And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet" (Rev. 16:13).
There is here brought to view a threefold religious movement away from God, and it is, of course, spearheaded by the archdeceiver himself. Three powers are here dealt with. They are the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. Out of their mouths come expressions that reveal their dispositions. Their words are reflective of their spirits, or attitudes. The picture is of a power communicating its own attitude, or spirit, to others, and that it will be effective is clearly indicated in the results, for the end result of the apostasy produced by the messages of the three powers is the gathering of nations to judgment before the great God of the universe, for such is Armageddon. It is the valley of final determination. We will speak more of this later.
As to the identity of the dragon, there need be no confusion. "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev. 12:9). As we study the Bible we discover that out of the mouth of the dragon, or the devil, many doctrines have proceeded, but none have so corrupted the earth as the doctrine originally expounded in the Garden of Eden, recorded in the third chapter of the book of Gene sis: "Ye shall not surely die" (verse 4). From this pronouncement the doctrine of spiritualism had its birth. Its original purpose was to erase doubts with reference to the credibility of God. In short, the practitioner of Spiritualism cannot trust God's Word, for the Bible condemns the very essence of its teachings.
The manifestations of spirits at seances and their works through mediums, fortune telling, and tea-leaf reading, are not mere vocational and recreational pursuits by bored demons. There is a method in this madness. In no other way can Satan more effectively work to alienate one from God and to plant his own banner in the soil of the soul than through the corruptive influence of spiritualistic teaching. By this means he has through the centuries bound large masses of peoples to himself and effectively shut out the influence of the gospel, for Spiritualism provides emotional involvement and intellectual appeal, making it doubly seductive. The serpent's approach was both intellectual and emo tional. He also implied the exaltation to a new spiritual sphere, giving his appeal an added dimension. So through the ages Spiritualism has progressed along these three lines until today it is permeating much of Christianity. What else on earth could so anger the Creator of the universe that He would summarily gather the nations to the valley of decision? According to our text, this is one influence that will precipitate this crisis.
Then there is the beast and its corruptive influence. There was no question in the mind of the apostle John as to who the beast was. His descriptions of this beast leave little doubt in our own minds. Assuming that each reader is a student of Bible prophecy, we need only to identify the beast as Rome. In her pagan form, her excesses were too many to recount here. We may only point out that she revealed her beastiality of character most pointedly in the handling of the Son of the living God and in the denial of His divinity. The religious government that succeeded the pagan form compounded the problem by embracing the doctrine of natural immortality, which was originally propounded by the dragon, and expounding the doctrine of Sunday sacredness, which was a new innovation in Christian teaching. It is under the guise of religion that once again we are faced with the serious breach in the Christian concept of the authority and jurisdiction of divine law.
From the beast comes the strange doctrine that man has not only the authority but the power to amend divine law and that the accumulated traditions of the church constitute as strong an authority in matters of faith and practice as indeed does the Scriptures. This subversion of divine authority opens the gates to unlimited iniquity in variety and quantity, with the additional ruse of being overlaid with a cover of religion and sanctity. It is understandable that this insult to the character of Jehovah would provoke an appropriate response. Armageddon will be that response.
The False Prophet
Third, the false prophet adds the weight of his influence to that of the dragon and the beast and adds insult to previous injury. It must be remembered that all these powers are bent on defacing the image of the Creator. Participants in this drama are sometimes earnest, sincere, but deluded men. It is nevertheless a fact that the practical effects of propagating error alienate man from God and pervert his character in the mind of the listener. With reference to the false prophet, be it understood that this prophet was not always false. The Reformation was born of God, and the heroes of the Reformation were Spirit-filled, God-fearing men. At this stage of the operation, the Reformation was under the guidance of a true prophet, but the prophet became false when the Reformation ceased its pursuit of the will of God and contented itself with echoing the doctrine of the dragon, which is the doctrine of natural immortality and that of the beast, which was the doctrine of Sunday sacredness. It must be remembered that the Reformation was intended to restore the apostolic stand on these and all other issues.
It is Protestantism's refusal to continually renew herself through study and the pursuit of truth that has rendered her false to her charge. This accounts in a large measure for the very evident doctrinal confusion that is rampant in our world today in religious circles. It is this loss of creative vitality that necessitated Adventism. Had Protestantism been true to her trust, there would be no need for a Seventh-day Adventist Church. That Adventism has remained doctrinally true to
the spirit of the Reformation is evident from the following facts.
On a worldwide basis Adventism challenges the doctrine of the dragon and Biblically refutes the teaching of natural immortality. Adventism just as strongly asserts the perpetuity of the law of God and the jurisdiction of that law in the life of every Christian, including the sacredness of the seventh day, the Sabbath. Thus she is at war with the doctrine of the beast. Further, Adventism asserts the priestly ministry of our Lord in His sanctuary and that sin is being fully and finally expiated in the courts of heaven above. This refutes the doctrine of the beast that there is still an earthly priesthood to which man may repair for remission of sins.
Adventism Carries On the Reformation
Adventism, then, is not just another religion, superimposed upon an already adequate religious structure. Through Adventism God would repair the breach made by the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. Through this church and its teachings and its ministerial membership, the God of heaven would continue the Reformation begun by Luther and the other Reformers. A deep sense of this significance would empower our ministry to labor more fervently and effectively to propagate the faith. In short, what is needed most urgently is a sense of mission. There is nothing more pathetic than a man standing between the living and the dead unsure that his church is necessary or that what he is doing is significant.
That there is this uncertainty in too many pulpits today is a painful fact. Our burden is that Adventist crusades for Christ will become more than crusades in name only, that we will preach with such passion and power that empty benches will not be there to mock us. The sound of the trumpet must be effective to summon men to war. The message of the minister must be significant and delivered with such desperate earnestness that the listener cannot escape the fact that here is a sincere, committed man and that his cause is worthy of attention. The fact that some men preach and the world does not listen may not be altogether the fault of the world. Spirit-filled men have compelled attention in times past. They are doing it today, and evidence exists that the future will be brighter still in this regard.
In the Shadow of Armageddon
We are preaching, gentlemen, in the shadow of Armageddon, a term that is descriptive of man's confrontation with his Maker. In discussing the coming of the Lord and the final solution of the sin problem, the prophet, in verse 16 of Revelation 16, employs a term that is familiar to students of history, "Armageddon." The valley of Megiddo, traditionally associated with Armageddon, was the scene of many decisive conflicts in history. Here the armies of Pharaoh-Nechoh defeated the armies of Josiah. Here the armies of Sisera were put to flight by the angel of the Lord. So this was indeed a place of decision. Those who met here were never the same thereafter.
How best can we describe the end of the world and the coming of the Lord? The world will never be the same again. All that man has builded and ambitiously planned will be swallowed up in a sea of flame, and this will be true not only at Megiddo but in every nation on the face of the earth. From Moscow to Washington, from Fiji to Finland, there will be a universal confrontation between man and God, for Christ will come and "every eye shall see him." Armageddon in its broadest sense is the coming of the Lord and the end of human administration of the affairs of the earth. This will be catastrophic for the wicked but for the righteous a day of joyful deliverance.
The question is often raised, Will there be fighting between armies at the coming of the Lord? We might here point out that armies are fighting now, with the presence of the Holy Spirit still in the earth. Is it reasonable to suppose that when the Spirit of the Lord is withdrawn from among men they will suddenly begin to live at peace with one another? We must in all honesty face the fact of human strife and blood letting right up until the coming of the Lord, but Armageddon says something bigger than this. It says that Jesus is coming back to the earth, and we can preach this with great certainty and power.
We think it is also apparent that Armageddon will end with the destruction of the wicked in the flames of hell at the close of the millennium. But in essence,
the word "Armageddon" as it is used in Revelation 16:16 does not limit the coming of Christ or its effects to a narrow triangular plain in any one section of the earth; but rather, Armageddon will be a fact at the coming of Christ wherever men walk the earth. Business will be brought to a standstill. Man's attention will at last be focused on his Creator, and God alone will be exalted in that day. Christ will seize the kingdom by force, and evil men and demons will acknowledge with their lips what they have known in their hearts but have denied in their lives.
The shadows of Armageddon slowly overspread the earth, bringing with them issues that are of eternal moment. What a privilege to be a Christian minister at a time like this, for we hold in our hands not only the key to peace in this world but the gospel that is the passport to a better one! No one is indeed sufficient for these things, but may we remind ourselves that the Pygmy is not overawed by the size of the elephant, but hunts down this giant creature; and while the elephant is preoccupied with other things, this little man stations himself under the elephant's belly and rams his spear straight home to the heart of this giant beast and then follows him until he falls dead. Thus Father Pygmy is provided with a source of food for the coming weeks.
With the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, let us aim at the very heart of the dragon's citadel. There are honest hearts out there, waiting to be gathered in. God make us faithful gatherers.