A Time of Dividing Ahead

FELLOW LEADERS, a time of shaking is just ahead! The Word of God foretells it. The Lord's last-day messenger confirms it. The experience will be a traumatic one indeed, for we will see some shaken out of this message in whom we had great confidence. There will be others whom we felt were weak in faith who will stand like rocks. You and I as leaders in His church need to be prepared for the days ahead. . .

-president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists at the time this article was written

FELLOW LEADERS, a time of shaking is just ahead! The Word of God foretells it. The Lord's last-day messenger confirms it. The experience will be a traumatic one indeed, for we will see some shaken out of this message in whom we had great confidence. There will be others whom we felt were weak in faith who will stand like rocks. You and I as leaders in His church need to be prepared for the days ahead.

Centuries ago, through the prophet Amos, God declared, "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth" (Amos 9:9).

How often I have watched an Indian or Pakistani farmer win now grain by repeatedly tossing it into the air and catching it in a flat receptacle. Each time the wind would blow away the chaff while the sifted grain remained. Israel was to be sifted in the same way. The text literally states, "I will toss about," "shake to and fro." Israel was to be scattered "among the nations" and there "tossed about," "shaken" in the sieve of affliction and persecution. Through this experience would be demonstrated which of those who claim to be followers of God would remain loyal and which would cleave to idolatrous and heathen customs and refuse to return from captivity.

The fulfillment of this prophecy is a matter of history. Israel was scattered, afflicted, shaken, and persecuted. Yet the God of Israel did not cast off His loyal ones. "Not the least grain" fell upon the earth.

Another shaking or sifting time is predicted for the people of God. " 'Yet once again I will shake not earth alone, but the heavens also' " (Heb. 12:27, N.E.B.).* The words "once again" imply a second shaking. J. B. Phillips described it as "this final shaking." This second shaking separates the chaff from the wheat. The purpose of it is to purify the church. "He will have a clean and holy church." --Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 99.

The" shocking, depressing troubles engulfing our world convince me that this shaky old globe can not stand much longer. The early coming of Jesus is our only hope. Victory and deliverance are at hand. Yet before deliverance comes, a time of shaking in which Satan unites the efforts of all his forces in a last great effort to cause men and women to be lost, will surely occur. He knows that his time is limited. He desperately does all he can to get Adventists to leave the truth.

These are fearful days in which we are living. "Oh, what a day is before us! What sifting will there be among those who claim to be the children of God! . . . The enemy is diligently working to see whom he can add to the ranks of apostasy." --Testimonies to Ministers, p. 163.

Now in Shaking Time

Perhaps the most solemn thought of all is that we are now in the shaking or sifting time. One with divine insight discloses that "we are now in the shaking time. Satan is working with all his power to wrest souls from the hand of Christ. . . . Angels of God are weighing moral worth. God is testing . . .His people." --Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 429. "God is now sifting His people, testing their purposes and their motives. Many will be but as chaff no wheat, no value in them." ---Ibid., vol. 4, p. 51. (Italics supplied.)

What causes this shaking? Satan will use different methods in different lands to shake the people of Cod. In newly developing countries, political inducements and pressures shake some out of the message. In other places the shaking is brought on by persecution.

Modern Demases

Perhaps Satan's most successful method of winnowing the chaff from the wheat, however, is love of the world. John firmly reminds us to "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). The early church faced a problem similar to the one we face today. "For Demas hath forsaken me," Paul wrote, "having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica" (2 Tim. 4:10). We have our modern Demases whose chaff-like Christian experience can be traced to a love for this world.

It is a fearful thought to entertain that multitudes hoping to be saved will be lost. Many in this category are the proponents of the "say and pray and you're saved" philosophy. They assert that we can live the way we want, read what we want, and see what we want it really doesn't matter. What we are seeing today was accurately described years ago. "Many who were once earnest Adventists are conforming to the world to its practices, its customs, its selfishness. . . . Daily the church is becoming converted to the world."---Ibid., vol. 8, p. 119. This shallow experience causes people to believe that there is no relationship between external actions and internal attitudes.

Within our own ranks there are those who express the thought that standards are only external and have nothing to do with a person's spiritual experience. Proponents of this concept are in danger today of joining those disciples in Christ's day who "went back, and walked no more with him" (John 6:66).

Numerous study groups and committees have met and continue to meet here at headquarters to discuss standards of literature, dress, adornment, music, entertainment, and sports. Why are such committees necessary? It is because the leavening influence of the world is raising questions about the standards of the church and making it necessary for us to clarify and confirm our position.

Another cause for the shaking is the deception of false doctrines. Doubt, derision, discontent, and a climate of rebellion and unbelief have caused many to feel safe in disregarding the teaching of the Bible.

"The world intellectual climate is rapidly moving ever further away from the biblical view of God and man. In the West, a new and unprecedented rejection of Christian ideas, attitudes, and conduct is evident in the culture at large. Former bastions of Protestant orthodoxy are succumbing to a deceptive secularism that contradicts the revealed word of Scripture and distorts the meaning of the Gospel."---"The Surging Wave of the Future" (Editorial), Christianity Today, Oct. 28, 1966, p. 32.

This attitude leads to the repudiation of God, His Word, the Creation story, and miracles. What has been the result evidenced in many Christian denominations? Missions have disintegrated, schools have been secularized, church attendance has dwindled, and faith has disappeared. How did most of this disintegrating process begin? When the evolutionary theory and the philosophy of the humanists were accepted by Christians the book of Genesis became a battleground. Then came the deluge of unbelief and resultant church deterioration.

What Satan has so successfully accomplished in other churches he will naturally try in ours. Christ warned in Matthew 24:14 that even the very elect might possibly be deceived. How? "Errors will be presented in a pleasing and flattering manner. False theories, clothed with garments of light, will be presented to God's people. Thus Satan will try to deceive, if possible, the very elect." --Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 293.

Blowing Winds of Doctrine

We are living at a time when we are not only being attacked on the right by fanaticism and on the left by liberalism but are being pressed on every side by every shade of disbelief and false teaching. An amazingly accurate description of our time is found in the following words:

"The days are fast approaching when there will be great perplexity and confusion. Satan, clothed in angel robes, will deceive, if possible, the very elect. There will be gods many and lords many. Every wind of doctrine will be blowing. . . . The Lord has faithful servants, who in the shaking, testing time will be disclosed to view." --Ibid.,vol. 5, pp. 80, 81.

It is important to understand that when Satan makes his final attack upon the Law of God "the church will be sifted by fiery trials, and a larger proportion than we now anticipate, will give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils." --Selected Messages, book 2, p. 368.

Every minister and member of the Adventist Church should have a clear understanding that Satan is not only desperately fighting the Ten Commandments but "the testimony of Jesus Christ" which is the "spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10). "There will be a hatred kindled against the testimonies that is satanic. The workings of Satan will be to unsettle the faith of the churches in them, for this reason: Satan cannot have so clear a track to bring in his deceptions and bind up souls in his delusions if the warnings and reproofs and counsels of the Spirit of God are heeded." ---Ibid., book 1, p. 48. (Italics supplied.)

I appeal to my ministering brethren to reread this statement. Why is Satan wroth with the remnant people of God? Why does he use sly undermining attacks against the Spirit of Prophecy? When we understand the reason for this it should not surprise us, for God has already told us why. Satan knows that he cannot deceive and keep souls in the darkness of delusion if "the warnings and reproofs and the counsels of the Spirit of God are heeded."

Little wonder then, that the messenger of the Lord, when she was asked the meaning of the shaking, replied, "I ... was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. . . . Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause the shaking among God's people." --Early Writings, p. 270.

We have the tremendous promise that not the smallest grain will "fall upon the earth." The only thing that hits the earth is the chaff. The same assurance that Jesus gave to Peter is ours today. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31, R.S.V.). It is a wonderful thought to know that others are praying for us. Yet imagine what it means to have Christ praying for us. Our only hope is in His saving power.

"Those who will consent to enter into covenant relation with the God of heaven are not left to the power of Satan or to the infirmity of their own nature. They are invited by the Saviour, 'Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me!' " --Evangelism, p. 626.

The same words that Christ spoke to Paul are spoken to us to day. "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor. 12:9). Our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows are all in His hands. When Christ takes over, pressures or persecution cannot move us. With Christ praying for us all the allurements of the world will not entice us.

Time to Wake Up

We often sing, " Tis almost time for the Lord to come," but really, it's long past time for the Lord to come. How long must He wait for us to be stirred from our Laodicean condition? It's time to wake up! Time to respond to His knock at the door of our hearts to open the door wide and let Him in!

When Christ comes in He will be first, last, and best in everything nothing will take us away from Him and His truth. We will appreciate the gift of prophecy as never before, for we will see in it the biddings of His love. Not a speck of rebellion against God's counsels will be found in our lives. In our minds will be found only total and complete submission to His revelations and complete trust and confidence in His will. We will be free at last from the tyranny of self and sin. We will be blessed with the happiness of heaven on earth. No matter what sneers or snares the devil throws our way they will not be able to shake us. We will have learned to accept everything God allows to happen as means by which He seeks to make our characters even stronger in resisting the fiery darts of our enemy. And most of all we will be united in love for one another and in the overwhelming desire to share the peace, joy, and contentment we have discovered in Jesus with those about us who so desperately need it.

This Satan fears. This he will try his best to thwart by fair means or foul, working in the church and out of the church, in these last moments of the final great shaking of Israel. But he will not succeed with those who are willing to lay self and pride of opinion aside and accept the clear teachings of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.

What a challenge this presents to us to restudy God's will for our time and to come into line. We have this thrilling prophetic picture of what is already beginning to happen in our church. "An angel flying in the midst of heaven put the standard of Immanuel into many hands, while a mighty general cried out with a loud voice: 'Come into line. Let those who are loyal to the commandments of God and the testimony of Christ now take their position. Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters. Let all who will come up to the help of the Lord, and to the help of the Lord against the mighty.' " --Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 41.


* From The New English Bible. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1970.

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-president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists at the time this article was written

September 1974

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