The most complete and important of the many descriptions of the final message to be given "in the spirit and power of Elias" to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" is recorded in Revelation 14:6-14. When the messages of these three angels accomplish their divinely appointed mission, Christ will appear in the clouds of heaven "having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle" with which the harvest of the earth is reaped.
The writer then describes the two final harvests, one of the saints and the other of the wicked, both of which are declared to be "fully ripe," or brought to full maturity in character development, one into the likeness of Christ and the other into the likeness of Satan. There will be only two classes in the world when probation closes and both harvests will be brought to fruition by the same event—the giving of the final gospel message under the showers of the latter rain. In the natural world the same showers of rain which prepare the grain for the garner also ripen the tares for the fire. So in the spiritual realm "one class is ripening as wheat for the garner of God, the other as tares for the fires of destruction."—Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 127.
During this final exhibition of spiritual power every human being will make a final and irrevocable decision so that none will any longer be "in the valley of decision." It is then that "every truly honest soul will come to the light of truth" (The Great Controversy, p. 522) and will receive the seal of God, and all others the mark of the beast, the outward signs of which will be the observance of the true Sabbath or the counterfeit.
These two classes are described in the following quotation: "Those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mold and preparing for the mark of the beast. Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God and purifying their souls by obeying the truth —these are receiving the heavenly mold and preparing for the seal of God in their foreheads. When the decree goes forth and the stamp is impressed, their character will remain pure and spotless for eternity."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 216. The characters of the other class will have been determined for eternal destruction.
Seventh-day Adventists claim to be giving the threefold message set forth in such detail in our text. The message there described by the revelator is to be given to all "that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." This is the basis of the world-embracing mission activities of Seventh-day Adventists. It is in this connection that we explain when the antitypical day of atonement and judgment began in heaven, without which knowledge it would be impossible to tell all the world to "fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come." Such a message could not be proclaimed unless the judgment was already in session. Without this background we should be unable to define the meaning of the terms "Babylon," "the beast," "the image," or "his mark." Surely it is self-evident that this message which is to be proclaimed with a "loud voice" must be given by a people who comprehend the symbol-isms used and are under the constraining urgency of fulfilling the prophecy. Seventh-day Adventist ministers and people, including most of the children, understand the significance of this prophecy and believe they are divinely commissioned to proclaim it to the world.
The prophetic message under consideration can be proclaimed only in a world-embracing setting which eliminates any localized movement with a program and message that do not fulfill the description given. In fact, men have little or no conception of the meaning of the terms used, and attempt to explain them only when put to the test; and what strange and meaningless explanations are sometimes forthcoming. One recent writer thus stated the attitude of the religious world in regard to one of these terms: "The mark of the beast (13:18) has been a standing puzzle for centuries."—The Bible Expositor, vol. 3, p. 477 (1960). The writer could have included the other terms used by the apostle. In the light of the language used is it any wonder that the majority of professed Christians are puzzled over verses 9 to 11?
The prophetic picture of the last message also eliminates all of the little offshoot groups that have branched off from the great prophetic Advent Movement. These are composed of those who have "lost their first love" for the truth as well as their burden for world evangelism. Operating in only a few places, chiefly in this country, and with very meager results, they concentrate their time and efforts in trying to tear down the work of God and divert all the tithes and offerings possible from their divinely appointed purpose. They cannot possibly fulfill the prophetic picture of the final gospel message.
It is a generation too late to start a new message and movement, and those who attempt it are saying, "My Lord delayeth his coming," for it takes time and effort and organization to herald a message to all the world. IATe are clearly told that "we cannot now enter into any new organization; for this would mean apostasy from the truth." —Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 390. In what a bad light this statement places all of the little independent groups who are operating on their own and in defiance of denominational leadership and organization. It is not altogether the teachings of these leaders and members of divergent movements but chiefly the motives and spirit that control them which give evidence that there are "wolves in sheep's clothing" to be watched and avoided.
These defectors are again described in very uncomplimentary terms: "God will arouse His people; if other means fail, heresies will come in among them, which will sift them, separating the chaff from the wheat."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 707. Those who go out through false teachings are here declared to be "chaff," in contrast to the "wheat," which describes those who remain loyal to the message. In this sense these false teachings become a blessing in disguise and work together for good to the cause as they help cleanse the church in preparation for the return of Christ. Those of the chaff variety in the church are doubtless included in the following statement: "It would be far better for the progress and success of the third angel's message if such persons would leave the truth."—Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 413, 414. (See also p. 419.) The ultimate sifting out of the chaff will take place in the final "shaking" among God's people described in Early Writings, page 270. This experience is followed by the latter rain of the Holy Spirit and the loud cry.
Again we read: "God has a church, and she has a divinely appointed ministry."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 52. "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." —Ibid., p. 61. It is entirely too late for "one here and one there," or little offshoot groups to be right and the whole denomination wrong in doctrines and practices. God is leading a people who are His "chosen people" with a "divinely appointed ministry" and not self-appointed individuals with a spiritual superiority complex. Little groups who have split off from the world-embracing church are to the church's program as worthless as chaff. Several other strong statements on offshoot movements and leaders in this chapter should be noted.
Can these false teachers and counterfeit movements find themselves and their message in Bible prophecy so that they can claim to be a people of prophecy giving a message of prophecy? Of course they can, not only in the great prophetic sermon of Christ but also in the writings of the apostles and in scores of statements in the writings of Ellen G. White, but always and only as deceivers and false prophets and apostles whose burden is to "deceive many" including "if it were possible, even the elect." The language indicates that the chosen of God who are elected to eternal life will not be deceived because they are "wheat" and not "chaff." These false leaders and their followers are definitely identified as agents of "the accuser of the brethren" by their severe criticisms of and accusations against the denominational leaders, which constitutes their chief burden and message.
I can unhesitatingly bear testimony that during my fifty-two years in the ministry I have never had the shadow of a doubt in regard to the divine origin, leadership, organization, and ultimate triumph of this great prophetic message and movement. I have seen many offshoot leaders and movements rise and fall, while the Heaven-appointed Advent message has gone steadily forward in its prophetic mission, and I know of a certainty that all of the present and future apostasies will share the same fate as those of the past. Their voice and spirit is not that of the True Shepherd, and their messages do not ring true or meet the standard which through the years has been built on the foundation of God's eternal Word, and confirmed by the many volumes of instruction given through the prophetic gift. Up until the time of her death the Lord's servant never made one statement or gave even a hint or suggestion that the message and movement of the past would fail in its divinely appointed mission.
A fitting climax to this article is a scriptural warning that is as up to date as if it had just been written: "Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away [and enjoy to the full] what is promised. For still a little while—a very little while—and the Coming One will come and He will not delay. But the just shall live by faith [that is, My righteous servant shall live by his conviction respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him. [Hab. 2:3, 4.] But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe—who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah—and by faith preserve the soul" (Heb. 10:35-39, Amplified New Testament).*
In conclusion, listen to another inspired message with its present-day application: "We are God's commandment-keeping people. For the past fifty years 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, . . . 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, vol. 1, p. 208.