ‘hierarchy’ was used in a pejorative sense to refer to the papal form of church governance, that attitude on the church’s part was nothing more than a manifestation of widespread anti-popery attitude among conservative Protestant denominations in the early part of this century and the latter part of the last, and which has now been consigned to the historical trash heap so far as the SDA Church is concerned.” EEOC vs PPPA and GC, Civil Case #74-2025 CBR, 1975. [All emphasis supplied.]

How can it come to pass that the leader of a denomination that was called by God to warn of the efforts of popery, could “consign” that message “to the historical trash heap”? How can he reject God’s holy trust so decidedly? Neal Wilson had to bear witness of his faith in the courtroom in times of peace, but he betrayed it. The astonishing thing is that this statement, apparently, did not cause widespread indignation. One gets much more the impression that the president just formulated an accepted point of view among Seventh-day Adventists.

Ellen White describes this attitude in the following words: “The opinion is gaining ground, that, after all, we do not differ so widely upon vital points as has been supposed, and that a little concession on our part will bring us into a better understanding with Rome. The time was when Protestants placed a high value upon the liberty of conscience which has been so dearly purchased. They taught their children to abhor popery, and held that to seek harmony with Rome would be disloyalty to God. But how widely different are the sentiments now expressed.” The Great Controversy, 563. [Emphasis supplied.]

If now, in times of peace, we deny our faith that openly, what will happen in the future when laws are made against God’s commandment-keeping people? “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and [if] in the land of peace, [wherein] thou trustedst, [they wearied thee], then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” Jeremiah 12:5.

To be continued next month . . .