At the entrance of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., there are four inscriptions. One says, "What is past is prologue," the second, "Study the past," the third, "The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future," and the fourth, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." This building stores the records of the past, and they are the proud history of the people of the United States.
These inscriptions appear to bear a message of warning, as well as one of challenge. How justifiable it would seem to feel snugly secure in our accomplishments and to be deceived into thinking all we now have to do is to enjoy the fruits of our labors. These inscriptions remind us that the past is but the beginning, the introduction. There is so much yet to be done. Our security for the future depends upon how we accept the responsibilities the past has handed us.
If this be true about our nation, it is many times more true about our movement. We are tempted to feel we have arrived. It would be easy to sit back and imagine we can enjoy the fruits of the sacrifices of others. But this is not so. The past is prologue. The task is not finished, and there is so much more to be done, and the hour is late. Greater things lie ahead to challenge our talents, our resources, and our energies, and tax them to the limit. Only as we redouble our efforts, and sacrifice increasingly, can the task be finished. God is waiting for each individual member to capture this vision.
The servant of the Lord said more than half a century ago: "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history."—Life Sketches, p. 196.
As we read this, there are two factors that stand out. (1) All that has been done so far, glorious as it is, still leaves much to be done to complete the task. (2) The hour is late, and this tremendous task will be accomplished in a short time. The only possible answer is twofold: a completely dedicated people and the outpouring of the latter-rain power.
Here is the test: "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light" (Rom. 13:11, 12).
Knowing the Time
What is the time? The text says the night is far spent. In 1844 God called out a people and commissioned them to proclaim a message to all the world. This people would emerge out of a great disappointment (Rev. 10:8-10). They were to be students of the "little book" that had been sealed but now was open. They were to be bearers of the threefold message. This message begins with the proclamation that "the hour of his judgment is come."
The judgment-hour proclamation is a solemn message. It is a matter of eternal destiny. But it is a matter of hope. We are getting ready to live with Jesus. Hence it is a question of relationship with Him. "As the books of record are opened in the judgment, the lives of all who have believed on Jesus come in review before God. Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living. Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated."— The Great Controversy, p. 483.
Prophecy has given the time. The "little book" of Daniel's prophecy has declared, "unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." We all know as Adventists how to count those prophetic years that unmistakably terminate in 1844. But there is one point we often miss, and it is that this wonderful time prophecy was sealed by the cross. In Daniel 9:24 we read: "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy." There is a divine connection between the cross and the judgment-hour message. It is forever fixed as surely as the cross of Calvary is fixed. Every Adventist must understand this relationship.
When the hand of God's prophetic clock struck the hour His movement was born. That was 1844. The time had come.
Our Lord, talking of this age and time, said: "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34). The argument about the length of a generation is beside the point. The whole context and urgency of its setting makes it a relatively short space of time. One consideration seems to claim our thinking—this generation must be getting very near its terminal point. There is not much time left.
Time Is Running Out
"Angels are now restraining the winds of strife, that they may not blow until the world shall be warned of its coming doom; but a storm is gathering, ready to burst upon the earth; and when God shall bid His angels loose the winds, there will be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture."—Education, pp. 179, 180. This was written more than half a century ago. If the angels of God were holding in check the winds of strife and the gathering storm was ready to burst on the earth at the turn of the century, where are we in the program of events today? At the time of writing the statement about the "restraining angels," the Lord's servant said it was the time of the end: "We are living in the time of the end. The fast-fulfilling signs of the times declare that the coming of Christ is near at hand. The days in which we live are solemn and important. The Spirit of God is gradually but surely being withdrawn from the earth. Plagues and judgments are already falling upon the despisers of the grace of God. The calamities by land and sea, the unsettled state of society, the alarms of war, are portentous. They forecast approaching events of the greatest magnitude."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 11.
The early pioneers expected Jesus to come in their day. Nor was their hope ill-founded. It could have happened. Listen: "If every soldier of Christ had done his duty, if every watchman on the walls of Zion had given the trumpet a certain sound, the world might ere this have heard the message of warning. But the work is years behind. While men have slept, Satan has stolen a march upon us." p. 29.
When I first knew this truth, more than forty years ago, there was in the church an old gentleman at that time more than eighty-five years old. He would say, with a ring in his voice and a sparkle in his eyes, "These eyes will live to see Jesus come." He fell asleep in Jesus many years ago. Was his a faith without foundation, or could it be that we have not done all the work we could have done to hasten the coming of Jesus? Surely "the night is far spent, the day is at hand," "now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
Is it possible that the people of God could sleep in a time like this? The parable of the Ten Virgins seems to indicate that possibility. The record says all ten went forth to meet the bridegroom. All were looking for his coming. Then there was a tarrying time. The bridegroom did not come when he was expected, so all ten fell asleep. It was at midnight when the cry arose, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh." All ten of them arose and expected to be ready, but some had spent the supply of oil. Somewhere along the line they lost the blessing of the presence of God's Holy Spirit. The awakening time had come too late for them. They were not ready.