There is a danger of becoming so familiar with the most important, the most critical truth ever given to mortals, that we lose the sense of its strategic position in our teaching. The truth that comes to us from the open door of the heavenly sanctuary is crucial to salvation. It is not just an interesting theological ornament to be admired for its novelty or peculiarity. It is a matter of life and death for the end-time generation. The tragic consequences that have come to those who lost their appreciation for it is the subject of this article.
Could we imagine what life would be like today without electricity? How would we light and heat our homes, run our appliances and power tools, and operate our computers? The power source upon which we depend daily to do all these demanding tasks is a modern day blessing, if we respect its laws of operation. But if we short circuit the current, it can cause serious injury or even death. The higher the energy, the greater amount of work it can accomplish. But it will also be more lethal if not handled with due care and respect. The importance of carefully handling a high energy source was demonstrated many years ago in a daring experiment conducted by an atomic scientist at a testing laboratory in New Mexico.
Playing With Nuclear Energy
It happened in the late 1940’s when a number of physicists at the Los Alamos atomic project were continuing their experiments with nuclear physics a year after the first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One of the physicists who had acted a leading role in the development of the atom bomb was the noted Dr. Louis Slotin, a Canadian chemist from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Not only was he recognized for his brilliant mind and scientific ingenuity, but also for his dauntless, ’devil may care’ attitude while working with the dangerous elements involved in the making of a nuclear bomb. In the course of his work at Los Alamos, he arranged to perform a risky experiment before several of his colleagues, which he referred to as “tickling the dragon’s tail” to visibly demonstrate the principles of nuclear fission. On his experimental table he had two halves of a hemisphere of radioactive plutonium coated in beryllium, and a Geiger counter to measure the level of radiation. By themselves, the two halves of plutonium could not produce a nuclear reaction because they were of subcritical size. But brought together, their combined mass would trigger a chain reaction that would result in a violent nuclear reaction
In his daring experiment, Slotin held up one of the halves of the plutonium with his left hand and slowly moved it over the other half which was stationary on the table. This was to induce a mild nuclear reaction that would start the Geiger counter ticking. Instead of placing spacers on the stationary half to prevent the two halves from touching, he held a screw driver in his right hand to keep them apart. He had done this experiment successfully on previous occasions. Unfortunately, this time the screwdriver accidentally slipped in his hand as he was maneuvering the upper half over the lower half, and the two halves momentarily came into contact. The eyes of those in the room immediately sensed a flash of blue light as the Geiger counter re-acted wildly to the sudden radiation. Slotin, realizing the extreme danger to the people in the room, grabbed the radioactive material with his hands and separated them while using his body as a shield to protect his colleagues from the deadly gamma and neutron rays. In doing so, he saved them from a horrible death, but he himself received a lethal dose. He died an agonizing death nine days later.
This tragic experience of Dr. Slotin in working with the power of the atom presents a lesson of warning for believers in the Third Angel’s message. There is a close parallel between what happened to Dr. Slotin and those who have known and experienced the power of this message, but who ultimately became careless or presumptuous in the way they handled it. As Peter stated, “ For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” 2 Peter 2:21.
Our past history is strewn with spiritual casualties of men who played a major role in the rise and progress of the Third Angel’s message, but who subsequently short circuited the current and were destroyed by it. Inspiration warns about the critical importance of present truth which demands that it be handled with due care and respect. Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of those who have had light and truth but have fallen away, and how “. . . it is impossible. . . to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
Spiritual Casualties of The Third Angel’s Message
The first casualty in our past history happened shortly after the disappointment. Samuel Snow had been mightily used of the Lord to launch the midnight cry in the summer of 1844. He was the man who came charging on horseback to the camp meeting at Exeter, New Hampshire, to show the discouraged Advent believers by the charts that he had drawn up that the 2300 days would end on October 22 of that year rather than in the spring as they had previously anticipated. Christ would appear in a little over two months, according to the calculations. The revelation of that truth electrified the believers everywhere and spread like fire in the stubble. It sparked the midnight cry movement of the summer of 1844, which Ellen White described as one of the most Spirit-actuated movements this world has ever seen. But tragically, Samuel Snow lost his way after October 22. He went into wild fanaticism and became very vocal in his opposition to the truth of the Third Angel.
Shortly after the disappointment, another man, O.L. Crosier, was used of the Lord to write out the first clear exposition of the sanctuary truth. Ellen White wholeheartedly endorsed his article and recommended it to all the Advent believers, with the assurance that the Lord had directed Crosier in writing it. The article was published in the Day Star Extra and did much to establish the Advent believers in the sanctuary truth. But Crosier also became a casualty to the Advent movement and eventually proved to be one of its most vigorous opponents. There were other prominent men in the early days of the message who for some reason or other ceased to cherish the light and ended up in darkness. As Ellen White stated:
“There was a point of time in the experience of such, when the light given them was not cherished, and it became darkness.” 1 Testimonies p.350.
Dudley M. Canright
In the 1880’s the movement experienced a major loss in one who had been a very effective communicator of the Third Angel’s message. God mightily used Elder D.M. Canright in his early years. He had the special gift to captivate the minds of his audiences as he presented the truths of the Third Angel. But it happened with him as with others before him who short circuited the “present truth” and were destroyed by it. After his defection, Canright realized he was a lost man, and those who had worked with him felt grieved at his plight. Unfortunately, he became a determined opposer of the message. His writings are still used today by opponents of the truth, who find in them a ready ammunition against the remnant church and its message.
Jones & Waggoner and Dr. Kellogg
Perhaps the best known advocates of the Third Angel’s message in the nineteenth century were Elders Jones and Waggoner whom the Lord sent to the Minneapolis Conference in 1888. The message they brought was destined to end in the loud cry. Ellen White recognized the high spiritual voltage of that message. She wrote, “ What is the message to be given at this time? It is the third angel's message. But that light which is to fill the whole earth with its glory has been despised by some who claim to believe the present truth. Be careful how you treat it. Take off the shoes off your feet; for you are on holy ground” TM p.89. The power of that message trans-formed many lives including Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. Through the blessing of the Lord and the help of heavenly angels who guided his hands in some of the most delicate operations, Dr. Kellogg became one of the best known physician in America and Europe. But what eventually happened to him and to Jones and Waggoner? It is tragic to learn how, after having been used so mightily by the Lord, these talented men eventually made shipwreck of faith and their light went out in darkness and error.
Why is it that those who were once such effectual advocates of the Third Angel’s message but who later defected, never seemed to find their way back again? Perhaps the explanation is found in a vision that Ellen White received a couple of years after the disappointment. See EW p.55-56. Those who, after the disappointment, never accepted the light of the Third Angel which points to the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary came under the strong delusions of Satan. She was also shown those who had entered by faith into the most holy place but who subsequently left it, and went back to unite with those who had never made the transition. She wrote, “ I saw one after another leave the company who were praying to Jesus in the Holiest, go and join those before the throne (in the first apartment) and they at once received the unholy influence of Satan.” Day Star, March 14, 1846.
A Most Solemn and Fearful Message
This shows how serious it is to abandon the Third Angel’s message. Inspiration describes this message in superlative terms. In Testimonies Vol.9, p.19 it tells us that
“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.. The most solemn truths ever entrusted to mortals have been given us to proclaim to the world.”
Also in Early Writings p. 118 we read: “ I then saw the third angel. Said my accompanying angel:
‘Fearful is his work. Awful is his mission. He is the angel that is to select the wheat from the tares, and seal, or bind, the wheat for the heavenly garner. These things should engross the whole mind, the whole attention.”
The list of casualties in our history is too lengthy and too painful to reiterate in detail. But all these are examples which “are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11. We are handling the most momentous, the most critical truth ever committed to mortals. The full high voltage of this message will be experienced when the mighty angel depicted in Revelation 18 comes ‘down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.” That angel represents those who have cherished and respected the power inherent in the Third Angel’s message. They recognized that they are standing on holy ground, and are holding in their hands the keys of eternal life or death.
The power of this message will break the power of sin in the life and produce a people who are without fault and without guile, as depicted Revelation 14:5. But it also can do what the power of the atom did to Dr. Slotin when he became careless and presumptuous in the way he handled it. The choice is yours; the choice is ours.