I WAS shown a platform, braced by solid timbers—the truths of the Word of God," the servant of the Lord once wrote. "Some . . was directing this man and that man to loosen the timbers supporting this platform." 1
This loosening of the timbers—tampering with the great truths of the message—caused the Lord's messenger concern. She heard a voice saying, " 'Where are the watchmen that ought to be standing on the walls of Zion? Are they asleep? This foundation was built by the Master Worker, and will stand storm and tempest. Will they permit this man to present doctrines that deny the past experience of the people of God? The time has come to take decided action.' " 2
These words were written many years ago. The watchmen of those days were aroused and met the threat to the structure of God's truth. Those who were loosening supporting timbers were dealt with faith fully. The structure stood.
The Lord, through His Word and through His messenger, reminds us that be fore the Saviour's return Satan will flood the Christian world with a devious, subtle liberalism, a thinly guised paganism that will deceive many. Those who perpetrate such a diluted gospel are described as "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." 3 That these prophecies are meeting their fulfillment in our day is all too evident in much of the Christian world. We were warned such times would come. They are here. We should not be surprised. As shepherds of the flock we should be prepared to meet the problems with which they confront us.
We need not hope that Satan will bypass God's remnant church with his appeal of humanism and secularism. No such happy prospect awaits us. What the evil one can not gain by frontal attack he will seek to accomplish through subtle subversion. What he cannot force by persecution he will seek to gain by seduction. He will at tempt to erode faith in God's Word, in God's last-day message; in God's special gift, the Spirit of Prophecy. "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"4
We have been forewarned. We need to be forearmed!
"There will be a removing of the land marks," God's messenger warned, "and an attempt to tear down the pillars of our faith." 5 This loosening of the timbers, this removing of the landmarks, may not be done openly. It may well be accomplished through subtle questionings of well-established positions. Such meddling will be smoothly blended with sweet reason and apparently sound logic.
The apostle Paul warns of such subtle subversion: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."6 Dr. Phillips translates the apostle's admonition into these words: "Be careful that no body spoils your faith through intellectualism or high-sounding nonsense. Such stuff is at best founded on men's ideas of the nature of the world, and disregards Christ!"7
Years ago the Lord warned of such deception ahead:
The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.8
Almost indignantly the Lord's messenger asks, "Who has authority to begin such a movement? We have our Bibles. We have our experience, attested to by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. We have a truth that admits of no compromise. Shall we not repudiate everything that is not in harmony with this truth?"9
As workers and leaders in God's church of the remnant we should ponder soberly and prayerfully these words. They may well have meaning for us in our day! We do well to look to our own relationship with God, with His Word, with His last-day message. We may with profit search the pages of denominational history as we contemplate possible problems ahead. The pen of inspiration leaves this graphic illustration to counsel leading brethren confronted with the type of apostasy mentioned in the first few paragraphs of this article:
Shortly before I sent out the testimonies regarding the efforts of the enemy to undermine the foundation of our faith through the dissemination of seductive theories, I had read an incident about a ship in a fog meeting an iceberg. For several nights I slept but little. I seemed to be bowed down as a cart beneath the sheaves. One night a scene was clearly presented before me. A vessel was upon the waters, in a heavy fog. Suddenly the lookout cried, "Iceberg just ahead!" There, towering high above the ship, was a gigantic iceberg. An authoritative voice cried out, "Meet it!" There was not a moment's hesitation. It was a time for instant action. The engineer put on full steam, and the man at the wheel steered the ship straight into the iceberg. With a crash she struck the ice. There was a fearful shock, and the iceberg broke into many pieces, falling with a noise like thunder to the deck. The passengers were violently shaken by the force of the collision, but no lives were lost. The vessel was injured, but not beyond repair. She rebounded from the contact, trembling from stem to stern, like a living creature. Then she moved forward on her way.
Well I knew the meaning of this representation. I had my orders. I had heard the words, like a voice from our Captain, "Meet it!" I knew what my duty was, and that there was not a moment to lose. The time for decided action had come. I must without delay obey the command, "Meet it!"10
Then the Lord's messenger describes the kind of leaders God's cause will need to meet the subtle and the not-so-subtle at tacks on the church before the end:
When a crisis comes, there is need of men of deep experience in the things of God, men who can carry the work forward with tact and forethought and skill. Those who allow themselves to be leavened by influences that endanger their spirituality are unfitting themselves to be used by God as men of opportunity. God calls for men who are prepared to meet emergencies, men who in a crisis will not be found standing on the wrong side, warring against God, full of wrath and bitterness. Great weakness is brought to His cause by men who, at the very time when they should be quick to discern the specious devising of Satan, are helping him to carry on his work by giving up to the power of his delusions, closing their eyes to light and truth.
We are not to conceal the truth for this time. It is to stand forth in its power and purity. The trumpet is to give a certain sound; for there are those who, though they have long known the truth, need to be awakened. They have closed their eyes to the result of walking contrary to the light that God has given.11
We are pressing on to the final conflict, and this is no time to compromise. It is no time to hide your colors. When the battle wages sore, let no one turn traitor. It is no time to lay down or conceal our weapons, and give Satan the advantage in the warfare.
But unless you watch, and keep your garments unspotted from the world, you will not stand true to your Captain. It is no time for watchmen to slumber on the walls of Zion. Let them be wide awake. Call to your fellow watchmen, crying, "The morning cometh, and also the night." It is no time now to relax our efforts, to become tame and spiritless; no time to hide our light under a bushel, to speak smooth things, to prophesy deceit. Every power is to be employed for God. You are to maintain your allegiance, bearing testimony for God and for truth. Be not turned aside by any suggestion the world can make. We cannot afford to com promise. There is a living issue before us, of vital importance to the remnant people of God, to the very close of this earth's history; for eternal interests are involved. On the very eve of the crisis, it is no time to be found with an evil heart of unbelief, departing from the living God.12
If and when the evil one comes with "philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world,"13 God's watchmen on the walls of Zion must not be taken unawares. Ours is a solemn responsibility.
"But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
"So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me." 14
For such a time you and I as God's leaders need much wisdom from above to know light from darkness, truth from error, good from evil, right from wrong. We also need great understanding to know just how to meet situations in a manner that will not shake out the wheat along with the tares. We will also need great courage—courage to stand for right though the heavens fall about us. Such courage will be ours only as we know well the message God has given His people for these last days—and as we know personally the Saviour who is the central theme of that message!
May the Lord give us as leaders both wisdom and courage!
1. Selected Messages, book 1, p. 204.
3. 2 Tim. 3:5.
4. Luke 18:8.
5. ELLEN G. WHITE, in Review and Herald, Dec. 13, 1892.
6. Col. 2:8.
7. From The New Testament in Modern English, © J. B. Phallus 1958. Used by permission of The Macmillan Company.
8. Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 2(M, 205.
9. Ibid., p. 205.
10. lbid., pn. 205, 206.
11. ELLEN G. WHITE, in Review and Herald, Nov. 5, 1903.
12. Ibid. Dec. 6, 1892.
13. Col. 2:8.
14. Eze. 33:6, 7.