Reading 1 – Friday, December 5, 2014
Prophetic Foundation of the Reforation
By Parmenas Shirima, Tanzania
The end of 2014 as the Centennial Year of the rise of the Reform Movement among Seventh-day Adventists is a good time to consider more closely the prophetic foundation of God’s church. The objective here is to focus on the characteristics of a genuine reform movement. We will mention the fundamental principles of faith that were given to our first parents and succeeding generations. We refer to these principles as “divine institutions,” for they were established by God Himself and have a direct bearing on man’s spiritual and physical well being.
When God made a covenant with His people, Israel, He entrusted to them His divine principles. Because the Israelites as a nation were repeatedly unfaithful in keeping them and also rejected God’s Son, the Messiah, Christ founded His church under the new covenant with people from all nations and languages. Beginning in 1844, the Adventist Church was called as God’s remnant church upon the platform of truth. History shows, as prophesied in Revelation 12:17, that Satan waged an intensive war against this church to tempt it to be unfaithful to the divine principles.
Apostasy in the Seventh-day Adventist Church spread rapidly, and God found faithful Seventh-day Adventists to endure the crisis of World War I beginning in 1914 and maintain the purity and sanctity of His remnant church.
There are three basic criteria that characterize God’s remnant church:
1. Doctrine: God’s people uphold sound doctrine based on the present truth committed to them in the Bible and Spirit of prophecy. Doctrine determines the spirituality and faithfulness of the church to God.
“But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority–not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support.” –The Great Controversy, p. 595.
“No line of truth that has made the Seventh-day Adventist people what they are is to be weakened. We have the old landmarks of truth, experience, and duty, and we are to stand firmly in defense of our principles, in full view of the world.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 17.
2. Prophecy: The continued existence of God’s church is prophesied in the Bible as well as in the Spirit of prophecy. According to Amos 3:7, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.”
3. History: The continuous existence of God’s church is confirmed by the chain of history, beginning in Eden. From the very beginning, the history of God’s people has been marked by obedience and disobedience, apostasy, and separation. Again and again there was a “faithful remnant” that was then God’s church in truth, if necessary breaking away and separating, as well as reorganizing when injustice prevailed and there was persistence in error. It was like this in the time of the Reformers in the Middle Ages, as well as with the Advent Movement and also in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the time of World War I. “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” Isaiah 1:9.
What about the frequently encountered idea that God accepts and leads all groups that keep the Sabbath?|
“God has a distinct people, a church on earth, second to none, but superior to all in their facilities to teach the truth, to vindicate the law of God….
“God has a church on earth who are lifting up the downtrodden law, and presenting to the world the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. The church is the depositary of the wealth of the riches of the grace of Christ, and through the church eventually will be made manifest the final and full display of the love of God to the world that is to be lightened with its glory.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 58, 50.
Today, as in the time of Ellen G. White, one finds various groups among Adventists:
1. Nominal Adventists were Advent believers who rejected the sanctuary and Sabbath truths. Today this can apply to Adventists as individuals or groups that have given up the landmarks of Adventist truth. See Early Writings, p. 261.
2. False reformations. Ellen G. White describes the emergence of false reformations that would not lead to true conversion from error to truth. These false revivals would even be led by supposed Adventists. See Early Writings, p. 45.
3. Independent groups or loners that turn against the organization and church order and spread other false teachings. See Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 258, 259.
4. The remnant church (true reformers). See Early Writings, p. 261.
Divine institutions from in Eden
In the beginning, God created everything perfect. To guarantee the happiness of His creatures on earth, God created moral institutions which were the foundations of His loving rulership and entrusted them to man. In the succeeding generations, after sin’s entrance, those foundations were broken down. According to the prophecy of Isaiah 58:12, God will call a people at the end of time to repair the broken principles: “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.”
Commenting on this verse, the Spirit of prophecy speaks about the reformation at the end of time: “God’s remnant people, standing before the world as reformers, are to show that the law of God is the foundation of all enduring reform and that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is to stand as a memorial of creation, a constant reminder of the power of God. In clear, distinct lines they are to present the necessity of obedience to all the precepts of the Decalogue. Constrained by the love of Christ, they are to cooperate with Him in building up the waste places. They are to be repairers of the breach, restorers of paths to dwell in.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 678.
We will now consider briefly the institutions God established and gave to man at the beginning.
1. The holy law of God
“The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness of all intelligent beings depends upon their perfect accord with its great principles of righteousness. God desires from all His creatures the service of love–service that springs from an appreciation of His character. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service….
“Satan represented to the holy pair that they would be gainers by breaking the law of God. Do we not today hear similar reasoning? Many talk of the narrowness of those who obey God’s commandments, while they themselves claim to have broader ideas and to enjoy greater liberty. What is this but an echo of the voice from Eden, ‘In the day ye eat thereof’–transgress the divine requirement–‘ye shall be as gods’?…
“Whatever contradicts God’s word, we may be sure proceeds from Satan.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 34, 55. Read also: Exodus 20:1-17; Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14; Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 30:19; 20:17, 18.
2. The Sabbath
The wonderful works of creation were not left without a memorial. The psalmist says in Psalm 111:4: “He has made His wonderful works to be remembered….” The Sabbath, therefore, is the Lord’s day of rest, which He committed to His people for their keeping and observance for the promotion of their spiritual and physical rest. The Sabbath 2014 is also a sign between God and His people. Read also: Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11; 31:13-17; Ezekiel 20:12, 20; Isaiah 58:13, 14; Hebrews 4:9-11.
3. Marriage–lifelong bond
“Man was not made to dwell in solitude; he was to be a social being. Without companionship the beautiful scenes and delightful employments of Eden would have failed to yield perfect happiness. Even communion with angels could not have satisfied his desire for sympathy and companionship. There was none of the same nature to love and to be loved.
“God himself gave Adam a companion. He provided ‘an help meet for him’–a helper corresponding to him– one who was fitted to be his companion, and who could be one with him in love and sympathy….
“God celebrated the first marriage. Thus the institution has for its originator the Creator of the universe.” –Conflict and Courage, p. 14.
See also: Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:18, 2123; Matthew 19:3-6; Malachi 2:13-16; Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11; Ephesians 5:22-31.
4. Way of life (lifestyle)
“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed.” “And God said, see, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree whose fruit yield seed; to you it shall be for food.” Genesis 2:8; 1:29, New King James Version.
When the Creator prescribed man’s diet in paradise, He gave what is best for human nourishment–plant foods. At creation, He gave man a diet of fruit, nuts, vegetables, and legumes. The herbs of the field were added later. Genesis 3:18.
God created a perfect man. Body, soul, and spirit belong to the Lord. It is His will that mankind rejoice in spiritual, mental, and physical health. That is why He gave the principles of health.
“The health reform is one branch of the work which is to fit a people for the coming of the Lord. It is as closely connected with the third angel’s message as the hand is with the body.” –Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, p. 9. Read further: Exodus 15:26; 16:1-4.
“If we move from principle in these things, if we observe strict rules of diet, if as Christians, we educate our tastes after God’s plan, we shall exert an influence which will meet the mind of God.” –Testimony Studies on Diet and Foods, p. 69.
“Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power–these are the true remedies.” –The Ministry of Healing, p. 127.
“There are those who ought to be awake to the danger of meat eating, who are still eating the flesh of animals, thus endangering the physical, mental, and spiritual health. Many who are now only half converted on the question of meat eating will go from God’s people to walk no more with them.” –Counsels on Health, p. 575; Maranatha, p. 62.
The first violence which shed human blood was that of Cain, who killed his innocent brother Abel, and the crime of Lamech followed. Genesis 4:5-10, 23. Since that time, violence and war have multiplied as people and kingdoms rise up against each other and other nations. Matthew 24:6-11.
Anciently the Lord forbade His people to establish alliances with heathen nations. Deuteronomy 7:1-4. Nevertheless, Judah and Ephraim made alliances with Egypt, Syria, and Assyria. 2 Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6; 1 Kings 15:17-19; Hosea 12:12; 5:13. The Bible refers to such alliances as “fornication” (Revelation 17:2, 4), because they generate compromises and even war. The world today is infatuated by the spirit of politics and war. “In regard to the world, Christians will say, We will not dabble in politics. They will say decidedly, We are pilgrims and strangers; our citizenship is above.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 131.
“I was shown that God’s people, who are His peculiar treasure, cannot engage in this perplexing war
6. Purity of faith
Organizational cooperation of the church of God with other religious communities is one of Satan’s strategies for neutralizing the influence of God’s church and the present truth. From the very beginning, after the rebellion of Cain, God’s people were separate and distinct from the rebellious ones. Genesis 4:16, 17, 25, 26. When the lines intermingled, violence increased manifold and God had to destroy all of mankind in the flood. Genesis 6:1-3.
Later, when the Israelites were chosen as God’s people and church, the same principle of distinctness was applied to them. Exodus 19:3-6; Deuteronomy 7:1-6; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Revelation 18:1-5.
“The world must not be introduced into the church, and married to the church, forming a bond of unity. Through this means the church will become indeed corrupt, and as stated in Revelation, ‘a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.’ “ –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 265.
7. Tithes and offerings
“The Lord created every tree in Eden pleasant to the eyes and good for food, and He bade Adam and Eve freely enjoy His bounties. But He made one exception. Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were not to eat. This tree God reserved as a constant reminder of His ownership of all. Thus He gave them opportunity to demonstrate their faith and trust in Him by their perfect obedience to His requirements.
“So it is with God’s claims upon us. He places His treasures in the hands of men, but requires that one tenth shall be faithfully laid aside for His work. He requires this portion to be placed in His treasury. It is to be rendered to Him as His own; it is sacred and is to be used for sacred purposes, for the support of those who carry the message of salvation to all parts of the world. He reserves this portion, that means may ever be flowing into His treasure house and that the light of truth may be carried to those who are nigh and those who are afar off. By faithfully obeying this requirement we acknowledge that all belongs to God.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 386.
Today our loyalty and faithfulness as well as our love for God are shown by our tithes and offerings.
Read also: Genesis 2:16, 17; Deuteronomy 12:6, 11; Malachi 3:8-12; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.
8. Righteousness by faith
“After their sin Adam and Eve were no longer to dwell in Eden. They earnestly entreated that they might remain in the home of their innocence and joy. They confessed that they had forfeited all right to that happy abode, but pledged themselves for the future to yield strict obedience to God….
“The Son of God, heaven’s glorious Commander, was touched with pity for the fallen race. His heart was moved with infinite compassion as the woes of the lost world rose up before Him. But divine love had conceived a plan whereby man might be redeemed. The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner. In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin–sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 61, 63.
Read further: Genesis 3:15, 21; Isaiah 53:3-7, 11; Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Romans 3:22-26; Ephesians 2:5-8; Titus 2:11-14; Revelation 14:12.
Amazing parallels to Israel’s history
When the prophecy of Daniel 8:14, which told of the end time, was fulfilled in October 1844, the Advent Movement was called to life. Later, the Seventh-day Adventist Church arose from this movement as a worldwide organization. To it was entrusted the three angels’ messages and the gift of the Spirit of prophecy through Ellen G. White. Sadly, it did not take long for the church to start backsliding, and eventually there was open apostasy. As written in Jeremiah 6:16, the people refused to walk in the old paths; and Revelation 3:14-18 described the people as becoming spiritually lukewarm. The clear testimonies of the Spirit of prophecy warn God’s church against leaving the path of righteousness and truth.
“Jerusalem is a representation of what the church will be if it refuses to walk in the light that God has given.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 67.
“Like ancient Israel the church has dishonored her God by departing from the light, neglecting her duties, and abusing her high and exalted privilege of being peculiar and holy in character. Her members have violated their covenant to live for God and Him only. They have joined with the selfish and worldloving. Pride, the love of pleasure, and sin have been cherished, and Christ has departed. His Spirit has been quenched in the church. Satan works side by side with professed Christians; yet they are so destitute of spiritual discernment that they do not detect him.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 441, 442.
“In the balances of the sanctuary the Seventh-day Adventist Church is to be weighed. She will be judged by the privileges and advantages that she has had. If her spiritual experience does not correspond to the advantages that Christ, at infinite cost, has bestowed on her, if the blessings conferred have not qualified her to do the work entrusted to her, on her will be pronounced a sentence: ‘Found wanting.’ By the light bestowed, the opportunity given, will she be judged.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 247.
The Christ Our Righteousness message rejected
Sister White commented in support of the message presented at the 1888 General Conference: “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people…. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
It is sad that the majority of the delegates at the conference rejected the message. Sister White later wrote, “May the Lord have mercy upon you; for if you go on in this way, nothing but evil can be prophesied concerning you.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 77.
Calls for reformation unheeded
Many calls for reformation were given from the Bible and through the Spirit of prophecy, but they were not heeded. Here are a few of many lamentations from God’s servant: “We need a thorough reformation in all our churches. The converting power of God must come into the church. Seek the Lord most earnestly, put away your sins, and tarry in Jerusalem till ye be endowed with power from on high.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 443.
“God’s people will not endure the test unless there is a revival and a reformation.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 285.
“Unless there is a decided reformation among the people of God, He will turn His face from them.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 146.
“Men of clear understanding are needed now. God calls upon those who are willing to be controlled by the Holy Spirit to lead out in a work of thorough reformation. I see a crisis before us, and the Lord calls for His laborers to come into line. Every soul should now stand in a position of deeper, truer consecration to God than during the years that have passed….” –Selected Messages, book 2, p. 400.
“Who can truthfully say: ‘Our gold is tried in the fire; our garments are unspotted by the world’? I saw our Instructor pointing to the garments of so-called righteousness. Stripping them off, He laid bare the defilement beneath. Then He said to me: ‘Can you not see how they have pretentiously covered up their defilement and rottenness of character? “How is the faithful city become an harlot.” My Father‘s house is made a house of merchandise, a place whence the divine presence and glory have departed.’ “ –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 250.
A Reformation brought about by God
After many calls for reformation failed, God in His wisdom took a different and unexpected measure to reform His people. He allowed the church to enter the fiercest tests during World War I.
“Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 300.
“The reason why He does not oftener choose men of learning and high position to lead out in reform movements is that they trust to their creeds, theories, and theological systems, and feel no need to be taught of God.” –The Great Controversy, p. 456.
“Soon God’s people will be tested by fiery trials, and the great proportion of those who now appear to be genuine and true will prove to be base metal.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 136.
“Fearful tests and trials await the people of God. The spirit of war is stirring the nations from one end of the earth to the other.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 17.
“I have been deeply impressed by scenes that have recently passed before me in the night season. There seemed to be a great movement–a work of revival– going forward in many places. Our people were moving into line, responding to God’s call.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 514, 515.
The message of 1888–beginning of the loud cry
“The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth.” (Review and Herald, November 22,1892) Selected Messages, book 1, p. 362.
This was the fulfillment of Revelation 18:1-3: “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”
Sister White told how this angel of Revelation 18 would work. Early in the 1850s, she wrote about the test or temptation that the church would pass through: “The message of the fall of Babylon, as given by the second angel, is repeated, with the additional mention of the corruptions which have been entering the churches since 1844. The work of this angel comes in at the right time to join in the last great work of the third angel’s message as it swells to a loud cry. And the people of God are thus prepared to stand in the hour of temptation, which they are soon to meet….
“This message seemed to be an addition to the third message, joining it as the midnight cry joined the second angel’s message in 1844.” –Early Writings, p. 277.
The Reform Movement and continuation of the loud cry
In the above quotations, we recognize a sequence of what will happen. The loud cry message will join the third angel’s message as the midnight cry joined the second angel’s message in 1844. If we analyze this statement, we will note that when the midnight cry joined the second angel’s message in 1844, the Advent Movement, which had grown to over 50,000 in number, was sifted to only about 50 who remained faithful. Could it be that this experience is repeated during the development of the loud cry? We may analyze this further as follows:
1. The message of the loud cry is directed primarily to Seventh-day Adventists but also to the churches in the whole world. About forty years later, in 1892, she qualified her former statement, saying, “The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth.” –Review and Herald, November 22, 1892.
2. The loud cry message was intended to prepare God’s people to stand in the test that they were soon to meet in World War I.
3. As already mentioned, Sister White says that the loud cry will continue because apostasy in the churches will increase. When during World War I the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventists officially recommended that their members participate in the war and thus decided to transgress God’s commandments in times of war, a “loud cry” became necessary to warn God’s people in this regard.
The loud cry will come to a close when apostasy from God’s law is at its worst. Consider this statement, “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.” –Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, p. 57, December 4, 1905.
Therefore, the message given in Minneapolis in 1888 by Elders A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner was just the beginning of the loud cry, but the message could not swell to its full glory because the church was going downward spiritually, as became evident in 1914. With its militaristic attitude and the clear statement of participation in the war, the Seventh-day Adventist Church openly transgressed the fourth and sixth commandments by urging its members to take up weapons and fight, even on the Sabbath day. This decision was never changed up until today. The church thus did not pass the test.
It was reported at that time that 98 percent of the church’s members supported the decision of the church leadership, while 2 percent–a faithful remnant–stood firm to the church’s original stand in favor of obedience to the commandments of God.
Dear brothers and sisters, in this Week of Prayer, we should be aware of the fact that we as the Reform Movement have a high calling as well as a high responsibility. As individuals and as a church, do we live according to our calling? How do we fulfill our responsibility to Adventists of other organizations and to the world?
To all Adventists and to everyone in all churches today the call is, “Come out of her, My people, that that ye be not partakers of her sins,…” Revelation 18:4. Yet this testimony will be seen in its glorious effect only when we as the Reform Movement reveal God’s love to the world. “The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to ‘the principalities and powers in heavenly places,’ the final and full display of the love of God. Ephesians 3:10.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 9.
May God give us the heavenly understanding and courage to take our place in the proclamation of the three angels’ messages and the loud cry to the fallen world.