Preaching the Gospel to the World

Chapter 9

The gospel message after Pentecost started off in a heavenly way. The disciples and their immediate followers had no money; they had not been trained in the fashionable halls of learning of their day; they had no prestige with which to command the applause of listening senates. But those who heard "recognized that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13, R.S.V.) They lived above the fogs and miasmas of sin, and moment by moment they received their instructions direct from the Central Office. By following these instructions, no matter how much they were maligned and persecuted, their work was always a success in the sight of Heaven, accomplishing great things for God.

So it will be again. In all parts of the earth the men and women of God, in step with one another because they are all listening to the same drumbeat from above, will march from one victory to another.

The hope of the return of Christ in glory has ever been the most inspiring thought cherished by human beings. Says Ellen G. White:

"To God’s pilgrim people, so long left to sojourn in ‘the region and shadow of death,’ a precious, joy-inspiring hope is given in the promise of His appearing, who is ‘the resurrection and the life,’ to ‘bring home again His banished.’ The doctrine of the second advent is the very key-note of the Sacred Scriptures. From the day when the first pair turned their sorrowing steps from Eden, the children of faith have waited the coming of the Promised One to break the destroyer’s power and bring them again to the lost Paradise."—The Great Controversy, p. 299.

The declaration of Luther was, "I persuade myself verily, that the day of judgment will not be absent full three hundred years. God will not, can not, suffer this wicked world much longer." Wycliff and Tyndale, Melanchthon and Calvin, have left similar records of their faith and hope. Said Knox, "Has not our Lord Jesus carried up our flesh into heaven? and shall He not return? We know that He shall return, and that with expedition."

John Milton, epic poet of the Commonwealth, implored, "Come forth out of thy royal chambers, O Prince of all the kings of the earth;… take up that unlimited scepter.… For now the voice of thy bride calls thee, and all creatures sigh to be renewed." John Wesley, commenting on the last verses in the Bible, wrote, "The spirit of adoption in the bride in the heart of every true believer says,… come and accomplish all the words of this prophecy."

Dwight L. Moody declared that the church of his day had little to say about the return of Christ. "Now, I can see a reason for this; the devil does not want us to see this truth, for nothing would wake up the Church so much."

The special work of God in warning our generation about the imminent return of our absent King is the specific subject of the present chapter. God will never bring a judgment on the world without giving a fair warning. The present proclamation of the gospel of the coming kingdom is just such a warning; but there are cosmic aspects of the situation, for important changes are taking place at the headquarters of the universe in preparation for the return of Christ. When He does return, He will bring His rewards with Him, to give every man according to his works. Millions of the dead will then be raised, and all the righteous then living will be changed into the immortal state in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. This obviously means that the cases of all these must have been decided beforehand, previous to the second advent.

No sin exists in heaven; but abundant records of sin are there, and these records must be examined in order to determine who among the dead of the centuries past are to be raised to immortal life in the first resurrection. This inspection of the records is not to inform God; it is necessary in order that all the onlooking universe and all future ages may be satisfied that complete and absolute justice has been done in each individual case.

This work of examining the records, termed the investigative judgment, is spoken of in many places in the Bible. One of these is Daniel 7:10: "The judgment was set, and the books were opened." In the Mosaic dispensation this period of settling accounts by inspection, or judgment, was strikingly prefigured by the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, at the close of the year, a day of awful solemnity, which is still regarded by all Jews as meaning the day of judgment. The scene in Daniel 7:10 is the prophetic portrayal of the Yom Kippur of the universe. Of necessity it must be of the utmost importance for all who are living on the earth when it takes place.

As much literature published by Adventists discusses in detail the various aspects of this subject, it is not necessary to enlarge upon it here. We have good evidence to believe that this Yom Kippur of the universe began in 1844, and thus has been in progress more than a century. This gives point to the first angel’s message of Revelation 14, which calls upon the evolution-minded people of our day to worship the Creator of the heavens and the earth, "for the hour of his judgment is come." (Revelation 14:6, 7.)

This judgment-hour message, with the second and third which accompany it, constitutes the timely form which the gospel must necessarily take in our day. Every age has had some special form of the gospel specifically adapted to its peculiar needs. This final age is confronted with the anti-Genesis apostasy now prevailing; hence the present truth for this time admirably meets this situation.

A few days before His death Jesus told the disciples that the good news about His coming kingdom would be published in all the world as a witness unto all nations, "and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14.) Accordingly, everybody should be interested, intensely interested, in the divine description of the kind of people who are to do this work in the last days of time.

People often ask, Which is the true church? How can I be sure about it? Well, Heaven has given us a description of these people. This description is found in Revelation 12:17: "And 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." Since the dragon means primarily the devil, it needs no argument to prove that the people he is angry with and making war upon must be God’s true people. They are spoken of as the "remnant" of the woman’s seed, or the very last church, the last generation of Christians, the ones who have the responsibility of preaching the gospel about the impending kingdom just before the end.

Two prominent characteristics of the people composing this remnant church are: (1) they "keep the commandments of God," and (2) they "have [or treasure] the testimony of Jesus."

  1. In amazement we ask why the commandments of God should be in question in these last days of human history, the remnant church keeping them, presumably all ten of them, including the fourth about the Sabbath, and the devil making war against them for doing so.

But such is the actual present situation, as very briefly stated in the preceding chapter. A small minority, slightly more than a million all told, scattered through every nation and every time, are resolved to keep all of the Ten Commandments of God just as written, including the one about the Sabbath, while the rest of humanity are observing a rival day. This prophecy points ahead to trouble and persecution for the small recalcitrant minority.

  1. The second characteristic of these last-day Christians against whom the dragon wages his war is that they "have the testimony of Jesus Christ." In Revelation 19:10 this term is explained to mean "the spirit of prophecy." Obviously the plain meaning is that the true church, which is preaching the gospel of the coming kingdom just before the second advent, will cherish a high regard for the prophecies of such books as Daniel and the Revelation, in which the perils and obligations of the last days are clearly defined and in which the second advent is forcefully taught.

Another conclusion from these facts is inevitable. Since the people of this remnant church have a high respect for the Spirit of Prophecy, they will necessarily obey the admonition not to quench the Spirit and not to despise "prophesyings." (1 Thessalonians 5:19, 20.) In other words, if they happen to know of contemporary manifestations of the "spirit of prophecy," they will not reject them offhand without investigation, but will have enough true spiritual discernment to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (Verse 21.) All this means that they will not only cherish the old, long-recognized prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, but will also give heed to whatever contemporary results of the prophetic spirit may appear among them which prove to be worthy of holding fast as "good," or of divine origin, after complete tests have been intelligently applied, as given in Isaiah 8:20 and elsewhere.

This line of reasoning makes it crystal clear that the Christians of the last days against whom the dragon makes his campaign will not be liberals or modernists in theology, for the latter have no confidence in the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation and deny that these books have given history in advance for the guidance of the church. Neither will they be futurists in their interpretation of these prophecies, for the futurists by their "gap theory," or "postponement theory," also deny that Daniel and the Revelation give the Christian church important guiding waymarks along the pathway between Calvary and the second coming.

Accordingly the only ones who conform to these specifications would be those who accept the historical interpretation of the prophecies and believe in the nearness of the second advent; that is, they must be Adventists in the original meaning of this word. The first characteristic mentioned was that they are keepers of the commandments, thus observers of the seventh-day Sabbath.

For more than a century the people known as Seventh-day Adventists have been claiming that they are the ones here divinely described as the "remnant" of the people of God, who in the near future will be warred against by the dragon and his hosts. It cannot be denied that they qualify under these two specifications: they keep the commandments of God; and they have, or treasure, the testimony of Jesus, the spirit of prophecy. If they are not the ones here meant, where are we to look for them?

Seventh-day Adventists are the only people who qualify, possessing the two characteristics given in the prophecy. Seventh-day Baptists observe the Bible Sabbath, but they are not interested in the interpretation of prophecy and do not believe in any present-day manifestation of the prophetic gift. Various groups of fundamentalists say they believe in the second advent, but they repudiate the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. No other people on earth combine the two characteristics of keeping the commandments of God and holding, or cherishing and trying to follow, the Spirit of Prophecy.

Stronger than armies, stronger than all the combined power of the dragon and his forces, is a people with a divine commission for a specific work. Like their Master they can say, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:15.

They also realize that they are the modern successors of the long line of those who down through the centuries have believed and treasured the predictions of the Holy Spirit of God. One who has done much to show the guiding hand of divine Providence in the understanding and interpretation of prophecy says:

"Our prophetic faith has a majestic ancestry and a historical support of which few have been aware, and which is not possessed by any other religious group today. It has a compelling force that is most impressive. It has a winsome appeal that is priceless. It offers such unassailable evidence as to make possible the maximum impression. It provides such a unique appeal to reason, and has such inescapable logic in its claim upon the conscience, that it is destined to produce a conviction surpassing any approach of the past. Such is our glorious heritage. God expects us to capitalize to the full upon its latent power and strength in presenting the climax of His case and claims before mankind at this time. That is our real and really glorious position today."—LeRoy Edwin Froom, Our Firm Foundation, Vol. II, p. 84. And again from the same author:

"Herein lies our supreme opportunity of now stepping into our rightful place as the avowed restorers of the true Protestant positions of the founding fathers of all branches of Protestantism as it formerly obtained in all Protestant lands in both hemispheres. Instead of meekly accepting an unjust consignment to the ranks of modern heretics, as concerns our prophetic faith, we should humbly but effectively assert and establish, by sound reasoning and irrefutable evidence, our actual position as the champions and sustainers of the true, historical interpretations now regrettably abandoned by most of ‘Protestantism’s spiritual descendants. We should now rise to our full and allotted place as the revivers and continuers of the true Protestant interpretation of the Reformation. This is our rightful heritage. We are simply the last segment in God’s sevenfold true church of the centuries. These former expositors of the true interpretations were of God’s true church and were true expositors in their time. We are in the line of true succession."—ibid., pp. 99, 100.

In these quotations Dr. Froom is summarizing his conclusions after his long study of these subjects, as shown in his monumental four-volume The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers. He has caught the electrifying inspiration from watching the fast-fulfilling prophecies and from realizing that all of God’s predictions will be fulfilled, and on schedule.

Froom sees the global scale on which the message of Revelation 18:4 is soon to be delivered "mightily with a strong voice." For a hundred years we have been looking forward to this as the "loud cry." No such message could ever be proclaimed in this manner without first having gained the attention of the intellectual classes, the educated people of Europe and America. But these four volumes are now doing this in a winning and effective way. When the rest of the denomination has learned how to make a wise use of this attention of the cultured classes, only then will our work come out of obscurity.

But it is always dangerous for the people of God to have the spotlight of publicity turned upon them. In our case, we are now so near the end that inevitably it will bring persecution, swift and deadly. Every student of the life of Jesus will remember the radical change He made in His methods as He drew near the close of His ministry. Hitherto He had always sought to avoid publicity and mass enthusiasm. Time and again He had forbidden people to proclaim Him as the Messiah. But all this changed on His last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. He sent special announcements ahead and traveled in a manner to gain the national attention. "He was going forward to the scene of His great sacrifice, and to this the attention of the people must be directed."—The Desire of Ages, p. 485.

Thus it will be again. As the final crisis of the ages draws near, the focus of the world’s gaze will be turned upon the remnant of the woman’s seed, as they are about to hurry for the last time into the wilderness, away from the wrath of the dragon, knowing that nothing but the miracle-working of divine Providence can protect them in that terrible hour.

Psalms 46 and 91 will be especially precious at that time. These, with many other promises, will effectually protect them from the deceptions and open wrath of the destroyer.

Various lines of modern science are also now coming to the support of the church. The archaeology of all the Bible lands has for many years been confirming in a wonderful way the records of the Scriptures. Biology, of course, has for many decades settled the great truth of biogenesis: life comes only from antecedent life. This means that science has no explanation for the origin of living things except that they must have been created. Then Mendelism and a sensible view of the species question now tell us that we have no explanation of how any one of the fundamental kinds of living things, either plant or animal, could possibly become changed over into any other of the fundamental units. And lastly, the Deluge theory of geology has now shown how the fossiliferous formations can best be accounted for by the hypothesis of a universal deluge, thus making the fossils contemporary, not chronological. At one stroke this liquidates the long geological "ages" and makes the entire fossil world a unity, not a series of badly misfitting parts. Hence all the basic kinds of plants and animals, including man, must have been created at essentially the same time, as recorded in Genesis.

Thus with so many lines of modern science confirming her Sacred Scriptures, the clarion call of the hour to the church of Christ is for her to renew her confidence in the Guidebook, which she has brought with her down the centuries. As her divine Lord went away, He commissioned her to carry His good news of salvation to all peoples. And as long as she remained true to this commission and to her instruction Book, the world’s cunning sophistries could not deceive her, nor could the cruel power of a world empire stifle her voice. Now, when her absent Lord is about to return, it surely behooves her to set her house in order and to return with candor and fidelity to that code of written instructions left with her by her departing Master.

For the old-time believers in the Bible, the night of darkness and doubt is rapidly passing, the morning of a fuller knowledge and a surer confidence is at hand. Gone are those agonies of doubt concerning the truthfulness of the Bible’s history about the beginning of the world or the adequacy of its ethics for the needs of modern society. Abandoned forever are all those futile attempts at compromise about Genesis in the vain and pitiful endeavor to translate the sublime record of creation into the language of a clumsy, inconsistent science now disintegrating be fore her eyes, and to twist the sublime plan of salvation to suit the demonic theory of the survival of the fittest and the Marxian doctrine of an eternal class war. The remnant church now realizes that her Bible is more accurate than the world’s science.

Her hour is here. A sublime opportunity is before her, for the Creator of all nature has Himself opened up before His church the long-sealed chapters of His larger and oldest testament and is now pointing out the full harmony between it and His Written Word. He is now sending her forth with the special gospel of the coming kingdom, a message timed and specifically adapted to this age of evolutionism in science and pantheism in philosophy.

Looking along the darkening vistas of the coming centuries, the merciful Jehovah saw how a vastly increased knowledge of His created works would be perverted into a satanic burlesque of His creation, and how this would result in worldwide apostasy, in which His Written Word would be derided and scorned. Thus He timed a special reform message for His loyal people to give to the world just before the end, calling upon this generation of pantheistic evolutionists to "worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." (Revelation 14:17.)

Accordingly, now, when the darkness of apostasy is most dense, a light from above has again illuminated the pages of the book of nature, the language of which is already more familiar to our modern world than the language of the Book so long distrusted and almost derided. This message direct from nature is full of the essential ideas of the gospel-faith in a personal Creator, who by His tireless care for all the organs of our bodies keeps them in order and by healing our injuries and curing our diseases inspires us with faith in Him as our Saviour and Redeemer.

In such an hour, in such a world crisis, He has placed within the power of His church these modern means of travel and quick communication in order to speed on this last gospel of the coming kingdom, so as to complete it in "this generation."

Read Chapter 10 — Surviving the Centuries

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