Of the many signs given by Jesus in His great prophetic sermon by which we may know when His return is near, "even at the door," the only one He repeated, indicating its importance, was the warning of the coming of false prophets and apostles to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect. These deceivers would appear first in apostolic times, as predicted in Matthew 24:4, 5, and this was the first sign Jesus gave in answer to the question of His disciples, "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"
Many scriptures describe the influence of these false teachers in the early church; in fact, entire Epistles were written to counteract their work of deception, such as Paul's letter to the Galatians and the Epistle written by Jude. To the elders of the church of Ephesus, Paul said: "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:29-31).
Of these deceivers the apostle said to the church of Corinth: "Such men are sham-apostles, crooked in all their practices, masquerading as apostles of Christ. There is nothing surprising about that; Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is therefore a simple thing for his agents to masquerade as agents of good. But they will meet the end their deeds deserve" (2 Cor. 11:13-15, New English Bible).* It was even necessary for Paul, after dictating his Epistles, to add a footnote in his own handwriting, so these apostates could not copy and claim them as their own. As strange as it may seem, these things happened even during the visitation of the Holy Spirit in the early rain of Pentecostal power.
According to Matthew 24:23 and 24 Jesus predicted that these apostasies would be repeated in the last days, after the "great tribulation" of the Middle Ages, which was shortened "for the elect's sake." Many predictions could be read from the writings of the apostles that these false teachers and counterfeit teachings would increase and constitute one of the chief signs of the return of Christ, and one could read for hours similar warnings from the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy where they are virtually named. This is especially true in volume 2 of Selected Messages. Here we are told that all the sensational teachings, emotional experiences, fanaticisms, and apostate teachings and offshoot movements of the past will be repeated just before the end.
These "grievous wolves" in "sheep's clothing" will "of your own selves . . . arise," and masquerading as the apostles of Christ, will teach "perverse things" in order to "draw away disciples after them," so they can be leaders of little movements and live off the tithes and offerings of their followers, with no accountability to any organization for the use they make of the money received. One offshoot leader on his deathbed called in his followers and confessed that he started the movement only because he wanted to be a leader and the denomination refused to give him a position. He confessed that he had been wrong and urged them to be rebaptized and rejoin the only movement that can triumph in the end; and they took his counsel. Would that other offshoot leaders were honest enough to follow his example.
The teachings of these defective movements cannot be the everlasting gospel because the word gospel is the combination of the two words—good and spe/—the latter meaning "news." The word gospel therefore means "good news" and is 'glad tidings of great joy" and "the sweetest story ever told." Unless religious teaching brings to the hearers hope, faith, joy, peace, love, courage, comfort, good cheer, confidence, and happiness, it is not the gospel at all. The spoken and written messages of these dissidents are just the opposite of good news and glad tidings. The spirit of criticism and condemnation is often the chief characteristic of their teachings. Because of their lack of love, meekness, humility, and Christlikeness, they are easily recognized by genuine Christians. This makes it possible to obey the counsel given in 1 John 4: 1 to 3: "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." It can therefore be easily determined whether the spirit is that of Christ or antichrist.
We must never forget that counterfeits are dangerous in proportion to their likeness to the genuine, which makes the distinction difficult. Counterfeit money would deceive no one unless it had the appearance of the genuine, and the more like the genuine the more dangerous and deceptive it is. Government money experts spend no time studying counterfeit money because of the danger of becoming confused, but they study and become so well acquainted with the genuine that they can recognize the spurious at a glance. The same principle should be followed in regard to counterfeit religious teachings. Studying them can easily bring confusion, but acquaintance with the truth makes it possible to recognize error at a glance. They can be judged chiefly by the spirit and tone of the messages, and it is therefore only necessary to listen to a few words or read a few lines to come to the proper conclusion as to whether it is of divine or satanic origin. Jesus is called the Good Shepherd and we are told that "the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." The person who is well acquainted with Christ through prayer, association, and the study of His Word will be able to recognize His voice and distinguish it from that of the great deceiver or any of his agents.
We must recognize the fact that no counterfeit religion is dangerous unless it is mingled with truth, and the more truth it contains the more deceptive it is. The following are only a few of many similar quotations: "Every conceivable message is coming to counterfeit the work of God, and always bearing the inscription of truth upon its banner." "When the Lord has a genuine channel of light, there are always plenty of counterfeits. Satan will surely enter any door thrown open for him. He will give messages of truth, mingling with the truth ideas of his own, prepared to mislead souls, to draw the mind to human beings and their sayings, and prevent it from holding firmly to a 'Thus saith the Lord.' " "It is true that they quote an abundance of Scripture, and teach much that is true; but truth is so mixed with error as to lead to wrong conclusions. Yet because they can weave Scripture into their theories, they think they have a straight chain of truth."—Selected Messages, vol. 2, pp. 92, 96, 97, 110, 111. "The most dangerous falsehoods are those that are mingled with truth. It is thus that errors are received that captivate and ruin the soul."--Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 338.
But someone says, suppose their teachings and writings are filled with quotations from the Spirit of Prophecy? That should in a special sense put us on our guard and even increase our suspicion. Note the following: "It will be found that those who bear false messages will not have a high sense of honor and integrity. They will deceive the people, and mix up with their error the Testimonies of Sister White, and use her name to give influence to their work. They make such selections from the Testimonies as they think they can twist to support their positions, and place them in a setting of falsehood, so that their error may have weight and be accepted by the people. They misinterpret and misapply that which God has given to the church to warn, counsel, reprove, comfort, and encourage those who shall make up the remnant people of God. Those who receive the Testimonies as the message of God will be helped and blessed thereby; but those who take them in parts, simply to support some theory or idea of their own, to vindicate themselves in a course of error, will not be blessed and benefited by what they teach."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 42.
"Those who start up to proclaim a message on their own individual responsibility, who, while claiming to be taught and led of God, still make it their special work to tear down that which God has been for years building up, are not doing the will of God. Be it known that these men are on the side of the great deceiver. Believe them not. They are allying themselves with the enemies of God and the truth. They will deride the order of the ministry as a system of priestcraft. From such turn away, have no fellowship with their message, however much they may quote the Testimonies and seek to entrench themselves behind them. Receive them not, for God has not given them this work to do. The result of such work will be unbelief in the Testimonies, and, as far as possible, they will make of none effect the work that I have for years been doing."—Ibid., p. 51.
These are the critics who have so much to say and write about the so-called unpublished testimonies that they say are deliberately being kept from our people by the leaders in order to hide their contents. This is a false charge. Before her death Ellen G. White appointed a board of trustees composed of leaders in certain positions to whom she delegated authority to publish her writings and make the decisions as to what should be published and what should not, because many of them were written for the benefit of individuals, institutions, and specific situations, and have long since served their purpose. The Loma Linda Messages is an example of instructions given to a certain institution and therefore not intended for, or needed by, the entire denomination, although they are by no means being kept from our people for the purpose of concealment. I have two copies, and others are in many private hands and institutional libraries.
All the instruction in these messages and other so-called unpublished testimonies that is needed by our people has been placed in the books published under the direction of the board of trustees selected by Sister White, or will be in future publications. We should be glad that everything was not published at the same time. Those who are advertising these unpublished messages for sale are not only charging much more then they should but are guilty of a violation of common law for publishing and selling writings without the knowledge and consent of the author, personally or through the board of trustees appointed for that purpose. Whether an up-to-date copyright exists or not, the law is still binding in principle and should be recognized, especially by Christians. This is true of all books, pamphlets, and articles whether they were ever copyrighted or not. They are primarily the property of the author.
The following are only a few of the many quotations testifying to the divine leadership and ultimate triumph of the prophetic message and movement that started in 1844: "There is no need to doubt, to be fearful that the work will not succeed. God is at the head of the work, and He will set everything in order. If matters need adjusting at the head of the work, God will attend to that, and work to right every wrong. Let us have faith that God is going to carry the noble ship which bears the people of God safely into port."—Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 390.
"Can you not commit the cause to Him? You cannot with your finite minds understand the working of all the providences of God. Let God take care of His own work.. . . In the closing work we shall meet with perils that we know not how to deal with; but let us not forget that the three great powers of heaven are working, that a divine hand is on the wheel, and that God will bring His purposes to pass. He will gather from the world a people who will serve Him in righteousness.
"Fearful perils are before those who bear responsibility in the Lord's work—perils the thought of which makes me tremble. But the word comes, 'My hand is on the wheel, and in My providence I will carry out the divine plan. "—Ibid., p. 391.
"The evidence we have had for the past fifty years of the presence of the Spirit of God with us as a people, will stand the test of those who are now arraying themselves on the side of the enemy and bracing themselves against the message of God. . . . If I did not believe that God's eye is over His people, I could not have the courage to write the same things over and over again. . . . God has a people whom He is leading and instructing. . . . I am instructed to say to Seventh-day Adventists the world over, God has called us as a people to be a peculiar treasure unto Himself. He has appointed that His church on earth shall stand perfectly united in the Spirit and counsel of the Lord of hosts to the end of time. . . .
"Nothing in this world is so dear to God as His church. With jealous care He guards those who seek Him. Nothing so offends God as for the servants of Satan to strive to rob His people of their rights. The Lord has not forsaken His people. Satan points to the mistakes that they have made, and tries to make them believe that thus they have separated themselves from God. Evil angels seek in every way to discourage those who are striving for victory over sin. They hold up before them their past unworthiness, and represent their case as hopeless. But we have an all-powerful Redeemer."—Selected Messages, book 2, p. 397.
"We are to hold fast the first principles of our denominated faith, and go forward from strength to increased faith. Ever we are to keep the faith that has been substantiated by the Holy Spirit of God from the earlier events of our experience until the present time. . . . The past fifty years have not dimmed one jot or principle of our faith as we received the great and wonderful evidences that were made certain to us in 1844. . . . Not a word is changed or denied. That which the Holy Spirit testified to as truth after the passing of the time, in our great disappointment, is the solid foundation of truth. Pillars of truth were revealed, and we accepted the foundation principles that have made us what we are." —Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, pp. 57, 58.
* The New English Bible. The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961