There is a very true old saying: “If God builds a chapel, the devil will build a cathedral right next door to it.” Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun. Paul wrote to the believers in his day: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness;. . .” 2 Cor. 11:14,15. In Early Writings, p. 45, the Spirit of prophecy has this to say:
“I saw that the mysterious signs and wonders and false reformations would increase and spread. The reformations that were shown me were not reformations from error to truth.”
Therefore, not all that is called reformation is worthy of the name. Unless a movement has the true characteristics, as were outlined in Lesson 7, we are admonished to be extremely cautious concerning it. And why? Simply because man sees only what is right in front of his eyes. He looks, so to speak, for the package with the most beautiful wrapping, for the article glistening with gold tinsel, for the outer shell with the brightest colors; and he listens to the nicest sounding voice.
Since man has this weakness in his very nature, he is in dire need of the enlightening presence of the Holy Spirit to distinguish between the true and the false.
AS AN ANGEL
There is one who has for nearly 6,000 years studied this weakness so inherent in the human mind. By now he knows how to ensnare his victims.
“Satan frequently appears as an angel of light, arrayed in the livery of heaven; he assumes friendly airs, manifesting great sanctity of character and high regard for his victims, the souls whom he means to deceive and destroy.” – Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 456.
Christ’s warnings against false christs imply that many would come with a Christ-like appearance; they would seem to be holy and perhaps even teach mostly truth. But just as the unwary bird or fish is caught with the most enticing bait, so poor souls become victims of Satan’s wiles when he covers one lie with an enticing package of truths.
The most deceiving of all false reformations is the one bearing the appearance of holiness. When Luther the great Reformer, moved by God’s Spirit, broke the iron chains of Rome’s usurped authority with a plain, “It is written!” and the hierarchy trembled to its very foundation, “. . . Satan was not idle.” He attempted what he has attempted in every other movement for reform – to deceive and destroy the people by palming off on them a counterfeit in place of the true work. As there were false christs in the first century of the Christian church, so there arose false prophets in the sixteenth century.
“A few men, deeply affected by the excitement in the religious world, imagined themselves to have received special revelations from Heaven, and claimed to have been divinely commissioned to carry forward to its completion the Reformation which, they declared, had been but feebly begun by Luther.” – Great Controversy, p. 186.
Why does Satan raise up false reformations? This is a question people often ask. Read further:
“In the days of the Reformation its enemies charged all the evils of fanaticism upon the very ones who were laboring most earnestly against it. A similar course was pursued by the opposers of the Advent Movement. And not content with misrepresenting and exaggerating the errors of extremists and fanatics, they circulated unfavorable reports that had not the slightest semblance of truth.” – Great Controversy, p. 397.
False reformations are generally led by men inclined to fanaticism. Peter was speaking of this class when he said: “. . . By reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” 2 Peter 2:2. This is exactly Satan’s object in raising up counterfeit reformations – they bring reproach upon the true cause of reformation.
WINDS OF DOCTRINE
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Eph. 4:14.
We may be greatly astonished at the ever-increasing number of false reformations which seem to sprout like mushrooms after the rain. Nearly all of them are lone stars or comets with their own fanciful ideas, around which they build as issue of seemingly great importance. They totally ignore the truth of the following statement:
“God has a church upon the earth who are His chosen people, who keep His commandments. He is leading, not stray offshoots, not one here and one there, but a people.” – Testimonies to Ministers, p. 61.
We are warned of this danger again in Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 80:
“The days are fast approaching when there will be great perplexity and confusion. Satan, clothed in angel robes, will deceive, if possible, the very elect. There will be gods many and lords many. Every wind of doctrine will be blowing.”
Satan is not interested in those who lightly regard the message; they are his already. It is most earnest, the most consecrated, and the most spiritual ones whom he attacks with his temptations. To them he tries to appear as the preacher of righteousness, reminding them of Christ’s righteousness as it was preached in 1888. But even great truths such as this, the sanctuary message, and the investigative judgment, when presented in an unbalanced, misconstrued manner, can lead men astray in a false so-called “spiritual” awakening. Such a course prevents true, honest souls from understanding and embracing the genuine, practical reformation that is called for.
Of the various fanatics that have beset the Adventist cause, some have set the time for Christ’s coming, while others have branded all forms of organization as satanic. Still others feel that they have the gift of prophecy. Many carry the message of health reform to unwarranted extremes or become one-sided dress reformers. God’s true reformation will embrace the principle of all these truths for this time but will become neither worldly nor fanatic on one particular point. God’s servant described past experiences when she wrote:
“We are God’s commandment-keeping people. For the past fifty years (written in 1904) every phase of heresy has been brought to bear upon us, to becloud our minds regarding the teaching of the Word – especially concerning the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and the message of Heaven for these last days, as given by the angels of the fourteenth chapter of Revelation. Messages of every order and kind have been urged upon Seventh-day Adventists, to take the place of the truth which, point by point, has been sought out by prayerful study, and testified to by the miracle-working power of the Lord. But the waymarks which have made us what we are, are to be preserved, and they will be preserved, as God has signified through His Word and the testimony of His Spirit. He calls upon us to hold firmly, with the grip of faith, to the fundamental principles that are based upon unquestionable authority.” – Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 208.
ANOTHER FALSE REFORMATION
“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 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 disregarded. 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, Book 1, pp. 204, 205.
The reformation described here would be exactly the opposite of a divine reformation. Against both extremes the Bible and the Testimonies raise their voices. Let us beware therefore, dear student, of supporting any such false reformation but rather hold solidly to that reformation which possesses all the divine characteristics.
One more thing to remember: Although there may be scores of false reformations abounding in the land, God’s true reformation will be clear in all its divine luster to everyone who has the gift of God to “discern the spirit.” As a mountain spring cannot be stopped up but will break loose again, so the true reformation will continue in spite of opposition and in the face of all false reformations around it.