Reading 7 – Sabbath, December 13, 2014
The Final Triumph of the Third Angel’s Message
By Idel Suarez, Jr., U.S.A.
“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14.
Liberation of Auschwitz
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau, two Nazi concentration camps in Poland. Hundreds of thousands of people were starved, gassed, shot, or hanged at this place because they were considered asocial elements in Hitler’s Third Reich. Evil medical experiments were performed on pregnant women and children. I saw the undeniable evidence at the camp. There was one room full of human hair used to make fabric. There was another room containing suitcases with names written on them. These had been brought by the prisoners, who thought they were just being moved from one ghetto to another. Another room was full of women’s shoes–thousands of them. The room that struck me the most contained children’s shoes. There were so many little shoes of innocent children who perished like the infants and toddlers in Bethlehem because of King Herod’s jealousy, evil surmising, and rage. I passed through the gates with the infamous writing overhead in German: Arbeit macht frei (Work makes free). I saw the bunkers where people were forced to sleep crowded and nearly naked on wooden planks during brutally cold winters. I stood at the “death wall” where Jews, Roma, Poles, Soviets, and perhaps some believers in the third angel’s message were shot by a firing squad. Down in the basement of one of the block buildings, prisoners were locked up in solitary confinement without sunlight or food and left to perish as did John the Baptist at the command of another Herod, the tetrarch known as Antipas who governed Perea and Galilee.
It was not just the Jews and other asocial elements who were prisoners at Auschwitz. The Nazi guards were themselves imprisoned as they cooperated in inflicting horrible suffering on others. They were slaves to their ideas of narcissism, brutality, and self-deception. It was a living hell for all.
Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the concentration camp at Auschwitz, writes that the most physically fit were not the ones who survived; those who were emotionally fit endured. Only those who held on to their loved ones in their memories and hopes endured the torture and overcame.1
The Bible maintains that only two elements can overcome the world. One is love, and the other is faith. The apostle Paul agrees with Frankl that love can overcome the world. The apostle John adds that faith overcomes the world and its worldly traps and entanglements.
“As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” Romans 8:36-39; 1 John 5:4, 5.
When the Allies finally arrived to liberate the remaining prisoners at Auschwitz, some prisoners were unable to savor their newly gained liberty. They were too weak to eat and live on. They had lost the hope to live; and when hope arrived, it was too late.
The prophet Jeremiah shares his reflections about the final day of liberation when Jesus returns to take His saints from this earthly Auschwitz to the heavenly land of freedom. Many will not be saved. Many will not be able to overcome their hurt. Their spiritual health will not recover. Why? They will not be saved, because they did not gather a spiritual harvest in the summer so they would be prepared for the long winter of suffering and perseverance in the midst of evil.
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of My people recovered?” Jeremiah 8:20-22.
Do you have that love and faith of Jesus that makes it possible to endure through suffering, failure, and even death? If such a time of suffering were to be repeated in your lifetime, would you be able to withstand the vials of evil as did Paul and John in their day through love and faith?
The slide to Auschwitz
In 1977, C. Everett Koop, M.D., the celebrated Surgeon General of the United States during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, wrote an article and gave a talk titled “The Slide to Auschwitz.”2 He compared the United States to Germany in the late 1930s. Both nations were technologically advanced. Both nations had numerous universities and philosophers. Both nations were professedly Christian. Both had strong and powerful militaries. Both were following the same economic and political path. The Germans advocated abortion. They made war on the unborn. Then they made war on the terminally ill and supported euthanasia–mercy killing of sick adults. Then it was natural to do the same to the mentally deprived or handicapped. These people were murdered because they did not think like other people. Then the society made war on the asocial elements–people who were considered different, such as the Jews, the Roma or gypsies, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They also sent to the gas chamber other ethnic groups, such as the Polish and Soviets. Dr. Koop makes the comment that if it happened in Germany in the 1930s without physicians protesting, it can also happen in America today. Ironically, religious leaders were swept onto the propaganda bandwagon of the Third Reich, which was promised to be a third millennium of rule and peace. What composed the first two? Pagan Rome ruled for 1,000 years, and Papal Rome ruled for 1,000 years. Why not Germany? Why not America? Does not the Bible foretell a millennial kingdom? How could it be that millions remained silent before so many atrocities? How could it be that nominal Axis-power and conquered churches espoused the Nazi regime with pride?
For example, a worker living in Nazi-occupied Holland, remarked: “The only thing they
Visiting a holocaust museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, I read the following statement attributed to Martin Niemöller which reflects the mindset of many millions during the Nazi era across most of occupied Europe. “First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Socialist. Then, they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”4
Silence is consent. Ezekiel wrote not only to his generation of believers in Babylonian captivity, but also to the final generation of spiritual Israel amid spiritual Babylon. He called on all to regard their responsibility before God as spiritual watchmen over God’s present truth. If we do not protest, if we do not share the message of life, we become partakers of the sins, atrocities, and wicked deeds committed by others. If we do not speak to allow the Spirit to take people from darkness to light, then we who remain silent will be converted to them in darkness. Complacency, apathy, and procrastination are immoral steps on the path that slides toward Auschwitz.
“So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Ezekiel 33:7-9.
Watchman, are you watching over your own soul? Are you your brother’s keeper? Do you not see the final struggle and final triumph in sight?
Recollections from Friedensau
After nearly 100 years, members of the Reform Movement, unlike the Reform pioneers in 1920, were allowed to present their stand on pacifism at a Symposium at Friedensau Adventist University on May 14, 2014. Two lectures based on the Bible, Spirit of prophecy, and irrefutable evidence from the Civil War and the Great War were presented by myself and Brother Woonsan Kang to an Adventist audience that included scholars, students, and laypersons. Questions were answered in the spirit of Christ. We stated that Reformers do not consider themselves better or holier than others, yet we strive to live according to the teachings of the Lamb of God.
During a recess on the last day, an Adventist scholar presented some troubling predictions that, according to the Post-Modern Adventist philosophy, the Sunday law may never come and prophecy may fail. I asked another attending professor, “Do you also believe at your American Adventist University that the Sunday law may never come?” He replied that the problem was that fourth generation Adventists were having trouble, since the second coming of Christ has not yet occurred.
How many believers in the third angel’s message are also having trouble grasping the fact that about 170 years after 1844–longer than the 120 years of Noah’s preaching–Jesus has not yet returned? Peter also met Christians and unbelievers in his day who doubted that Christ would return. He wrote: “… Beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:1-6, 9, 10.
Although there are more reasons that could be cited, the apostle Peter cites three evidences for the coming of Christ. First, we have the messages of the prophets and the promises of Jesus Himself that the event of His return will happen. Second, to demonstrate that “all things” don’t ever “continue” in the same way, we have the testimony of the flood record with its fossils showing the death of millions of creatures, as well as the flood stories which abound among aborigines and different cultures around the world. Just as God put an end to the wickedness of the ancient world with a worldwide flood, so He will set a limit to this planet and then create a new one with a new holy race. And, third, God is longsuffering, as attested to by thousands of believers throughout history. He has providentially waited and intervened according to His own clock and timing, which is beyond human reckoning. God waits as sinners become saints. This is the greatest argument for Christianity. Sinners do change by grace and by the working of the Spirit, which scoffers cannot deny. Every conversion is a testimony of God’s longsuffering and His desire that all men be saved if they are so willed.
“The mercy of God is shown by His long forbearance. He is holding back His judgments, waiting for the message of warning to be sounded to all. There are many who have not yet heard the testing truths for this time. The last call of mercy is to be given more fully to our world. The word of God portrays the wickedness and corruption that will exist in the world in the last days. As we see the fulfillment of prophecy, our faith in the final triumph of Christ’s kingdom should be increased.”5
Perhaps Jesus has delayed His coming and the event so long expected because He is waiting for you to change your mind, heart, and spirit by His saving grace. Will you hearken to the voice of mercy before it ceases and the angel flies down to close the door of grace?
The Great War and fallen heroes
Considering the buildup of armies before World War I, some individuals had premonitions that it was impending. Writers and religious leaders saw the onset of a terrible struggle emerging between the royal houses of Europe. There was a significant increase in weaponry and colonialist sentiments. The terrible conflict brought an end to the old world order of warfare. Aircraft, tanks, machine guns, submarines, chemical warfare, and other technological killing methods were conceived during World War I. They were fast, effective, and lethal in producing mass murder of both military personnel and innocent civilians. Ironically, as some men seek to increase longevity, others study how to end it.
It was right at the outbreak of this Great War that spiritual conflict and division came to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. On July 21, 1914, before the other letters were issued, L.R. Conradi, Hans F. Schuberth, and Guy Dail wrote to the War Ministry in Germany requesting that all Adventists be excused from military service on Saturdays (Sabbath). Kaiser Wilhelm, the emperor of Germany, wrote on that letter–“No pardon [exception] for Adventists.”6 Regrettably the European Adventist leadership yielded to the demands of the state and engaged in war, and did so even on the Sabbath. “About ten percent of the total Adventist membership in Germany” or “2,000 German Adventists engaged in the war effort.” Of these, “257 were killed in action.”7
Beginning in August 1914, members who maintained the original position of the church on conscientious objection to bearing arms and engaging in war were disfellowshipped. Those who espoused the peaceful teachings of Christ when drafted went into hiding. One of the pacifist Adventists who took the words of Jesus to heart, that is, to flee, was Wilhelm Richter, the church elder in Bremen, Germany. He was eventually caught and imprisoned. He was tortured and saw others martyred for their faith and their nonviolence position. By the grace of God, he survived and became a preacher in the Reform Movement.
He withstood the times of peril. He gave witness to the power of God to endure when persecuted and harassed. But did he remain faithful to the faith? No; apparently he had differences with some of the Reform Movement leaders, and because of personal hurt among brethren, he separated and left the present truth. Brother Oscar Kramer recalls that some of his descendants did remain with the Reform Movement.
How ironic that some who persevere in times of war throw in the towel in times of peace. Are you, too, grieved because of some personal difference with your brethren? Are you willing to forgive but not to forget? Does not God want us to forgive and forget like He does? He says, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17.
Jesus wants us to live like a living sacrifice for His spiritual kingdom of grace. In the current time of peace, it is important not to be caught or deceived by personal grievances. Like children, Jesus admonishes us to be forbearing with one another, to forgive one another, and to be busy about the Lord’s business of announcing the final triumph of the third angel’s message.
Off the coast of the United States on both the Eastern and Western shores, there are some little aquatic snails called “limpets.” They have a nice turtle-like shell to cover themselves and be protected from the pounding waves. They live on the seaside rocks.8 When they see one of their fellows swept away by the force of the oncoming waves and high tide, the others tenaciously cling more strongly to and deeper on the rocks as a sure anchor and strength so as not to be washed away. What an object lesson for the Christian who knows that the end of time will bring torrential rains, floods, and forceful waves of persecution and distress! Like the tiny limpet, we too must build upon the rock, upon Jesus Christ, and hold on tighter to Him as we see others being washed away in the ocean of sin, worldliness, apathy, or discontent.
Toward the final triumph–conversion and endurance
Like the psalmist, we may repeat the prayer, “But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: Thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.” “But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: Thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.” Psalm 40:17; 70:5. This verse appears twice in the King James Version of the Psalms and always at the end of a psalm. Maybe that is the longing of your soul. Maybe you, too, are poor and needy and desire an escape from trouble and affliction.
But notice that the first verse of the subsequent psalm adds another prayer: “In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in Thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline Thine ear unto me, and save me. Be Thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: Thou hast given commandment to save me; for Thou art my rock and my fortress.” Psalm 71:1-3.
May God spare us from the prevailing confusion in Adventism today. May you, too, be delivered by seeking refuge in Jesus as your “strong habitation.” May you “continually resort” to Jesus as your “rock” and “fortress.” He is the spiritual ark in which we must hide through the coming torrent and storm.
Jesus told His disciples that there would be a tarrying time. “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.” Matthew 25:5, 6. Everyone slept, and it was necessary to have a reserve of oil while waiting for the bridegroom. This is the tarrying time when many consider the coming of the Lord as late. This is the time to store more oil of the Spirit in our souls and to watch for the midnight hour of liberation.
In Western Latin American culture, the bride typically tarries and the guests anxiously await her arrival for the marriage ceremony. Yet in Jesus’ time, it was the bridegroom who tarried, and everyone waited to call out, “Here comes the Bridegroom!”
Jesus also told His disciples that they would need to endure and persevere in order to be saved on the last great day. “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13. “And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Mark 13:13.
“There is to be no end to this warfare this side of eternity, but while there are constant battles to fight, there are also precious victories to gain, and the triumph over self and sin is of more value than the mind can estimate. The effort put forth to overcome, though requiring self-denial, is of little account beside the victory over evil.
“The life-work given to us is that of preparation for the life eternal, and if we accomplish this work as God has designed that we should, every temptation may work for our advance; for as we resist its allurement, we make progress in the divine life. In the heat of the conflict, while engaged in earnest spiritual warfare, unseen agencies are by our side, commissioned of heaven to aid us in our wrestlings, and in the crisis, strength and firmness and energy are imparted to us, and we have more than mortal power. But unless the human agent shall bring his will into harmony with the will of God, unless he shall forsake every idol, and overcome every wrong practice, he will never succeed in the warfare; but will be finally overcome. Those who would be conquerors must engage in conflict with unseen agencies; inward corruption must be overcome, and every thought must be brought into harmony with, and subjection to, Christ.”9
William C. White in a letter in which he recounted the last days of his mother, Sister Ellen G. White, stated that she believed in “the final triumph of the third angel’s message.”10 Do you believe you can be part of this final triumph?
As another Week of Prayer ends and brings us closer to the return of our Saviour Jesus Christ, let us realize that only our personal conversion, the necessary change of heart, mind, and spirit, will prepare us for the final triumph of the third angel’s message, which will be witnessed in the return of Jesus in glory and majesty to redeem His people.
“Has your character been transformed? Has darkness been exchanged for light, the love of sin for the love of purity and holiness? Have you been converted, who are engaged in teaching the truth to others? Has there been in you a thorough, radical change? Have you woven Christ into your character? You need not be in uncertainty in this matter.
Has the Sun of Righteousness risen and been shining in your soul? If so, you know it; and if you do not know whether you are converted or not, never preach another discourse from the pulpit until you do. How can you lead souls to the fountain of life of which you have not drunk yourself? Are you a sham, or are you really a son of God? Are you serving God, or are you serving idols? Are you transformed by the Spirit of God, or are you yet dead in your trespasses and sins? To be sons of God means more than many dream of, because they have not been converted. Men are weighed in the balance and found wanting when they are living in the practice of any known sin. It is the privilege of every son of God to be a true Christian moment by moment; then he has all heaven enlisted on his side. He has Christ abiding in his heart by faith.”11
The story is told of a skeptic who was demeaning and downgrading the Bible as he dialogued with a Christian.
Skeptic: “It is impossible in this modern age to believe in any book so old whose authorship is questionable.”
Christian: “Then, tell me, sir, do you know who was the author of the multiplication table? Such a table is very ancient for this modern age.”
Skeptic: “No, I do not know, nor do I believe anyone knows.”
Christian: “You must certainly not believe in the multiplication table because the authorship is questionable.”
Skeptic: “O, but I do believe in it, because it works. There are mathematical proofs to show that it is true.”
Christian: “Let me then add that the Bible is also true because it works and there are proofs to show it is true. Just think for a moment of the millions of people through the ages both great and small who have changed their lifestyles, because of the gospel of Jesus, from worst to good. They have abandoned a life of drunkenness, adultery, drugs, stealing, and other vices which still afflict our modern world. They have adopted a life of service to humankind, stopping slavery like William Wilberforce, opening orphanages like George Muller, establishing hospitals like Ida Scudder, founding universities like William Carey, setting up rehabilitation centers like Corrie Ten Boom, and promoting peace like Leo Tolstoy. Jesus works, and He is true.”
Dear friend and believer, the coming of Jesus into our souls and His return to our planet will be the final triumph of the third angel’s message. Hallelujah.
1 Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006).
2 C. Everett Koop, “The Slide to Auschwitz” (Lecture before the American Academy of Pediatrics, October 18, 1976), www.humanlifereview.com/the-slide-to-auschwitz/. Accessed June 13, 2014.
3 Quote from the “Diary of an office worker in Amsterdam,” 1941, Auschwitz museum exhibit, Auschwitz, Poland.
4 Martin Niemöller, “First They came for the Socialists,” Holocaust Encyclopedia, www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?Moduled=10007392. Niemöller was a prominent Protestant pastor who spent seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
5 Ellen G. White, “A Call to Service in the Master’s Harvest,” Pamphlet No. 19 (Fernando, California, April 21, 1907), p. 7.
6 Jacob M. Patt, “The History of the Advent Movement in Germany” (dissertation, Stanford University, 1958), p. 256.
7 Ibid., pp. 270, 271.
8 The Encyclopedia Americana International Edition, vol. 17 (Danbury, CN: Grolier Incorporated, 1993), pp. 493, 494.
9 Ellen G. White, Christian Education (1894), pp. 122, 123.
10 William C. White, “Letter of W.C. White,” Review and Herald, March 11, 1915, par. 14.
11 Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (1923), pp. 440, 441.