“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14: 9-12).
The Beast, His Image & The Mark Of The Beast
Table Of Contents:-
- Christ’s Mission in The Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary
- Identifying The Beast
- King Nebuchadnezzar’s Prophetic Dream Of The Latter Days
- Babylonian Empire
- Greek Kingdom
- Roman Empire (Pagan Rome)
- Divided Europe
- Papal Rome
- Little Horn to “Speak Great Words Against the Most High” (Daniel 7:25)
- Little Horn to “Wear Out the Saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:25)
- Little Horn to “Think to Change Times and Laws” (Daniel 7:25)
- The “Day Of The Sun” – The Origin Of The Sunday Sabbath
- The attempt to change the Biblical Seventh-Day Sabbath to Sunday
- “A Time and Times and the Dividing of Time”
- Prophetic Dates
- The Dark Ages
- Jesuits – The Movement to counter Protestantism
- Portions of The Jesuit Oath
- Character and Aims of the Papacy
- The Impending Conflict–Its Causes
- The Final Warning
- The Time of Trouble
- God’s People Delivered
Christ’s Mission in The Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary
When Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to perform the closing work of the atonement, He committed to His servants the last message of mercy to be given to the world. Such is the warning of the third angel of Revelation 14:-
“And the third angel followed them saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
Immediately following the above proclamation, the Son of man is seen by the prophet John, coming in glory to reap the harvest of the earth. (Revelation 14:14). As foretold in the Scriptures, the ministration of Christ in the most holy place began at the termination of the “2,300 day-for-a-year” prophecy in 1844. To this time apply the words of the revelator, “The temple of God was opened in Heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament. (Revelation 11:19). The ark of God’s testament is in the second apartment of the sanctuary.
Within that sacred ark is the father’s law, the same that was spoken by God Himself amid the thunders of Sinai, and written with His own finger on the tables of stone. Not one command has been annulled; not a jot or a tittle has been changed. While God gave to Moses a copy of His law, He preserved the great original in the sanctuary above. Tracing down its holy precepts, the seekers for truth found, in the very bosom of the decalogue, the fourth commandment, as it was first proclaimed:-
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Spirit of God impressed the hearts of these students of His word to examine the reasons for observing the first day of the week (Sunday) instead of the day which God had sanctified. They could find no evidence in the Scriptures that the fourth commandment had been abolished, or that the Sabbath had been changed; the blessing which first hallowed the seventh day had never been removed.
None could fail to see that if the earthly sanctuary was a figure or pattern of the heavenly, the law deposited in the ark on earth was an exact transcript of the law in the ark of Heaven, and that an acceptance of the truth concerning the heavenly sanctuary involved an acknowledgement of the claims of God’s law, and the obligation of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment.
Those who had accepted the light concerning the mediation Of Christ and the perpetuity of the law of God, found that there were the truths brought to view in the third message. The Angel declares, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” This statement is preceded by a solemn and fearful warning in Revelation 14: 9, 10. (See above). An interpretation of the symbols employed is necessary to understand this message. What is represented by the beast, the image, and the mark of the beast ?
Identifying The Beast
The same beast which is described in the third angel’s message (Rev. 14:9-12), is also mentioned at the beginning of Revelation chapter 13:-
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority” (Revelation 13:1,2).
A beast in biblical terms represents a king or a kingdom. (See Daniel 7:17). The symbols used in the book of Revelation are also used in the book of Daniel. We may by comparing the prophecies and symbols in each book, come to a clear understanding as to what constitutes the beast in the third angel’s message.
King Nebuchadnezzar’s Prophetic Dream Of The Latter Days
Soon after Daniel and his companions entered the service of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, an event occurred that revealed to an idolatrous nation the power and faithfulness of the God of Israel. The King had a remarkable dream, by which “his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.” But although the king’s mind was deeply impressed, he found it impossible, when he awoke, to recall the particulars. (Daniel 2:1-3).
Amongst the lords, rulers, magicians, astrologers, sorcerers and Chaldeans, there was only one man, under the wisdom of God, able to make known and interpret the king’s dream.
“Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king had demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;
But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days…” (Daniel 2: 27 & 28).
(Click to enlarge)
Daniel Chapter 2 Vision
Daniel described the king’s dream in detail. The “great image” which the king had dreamed of, consisted of five distinctive bodily parts. (See diagram). Each bodily part, made of various materials, represented a succeeding kingdom.
Now, which of the above kingdoms represents the blasphemous beast power described in Revelation 13:1,2 and the third angel’s message (Revelation 14:9-12) ? To come to a clear answer, let us use the biblical rule by comparing scripture with scripture, “precept upon precept; line upon line” (Isaiah 28: 10). Similar prophecies to that of Daniel chapter 2, may also be found in chapters 7 & 8 of the same book. Please observe the comparisons of each power using the table below, as we look at each of these kingdoms in succession.
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The character of the Babylonian Empire is indicated by the head of gold. It was the golden kingdom of a golden age. Babylon, its metropolis, towered to a height never reached by any of its successors. It is said to have been surrounded by walls estimated two hundred to three hundred feet high and eighty-seven feet thick, with a moat or ditch around this. Within the walls were luxuriant pleasure grounds, hanging gardens rising terrace above terrace till they equalled in height to the walls themselves, and the subterranean tunnel which ran under the River Euphrates.
Several monarchs sat on the Babylonian throne before Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, was next to rule. It appeared that it was virtually impossible to overthrow such a kingdom. However, God had already pronounced that it was due to fall.
Learning of the approach of an annual festival in which the whole city would be given up to mirth and revelry, Cyrus of the Persian line planned with his uncle, Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:31), to fix upon that day the time to carry his purpose into execution.
There was no entrance for him into that city unless he could find it where the River Euphrates entered and emerged, as it passed under the walls. He resolved to make the channel of the river his highway into the stronghold of the enemy. To do this, the water must be turned aside from its channel through the city. Hence, on the evening of the Babylonian feast day, one body of soldiers turned the river into a large artificial lake a short distance from the city. The river soon became shallow enough to ford, and the soldiers followed its channel into the heart of the city of Babylon.
In the drunken revelry of that fatal night, these river gates were left open as had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah;
“Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of the king, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” (Isaiah 45:1). The entrance of the Persian soldiers were not perceived.
Belshazzar soon became aware of the cause of disturbance, and died fighting for his life. This feast of Belshazzar is described in the fifth chapter of Daniel, and the scenes close with the simple record;
“In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.” (Daniel 5:31). The Chaldeans whose horses were described as being “swifter than the leopards” and the horsemen as flying “as an eagle that hasteth to eat”, the “lions” who broke the bones of Israel by taking the Jewish nation into captivity, had its global rule come to a sudden end. (Habakkuk 1:8; Jeremiah 50:17).
The succeeding kingdom, Medo-Persia, answered to the breast and arms of silver of the great image in Daniel chapter 2. It was to be inferior to the preceding kingdom. (Daniel 2:39). In what respect inferior ? Not in power, for it conquered Babylon. Not in extent, for Cyrus subdued all the East from the Aegean Sea to the River Indus, and thus erected a more extensive empire. But it was inferior in wealth, luxury, and magnificence.
At the taking of Babylon, Cyrus, as an act of courtesy, assigned the first place in the kingdom to his uncle, Darius, in 538 BC. But two years afterward Darius died, leaving Cyrus sole monarch of the empire. It was Cyrus who issued his famous decree for the return of the Jews and the rebuilding of their temple. This was the first part of the threefold decree for the restoration and rebuilding again of Jerusalem (Ezra 6:14. See also table in the first angel’s message), which was completed in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes, 457 BC, a date of much importance, which was found to be the starting point of the 2,300 day-for-a-year prophecy. (Daniel 8:14 & 9:24-27).
The scriptures describe this power as “like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side.” (Daniel 7:5). The bear raised itself up on one side. The Medo-Persian kingdom was composed of two nationalities, the Medes and Persians. The same fact is represented by the two horns of the ram in Daniel chapter 8;
“…The two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.” (verse 3).
This was fulfilled by the Persian division of the kingdom, for although it came up last, it attained the higher eminence, becoming the dominant influence in the nation. The “three ribs in the mouth” of the bear-like beast, may refer to the three provinces of Babylon, Lydia and Egypt, which were especially overcome by Medo-Persia.
However, on the field of Arbela in 331 BC, the Grecians won a decisive victory over the Medo-Persians, and Alexander became lord of the Persian Empire.
The third kingdom, Grecia, is represented by the symbol of a leopard. The leopard is a swift-footed beast, but this was sufficient to represent the career of the nation here symbolised. It had four wings in addition. This would denote unprecedented speed of movement, which we find to be a historical fact in the Grecian kingdom. (Daniel 7:6).
The “kingdom of brass” maintained its unity but only a little longer than the lifetime of Alexander, who is referred to as “the great horn” or “first king” of the Grecian kingdom. (Daniel 8: 8, 21). The Bible predicted his career ending abruptly with the words, “the great horn was broken”. (Daniel 8:8). Alexander’s career ended in a fever induced by a drunken orgy. It is said that he drank the full Herculean cup twice (that is 24 pints). The empire was then divided among his four leading generals, thus symbolised by the “four heads” of the leopard-like beast, and the four kingdoms which “shall stand up out of the nation.” (Daniel 7:6 & 8:22). The generals and the areas they ruled were;
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Thus accurately were the words of the prophet fulfilled. As Alexander left no available successor, why did not the huge empire break up into countless petty fragments ? Why into just four parts, and no more ? – For reasons that the prophecy foresaw and foretold. The leopard had four heads (Daniel 7:6), the rough goat four horns (Daniel 8:8), the kingdom was to have four divisions (Daniel 8:22); and thus it was.
Roman Empire (Pagan Rome)
Inspiration finds no beast in nature to symbolise the power illustrated. This power is diverse from all the other beasts described in Daniel chapter 7, and the symbol is wholly different from anything found in the animal kingdom. (Daniel 7:7).
This fourth beast, representing Rome, corresponds to the fourth division of the great image – the legs of iron. (Daniel 2:40). Notice the characteristics of this power. In the dread and terror which Rome inspired, and in its great strength, the world has never seen its equal. With its “great iron teeth”, Rome “devoured and brake in pieces” all that stood in its way. It “stamped the residue” of nations into the dust with its feet. This beast had ten horns, which are explained in verse 24 as being ten kings, or kingdoms, which should arise out of this empire. It is a fact that Rome was divided into ten kingdoms. These divisions have ever since been spoken of as the ten kingdoms of the Roman Empire.
Of all the powers named in these visions none but pagan Rome could “stand up against the Prince of Princes”, as this only prevailed during the life of Christ. “…The angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him…
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.” (Matthew 2: 13, 16). Thus pagan Rome stood up against Christ the Prince of Princes and at last crucified Him.
The image of Daniel chapter 2 is exactly parallel with the four beasts in the vision of Daniel 7. The fourth beast represents the same kingdom as do the iron legs of the image – Rome. Therefore, the ten horns of the beast correspond naturally to the ten toes of the image. These horns are plainly declared to be ten kings which should arise. (Daniel 7:24). Hence, the ten toes and the ten horns must represent the ten kingdoms into which Rome was divided. This division was accomplished between AD 351 and 476.
The ten nations which were most instrumental in breaking up the Roman Empire were as follows:
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When Rome fell, the possibilities of consolidating the ten divisions into one vast empire, was forever passed away. The Bible affirms that no man or combination of men can again unify the fragments. This point is so well set forth by another that we quote his words:
“…Time and again men have dreamed of rearing on these dominions one mighty kingdom. Charlemagne tried it. Charles V tried it. Louis XIV tried it. Napoleon tried it. But neither succeeded. A single verse of prophesy was stronger than all their hosts…’partly strong, and partly broken’ (Daniel 2:42), was the prophetic description…
“But then men may say, ‘Another plan remains. If force cannot avail, diplomacy and reasons of state may – we will try them.’ And so the prophesy foreshadows this when it says, ‘They shall mingle themselves with the seed of men’ (Daniel 2:43) – i.e. marriages shall be formed, in the hope thus to consolidate their power, and, in the end, to unite these divided kingdoms into one…And shall this device succeed ? – No…The iron would not mingle with the clay.” (William Newton, Lectures on the First Two Visions of the Book of Daniel, pp. 34 -36).
Daniel considered the ten horns. (Daniel 7:8). A strange movement appeared among them. Another horn, at first little, but afterward more stout than its fellows, thrust itself up. (Daniel 7:20). It was not content quietly to find a place of its own, and fill it; it must thrust aside some of the others, and usurp their places. Three kingdoms were thus plucked up. (Daniel 7:8).
This little horn, as we shall have occasion to notice more fully hereafter, was the papacy. The three horns plucked up by the roots represented the Heruli, the Ostrogoths, and the Vandals. (See section: Divided Europe). The reason for their removal was their opposition to the teachings and claims of the papal hierarchy. “In this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” (Daniel 7:8). These are fit emblems of the shrewdness, penetration, and arrogant claims of an apostate religious organisation.
Let us look at a few of these claims.
Little Horn to “Speak Great Words Against the Most High” (Daniel 7:25)
Lucius Ferraris, in his Prompta Bibliotheca, art. “Papa,” II, Vol. VI, pp. 26 – 29, declares in his article on the pope, that, “…the pope is of so great dignity and so exalted that he is not a mere man, but as it were God, and the vicar of God…”
“The pope alone is deservedly called by the name ‘most holy’, because he alone is the vicar of Christ, who is the fountain and source and fullness of all holiness…’He is likewise the divine monarch and supreme emperor, and king of kings’…Hence the pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven and of earth and of the lower regions…Moreover the superiority and the power of the Roman Pontiff by no means pertain only to heavenly things, to earthly things, and to things under the earth, but are even over angels, than whom he is greater…So that if it were possible that the angels might err in the faith, or might think contrary to the faith, they could be judged and excommunicated by the pope…For he is of so great dignity and power that he forms one and the same tribunal with Christ…The pope is as it were God on earth…The pope is of so great authority and power that he can modify, explain, or interpret even divine laws.”
Little Horn to “Wear Out the Saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:25)
It requires but little historical investigation to prove that Rome, especially during the Dark Ages, carried forward a work of destruction against the church of God. Abundant evidences can be given showing that prior to and following the great work of the Reformation, wars, crusades, massacres, inquisitions, and persecutions of all kinds were the methods adopted to compel all to submit to the Roman yoke.
The story of the medieval persecution is a frightful one, and we dread to dwell upon its detail. Yet for a proper understanding of this passage it is necessary that we recall some of the happenings of these unhappy times. Albert Barnes, in his comment on this passage, remarks:
“Can anyone doubt that this is true of the papacy? The Inquisition, the ‘persecutions of the Waldenses’; the ravages of the Duke of Alva; the fires at Smithfield; the tortures of Goa – indeed, the whole history of the papacy may be appealed to in proof that this is applicable to that power. If anything could have ‘worn out the saints of the Most High’ – could have cut them off from the earth so that evangelical religion would have become extinct, it would have been the persecutions of the papal power. In the year 1208, a crusade was proclaimed by Pope Innocent III against the Waldenses and Albigenses, in which a million men perished. From the beginning of the order of the Jesuits, in the year 1540, to 1580, nine hundred thousand were destroyed. One hundred and fifty thousand perished by the Inquisition in thirty years. In the Low Countries fifty thousand persons were hanged, beheaded, burned, and buried alive, for the crime of heresy, within the space of thirty-eight years from the edict of Charles V against the Protestants, to the peace of Chateau Cambreses in 1559…Indeed the slightest history of the papacy will convince any one that what is here said of ‘making war with the saints’ (Daniel 7:21), and ‘wearing out the saints of the Most High’ (Daniel 7:25), is strictly applicable to that power, and will accurately describe its history.” (Albert Barnes, Notes on Daniel, p.328, comment on Daniel 7:25.)
It was the papal church that made the decision upon the question of heresy, and it then passed the offenders over to the secular court. But in those days the secular power was but the tool in the hands of the church. It was under its control and did its bidding.
Pagan Rome persecuted the Christian church relentlessly. It is estimated that three million Christians perished in the first three centuries of the Christian Era. Yet it is said that the primitive Christians prayed for the continuance of imperial Rome, for they knew that when this form of government should cease, another far worse persecuting power would arise, which would literally “wear out the saints of the Most High”, as this prophesy declares. Pagan Rome could slay the infants, but spare the mothers; but papal Rome slew both the mothers and the infants together. No age, no sex, no condition in life, was exempt from her relentless rage.
Little Horn to “Think to Change Times and Laws” (Daniel 7:25)
What laws and whose? Not the laws of other earthly governments; for it was nothing marvellous or strange for one power to change the laws of another, whenever it could bring such power under its dominion. Not human laws of any kind; for the little horn had power to change these so far as its jurisdiction extended; but the times and laws in question were such as this power should only think to change, but not be able to change. They are the laws of the same Being to whom the saints belong who are worn out by this power, namely, the laws of the Most High. And has the papacy attempted this? – Yes, even this. (See the diagrams comparing God’s Law in Exodus 20:3-17 and the Vernacular Catholic Catechisms).
The papacy has added the second commandment of the Decalogue to the first, making them one, and divided the tenth into two, making the ninth forbid the coveting of a neighbor’s wife, and the tenth that of a neighbor’s property – thus making up the full number ten. Also, the little horn power has changed the fourth commandment, from the Seventh-day Sabbath to worship on the first day of the week, which is nowhere in Scripture commanded.
(Click to enlarge – The Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:3-17)
(Click to enlarge – Attempted Change Of God’s Ten Commandments By Papal Rome)
The papacy has attempted to change the law of God.
The second commandment, forbidding image worship, has been dropped from the law. The worship of images was one of those corruptions of Christianity which crept into the church stealthily and almost without notice or observation. Images and pictures were first introduced into churches, not to be worshipped, but either in the place of books to give instruction to those who could not read, or excite devotion in the minds of others. It later was found that the pictures and images brought into the churches darkened rather than enlightened the minds of the ignorant – degraded rather than exalted the devotion of the worshipper. So that, however they might have been intended to direct men’s minds to God, they ended in turning them from Him to the worship of created things.
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The apostle Paul wrote concerning man’s wrong idea of God:-
“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened…
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things…
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, Amen.” ( Romans 1:20, 21, 23 & 25).
The “Day Of The Sun” – The Origin Of The Sunday Sabbath
Sunday sacredness is never found in the Old or New Testament, nor is it anywhere commanded there. In the time of Christ and the Apostles, the Roman government did not have an official sacred day, but gradually many of the heathen in the Empire began keeping Sunday holy to Mithra, the Sun God.
Mithra (also called Mithras) was originally an ancient god of Persia. He had been worshipped as the god of strength and war for centuries. In the first and second century, A.D.,he became the most important pagan god of the common people of the Roman Empire. His holy day was the sun day, the first day of the week (now called Sunday). By the middle of the second century, Mithric Sun worship was the greatest rival to Christianity, and the most worldly of the Christians began favouring adopting some of its principles in order to attract Mithric followers into the Christian church.
The spirit of concession to paganism opened the way for unconsecrated leaders of the early church to tamper with the fourth commandment, setting aside the ancient Sabbath, the day which God had blessed and sanctified (Genesis 2:2, 3), to exalt the festival observed by the heathen as “the venerable day of the sun”. This change was not at first attempted openly. In the first centuries the true Sabbath had been kept by all Christians. They were jealous for the honor of God, and, believing that His law is immutable, they zealously guarded the sacredness of its precepts. But with great subtlety Satan worked through his agents to bring about his object. That the attention of the people might be called to the Sunday, it was made a festival in honour of the resurrection of Christ. Religious services were held upon it; yet it was regarded as a day of recreation, the Sabbath being still sacredly observed.
To prepare the way for the work which he designed to accomplish, Satan had led the Jews, before the advent of Christ, to load down the Sabbath with the most rigorous exactions, making its observance a burden. Now, taking advantage of the false light in which he had thus caused it to be regarded, he cast contempt upon it as a Jewish institution. While Christians generally continued to observe the Sunday as a joyous festival, he led them, in order to show their hatred of Judaism, to make a Sabbath a fast, a day of sadness and gloom.
In the early part of the fourth century the emperor Constantine issued a decree making Sunday a public festival throughout the Roman Empire:-
(Click to enlarge – Sunday Law Of Constantine)
The day of the sun was reverenced by his pagan subjects and was honoured by Christians; it was the emperor’s policy to unite conflicting interests of heathenism and Christianity. He was urged to do this by the bishops of the church, who, inspired by ambition and thirst for power, perceived that if the same day was observed by both Christians and heathen, it would promote the nominal acceptance of Christianity by pagans and thus advance the power and glory of the church. But while many God-fearing Christians were led to regard Sunday as possessing a degree of sacredness, they still held the true Sabbath as the holy of the Lord and observed it in obedience to the fourth commandment.
The archdeceiver had not completed his work. He was resolved to gather the Christian world under his banner and to exercise his power through the vicegerent, the proud pontiff who claimed to be the representative of Christ. Through half-converted pagans, ambitious prelates, and world-loving churchmen he accomplished his purpose. Vast councils were held from time to time, in which the dignitaries of the church were convened from all the world. In nearly every council the Sabbath which God had instituted was pressed down a little lower, while the Sunday was correspondingly exalted. Thus the pagan festival came finally to be honoured as a divine institution, while the Bible Sabbath was pronounced a relic of Judaism, and its observers were declared to be accursed.
The great apostate had succeeded in exalting himself “above all that is called God, or that is worshipped.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). He had dared to change the only precept of the divine law that unmistakably points all mankind to the true and living God. In the fourth commandment, God is revealed as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and is thereby distinguished from all false gods. It was a memorial of the work of creation that the seventh day was sanctified as a rest day for man. It was designed to keep the living God ever before the minds of men as the source of being and the object of reverence and worship. Satan strives to turn men from their allegiance to God, and from rendering obedience to His law; therefore he directs his efforts especially against that commandment which points to God as the Creator.
Many Protestants now urge that the resurrection of Christ on Sunday made it the Christian Sabbath. But Scripture evidence is lacking. No such honour was given to the day by Christ or His apostles. The observance of Sunday as a Christian institution had its origin in that “mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7, Revised Version) which, even in Paul’s day, had begun its work. Where and when did the Lord adopt this child of the papacy? What valid reason can be given for a change which the Scriptures do not sanction?
The attempt to change the Biblical Seventh-Day Sabbath to Sunday
” ‘Babylon, the mother of harlots’ (Roman Catholic Church), derived much of her teachings from pagan Rome and thence from Babylon. Sun-worship – that led to her to Sundaykeeping, – was one of those choice bits of paganism that sprang originally from the heathen lore of ancient Babylon: ‘The solar theology of the “Chaldeans” had a decisive effect upon the final development of Semitic paganism…[It led to their] seeing the sun the directing power of the cosmic system. All the Baals were thence forward turned into suns; the sun itself being the mover of the other stars – like it eternal and ‘unconquerable’…
…Such was the final form reached by the religion of the pagan Semites, and, following them, by that of the Romans…when they raised ‘Sol Invictus’ [the Invisible Sun] to the rank of supreme divinity in the Empire.” Franz V.M. Cumont, “The Frontier Provinces of the East,” in “The Cambridge Ancient History,”
Vol. 11, pp.643, 646-647.
“As we have already noted, except for the Roman and Alexandrian Christians, the majority of Christians were observing the seventh-day Sabbath at least as late as the middle of the fifth century [A.D. 450]. The Roman and Alexandrian Christians were among the converted from heathenism. They began observing Sunday as a merry religious festival in honour of the Lord’s resurrection, about the later half of the second century A.D. However, they did not teach that the Lord or His Apostles commanded it. In fact, no ecclesiastical writer before Eusebius of Caesarea in the fourth century even suggested that either Christ or His apostles instituted the observance of the first day of the week. “These Gentile Christians of Rome and Alexandria began calling the first day of the week ‘the Lord’s day’. This was not difficult for the pagans of the Roman Empire who were steeped in sun worship to accept, because they [the pagans] referred to their sun-god as their ‘Lord’. ” E. M. Chalmers, “How Sunday Came Into the Christian Church”, p.3.
“Here is the first Sunday Law decree of a Christian council. It was given about 16 years after Constantine’s first Sunday Law of A.D. 321: “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday [in the original: “sabbato” – shall not be idle on the Sabbath], but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out [“anathema”, – excommunicated] from Christ.” Council of Laodicea, c. A.D. 337, Canon 29, quoted in C.J. Hefele, “A History of the Councils of the Church,” Vol.2, p.316.
“It is well to remind the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and all other Christians, that the Bible does not support them anywhere in their observance of Sunday. Sunday is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church, and those who observe the day observe a commandment of the Catholic Church.” Priest Brady, in an address, reported in the Elizabeth, N.J. “News” of March 18, 1903
“Protestants… accept Sunday rather than Saturday as the day foe public worship after the Catholic Church made the change…But the Protestant mind does not seem to realise that in accepting the Bible, in observing the Sunday, they are accepting the authority of the spokesman for the church, the Pope.” “Our Sunday Visitor”, February 5, 1950.
“Prove to me from the Bible alone that I am bound to keep Sunday holy. There is no such law in the Bible. It is the law of the holy Catholic Church alone. The Bible says ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’. The Catholic Church says, No. By my divine power I abolish the Sabbath day and command you to keep the first day of the week. And lo ! The entire civilised world bows down in reverent obedience to the command of the Holy Catholic Church.” Thomas Enright, CSSR, President, Redemptorist College (Roman Catholic), Kansas City, Mo., Feb. 18, 1884.
“The Church changed the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday by right of the divine, infallible authority given to her by the founder, Jesus Christ. The Protestant claiming the Bible to be the only guide of faith, has no warrant for observing Sunday. In this matter the Seventh-Day Adventist is the only consistent Protestant” “The Catholic Universe Bulletin,” August 14, 1942, p.4.
“Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change [of the Sabbath to Sunday] was her act…AND THE ACT IS A MARK of her ecclesiastical power.” from the office of Cardinal Gibbons, through Chancellor H.F. Thomas, November 11, 1895.
The Bible is your only safe guide. Jesus can help you obey it.
“A Time and Times and the Dividing of Time”
In the sixth century the papacy had become firmly established. Its seat of power was fixed in the imperial city, and the Bishop of Rome was declared to be the head over the entire church. Paganism had given place to the papacy. The dragon had given to the beast “his power, and his seat, and great authority.” (Revelation 13:2). Hence, the Papacy was given both ecclesiastical and civil powers. And now began the 1260 years of papal oppression foretold in the prophecies of Daniel and also in Revelation 13:5-7.
(Click to enlarge – 1260 Day/Year Prophecy in Daniel & Revelation)
Christians were forced to choose either to yield their integrity and accept the papal ceremonies and worship, or to wear away their lives in dungeons or suffer death by the rack, the fagot, or the headman’s axe. Now were fulfilled the words of Jesus: “Ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake.” (Luke 21:16, 17). Persecution opened upon the faithful with greater fury than ever before, and the world became a vast battlefield. For hundreds of years the church of Christ found refuge in seclusion and obscurity. Thus says the prophet: “The woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” (Revelation 12:6).
An important principle in prophetic interpretation in connection with time prophecies is the year-day principle, under which a day of prophetic time is counted as a calendar year of historic time. For example, before the Israelites entered the land of Canaan they sent twelve spies ahead to investigate. The spies were gone forty days, and upon their return the Hebrews, frightened at their report, refused to go up into the Promised Land. The result was a sentence the Lord passed upon them: “After the number of days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years.” (Numbers 14:34. See also Ezekiel 4:6).
Hence, the prophecy of “a time and times and a dividing of time” (Daniel 7:25), may be understood by using the Hebrew ancient reckoning of 360 days to a year;-
(Click to enlarge)
Since a day is equivalent to a year in Bible prophecy, this little horn power would have ecclesiastical and civil power for 1260 years. The Scriptures reveal the same period of time as “forty and two months” (Rev. 13:5) and “a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (Rev. 12:6. See also Rev. 11:13 and 12:14.)
When did the little horn, symbolising the papacy, have this rule? The decree of the emperor, Justinian, in AD 533, recognised the pope as “head of all the churches” (Code of Justinian, Book 1, title 1, section 4). The overwhelming defeat of the Ostrogoths in the siege of Rome, just five years later AD 538 was a death blow to the third of the three horns that were uprooted (see Daniel 7:8). From the year 538, then begins the 1260 years of this prophecy of papal domination, which would extend to 1798. In that year as the Reign of Terror continued in the French Revolution and the Roman Catholic religion was set aside in France, the French army, under Berthier, entered Rome and took the pope prisoner. The date: February 10, 1798. The imprisoned pope died in exile the following year in Valence, France. A great cry was heard, “Catholicism is dead”. The papacy had received the “deadly wound” of Revelation 13:3. Only the civil arm of power was taken away from the papacy. But we are told that the wound is to be healed, and that the time is coming when all the world will “wonder after the beast”. (Revelation 13:3).
The Dark Ages
The accession of the Roman Church to power marked the beginning of the Dark Ages. As her power increased, the darkness deepened. Faith was transferred from Christ, the true foundation, to the pope of Rome. Instead of trusting in the Son of God for forgiveness of sins and for eternal salvation, the people looked to the pope, and to the priests and prelates to whom he delegated authority. They were taught that the pope was their earthly mediator and that none could approach God except through him; and, further, that he stood in the place of God to them and was therefore to be implicitly obeyed.
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God
and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
“…Who can forgive sins, but God alone?…the Son of man
hath power upon earth to forgive sins.” (Luke 5:21, 24).
A deviation from his requirements was sufficient cause for severest punishment to be visited upon the bodies and souls of the offenders. Thus the minds of the people were turned away from God to fallible, erring, and cruel men, nay, more, to the prince of darkness himself, who exercised his power through them. Sin was disguised in a garb of sanctity. When the scriptures are suppressed, and man comes to regard himself as supreme, we need look only for fraud, deception, and debasing iniquity. With the elevation of human laws and traditions was manifest the corruption that ever results from setting aside the law of God.
“Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines
the commandments of men.
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the
tradition of men…” (Mark 7:7,8).
They were taught not only to look to the pope as their mediator, but to trust to works of their own to atone for sin. Long pilgrimages, acts of penance, the worship of relics, the erection of churches, shrines, and altars, the payment of large sums to the church – these and many similar acts were enjoined to appease the wrath of God or to secure his favour; as if God were like men, to be angered at trifles, or pacified by gifts or acts of penance !
The advancing centuries witnessed a constant increase of error in the doctrines put forth from Rome. Even before the establishment of the papacy the teachings of heathen philosophers had received attention and exerted an influence in the church. Many who professed conversion still clung to the tenets of their pagan philosophy, and not only continued its study themselves, but urged it upon others as a means of extending their influence among the heathen.
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know
not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for
the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their
hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they
any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under
the sun…for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge,
nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest…in that very
day his thoughts perish.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-10 & Psalms 146:4).
Serious errors were thus introduced into the Christian faith. Prominent among these were the belief in man’s natural immortality and his consciousness in death. This doctrine laid the foundation upon which Rome established the invocation of saints and the adoration of the Virgin Mary. From this sprang also the heresy of eternal torment for the finally impenitent, which was early incorporated into the papal faith.
“…God is love…As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no
pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn
from his way and live…For evildoers shall be cut off: but those
that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a
little while, and the wicked shall not be…they shall be as
though they had not been.” (1 John 4:8; Ezekiel 33:11; Psalms
37:9, 10; Obadiah 16).
Then the way was prepared for the introduction of still another invention of paganism, which Rome named purgatory, and employed to terrify the credulous and superstitious multitudes. By this heresy is affirmed the existence of a place of torment, in which the souls of such as have not merited eternal damnation are to suffer punishment for their sins, and from which, when freed from impurity, they are admitted into heaven.
“…the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed
took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and
said, Take, eat: this is my body, which was broken for you:
this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also
he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is
the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink
it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread,
and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Still another fabrication was needed to enable Rome to profit by the fears and the vices of her adherents. This was supplied by the doctrine of indulgences. Full remission of sins, past, present, and future, and release from all the pains and penalties incurred were promised to all who would enlist in the pontiff’s wars to extend his temporal dominion, to punish his enemies, or to exterminate those who dared deny his spiritual supremacy. The people were also taught that by the payment of money to the church they might free themselves from sin, and also release the souls of their deceased friends who were confined in the tormenting flames. By such means did Rome fill her coffers and sustain the magnificence, luxury, and vice of the pretended representatives of Him who had no where to lay His head.
The Scriptural ordinance of the Lord’s Supper had been supplanted by the idolatrous sacrifice of the mass. Papal priests pretended, by their senseless mummery, to convert the simple bread and wine into the actual “body and blood of Christ.”- Cardinal Wiseman, The Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist, Proved From Scripture, lecture 8, sec.3, par.26.
With blasphemous presumption, they openly claimed the power of creating God, the Creator of all things. Christians were required, on pain of death, to avow their faith in this horrible, Heaven-insulting heresy. Multitudes who refused were given to the flames.
Jesuits – The Movement to counter Protestantism
In the thirteenth century was established that most terrible of all the engines of the papacy – the Inquisition.
Ignatius Layola was the founder of the organisation of the Jesuits, otherwise known as the Society of Jesus. This group was founded in 1534 in Paris and its duty is to defend the Roman Catholic church and its faith. In its strict organisation, it is governed by a Jesuit General or ” Black Pope”, of whom, is responsible to the visible Pope or “White Pope”. Although this system was suppressed in 1773, it was restored in 1814. Its members are learned and vigorously trained. In an article edited by Rev. John Gerrard of the Catholic Truth Society in 1902, it is said:-
“The mainspring of the whole organisation of the Society is a spirit of entire obedience: ‘Let each one’ writes St. Ignatius, ‘persuade himself that those who live under obedience ought to be moved and directed by divine Providence through their superiors, just as though they were a dead body, which allows itself to be carried anywhere and to be treated in any manner whatever, or as an old man’s staff, which serves him who holds it in his hand in whatsoever way he will.’ ” The Comtesse R. de Courson, in Concerning Jesuits, Page 6.
‘Thus saith the Lord; Cursed is the man that trusteth in man,
and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from
the Lord.’ (Jeremiah 17:5). ‘Cease ye from man, whose breath
is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of ?’ (Isaiah 2:22).
Rome summoned the Jesuits to accomplish the destruction of Protestantism. The Jesuits were the most cruel, unscrupulous and powerful of all the champions of popery. Cut off from earthly ties and human interests, dead to the claims of natural affection, reason and conscience wholly silenced, they knew no rule, no tie, but that of their order, and no duty but to extend its power.
The gospel of Christ had enabled its adherents to meet danger and endure suffering, undismayed by cold, hunger, toil, and poverty, to uphold the banner of truth in face of the rack, the dungeon, and the stake. To combat these forces, Jesuitism inspired its followers with a fanaticism that enabled them to endure like dangers, and to oppose to the power of truth all the weaponry of deception. There was no crime too great for them to commit, no deception too base for them to practice, no disguise too difficult for them to assume. Let us take a look at a quote from the Ceremony Of Induction and extreme oath of the Jesuits (Library Of Congress Catalogue Card # 66 – 43354):-
“My son…you have been taught to act the dissembler; among the Roman Catholics to be a Roman Catholic, and to be a spy even among your own brethren; to believe no man, to trust no man. Among the Reformers, to be a Reformer; among the Huguenots to be a Huguenot, among the Calvinists to be a Calvinist, among the Protestants to generally be a Protestant. And obtaining their confidence to seek then to speak from their pulpits, and to denounce with all the vehemence in your nature our holy religion and the Pope; and even to descend so low as to become a Jew among the Jews, that you might be enabled to gather together all information, for the benefit of your order as a faithful soldier of the Pope.“
Portions of The Jesuit Oath
“I promise and declare that I will, when opportunity presents, make and wage relentless war secretly or openly, against all heretics, Protestants and Liberals, as I am directed to do…to extirpate and exterminate from the face of the whole earth and that I will spare neither age, sex, or condition, and that I will hang, burn, waste, boil, flay, strangle and bury alive, those infamous heretics, rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women and crush their infants heads against the wall in order to annihilate forever their excretable race…
…That when the same cannot be done openly, I will secretly use the poisoned cup, the strangulating cord, the steel of the poniard, or the leaden bullet, regardless of the honour, rank, dignity, or authority of the person or persons whatever may be their condition in life either public or private, as I at any time maybe directed so to do by any agent of the Pope or superior of the brotherhood of the Holy Faith, The Society of Jesus.”
When appearing as members of their order, they wore a garb of sanctity, visiting prisons and hospitals, ministering to the sick and to the poor, professing to have renounced the world, vowed to perpetual poverty and humility, and bearing the sacred name of Jesus, who went about doing good. But under the blameless exterior was the most criminal and deadly purposes were often concealed.
It was a fundamental principle of the order that the end justifies the means. By this code, lying, theft, perjury, assassination, were not only pardonable but commendable, when they served the interests of the church. Under various disguises the Jesuits worked their way into offices of state, climbing up to be the counsellors of kings, and shaping the policy of the nations. They became servants to act as spies upon their masters. They established colleges for the sons of princes and nobles, and schools for the common people; and the children of Protestant parents were drawn into an observance of popish rites. All the outward pomp and display of the Romish worship were brought to bear to confuse the mind and dazzle and captivate the imagination, and thus the liberty for which the fathers had toiled and bled was betrayed by the sons. The Jesuits rapidly spread themselves over Europe, and wherever they went, there followed a revival of popery.
The prince of darkness wrought with the leaders of the papal hierarchy. In their secret councils Satan and his angels controlled the minds of evil men, while unseen in the midst stood an angel of God, taking the fearful record of their iniquitous decrees and writing the history of deeds too horrible to human eyes. “Babylon the great” was “drunken with the blood of the saints.” (Revelation 17:6). The mangled forms of millions of martyrs cried to God for vengeance upon that apostate power; “…How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ?”. (Revelation 3:10).
Character and Aims of the Papacy
Romanism is now regarded by Protestants with far greater favor than in former years. In those countries where Catholicism is not in the ascendency, and the papists are taking a conciliatory course in order to gain influence, there is an increasing indifference concerning the doctrines that separate the reformed churches from the papal hierarchy; the opinion is gaining ground, that, after all, we do not differ so widely upon vital points as has been supposed, and that a little concession on our part will bring us into a better understanding with Rome. The time was when Protestants placed a high value upon the liberty of conscience which has been so dearly purchased. They taught their children to abhor popery, and held that to seek harmony with Rome would be disloyalty to God. But how widely different are the sentiments now expressed.
The defenders of popery declare that the church has been maligned; and the Protestant world are inclined to accept the statement. Many urge that it is unjust to judge the church of to-day by the abominations and absurdities that marked her reign during the centuries of ignorance and darkness. They excuse her horrible cruelty as the result of the barbarism of the times, and plead that the influence of modern civilization has changed her sentiments.
Have these persons forgotten the claim of infallibility put forth for eight hundred years by this haughty power? So far from being relinquished, this claim has been affirmed in the nineteenth century with greater positiveness than ever before. As Rome asserts that she “never erred, and never can err,” how can she renounce the principles which governed her course in past ages?
The papal church will never relinquish her claim to infallibility. All that she has done in her persecution of those who reject her dogmas, she holds to be right; and would she not repeat the same acts, should the opportunity be presented? Let the restraints now imposed by secular governments be removed, and Rome be re-instated in her former power, and there would speedily be a revival of her tyranny and persecution.
A recent writer[JOSIAH STRONG, D.D., IN “OUR COUNTRY,” PP. 46-48.] speaks thus of the attitude of the papal hierarchy as regards freedom of conscience, and of the perils which especially threaten the United States from the success of her policy:–
“There are many who are disposed to attribute any fear of Roman Catholicism in the United States to bigotry or childishness. Such see nothing in the character and attitude of Romanism that is hostile to our free institutions, or find nothing portentous in its growth. Let us, then, first compare some of the fundamental principles of our government with those of the Catholic Church.
“The Constitution of the United States guarantees liberty of conscience . Nothing is dearer or more fundamental. Pope Pius IX., in his Encyclical Letter of August 15, 1854, said: ‘The absurd and erroneous doctrines or ravings in defense of liberty of conscience, are a most pestilential error–a pest, of all others, most to be dreaded in a State.’ The same pope, in his Encyclical Letter of December 8, 1864, anathematized ‘those who assert the liberty of conscience and of religious worship,’ also ‘all such as maintain that the church may not employ force.’
“Every cardinal, archbishop, and bishop in the Catholic Church takes an oath of allegiance to the pope, in which occur the following words: ‘Heretics, schismatics, and rebels to our said lord the pope, or his aforesaid successors, I will to my utmost persecute and oppose.'”
It is true that there are real Christians in the Roman Catholic communion. Thousands in that church are serving God according to the best light they have. They are not allowed access to his Word, and therefore they do not discern the truth. They have never seen the contrast between a living heart-service and a round of mere forms and ceremonies. God looks with pitying tenderness upon these souls, educated as they are in a faith that is delusive and unsatisfying. He will cause rays of light to penetrate the dense darkness that surrounds them. He will reveal to them the truth, as it is in Jesus, and many will yet take their position with his people.
But Romanism as a system is no more in harmony with the gospel of Christ now than at any former period in her history. The Protestant churches are in great darkness, or they would discern the signs of the times. The Roman Church is far-reaching in her plans and modes of operation. She is employing every device to extend her influence and increase her power in preparation for a fierce and determined conflict to regain control of the world, to re-establish persecution, and to undo all that Protestantism has done. Catholicism is gaining ground upon every side. See the increasing number of her churches and chapels in Protestant countries. Look at the popularity of her colleges and seminaries in America, so widely patronized by Protestants Look at the growth of ritualism in England, and the frequent defections to the ranks of the Catholics. These things should awaken the anxiety of all who prize the pure principles of the gospel.
The church’s claim to the right to pardon, causes the Romanist to feel at liberty to sin; and the ordinance of confession, without which her pardon is not granted, tends also to give license to evil. He who kneels before fallen man, and opens in confession the secret thoughts and imaginations of his heart, is debasing his manhood, and degrading every noble instinct of his soul. In unfolding the sins of his life to a priest,–an erring, sinful mortal, and too often corrupted with wine and licentiousness,–his standard of character is lowered, and he is defiled in consequence. His thought of God is degraded to the likeness of fallen humanity; for the priest stands as a representative of God. This degrading confession of man to man is the secret spring from which has flowed much of the evil that is defiling the world, and fitting it for the final destruction. Yet to him who loves self-indulgence, it is more pleasing to confess to a fellow-mortal than to open the soul to God. It is more palatable to human nature to do penance than to renounce sin; it is easier to mortify the flesh by sackcloth and nettles and galling chains than to crucify fleshly lusts. Heavy is the yoke which the carnal heart is willing to bear rather than bow to the yoke of Christ.
Papists place crosses upon their churches, upon their altars, and upon their garments. Everywhere is seen the insignia of the cross. Everywhere it is outwardly honored and exalted. But the teachings of Christ are buried beneath a mass of senseless traditions, false interpretations, and rigorous exactions. The Saviour’s words concerning the bigoted Jews, apply with still greater force to the Romish leaders: “They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”[MATT. 23:4.] Conscientious souls are kept in constant terror, fearing the wrath of an offended God, while the dignitaries of the church are living in luxury and sensual pleasure.
Christ gives no example in his life for men and women to shut themselves in monasteries in order to become fitted for Heaven. He has never taught that love and sympathy must be repressed. The Saviour’s heart overflowed with love. The nearer man approaches to moral perfection, the keener are his sensibilities, the more acute is his perception of sin, and the deeper his sympathy for the afflicted. The pope claims to be the vicar of Christ; but how does his character bear comparison with that of our Saviour? Was Christ ever known to consign men to the prison or the rack because they did not pay him homage as the King of Heaven? Was his voice heard condemning to death those who did not accept him? When he was slighted by the people of a Samaritan village, the apostle John was filled with indignation, and inquired, “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” Jesus looked with pity upon his disciple, and rebuked his harsh spirit, saying, “The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”[LUKE 9:54, 56.] How different from the spirit manifested by Christ is that of his professed vicar.
It is not without reason that the claim has been put forth in Protestant countries, that Catholicism differs less widely from Protestantism than in former times. There has been a change; but the change is not in the papacy. Catholicism indeed resembles much of the Protestantism that now exists, because Protestantism has so greatly degenerated since the days of the reformers.
A prayerful study of the Bible would show Protestants the real character of the papacy, and would cause them to abhor and to shun it; but many are so wise in their own conceit that they feel no need of humbly seeking God that they may be led into the truth. Although priding themselves on their enlightenment, they are ignorant both of the Scriptures and of the power of God. They must have some means of quieting their consciences; and they seek that which is least spiritual and humiliating. What they desire is a method of forgetting God which shall pass as a method of remembering him. The papacy is well adapted to meet the wants of all these. It is prepared for two classes of mankind, embracing nearly the whole world,–those who would be saved by their merits, and those who would be saved in their sins. Here is the secret of its power.
In the movements now in progress in the United States to secure for the institutions and usages of the church the support of the State, Protestants are following in the steps of papists. Nay, more, they are opening the door for popery to regain in Protestant America the supremacy which she has lost in the Old World. And that which gives greater significance to this movement is the fact that the principal object contemplated is the enforcement of Sunday observance,–a custom which originated with Rome, and which she claims as the sign of her authority. It is the spirit of the papacy,–the spirit of conformity to worldly customs, the veneration for human traditions above the commandments of God,–that is permeating the Protestant churches, and leading them on to do the same work of Sunday exaltation which the papacy has done before them.
These records of the past clearly reveal the enmity of Rome toward the true Sabbath and its defenders, and the means which she employs to honor the institution of her creating. The Word of God teaches that these scenes are to be repeated as papists and Protestants shall unite for the exaltation of the Sunday.
The prophecy of Revelation 13 declares that the power represented by the beast with lamb-like horns shall cause “the earth and them which dwell therein” to worship the papacy–there symbolized by the beast “like unto a leopard.” The beast with two horns is also to say “to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast;” and, furthermore, it is to command all, “both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond,” to receive “the mark of the beast.”[REV. 13:11-16.] It has been shown that the United States is the power represented by the beast with lamb-like horns, and that this prophecy will be fulfilled when the United States shall enforce Sunday observance, which Rome claims as the special acknowledgment of her supremacy. But in this homage to papacy the United States will not be alone.
The influence of Rome in the countries that once acknowledged her dominion, is still far from being destroyed. And prophecy foretells a restoration of her power. “I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast.”[REV. 13:3.] The infliction of the deadly wound points to the abolition of the papacy in 1798. After this, says the prophet, “His deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast.” Paul states plainly that the man of sin will continue until the second advent. [2 THESS. 2:8.] To the very close of time he will carry forward his work of deception. And the Revelator declares, also referring to the papacy, “All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life.”[REV. 13:8.] In both the Old and the New World, papacy will receive homage in the honor paid to the Sunday institution, that rests solely upon the authority of the Romish Church.
For about forty years, students of prophecy in the United States have presented this testimony to the world. In the events now taking place is seen a rapid advance toward the fulfillment of the prediction. With Protestant teachers there is the same claim of divine authority for Sunday-keeping, and the same lack of scriptural evidence, as with the papist leaders who fabricated miracles to supply the place of a command from God. The assertion that God’s judgments are visited upon men for their violation of the Sunday-sabbath, will be repeated; already it is beginning to be urged. And a movement to enforce Sunday observance is fast gaining ground.
Marvelous in her shrewdness and cunning is the Romish Church. She can read what is to be. She bides her time, seeing that the Protestant churches are paying her homage in their acceptance of the false Sabbath, and that they are preparing to enforce it by the very means which she herself employed in by-gone days. Those who reject the light of truth will yet seek the aid of this self-styled infallible power to exalt an institution that originated with her. How readily she will come to the help of Protestants in this work, it is not difficult to conjecture. Who understands better than the papal leaders how to deal with those who are disobedient to the church?
The Roman Church, with all its ramifications throughout the world, forms one vast organization, under the control, and designed to serve the interests, of the papal see. Its millions of communicants, in every country on the globe, are instructed to hold themselves as bound in allegiance to the pope. Whatever their nationality or their government, they are to regard the authority of the church as above all other. Though they may take the oath pledging their loyalty to the State, yet back of this lies the vow of obedience to Rome, absolving them from every pledge inimical to her interests.
Protestants little know what they are doing when they propose to accept the aid of Rome in the work of Sunday exaltation. While they are bent upon the accomplishment of their purpose, Rome is aiming to re-establish her power, to recover her lost supremacy. Let history testify of her artful and persistent efforts to insinuate herself into the affairs of nations; and having gained a foothold, to further her own aims, even at the ruin of princes and people. Romanism openly puts forth the claim that the pope “can pronounce sentences and judgments in contradiction to the right of nations, to the law of God and man.” [THE “DECRETALIA.”]
And let it be remembered, it is the boast of Rome that she never changes. The principles of Gregory VII and Innocent III are still the principles of the Romish Church. And had she but the power, she would put them in practice with as much vigor now as in past centuries. Let the principle once be established in the United States, that the church may employ or control the power of the State; that religious observances may be enforced by secular laws; in short, that the authority of church and State is to dominate the conscience, and the triumph of Rome in this country is assured.
God’s Word has given warning of the impending danger; let this be unheeded, and the Protestant world will learn what the purposes of Rome really are, only when it is too late to escape the snare. She is silently growing into power. Her doctrines are exerting their influence in legislative halls, in the churches, and in the hearts of men. She is piling up her lofty and massive structures, in the secret recesses of which her former persecutions will be repeated. Stealthily and unsuspectedly she is strengthening her forces to further her own ends when the time shall come for her to strike. All that she desires is vantage-ground, and this is already being given her. We shall soon see and shall feel what the purpose of the Roman element is. Whoever shall believe and obey the Word of God will thereby incur reproach and persecution.
The Impending Conflict–Its Causes
The iniquity and spiritual darkness that prevailed under the supremacy of Rome were the inevitable result of her suppression of the Scriptures; but where is to be found the cause of the widespread infidelity, the rejection of the law of God, and the consequent corruption, under the full blaze of gospel light in an age of religious freedom? Now that Satan can no longer keep the world under his control by withholding the Scriptures, he resorts to other means to accomplish the same object. To destroy faith in the Bible serves his purpose as well as to destroy the Bible itself. By introducing the belief that God’s law is not binding, he as effectually leads men to transgress as if they were wholly ignorant of its precepts. And now, as in former ages, he has worked through the church to further his designs. The religious organizations of the day have refused to listen to unpopular truths plainly brought to view in the Scriptures, and in combating them they have adopted interpretations and taken positions which have sown broadcast the seeds of skepticism.
Clinging to the papal error of natural immortality and man’s consciousness in death, they have rejected the only defense against the delusions of Spiritualism. The doctrine of eternal torment has led many to disbelieve the Bible. And as the claims of the fourth commandment are urged upon the people, it is found that the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath is enjoined; and as the only way to free themselves from a duty which they are unwilling to perform, popular teachers declare that the law of God is no longer binding. Thus they cast away the law and the Sabbath together. As the work of Sabbath reform extends, this rejection of the divine law to avoid the claims of the fourth commandment will become well-nigh universal. The teachings of religious leaders have opened the door to infidelity, to Spiritualism, and to contempt for God’s holy law, and upon these leaders rests a fearful responsibility for the iniquity that exists in the Christian world.
Yet this very class put forth the claim that the fast-spreading corruption is largely attributable to the desecration of the so-called “Christian Sabbath,” and that the enforcement of Sunday observance would greatly improve the morals of society. This claim is especially urged in America, where the doctrine of the true Sabbath has been most widely preached. Here the temperance work, one of the most prominent and important of moral reforms, is often combined with the Sunday movement, and the advocates of the latter represent themselves as laboring to promote the highest interest of society; and those who refuse to unite with them are denounced as the enemies of temperance and reform. But the fact that a movement to establish error is connected with a work which is in itself good, is not an argument in favor of the error. We may disguise poison by mingling it with wholesome food, but we do not change its nature. On the contrary, it is rendered more dangerous, as it is more likely to be taken unawares. It is one of Satan’s devices to combine with falsehood just enough truth to give it plausibility. The leaders of the Sunday movement may advocate reforms which the people need, principles which are in harmony with the Bible, yet while there is with these a requirement which is contrary to God’s law, his servants cannot unite with them. Nothing can justify them in setting aside the commandments of God for the precepts of men.
Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul, and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of Spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome. The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of Spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.
As Spiritualism more closely imitates the nominal Christianity of the day, it has greater power to deceive and ensnare. Satan himself is converted, after the modern order of things. He will appear in the character of an angel of light. Through the agency of Spiritualism, miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and many undeniable wonders will be performed. And as the spirits will profess faith in the Bible, and manifest respect for the institutions of the church, their work will be accepted as a manifestation of divine power.
The line of distinction between professed Christians and the ungodly is now hardly distinguishable. Church-members love what the world loves, and are ready to join with them; and Satan determines to unite them in one body, and thus strengthen his cause by sweeping all into the ranks of Spiritualism. Papists, who boast of miracles as a certain sign of the true church, will be readily deceived by this wonder-working power; and Protestants, having cast away the shield of truth, will also be deluded. Papists, Protestants, and worldlings will alike accept the form of godliness without the power, and they will see in this union a grand movement for the conversion of the world, and the ushering in of the long-expected millennium.
And then the great deceiver will persuade men that those who serve God are causing these evils. The class that have provoked the displeasure of Heaven will charge all their troubles upon those whose obedience to God’s commandments is a perpetual reproof to transgressors. It will be declared that men are offending God by the violation of the Sunday-sabbath, that this sin has brought calamities which will not cease until Sunday observance shall be strictly enforced, and that those who present the claims of the fourth commandment, thus destroying reverence for Sunday, are troublers of the people, preventing their restoration to divine favor and temporal prosperity. Thus the accusation urged of old against the servant of God will be repeated, and upon grounds equally well established. “And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.”[1 KINGS 18:17, 18.] As the wrath of the people shall be excited by false charges, they will pursue a course toward God’s ambassadors very similar to that which apostate Israel pursued toward Elijah.
The miracle-working power manifested through Spiritualism will exert its influence against those who choose to obey God rather than men. Communications from the spirits will declare that God has sent them to convince the rejecters of Sunday of their error, affirming that the laws of the land should be obeyed as the law of God. They will lament the great wickedness in the world, and second the testimony of religious teachers, that the degraded state of morals is caused by the desecration of Sunday. Great will be the indignation excited against all who refuse to accept their testimony.
God never forces the will or the conscience; but Satan’s constant resort–to gain control of those whom he cannot otherwise seduce–is compulsion by cruelty. Through fear or force he endeavors to rule the conscience, and to secure homage to himself. To accomplish this, he works through both religious and secular authorities, moving them to the enforcement of human laws in defiance of the law of God.
Those who honor the Bible Sabbath will be denounced as enemies of law and order, as breaking down the moral restraints of society, causing anarchy and corruption, and calling down the judgments of God upon the earth. Their conscientious scruples will be pronounced obstinacy, stubbornness, and contempt of authority. They will be accused of disaffection toward the government. Ministers who deny the obligation of the divine law will present from the pulpit the duty of yielding obedience to the civil authorities as ordained of God. In legislative halls and courts of justice, commandment-keepers will be misrepresented and condemned. A false coloring will be given to their words; the worst construction will be put upon their motives.
The dignitaries of church and State will unite to bribe, persuade, or compel all classes to honor the Sunday. The lack of divine authority will be supplied by oppressive enactments. Political corruption is destroying love of justice and regard for truth; and even in free America, rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance. Liberty of conscience, which has cost so great a sacrifice, will no longer be respected. In the soon-coming conflict we shall see exemplified the prophet’s words: “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”[REV. 12:17.]
The Final Warning
“I saw another angel come down from Heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” “And I heard another voice from Heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”[REV. 18:1, 2, 4.]
This scripture points forward to a time when the announcement of the fall of Babylon, as made by the second angel [REV 14:8.] of Revelation 14, is to be repeated, with the additional mention of the corruptions which have been entering the various organizations that constitute Babylon, since that message was first given, in the summer of 1844. A terrible condition of the religious world is here described. With every rejection of truth, the minds of the people will become darker, their hearts more stubborn, until they are entrenched in an infidel hardihood. In defiance of the warnings which God has given, they will continue to trample upon one of the precepts of the decalogue, until they are led to persecute those who hold it sacred. Christ is set at naught in the contempt placed upon his Word and his people. As the teachings of Spiritualism are accepted by the churches, the restraint imposed upon the carnal heart is removed, and the profession of religion will become a cloak to conceal the basest iniquity. A belief in spiritual manifestations opens the door to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, and thus the influence of evil angels will be felt in the churches.
Of Babylon, at the time brought to view in this prophecy, it is declared, “Her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.”[REV. 18:5.] She has filled up the measure of her guilt, and destruction is about to fall upon her. But God still has a people in Babylon; and before the visitation of his judgments, these faithful ones must be called out, that they “partake not of her sins, and receive not of her plagues.” Hence the movement symbolized by the angel coming down from Heaven, lightening the earth with his glory, and crying mightily with a strong voice, announcing the sins of Babylon. In connection with his message the call is heard, “Come out of her, my people.” These announcements, uniting with the third angel’s message, constitute the final warning to be given to the inhabitants of the earth.
Fearful is the issue to which the world is to be brought. The powers of earth, uniting to war against the commandments of God, will decree that all, “both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond,”[REV. 13:16.] shall conform to the customs of the church by the observance of the false sabbath. All who refuse compliance will be visited with civil penalties, and it will finally be declared that they are deserving of death. On the other hand, the law of God enjoining the Creator’s rest-day demands obedience, and threatens wrath against all who transgress its precepts.
With the issue thus clearly brought before him, whoever shall trample upon God’s law to obey a human enactment, receives the mark of the beast; he accepts the sign of allegiance to the power which he chooses to obey instead of God. The warning from Heaven is, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation.”[REV. 14:9, 10.]
But not one is made to suffer the wrath of God until the truth has been brought home to his mind and conscience, and has been rejected. There are many who have never had an opportunity to hear the special truths for this time. The obligation of the fourth commandment has never been set before them in its true light. He who reads every heart, and tries every motive, will leave none who desire a knowledge of the truth, to be deceived as to the issues of the controversy. The decree is not to be urged upon the people blindly. Every one is to have sufficient light to make his decision intelligently.
The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty; for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve him not. While the observance of the false sabbath in compliance with the law of the State, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God’s law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator. While one class, by accepting the sign of submission to earthly powers, receive the mark of the beast, the other, choosing the token of allegiance to divine authority, receive the seal of God.
Heretofore those who presented the truths of the third angel’s message have often been regarded as mere alarmists. Their predictions that religious intolerance would gain control in the United States, that church and State would unite to persecute those who keep the commandments of God, have been pronounced groundless and absurd. It has been confidently declared that this land could never become other than what it has been, the defender of religious freedom. But as the question of enforcing Sunday observance is widely agitated, the event so long doubted and disbelieved is seen to be approaching, and the third message will produce an effect which it could not have had before.
In every generation God has sent his servants to rebuke sin, both in the world and in the church. But the people desire smooth things spoken to them, and the pure, unvarnished truth is not acceptable. Many reformers, in entering upon their work, determined to exercise great prudence in attacking the sins of the church and the nation. They hoped, by the example of a pure Christian life, to lead the people back to the doctrines of the Bible. But the Spirit of God came upon them as it came upon Elijah, moving him to rebuke the sins of a wicked king and an apostate people; they could not refrain from preaching the plain utterances of the Bible,–doctrines which they had been reluctant to present. They were impelled to zealously declare the truth, and the danger which threatened souls. The words which the Lord gave them they uttered, fearless of consequences, and the people were compelled to hear the warning.
Thus the message of the third angel will be proclaimed. As the time comes for it to be given with greatest power, the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to his service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of his Spirit than by the training of literary institutions. Men of faith and prayer will be constrained to go forth with holy zeal, declaring the words which God gives them. The sins of Babylon will be laid open. The fearful results of enforcing the observances of the church by civil authority, the inroads of Spiritualism, the stealthy but rapid progress of the papal power,–all will be unmasked. By these solemn warnings the people will be stirred. Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. In amazement they hear the testimony that Babylon is the church, fallen because of her errors and sins, because of her rejection of the truth sent to her from Heaven. As the people go to their former teachers with the eager inquiry, Are these things so? the ministers present fables, prophesy smooth things, to soothe their fears, and quiet the awakened conscience. But since many refuse to be satisfied with the mere authority of men, and demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord,” the popular ministry, like the Pharisees of old, filled with anger as their authority is questioned, will denounce the message as of Satan, and stir up the sin-loving multitudes to revile and persecute those who proclaim it.
As the controversy extends into new fields, and the minds of the people are called to God’s down-trodden law, Satan is astir. The power attending the message will only madden those who oppose it. The clergy will put forth almost superhuman efforts to shut away the light, lest it should shine upon their flocks. By every means at their command they will endeavor to suppress the discussion of these vital questions. The church appeals to the strong arm of civil power, and in this work, papists and Protestants unite. As the movement for Sunday enforcement becomes more bold and decided, the law will be invoked against commandment-keepers. They will be threatened with fines and imprisonment, and some will be offered positions of influence, and other rewards and advantages, as inducements to renounce their faith. But their steadfast answer is, “Show us from the Word of God our error,”–the same plea that was made by Luther under similar circumstances. Those who are arraigned before the courts make a strong vindication of the truth, and some who hear them are led to take their stand to keep all the commandments of God. Thus light will be brought before thousands who otherwise would know nothing of these truths.
As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position, and join the ranks of the opposition. 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. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbath-keepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.
But so long as Jesus remains man’s intercessor in the sanctuary above, the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit is felt by rulers and people. It still controls, to some extent, the laws of the land. Were it not for these laws, the condition of the world would be much worse than it now is. While many of our rulers are active agents of Satan, God also has his agents among the leading men of the nation. The enemy moves upon his servants to propose measures that would greatly impede the work of God; but statesmen who fear the Lord are influenced by holy angels to oppose such propositions with unanswerable arguments. Thus a few men will hold in check a powerful current of evil. The opposition of the enemies of truth will be restrained that the third angel’s message may do its work. When the final warning shall be given, it will arrest the attention of these leading men through whom the Lord is now working, and some of them will accept it, and will stand with the people of God through the time of trouble.
The angel who unites in the proclamation of the third angel’s message is to lighten the whole earth with his glory. A work of world-wide extent and unwonted power is here foretold. The Advent movement of 1840-44 was a glorious manifestation of the power of God; the first angel’s message was carried to every missionary station in the world, and in some countries there was the greatest religious interest which has been witnessed in any land since the Reformation of the sixteenth century; but these are to be far exceeded by the mighty movement under the last warning of the third angel.
The work will be similar to that of the day of Pentecost. As the “former rain” was given, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the opening of the gospel, to cause the upspringing of the precious seed, so the “latter rain” will be given at its close, for the ripening of the harvest. “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord; his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” [HOSEA 6:3.] “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain.”[JOEL 2:23.] “In the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”[ACTS 2:17, 21.] The great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening. The prophecies which were fulfilled in the outpouring of the former rain at the opening of the gospel, are again to be fulfilled in the latter rain at its close. Here are “the times of refreshing” to which the apostle Peter looked forward when he said, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out [in the investigative Judgment], when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus.”[ACTS 3:19, 20.]
Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from Heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works with lying wonders, even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men.[REV. 13:13.] Thus the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand.
The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. The arguments have been presented. The seed has been sown, and now it will spring up and bear fruit. The publications distributed by missionary workers have exerted their influence, yet many whose minds were impressed have been prevented from fully comprehending the truth or from yielding obedience. Now the rays of light penetrate everywhere, the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. Family connections, church relations, are powerless to stay them now. Truth is more precious than all besides. Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord’s side.
The Time of Trouble
“At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”[DAN. 12:1.]
When the third angel’s message closes, mercy no longer pleads for the guilty inhabitants of the earth. The people of God have accomplished their work. They have received “the latter rain,” “the refreshing from the presence of the Lord,” and they are prepared for the trying hour before them. Angels are hastening to and fro in Heaven. An angel returning from the earth announces that his work is done; the final test has been brought upon the world, and all who have proved themselves loyal to the divine precepts have received “the seal of the living God. Then Jesus ceases his intercession in the sanctuary above. He lifts his hands, and with a loud voice says, “It is done;” and all the angelic host lay off their crowns as he makes the solemn announcement: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still.”[REV. 22:11.] Every case has been decided for life or death. Christ has made the atonement for his people, and blotted out their sins. The number of his subjects is made up; “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven,” is about to be given to the heirs of salvation, and Jesus is to reign as King of kings, and Lord of lords.
When he leaves the sanctuary, darkness covers the inhabitants of the earth. In that fearful time the righteous must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor. The restraint which has been upon the wicked is removed, and Satan has entire control of the finally impenitent. God’s long-suffering has ended. The world has rejected his mercy, despised his love, and trampled upon his law. The wicked have passed the boundary of their probation; the Spirit of God, persistently resisted, has been at last withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old.
A single angel destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians, and filled the land with mourning. When David offended against God by numbering the people, one angel caused that terrible destruction by which his sin was punished. The same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised by evil angels when he permits. There are forces now ready, and only waiting the divine permission, to spread desolation everywhere.
When God’s presence was finally withdrawn from the Jewish nation, priests and people knew it not. Though under the control of Satan, and swayed by the most horrible and malignant passions, they still regarded themselves as the chosen of God. The ministration in the temple continued; sacrifices were offered upon its polluted altars, and daily the divine blessing was invoked upon a people guilty of the blood of God’s dear Son, and seeking to slay his ministers and apostles. So when the irrevocable decision of the sanctuary has been pronounced, and the destiny of the world has been forever fixed, the inhabitants of the earth will know it not. The forms of religion will be continued by a people from whom the Spirit of God has been finally withdrawn; and the Satanic zeal with which the prince of evil will inspire them for the accomplishment of his malignant designs, will bear the semblance of zeal for God.
As the Sabbath has become the special point of controversy throughout Christendom, and religious and secular authorities have combined to enforce the observance of the Sunday, the persistent refusal of a small minority to yield to the popular demand, will make them objects of universal execration. It will be urged that the few who stand in opposition to an institution of the church and a law of the State, ought not to be tolerated; that it is better for them to suffer than for whole nations to be thrown into confusion and lawlessness. The same argument eighteen hundred years ago was brought against Christ by the “rulers of the people.” “It is expedient for us,” said the wily Caiaphas, “that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”[JOHN 11:50.] This argument will appear conclusive; and a decree will finally be issued against those who hallow the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, denouncing them as deserving of the severest punishment, and giving the people liberty, after a certain time, to put them to death. Romanism in the Old World, and apostate Protestantism in the New, will pursue a similar course toward those who honor all the divine precepts.
The people of God will then be plunged into those scenes of affliction and distress described by the prophet as the time of Jacob’s trouble. “Thus saith the Lord: We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.” “All faces are turned into paleness. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.”[JER. 30:5-7.]
Jacob’s night of anguish, when he wrestled in prayer for deliverance from the hand of Esau,[GEN. 32:24-30.] represents the experience of God’s people in the time of trouble. Because of the deception practiced to secure his father’s blessing, intended for Esau, Jacob had fled for his life, alarmed by his brother’s deadly threats. After remaining for many years an exile, he had set out, at God’s command, to return with his wives and children, his flocks and herds, to his native country. On reaching the borders of the land, he was filled with terror by the tidings of Esau’s approach at the head of a band of warriors, doubtless bent upon revenge. Jacob’s company, unarmed and defenseless, seemed about to fall helpless victims of violence and slaughter. And to the burden of anxiety and fear was added the crushing weight of self-reproach; for it was his own sin that had brought this danger. His only hope was in the mercy of God; his only defense must be prayer. Yet he leaves nothing undone on his own part to atone for the wrong to his brother, and to avert the threatened danger. So should the followers of Christ, as they approach the time of trouble, make every exertion to place themselves in a proper light before the people, to disarm prejudice, and to avert the danger which threatens liberty of conscience.
As Satan influenced Esau to march against Jacob, so he will stir up the wicked to destroy God’s people in the time of trouble. And as he accused Jacob, he will urge his accusations against the people of God. He numbers the world as his subjects; but the little company who keep the commandments of God are resisting his supremacy. If he could blot them from the earth, his triumph would be complete. He sees that holy angels are guarding them, and he infers that their sins have been pardoned; but he does not know that their cases have been decided in the sanctuary above. He has an accurate knowledge of the sins which he has tempted them to commit, and he presents these before God in the most exaggerated light, representing this people to be just as deserving as himself of exclusion from the favor of God. He declares that the Lord cannot in justice forgive their sins, and yet destroy him and his angels. He claims them as his prey, and demands that they be given into his hands to destroy.
Though God’s people will be surrounded by enemies who are bent upon their destruction, yet the anguish which they suffer is not a dread of persecution for the truth’s sake; they fear that every sin has not been repented of, and that through some fault in themselves they shall fail to realize the fulfillment of the Saviour’s promise, “I will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world.”[REV. 3:10.] If they could have the assurance of pardon, they would not shrink from torture or death; but should they prove unworthy, and lose their lives because of their own defects of character, then God’s holy name would be reproached.
They afflict their souls before God, pointing to their past repentance of their many sins, and pleading the Saviour’s promise, “Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.”[ISA. 27:5.] Their faith does not fail because their prayers are not immediately answered. Though suffering the keenest anxiety, terror, and distress, they do not cease their intercessions. They lay hold of the strength of God as Jacob laid hold of the Angel; and the language of their souls is, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
Had not Jacob previously repented of his sin in obtaining the birthright by fraud, God would not have heard his prayer and mercifully preserved his life. So, in the time of trouble, if the people of God had unconfessed sins to appear before them while tortured with fear and anguish, they would be overwhelmed; despair would cut off their faith, and they could not have confidence to plead with God for deliverance. But while they have a deep sense of their unworthiness, they have no concealed wrongs to reveal. Their sins have gone beforehand to Judgment, and have been blotted out; and they cannot bring them to remembrance.
Jacob’s history is also an assurance that God will not cast off those who have been deceived, and tempted, and betrayed into sin, but who have returned unto him with true repentance. While Satan seeks to destroy this class, God will send his angels to comfort and protect them in the time of peril. The assaults of Satan are fierce and determined, his delusions are terrible; but the Lord’s eye is upon his people, and his ear listens to their cries. Their affliction is great, the flames of the furnace seem about to consume them; but the Refiner will bring them forth as gold tried in the fire. God’s love for his children during the period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity; but it is needful for them to be placed in the furnace fire; their earthliness must be consumed that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.
The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger,–a faith that will not faint, though severely tried. The period of probation is granted to all to prepare for that time. Jacob prevailed because he was persevering and determined. His victory is an evidence of the power of importunate prayer. All who will lay hold of God’s promises, as he did, and be as earnest and persevering as he was, will succeed as he succeeded. Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for his blessing, will not obtain it. Wrestling with God–how few know what it is! How few have ever had their souls drawn out after God with intensity of desire until every power is on the stretch. When waves of despair which no language can express sweep over the suppliant, how few cling with unyielding faith to the promises of God.
The “time of trouble such as never was,” is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess, and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial, every soul must stand for himself before God. Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the land, “as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.”[EZE. 14:20.]
Now, while our great High Priest is making the atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ. Not even by a thought could our Saviour be brought to yield to the power of temptation. Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foot-hold; some sinful desire is cherished, by means of which his temptations assert their power. But Christ declared of himself, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”[JOHN 14:30.] Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept his Father’s commandments, and there was no sin in him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble.
Fearful sights of a supernatural character will soon be revealed in the heavens, in token of the power of miracle-working demons. The spirits of devils will go forth to the kings of the earth and to the whole world, to fasten them in deception, and urge them on to unite with Satan in his last struggle against the government of Heaven. By these agencies, rulers and subjects will be alike deceived. Persons will arise pretending to be Christ himself, and claiming the title and worship which belong to the world’s Redeemer. They will perform wonderful miracles of healing, and will profess to have revelations from Heaven contradicting the testimony of the Scriptures.
As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation.[REV. 1:13-15.]
“And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.”
The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air., “Christ has come! Christ has come!” The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him, while he lifts up his hands, and pronounces a blessing upon them, as Christ blessed his disciples when he was upon the earth. His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody. In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion. Like the Samaritans who were deceived by Simon Magus, the multitudes, from the least to the greatest, give heed to these sorceries, saying, This is “the great power of God.”[ACTS. 8:10.]
But the people of God will not be misled. The teachings of this false christ are not in accordance with the Scriptures His blessing is pronounced upon the worshipers of the beast and his image,–the very class upon whom the Bible declares that God’s unmingled wrath shall be poured out. And, furthermore, Satan is not permitted to counterfeit the manner of Christ’s advent. The Saviour has warned his people against deception upon this point, and has clearly foretold the manner of his second coming. “There shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. . . . Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”[MATT. 24:24-27, 31, 25:31; REV. 1:7; 1 THESS. 4:16, 17.] This coming, there is no possibility of counterfeiting. It will be universally known–witnessed by the whole world.
Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures, and who have received the love of the truth, will be shielded from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive. By the Bible testimony these will detect the deceiver in his disguise. To all, the testing time will come. By the sifting of temptation, the genuine Christian will be revealed. Are the people of God now so firmly established upon his Word that they would not yield to the evidence of their senses? Would they, in such a crisis, cling to the Bible, and the Bible only? Satan will, if possible, prevent them from obtaining a preparation to stand in that day. He will so arrange affairs as to hedge up their way, entangle them with earthly treasures, cause them to carry a heavy, wearisome burden, that their hearts may be overcharged with the cares of this life, and the day of trial may come upon them as a thief.
As the decree issued by the various rulers of Christendom against commandment-keepers shall withdraw the protection of government, and abandon them to those who desire their destruction, the people of God will flee from the cities and villages, and associate together in companies, dwelling in the most desolate and solitary places. Many will find refuge in the strongholds of the mountains. Like the Christians of the Piedmont valleys, they will make the high places of the earth their sanctuaries, and will thank God for the “munitions of rocks.”[ISA. 33.16.] But many of all nations, and all classes, high and low, rich and poor, black and white, will be cast into the most unjust and cruel bondage. The beloved of God pass weary days, bound in chains, shut in by prison bars, sentenced to be slain, some apparently left to die of starvation in dark and loathsome dungeons. No human ear is open to hear their moans; no human hand is ready to lend them help.
Will the Lord forget his people in this trying hour? Did he forget faithful Noah when judgments were visited upon the antediluvian world? Did he forget Lot when the fire came down from Heaven to consume the cities of the plain? Did he forget Joseph surrounded by idolaters in Egypt? Did he forget Elijah when the oath of Jezebel threatened him with the fate of the prophets of Baal? Did he forget Jeremiah in the dark and dismal pit of his prison-house? Did he forget the three worthies in the fiery furnace? or Daniel in the den of lions.?
“Zion said, Jehovah hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”[ISA. 49:14-16.] The Lord of hosts has said, “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye.”[ZECH. 2:8.]
Though enemies may thrust them into prison, yet dungeon walls cannot cut off the communication between their souls and Christ. One who sees their every weakness, who is acquainted with every trial, is above all earthly powers; and angels will come to them in lonely cells, bringing light and peace from Heaven. The prison will be as a palace; for the rich in faith dwell there, and the gloomy walls will be lighted up with heavenly light, as when Paul and Silas prayed and sung praises at midnight in the Philippian dungeon.
When Christ ceases his intercession in the sanctuary, the unmingled wrath threatened against those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark,[REV. 14:9, 10.] will be poured out. The plagues upon Egypt when God was about to deliver Israel, were similar in character to those more terrible and extensive judgments which are to fall upon the world just before the final deliverance of God’s people. Says the Revelator, in describing these terrific scourges, “There fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image.” The sea “became as the blood of a dead man, and every living soul died in the sea.” And “the rivers and fountains of waters became blood.”[REV. 16:2-6, 8, 9.] Terrible as these inflictions are, God’s justice stands fully vindicated. The angel of God declares, “Thou art righteous, O Lord, . . . because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.[REV. 16:2-6, 8, 9.] By condemning the people of God to death they have as truly incurred the guilt of their blood, as if it had been shed by their hands. In like manner Christ declared the Jews of his time guilty of all the blood of holy men which had been shed since the days of Abel; for they possessed the same spirit, and were seeking to do the same work, with these murderers of the prophets.
In the plague that follows, power is given to the sun “to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat.”[REV. 16:2-6, 8, 9.] The prophets thus describe the condition of the earth at this fearful time: “The land mourneth;. . . because the harvest of the field is perished.” “All the trees of the field are withered; because joy is withered away from the sons of men.” “The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate.” “How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture. . . . The rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” “The songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God; there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence.”[JOEL 1:10-12, 17-20; AMOS 8:3.]
These plagues are not universal, or the inhabitants of the earth would be wholly cut off. Yet they will be the most awful scourges that have ever been known to mortals. All the judgments upon men, prior to the close of probation, have been mingled with mercy. The pleading blood of Christ has shielded the sinner from receiving the full measure of his guilt; but in the final Judgment, wrath is poured out unmixed with mercy.
In that day, multitudes will desire the shelter of God’s mercy which they have so long despised. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”[AMOS 8:11, 12.]
The people of God will not be free from suffering; but while persecuted and distressed, while they endure privation, and suffer for want of food, they will not be left to perish. That God who cared for Elijah will not pass by one of his self-sacrificing children. He who numbers the hairs of their head will care for them, and in time of famine they shall be satisfied. While the wicked are dying from hunger and pestilence, angels will shield the righteous, and supply their wants. To him that “walketh righteously” is the promise, “Bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”[ISA. 33:16; 41:17.]
“The Lord is thy keeper; the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil; he shall preserve thy soul.” “He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”[PS. 121:5-7; 91:3-10.]
Could men see with heavenly vision, they would behold companies of angels that excel in strength stationed about those who have kept the word of Christ’s patience. With sympathizing tenderness, angels have witnessed their distress, and have heard their prayers. They are waiting the word of their Commander to snatch them from their peril. But they must wait yet a little longer. The people of God must drink of the cup, and be baptized with the baptism. The very delay, so painful to them, is the best answer to their petitions. As they endeavor to wait trustingly for the Lord to work, they are led to exercise faith, hope, and patience, which have been too little exercised during their religious experience. Yet for the elect’s sake, the time of trouble will be shortened. “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him? . . . I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.”[LUKE 18:7, 8.] The end will come more quickly than men expect. The wheat will be gathered and bound in sheaves for the garner of God; the tares will be bound as fagots for the fires of destruction.
With earnest longing, God’s people await the tokens of their coming King. As the watchmen are accosted, “What of the night?” the answer is given unfalteringly, “‘The morning cometh, and also the night.'[ISA. 21:11, 12.] Light is gleaming upon the clouds above the mountain tops. Soon there will be a revealing of His glory. The Sun of Righteousness is about to shine forth. The morning and the night are both at hand,–the opening of endless day to the righteous, the settling down of eternal night to the wicked.”
The eye of God, looking down the ages, was fixed upon the crisis which his people are to meet, when earthly powers shall be arrayed against them. Like the captive exile, they will be in fear of death by starvation or by violence. But the Holy One who divided the Red Sea before Israel, will manifest his mighty power and turn their captivity. “They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”[MAL. 3:17.] If the blood of Christ’s faithful witnesses were shed at this time, it would not, like the blood of the martyrs, be as seed sown to yield a harvest for God. Their fidelity would not be a testimony to convince others of the truth; for the obdurate heart has beaten back the waves of mercy until they return no more If the righteous were now left to fall a prey to their enemies it would be a triumph for the prince of darkness. Says the psalmist, “In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me.”[PS. 27:5.] Christ has spoken: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.”[ISA. 26:20, 21.] Glorious will be the deliverance of those who have patiently waited for his coming, and whose names are written in the book of life.
God’s People Delivered
When the protection of human laws shall be withdrawn from those who honor the law of God, there will be, in different lands, a simultaneous movement for their destruction. As the time appointed in the decree draws near, the people will conspire to root out the hated sect. It will be determined to strike in one night a decisive blow, which shall utterly silence the voice of dissent and reproof.
The people of God–some in prison cells, some hidden in solitary retreats in the forests and the mountains–still plead for divine protection, while in every quarter companies of armed men, urged on by hosts of evil angels, are preparing for the work of death. It is now, in the hour of utmost extremity, that the God of Israel will interpose for the deliverance of his chosen. Saith the Lord: “Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth . . . to come into the mountain of Jehovah, to the Mighty One of Israel. And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.”[ISA. 30:29, 30.]
With shouts of triumph, jeering, and imprecation, throngs of evil men are about to rush upon their prey, when lo, a dense blackness, deeper than the darkness of the night, falls upon the earth. Then a rainbow, shining with the glory from the throne of God, spans the heavens, and seems to encircle each praying company. The angry multitudes are suddenly arrested. Their mocking cries die away. The objects of their murderous rage are forgotten. With fearful forebodings they gaze upon the symbol of God’s covenant, and long to be shielded from its overpowering brightness.
It is at midnight that God manifests his power for the deliverance of his people. The sun appears, shining in its strength. Signs and wonders follow in quick succession. The wicked look with terror and amazement upon the scene, while the righteous behold with solemn joy the tokens of their deliverance. Everything in nature seems turned out of its course. The streams cease to flow. Dark, heavy clouds come up, and clash against each other. In the midst of the angry heavens is one clear space of indescribable glory, whence comes the voice of God like the sound of many waters, saying, “It is done.”[REV. 16:17, 18.]
That voice shakes the heavens and the earth. There is a mighty earthquake, “such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great.”[REV. 16:17, 18.] The firmament appears to open and shut. The glory from the throne of God seems flashing through. The mountains shake like a reed in the wind, and ragged rocks are scattered on every side. There is a roar as of a coming tempest. The sea is lashed into fury. There is heard the shriek of the hurricane, like the voice of demons upon a mission of destruction. The whole earth heaves and swells like the waves of the sea. Its surface is breaking up. Its very foundations seem to be giving way. Mountain chains are sinking. Inhabited islands disappear. The seaports that have become like Sodom for wickedness, are swallowed up by the angry waters. Babylon the Great hath come in remembrance before God, “to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.”[REV. 16: 19, 21.] Great hailstones, every one “about the weight of a talent,” are doing their work of destruction. The proudest cities of the earth are laid low. The lordly palaces, upon which the world’s great men have lavished their wealth in order to glorify themselves, are crumbling to ruin before their eyes. Prison walls are rent asunder, and God’s people, who have been held in bondage for their faith, are set free.
Graves are opened, and “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth” “awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”[DAN. 12:2.] All who have died in the faith of the third angel’s message come forth from the tomb glorified, to hear God’s covenant of peace with those who have kept his law. “They also which pierced Him,”[REV. 1:7.] those that mocked and derided Christ’s dying agonies, and the most violent opposers of his truth and his people, are raised to behold him in his glory, and to see the honor placed upon the loyal and obedient.
While these words of holy trust ascend to God, the clouds sweep back, and the starry heavens are seen, unspeakably glorious in contrast with the black and angry firmament on either side. The glory of the celestial city streams from the gates ajar. Then there appears against the sky a hand holding two tables of stone folded together. Says the prophet, “The heavens shall declare His righteousness; for God is judge himself.”[PS. 50:6.] That holy law, God’s righteousness, that amid thunder and flame was proclaimed from Sinai as the guide of life, is now revealed to men as the rule of judgment. The hand opens the tables, and there are seen the precepts of the decalogue, traced as with a pen of fire. The words are so plain that all can read them. Memory is aroused, the darkness of superstition and heresy is swept from every mind, and God’s ten words, brief, comprehensive, and authoritative, are presented to the view of all the inhabitants of the earth.
Soon there appears in the east a small black cloud, about half the size of a man’s hand. It is the cloud which surrounds the Saviour, and which seems in the distance to be shrouded in darkness. The people of God know this to be the sign of the Son of man. In solemn silence they gaze upon it as it draws nearer the earth, becoming lighter and more glorious, until it is a great white cloud, its base a glory like consuming fire, and above it the rainbow of the covenant. Jesus rides forth as a mighty conqueror. Not now a “man of sorrows,” to drink the bitter cup of shame and woe, he comes, victor in Heaven and earth, to judge the living and the dead. “Faithful and True,” “in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” And “the armies in Heaven follow him.”[REV. 19:11, 14.] With anthems of celestial melody the holy angels, a vast, unnumbered throng, attend him on his way. The firmament seems filled with radiant forms,– “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” No human pen can portray the scene, nor mortal mind is adequate to conceive its splendor. “His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light.”[HAB. 3:3, 4.] As the living cloud comes still nearer, every eye beholds the Prince of life. No crown of thorns now mars that sacred head, but a diadem of glory rests on his holy brow. His countenance outshines the dazzling brightness of the noonday sun. “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.”[REV. 19:16.]
The King of kings descends upon the cloud, wrapped in flaming fire. The heavens are rolled together as a scroll, the earth trembles before him, and every mountain and island is moved out of its place. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.”[PS. 50:3, 4.]
“And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”[REV. 6:15-17.]
There are those who mocked Christ in his humiliation. With thrilling power come to their minds the Sufferer’s words, when, adjured by the high priest, he solemnly declared, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” [MATT. 26:64.] Now they behold him in his glory, and they are yet to see him sitting on the right hand of power.
Amid the reeling of the earth, the flash of lightning, and the roar of thunder, the voice of the Son of God calls forth the sleeping saints. He looks upon the graves of the righteous, then raising his hands to heaven he cries, “Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust, and arise!” Throughout the length and breadth of the earth, the dead shall hear that voice; and they that hear shall live. And the whole earth shall ring with the tread of the exceeding great army of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. From the prison-house of death they come, clothed with immortal glory, crying, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is the victory?”[1 COR. 15:55.] And the living righteous and the risen saints unite their voices in a long, glad shout of victory.
All come forth from their graves the same in stature as when they entered the tomb. Adam, who stands among the risen throng, is of lofty height and majestic form, in stature but little below the Son of God. He presents a marked contrast to the people of later generations; in this one respect is shown the great degeneracy of the race. But all arise with the freshness and vigor of eternal youth. In the beginning, man was created in the likeness of God, not only in character, but in form and feature. Sin defaced and almost obliterated the divine image; but Christ came to restore that which had been lost. He will change our vile bodies, and fashion them like unto his glorious body. The mortal, corruptible form, devoid of comeliness, once polluted with sin, becomes perfect, beautiful, and immortal. All blemishes and deformities are left in the grave. Restored to the tree of life in the long-lost Eden, the redeemed will “grow up”[MAL. 4:2.] to the full stature of the race in its primeval glory. The last lingering traces of the curse of sin will be removed, and Christ’s faithful ones will appear “in the beauty of the Lord our God;” in mind and soul and body reflecting the perfect image of their Lord. Oh, wonderful redemption! long talked of, long hoped for, contemplated with eager anticipation, but never fully understood.
The living righteous are changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” At the voice of God they were glorified; now they are made immortal, and with the risen saints are caught up to meet their Lord in the air. Angels “gather together the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Little children are borne by holy angels to their mothers’ arms. Friends long separated by death are united, nevermore to part, and with songs of gladness ascend together to the city of God.
On each side of the cloudy chariot are wings, and beneath it are living wheels; and as the chariot rolls upward, the wheels cry, “Holy,” and the wings, as they move, cry, “Holy,” and the retinue of angels cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” And the redeemed shout “Alleluia!” as the chariot moves onward toward the New Jerusalem.
Before entering the city of God, the Saviour bestows upon his followers the emblems of victory, and invests them with the insignia of their royal state. The glittering ranks are drawn up, in the form of a hollow square, about their King, whose form rises in majesty high above saint and angel, whose countenance beams upon them full of benignant love. Throughout the unnumbered host of the redeemed, every glance is fixed upon him, every eye beholds His glory whose “visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” Upon the heads of the overcomers, Jesus with his own right hand places the crown of glory. For each there is a crown, bearing his own “new name,”[REV. 2:17.] and the inscription, “Holiness to the Lord.” In every hand are placed the victor’s palm and the shining harp. Then, as the commanding angels strike the note, every hand sweeps the harp strings with skillful touch, awaking sweet music in rich, melodious strains. Rapture unutterable thrills every heart, and each voice is raised in grateful praise: “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”[REV. 1:5, 6.]
Before the ransomed throng is the holy city. Jesus opens wide the pearly gates, and the nations that have kept the truth enter in. There they behold the Paradise of God, the home of Adam in his innocency. Then that voice, richer than any music that ever fell on mortal ear, is heard, saying, “Your conflict is ended.” “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Upon the crystal sea before the throne, that sea of glass as it were mingled with fire,–so resplendent is it with the glory of God,–are gathered the company that have “gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name.”[REV. 15:2.] With the Lamb upon Mount Zion, “having the harps of God,” they stand, the hundred and forty and four thousand that were redeemed from among men; and there is heard, as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of a great thunder, “the voice of harpers harping with their harps.”[REV. 14:1-5; 15:3; 7:14-17] And they sing “a new song” before the throne, a song which no man can learn save the hundred and forty and four thousand. It is the song of Moses and the Lamb,–a song of deliverance. None but the hundred and forty-four thousand can learn that song; for it is the song of their experience,–an experience such as no other company have ever had. “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” These, having been translated from the earth, from among the living, are counted as “the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb.” “These are they which came out of great tribulation;”[REV. 14:1-5; 15:3; 7:14-17.] they have passed through the time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation; they have endured the anguish of the time of Jacob’s trouble; they have stood without an intercessor through the final outpouring of God’s judgments. But they have been delivered, for they have “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” “In their mouth was found no guile; for they are without fault” before God. “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”[REV. 14:1-5; 15:3; 7:14-17.] They have seen the earth wasted with famine and pestilence, the sun having power to scorch men with great heat, and they themselves have endured suffering, hunger, and thirst. But “they shall hunger no more; neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”[REV. 14:1-5; 15:3; 7:14-17.]
In all ages the Saviour’s chosen have been educated and disciplined in the school of trial. They walked in narrow paths on earth; they were purified in the furnace of affliction. For Jesus’ sake they endured opposition, hatred, calumny. They followed him through conflicts sore; they endured self-denial and experienced bitter disappointments. By their own painful experience they learned the evil of sin, its power, its guilt, its woe; and they look upon it with abhorrence. A sense of the infinite sacrifice made for its cure, humbles them in their own sight, and fills their hearts with gratitude and praise which those who have never fallen cannot appreciate. They love much, because they have been forgiven much. Having been partakers of Christ’s sufferings, they are fitted to be partakers with him of his glory.
The heirs of God have come from garrets, from hovels, from dungeons, from scaffolds, from mountains, from deserts, from the caves of the earth, from the caverns of the sea. On earth they were “destitute, afflicted, tormented.” Millions went down to the grave loaded with infamy, because they steadfastly refused to yield to the deceptive claims of Satan. By human tribunals they were adjudged the vilest of criminals. But now “God is judge himself.”[PS. 50:6.] Now the decisions of earth are reversed. “The rebuke of his people shall he take away.”[ISA. 25:8.] “They shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord.” He hath appointed “to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”[ISA. 62:12; 61:3.] They are no longer feeble, afflicted, scattered, and oppressed. Henceforth they are to be ever with the Lord. They stand before the throne clad in richer robes than the most honored of the earth have ever worn. They are crowned with diadems more glorious than were ever placed upon the brow of earthly monarchs. The days of pain and weeping are forever ended. The King of glory has wiped the tears from all faces; every cause of grief has been removed. Amid the waving of palm-branches they pour forth a song of praise, clear, sweet, and harmonious; every voice takes up the strain, until the anthem swells through the vaults of Heaven, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” And all the inhabitants of Heaven respond in the ascription, “Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever.”[REV. 7:10, 12.]
In this life we can only begin to understand the wonderful theme of redemption. With our finite comprehension we may consider most earnestly the shame and the glory, the life and the death, the justice and the mercy, that meet in the cross; yet with the utmost stretch of our mental powers we fail to grasp its full significance. The length and the breadth, the depth and the height of redeeming love are but dimly comprehended. The plan of redemption will not be fully understood, even when the ransomed see as they are seen and know as they are known; but through the eternal ages, new truth will continually unfold to the wondering and delighted mind. Though the griefs and pains and temptations of earth are ended, and the cause removed, the people of God will ever have a distinct, intelligent knowledge of what their salvation has cost.
The cross of Christ will be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity. In Christ glorified they will behold Christ crucified. Never will it be forgotten that He whose power created and upheld the unnumbered worlds through the vast realms of space, the Beloved of God, the Majesty of Heaven, He whom cherub and shining seraph delighted to adore,–humbled himself to uplift fallen man; that he bore the guilt and shame of sin, and the hiding of his Father’s face, till the woes of a lost world broke his heart, and crushed out his life on Calvary’s cross. That the Maker of all worlds, the Arbiter of all destinies, should lay aside his glory, and humiliate himself from love to man, will ever excite the wonder and adoration of the universe. As the nations of the saved look upon their Redeemer, and behold the eternal glory of the Father shining in his countenance; as they behold his throne, which is from everlasting to everlasting, and know that his kingdom is to have no end, they break forth in rapturous song, “Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his own most precious blood!“
The mystery of the cross explains all other mysteries. In the light that streams from Calvary, the attributes of God which had filled us with fear and awe appear beautiful and attractive. Mercy, tenderness, and parental love are seen to blend with holiness, justice, and power. While we behold the majesty of his throne, high and lifted up, we see his character in its gracious manifestations, and comprehend, as never before, the significance of that endearing title, our Father.
It will be seen that He who is infinite in wisdom could devise no plan for our salvation except the sacrifice of his Son. The compensation for this sacrifice is the joy of peopling the earth with ransomed beings, holy, happy, and immortal. The result of the Saviour’s conflict with the powers of darkness is joy to the redeemed, redounding to the glory of God, throughout eternity. And such is the value of the soul that the Father is satisfied with the price paid; and Christ himself, beholding the fruits of his great sacrifice, is satisfied.
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[ALL BOLD EMPHASIS SUPPLIED]