THE airplane was en route from Puerto Rico to Trinidad among the islands of the West Indies. It stopped on the French Catholic island of Martinique. Boarding the plane at this place was a Roman Catholic bishop who sat down beside a Seventh-day Adventist minister. After fastening the seat belt he fingered his rosary, saying his prayers. When through, he turned to his seat companion with a smile and said, "Well, I have said my prayers and I had enough left over for you." "Thank you. I need all the prayers I can get," answered the minister.
During the ensuing conversation the bishop discovered his seat companion was a Seventh-day Adventist clergyman. His hands went into the air as he exclaimed, "Oh, you people! You are everywhere—all over these islands. I think you have more members in some places than we do and I can tell you why. It is the way your people live and the way your people work for the church. Why, one of your members is worth fifty of mine. Say! How much do you pay your people to serve the church the way they do?"
"Why, we don't pay them anything."
"Come, now," he said. "What incentives, what gifts, do you offer them to get them to work so faithfully for the church?"
"No, no gifts," answered the minister.
"What then is the secret of your success?"
The minister endeavored carefully to explain that Seventh-day Adventists are confident that they are a people of prophecy. He also tried to present an explanation of Revelation 14, but this good man had never heard about Revelation 14, and the minister was not having much success in his presentation. Then he began to tell the story of the second coming of Christ and to describe the many signs of the nearness of that return as foretold in Bible prophecy. The bishop's eyes brightened. His hands went into the air again as he ob served, "I see, I see it now. You are a people of conviction, a people with a purpose." Then he added slowly and thought fully, "A people of prophecy, a people of prophecy."
Yes, we who live in the time of the end, near the return of Christ, we who have taken our feet from off the Sabbath, have been given a special responsibility to re build, to raise up, to be repairers of the breach, and to be restorers of paths of truth. (See Isaiah 58.)
Never has there been a time when the world needed a divine message more than it needs it today. The minds of men are in confusion, turmoil, perplexity. They are frustrated and beside themselves trying to solve the problems facing them on every hand. Military men are holding their breath; world leaders are treading with ever-increasing delicacy, lest some foolish move, some small error, plunge mankind into a world conflict from which no one can be a victor. World events are now moving so rapidly that one hesitates to comment on them.
And the great wonder of it all is that the vast majority of the world, including most of the clergy, seem to have no concept of what all this means in the light of Bible prophecy. But from study of the Scriptures, Seventh-day Adventists discern that the time of God's judgment is come, and soon Christ will return in all His glory. Such counsel as the following has been given to us:
Those who stand before the people as teachers of truth are to grapple with great themes. They are not to occupy precious time in talking of trivial subjects. Let them study the Word, and preach the Word. . . . We are to keep abreast of the times, bearing a clear, intelligent testimony, guided by the unction of the Holy Spirit.—Evangelism, p. 151.
Yes, we are a people of conviction and purpose, and I pray we are ministers of conviction and purpose—men of God, called out, set aside to proclaim a distinctive message to the whole world just be fore the harvest-time, the results of which will prepare a people to meet the Lord, as prophesied in Revelation 14. There is no other organization or group of people any where in the world doing this except Seventh-day Adventists—God's remnant. The everlasting gospel is now witnessing in its prophetic setting of the last days—a message of salvation and comfort for everyone —preparing the way for the mightiest event in earth's history—the return of the Lord Jesus to consummate the plan of redemption. The importance of giving this distinct message cannot be exaggerated, for it is a life and death question. We must not let the enemy divert our minds or the minds of our people into other channels, no matter how good those other channels might be. We cannot allow our precious time to be employed in any line of endeavor or promotion that will lead us to forget this responsibility or slacken our efforts.
We must not permit Satan to crowd our minds with so many extraneous interests that we cannot do the one thing for which we have been ordained. We are warned, "He [Satan] will manufacture diversions to keep men from thinking about God." —Counsels to Parents and Teachers, p. 456.
It is easy for us to slip into the popular way of preaching, to discourse upon subjects that have no direct relation to the message for this day and generation. We must prepare men and women for a judgment, a time of trouble such as the world has never seen, a time when Satan will counterfeit every gift of God and truth found in His Word for the purpose of deception. We already see the rise of ancient witchcraft and the popularity of modern forms of spiritism permeating the churches of today. Prominent ministers of the world are firm believers in spirit communication with the dead. This is no time for trivia teachings with little Biblical exposition or gospel appeal.
"Teachers of truth are to grapple with great themes." What could that mean? The answer: "Our work is to proclaim to the world the first, second, and third angels' messages."—Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 107, 108.
Further, "The third angel's message is to be our burden of warning. The side is sues are not for us to meddle with. The burden of the work is, Preach the word."—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 331, 332.
Of Greatest Importance
In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import— the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.— Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 19.
We have no time for dwelling on matters that are of no importance. Our time should be given to proclaiming the last message of mercy to a guilty world. Men are needed who move under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. The sermons preached by some of our ministers will have to be much more powerful than they are now. . . . Every discourse should be given under a sense of the awful judgment soon to fall on the world. . . .
My heart is filled with anguish when I think of the tame messages borne by some of our ministers, when they have a message of life and death to bear. The ministers are asleep; the lay members are asleep; and a world is perishing in sin. May God help His people to arouse and walk and work as men and women on the borders of the eternal world. . . . Now is the time for us to give the warning message.—Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 36, 37.
In the compass of the special message in Revelation 14 we find seven great themes:
1. The Everlasting Gospel. This presents the message of love as revealed in Christ's incarnate life, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, His ministry of grace, and the regenerating, life-giving power of the Holy Spirit sent in His name to minister to our needs.
2. The Worship of the True God as Creator. Such a theme rightly presented is God's answer to the great systems of error and delusive teachings abounding in the world today. It answers the false assumptions of evolution, the attacks of higher criticism against Bible inspiration. Seventh-day Adventists boldly hold to and preach the literal interpretation of the first three chapters of Genesis.
3. The Announcement of the Judgment in Session. What a solemn thought! Are the people sitting in the pews before us ready to be judged? Are their sins forgiven? Are they growing in grace? Can they be counted perfect in Christ Jesus the Lord? Is there anything more that we can do to guide them, to prepare them for the judgment? In every aspect of our sermons and ministry we must keep this in mind, for God has made this work our sacred duty. We cannot escape this tremendous responsibility.
4. The Call Out of Babylon. It is sad, indeed, to think upon the significance of this pronouncement, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen," and the pleading invitation, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins" (Rev. 14:8; 18:4). This suggests the falling away among one-time believers and God's call for His true and faithful children to come out and be separate. The predominant goal of Satan from the beginning has been to build a false religion in order to seduce humanity away from truth and loyalty to God, to secure homage to himself.
But God has designed there should be a distinguishing mark, a cleaver of truth:
God has called His church in this day, as He called ancient Israel, to stand as a light in the earth. . . . He has separated them from the churches and from the world to bring them into a sacred nearness to Himself. He has made them the depositories of His law and has committed to them the great truths of prophecy for this time. Like the holy oracles committed to ancient Israel, these are a sacred trust to be communicated to the world.—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 455. (Italics sup plied.)
Great revivals are being held; however, many of these are shallow in their results. They open the door to Christianity but leave the people at the threshold. The great call still is, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen. . . . Come out of her, my people [and we would add, come out all the way] that ye be not partakers of her sins [of the breaking of God's holy law]."
Everywhere the people are taking sides; all are ranging themselves either under the banner of truth and righteousness or under the banner of the apostate powers that are contending for the supremacy. At this time God's message to the world is to be given with such prominence and power that the people will be brought face to face, mind to mind, heart to heart, with truth. They must be brought to see its superiority over the multitudinous errors that are pushing their way into notice, to supplant, if possible, the word of God for this solemn time.—Ibid., vol. 7, pp. 150, 151. (Italics supplied.)
5. A Warning. This warning is against the worship of the beast, his image, and the reception of his mark. There is no more fearful warning sounded in all the Word of God than that of this third angel. How vitally important it is, then, that we as God's messengers present the subject of Revelation 13, 14, 15, and 16 so clearly and so plainly that there is no question, no doubt about this apostate power that makes war with the saints and has power over all kindreds and tongues and nations, a power that can perform great wonders and miracles for the purpose of deception; a power that causes all to receive a mark in their right hand or in their forehead, and then places a boycott upon men and women who are not willing to accept these man-made traditions as a substitute for the truths of God's Word.
Are we, the shepherds, ready for such a time as this? Are our people ready for such a time? Are the inhabitants of the world ready? Are they able to meet deception so nearly like the true that it is almost over whelming even to the very elect? The answer is obvious—we must warn and win until everyone knows that Satan and his ministers will speak in beautiful words and phrases very much like the messages of our own Lord. But there will be one predominant testing key proving it all a great deception—when they proclaim that God has changed His law to fit the convenience of this day and this age!
We should carry our people through the last ten chapters of the book The Great Controversy so carefully, so thoroughly, that they will be prepared through God's grace to face the onslaughts of deception. The people are to be sanctified by the truth. (See John 17:17.) All the precious teachings of the Word of God must be continually dwelt upon, so that truth is thoroughly woven into the lasting fabric of their character. Shafts of holy light from Revelation 14 should penetrate all our preaching, whether we are presenting expository messages from Bible chapters, Bible characters, or a thousand other possible themes.
This brings us to points 6 and 7—Keeping God's Commandments and Possessing the Faith of Jesus. (See Rev. 14:12.) Time will permit us to dwell only on the latter—the faith of Jesus. This statement encompasses much more than just faith in Jesus as one's Saviour and Redeemer. It embodies the same faith and the same belief and the same doctrine held and taught by our Lord, such as:
God-man forming the connecting link between heaven and earth.
His atonement on Calvary.
Eternal life given only through Him.
Faith in Him as our righteousness.
Our High Priest ministering in the sanctuary of heaven on our behalf.
Keeping His Father's commandments and inviting us to do likewise by His power.
The brotherhood of man.
Forgiveness of sins.
His second coming.
Life after death.
Divorce and remarriage.
Daniel as a true prophet.
Use of the writings of the holy prophets in His ministry.
The revelation that God gave to Him to show to His servants things that must shortly come to pass.
With Christ come His doctrines. We follow Him, believe whatever He says, and do whatever He wishes.
This does not mean a one-sided minis try, for within these seven great distinguishing features of Revelation 14, as we readily see, are encompassed the whole richness of the gospel of salvation. This is the modern-day setting in which God has placed His truths for this hour, and this will continue to be the setting from now to the end of time. The warnings of events prior to Jesus' return must be heralded above every other religious theme in the world.
Oh, what a complete message to give in love and tenderness! Probation's hour lingers. There are multitudes who will yet hear His voice saying to them, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." And they will come!
Again I assert, the promulgation of this message is our reason for existence as a called-out people. We must toil, and labor, and sacrifice side by side, ministers and laity, to ripen the harvest, for soon Christ will thrust in His sickle and reap, and then all who are worthy through Christ will be taken as jewels into the kingdom of heaven.