“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (Peter 4:17).
“The time of the judgment is a most solemn period, when the Lord gathers His own from among the tares. Those who have been members of the same family are separated. A mark is placed upon the righteous” (Testimonies To Ministers p. 234).
Ezekiel 8 and 9 depict a great spiritual depression in the church just before the judgment and sifting begin at the house of God. The prophet saw the spiritual leaders with their backs to the sanctuary and their faces toward the rising sun as “they worshiped the sun toward the east" (Ezekiel 8:16). We might ask, How could the spiritual guardians of our church ever depart so far from the faith as to turn their backs on the sanctuary and worship the rising sun? We may also wonder how we got a sun-worshiping hymn in our church hymnal with the words, “When I fall on my knees, with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me?” See Hymn # 403. These departures from the faith have come as a result of uniting with the fallen churches, fellowshipping with those who have their backs to the sanctuary and their face to the rising sun. In Great Controversy p. 608 we read:
“By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side."
In contrast, Inspiration depicts a faithful company who have not gone the way of apostasy. It tells us that:
“At the time when the danger and depression of the church are greatest, the little company who are standing in the light will be sighing and crying for the abominations that are done in the land. But more especially will their prayers arise in behalf of the church because its members are doing after the manner of the world“ (5 Testimonies 209-210).
We have previously noted the fraternizing that is going on with the World Counsel of Churches and the United Nations by participating in symposiums to forward the agenda of these political entities. We are seeing the prophecy being fulfilled where “No superiority of rank, dignity, or worldly wisdom, no position in sacred office, will preserve men from sacrificing principle when left to their own deceitful hearts. Those who have been regarded as worthy and righteous prove to be ring-leaders in apostasy and examples in indifference and in the abuse of God's mercies“ (5 Testimonies p. 212).
Which makes us wonder about our prestigious institutions like Andrews University and Loma Linda or Walla Walla and others? Will they stand as bastions of truth amid the deteriorated spiritual condition in the church? Testimonies to Ministers p 365 tells us that:
“Organizations, institutions, unless kept by the power of God, will work under Satan's dictation to bring men under the control of men; and fraud and guile will bear the semblance of zeal for truth and for the advancement of the kingdom of God."
Today, it seems that all kinds of apostasy and compromising principles are justified under the guise of witnessing. It seems to cover a multitude of sins, both individually and corporately. The church’s involvement in the ecumenical movement and WCC is all done in the name of witnessing. But when we see no change in the thinking of the people or organizations to whom they are witnessing, we have to wonder who is witnessing to whom? The change seems to be mostly in those who claim to be doing the witnessing.
We may marvel that the judgments of God have not fallen upon our organization and institutions like they fell on the Review & Herald and Battle Creek Sanitarium over a hundred years ago? Did their apostasy and departures from the Lord’s counsels exceed what is happening in our organization and institutions today? The judgments which fell upon the institutions in Battle Creek were disciplinary judgments. It was God’s way of trying to correct their backsliding. He was still willing to work with them if they repented and heeded His counsels. The fact that God’s disciplinary judgments have not signally fallen on our institutions may indicate that they are beyond benefiting from divine chastisement. It may be that the word has gone forth, “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone" (Hosea 4:17). If God’s disciplinary judgments would prove futile to arrest the apostasy, those who are fostering and abetting the apostasy will inevitably come under the retributive judgments which fall upon the wicked after the close of probation, when wrath will be poured out without mercy.
At this point someone may remind us that even though the church may appear as about to fall, it does not fall. It remains while the sinners in Zion are sifted out. That is true. God has promised the church will go through to the end as it says in 2 Selected Messages p. 390:
“There is no need to doubt, to be fearful that the work will not succeed. God is at the head of the work, and He will set everything in order. If matters need adjusting at the head of the work, God will attend to that, and work to right every wrong. And “God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands" (Evangelism p. 118).
With this assurance, many sincere believers have felt that as long as we stay on the ship, we have the assurance of arriving safely into port. But we need to ask what is the noble ship that is destined to arrive safely into port? Is it the organizational structure and institutions? Inspiration defines the ship in the following statement as the ‘gospel ship.’ Note:
“Were it not that I know that the Captain of our salvation stands at the helm to guide the ‘gospel ship’ into the harbor, I should say, Let me rest in the grave" (E.G. White 1888 Materials p. 29).
We should remember that it is the Third Angel’s Message, the gospel for these end times, which brought the SDA church into existence. From its very inception it has been the church militant, with a mixture of wheat and tares. The gospel ship is the truth that has been committed to His people. This is what brings God’s people safely into port. Those who surrender the truth in the coming crisis will have abandoned the gospel ship. They will become nominal Adventists. They are pictured in 5T 210 as still continuing the forms of religion while the power and presence of God were lacking. They have gone back to worshiping in the first apartment of the sanctuary as depicted in Early Writings p. 55, and come under the unholy influence of Satan while believing it is Christ who answers their prayers. These nominal Adventists then manifest their enmity against those who make up the church triumphant. We have this interesting passage from Spalding-Magan Collection page one, which describes the faithful remnant as an ‘obscure’ people who are not well known:
“I saw the nominal church and nominal Adventists, like Judas, would betray us to the Catholics to obtain their influence to come against the truth. The saints then will be an obscure people, little known to the Catholics; but the churches and nominal Adventists who know of our faith and customs (for they hated us on account of the Sabbath, for they could not refute it) will betray the saints and report them to the Catholics as those who disregard the institutions of the people; that is, that they keep the Sabbath and disregard Sunday.”
This goes along with what we read in Great Controversy about Adventists who abandon the faith when the storm approaches and join the ranks of the opposition. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren (see p. 608).
We are nearing the time when the judgment of the living will begin with the church militant. We read:
“In the balances of the sanctuary the Seventh-day Adventist church is to be weighed. She will be judged by the privileges and advantages that she has had. If her spiritual experience does not correspond to the advantages that Christ, at infinite cost, has bestowed on her, if the blessings conferred have not qualified her to do the work entrusted to her, on her will be pronounced the sentence: ‘Found wanting.’ By the light bestowed, the opportunities given, will she be judged" (8 Testimonies p. 247).
At this point, the people in the church militant will be either spewed out or they will be accepted in the judgment and have their filthy garments taken away and clothed with Christ’s everlasting robe of righteousness. It would be futile to think that anyone can assure his or her salvation by staying on the organizational ship. The Church militant is not going through as a corporate entity. It has had its important function through the years to keep professed believers together and to facilitate the spread of the gospel. But “The work is soon to close. The members of the church militant who have proved faithful will become the church triumphant" (Evangelism p. 707).
We are approaching the time when the church is to be purified, the wheat and tares separated. We need to have an experience of our own and know what we believe. The Spirit has been given to guide us into all truth. Psalm 91:4 tells us, “His truth will be thy shield and buckler.” And it will be finally said to all who hold fast to the truth, “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in" (Isaiah 26:2).
That is the ship which will go through and arrive safely into port.