|BABYLON CREATES CONFUSION
Christ said that the Spirit of truth "will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). When will that time come?
"All truth" will not be realized nor can it be obtained by merely pursuing the goal of an ever larger church membership. Everyone on the planet could be baptized, yet this would not complete the atonement and blot out sin. We need to sense that the unique Adventist imperatives that expose us to ecumenical boycott are the keys to resolving the issues still pending in the great controversy. If the whole world puts an embargo on the message we have been given, we should not surrender it. Our concern for acceptance dares not deny the cross and try to override truth.
That which we have considered "expedient" to assure "our place and nation" in the ecumenical world is the same delusion that overcame the high priest as he planned to put Christ to death. Caiaphas solemnly assured his brethren in the council, "Ye know nothing at all." It is better to deny that this Man is Messiah and condemn Him to die rather than that the Romans look down on us. Should we compromise the truth of the human nature of Christ in order to save the "unity" of the church? Such an approach is not new, for Caiaphas tried it 2000 years ago. But it failed miserably (John 11:50).
The truth of the human nature of Christ cannot be separated from the truth of the genuine Holy Spirit. Babylon will become the habitation of every foul spirit, and her sins will reach unto heaven. If she is confused about the human nature of Christ (and she is), she could also be directed by a false Holy Spirit. Are we unwise to confront Babylon with the truth? What price are we willing to pay for peace with Babylon and for "unity" in our own house? The magnitude of such questions cannot be ignored.
No people in all history have faced the crisis that now confronts the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We have either failed to understand our history, or we have a mandate that remains yet unrecognized. When we come to grips with "all truth" we will acknowledge that it is both of these!
For years we have talked about receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, but we sense that the gift has not come as promised. We seem to be blind to the fact that it is not an entity of energy, a token of power, that startles our neighbors and amazes the world. It is not a mystical phenomenon to produce miracles and replace reliance on the Word. On the contrary, the latter rain is a message of unadulterated truth that establishes righteousness and brings sin to annihilation.
When Jesus was grappling with the problem of trying to make His disciples "see," He was emphatic (John 16:12). He opened the door of hope and promised that understanding would come when the Spirit of truth reached the heart of God's people. For us this means that what He could not say to the disciples He must say to us now. There is no future eighth church; Laodicea is number seven.
The message that came to our pioneers was a message symbolized by three angels. Our forefathers did not live to see all that is contained in these warnings sent by God. But there is "another angel" still to come. We have yet to see the "power" and the "glory" of the message which that angel brings. Within the four messages brought by these four angels, the last three of them bear the same terrible warning concerning Babylon (Revelation 14:6-12; 18:1-3). Three-fourths of God's final message for this world concerns the same devastating topic. It can mean only that Babylon is apostate as God has said, and will yet become "full of abominations."
Rather than resist false doctrines and face the cross with all that Jesus said it involves, we seek some other route. It is easier to speak smooth words about "being forgiving," about "love," about "acceptance," about "caring." We may think that society, and perhaps the evangelical world in particular, requires us to make statements that fit its thinking. We may be concerned about abortion, AIDS, drugs, ecology, and the thousand other social/political problems facing the world. These, however, are not items on the docket of the great final court case pending before the universe. These are side issues which result from evading truth in favor of error. Though they are important no verdict can be reached outside of the supreme case pending. That case is, Satan versus Christ. What will the witnesses testify?
"Purged With Blood"
"Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). We are pointed to an array of symbols in the Old Testament. This potpourri of offerings and ceremonies finds ultimate meaning only at the cross. In a similar way, almost all the episodes related in the Old Testament that often seem like dramatic historical events are parables written for our admonition, to give us insight into the final conflict.
However sweet the fruit may have been when Eve ate it, the taste did not last long. When she gave it to her husband to eat with her, the mixture of "good and evil" proved to be more than their minds could handle. Terror seized both of them. Their despair and guilt would have consumed them but for the promise given by God at this crisis hour (Genesis 3:15). The same God from whom they had alienated themselves provided hope. The seed of faith was planted in the promise, and although physical death would take its toll over time, eternal death, the second death, would ultimately be overcome by the Seed in His victory over sin.
Who could guess how far-reaching this apostasy would become? The first-born that Eve hoped would be Messiah became the embodiment of their unknown hatred of God. Cain killed Abel. Could anyone have foreseen that there would be millenniums of increasing wickedness and woe? The legacy of Cain testifies to the depth of sin and transgression that lay beneath the veil of the human heart.
Cain "went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden" (Genesis 4:16). That he became an apostate is clear enough, for he left the Lord. The place where he went is mentioned only once in Scripture. The word means wandering, vagrancy. The root seems to be Chaldean, and Chaldea is synonymous with sorcerers, astrologers and magicians. The first murderer and apostate on earth took up residence in a place that has become a symbol for confusion, mystery and sin.
(Years later, after the flood, Abraham was called from the land of Ur of the Chaldees. From the gates of the Garden of Eden to the great final war and climax of history, Babylon has been the seat of apostasy (Revelation 17:5). All who have wished to reverence the true God have had to dissociate themselves from this "MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.")
Cain's murder of Abel could not be concealed. The Lord heard and understood the language of Abel's blood as it cried to Him from the ground. That same language was to be spoken 4000 years later on Calvary's hill. To this day it is the language which heaven understands but which the church has yet to learn. We "have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (Hebrews 12:4).
We can pretend that the atonement insulates us from the problem and high cost of sin. The plea of the true Christ to take up our cross as He took up His cross is too expensive—it costs "blood." We can find a "christ" who overlooks sin, who is outside the stream of humanity, unlike His brethren, and yet can do miracles. We can hide behind this "unique" "substitute." But sin must be overcome and annihilated, not merely covered up by a substitute who excuses our continual sinning.
This is the only truth that the Scriptures know. He suffered "in the flesh," and our calling is to walk with Him in this understanding of sin and salvation. To have this "mind" is to be at war with the false doctrines of Babylon. She is content to sit on "many waters," for that is the place where the mighty of earth are made drunk with her falsehoods, and consort with her in fornication (Revelation 17:1, 2).
The Son of man chose to go down into the waters and was buried that He might fulfill all righteousness. He saw that He was a part of the corporate body of humanity and went to the depths of all that the human race suffers in its battle with "self." He died to sin (Romans 6:10).
Pampering self-love and seeking the approval of society suits the carnal heart. This appeals more than friendship with the lowly Carpenter. To have the possessions of the world is in sharp contrast with the One who had no place to lay His head. The True Christ speaks of different values: "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:2, 3).
When the world is drunk with the wine of Babylon, God's people must be the most sober, and have the clearest sense of truth. Above all other times they need to be guided into "all truth" and to receive all that the Spirit offers, even to show things that are to come (John 16:13-15). This kind of wisdom can come only from heaven. Whatever grains of truth may have been spoken by the "church fathers" in centuries gone by, will not suffice when the world is drunk with the false doctrines of Babylon.
There is serious question that anyone can understand the whole truth when the nature of Christ is misunderstood and belief in the immortality of the soul confuses the atonement.
These are two of the chief errors of Babylon, and one is a part of the other. If the soul is immortal, Christ did not die. If Christ came in the nature of Adam before the Fall, He could not be subject to death, for death is the wages of sin. He was "made to be sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21). This message is amplified in Hebrews 2:14: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."
To give the remnant church discernment to recognize the fallacies of Babylon is perhaps the greatest work the Spirit has to do. Probation cannot close until this is done. God must have a people who can stand with Him in commitment to truth, and appreciate what Christ has said: "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30).
There is an account in the Old Testament that is seldom retold except as a dramatic children's story. It needs to be remembered: "All these things have been written for our admonition." The story of Samson is a parable.
Samson: Babylonian or Laodicean?
On the surface, the life of Samson reflects no clear spiritual direction. Physically the strongest among men, he was spiritually the most weak. Yet God did not abandon him, even though murder and adultery stained his life. His sensual appetite seemed beyond control. He constantly harassed the Philistines, which they resented. Here was a man who seemed invincible in spite of committing nearly every moral atrocity, and yet God did not forsake him even though he denied his calling. (Judges 13-16). Why such a story?
Hidden within Samson's dilemma may lie the key to our own problem. It was pride in his own strength that constituted his weakness, and this confidence resulted in blindness. He was "rich and increased with goods," and needed nothing. The true source of his strength was not appreciated nor recognized. To understand his failure and his final triumph may supply hope for us today.
Samson was a child whose birth came by the special blessing of God. His mother was barren until the Lord intervened. He was born to deliver Israel from her enemy, the Philistines, but he was unable to deliver even himself until in his blindness he received sight. In this is the parable for the remnant church. The prophecy in Revelation 18 calls spiritual Israel to cast down her spiritual enemy, Babylon. This cannot be done until the enemy is recognized.
It could be that we like Samson were shorn of our strength when we fell prey to enticements proffered by a "Delilah." In Samson's case he "told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man" (Judges 16:17).
Samson's denial of his divine appointment initiated a spiritual disaster worse than commandment-breaking. To understand what happened is to see the importance of sacred history. Samson's failure was due largely to neglecting his own history. His birth was attended by circumstances that set him apart from "all other men." As Delilah vexed him from day to day and tried to entice him, her purpose was always to degrade him to the level of "any other man."
But there had been a divine mandate when he was born. He was not to be like "any other man." The whole pattern of his life had been marked out in harmony with God's purposes. His diet and regard for life were to be different. Israel was in bondage and needed deliverance. Only help from heaven could bring salvation.
In the great controversy between truth and error, it is the Seed of the woman who brings deliverance to this captive planet and crushes the head of the enemy of God and man. But so long as the woman is "barren" there is no deliverance. Just as the promise came to Abraham by a miracle birth, so it came to Mary, and so it came to Manoah's wife. As was true of Isaac and Jesus, so a prophetic promise attends Samson's birth. He had a special calling: "He shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines" (Judges 13:5).
The birth of Adventism was under a similar promise of triumphant deliverance. God's sanctuary, the place of His resting, has been polluted and disgraced by sin for 6000 years. But with Adventism comes the triumphant promise, "Unto two thousand three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (Daniel 8:14).
In Samson's case the sign and seal of his prophetic destiny as Israel's deliverer was represented by his Nazarite vow. "No razor shall come upon his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines" (Judges 13:5). As Samson grew up he knew he was different. He did not eat as other men. He did not look like other men. But his life became a sad testimony that he had not learned the secret of the faith that would make that difference of real value. He still thought like other men! His life and strength were spent using the gifts of God to pursue his own interests.
Those around him saw the blessings he enjoyed and they both envied and hated him. At rare moments the Spirit of God would find an avenue to accomplish His purposes in destroying the Philistines and delivering Israel. Usually such deliverance was degraded because it also involved delivering Samson from a crisis that his selfish worldly bent perpetrated. Samson became convinced that as heaven's favorite he could pursue whatever path he chose and expect the continued blessing of heaven. But there was one fatal flaw: he forgot his history and the teachings in that history.
As he drifted further and further from the course God had plotted for him, his spiritual vision became dimmer. Continually he was plagued by the desire to impress others and receive the approbation of the enemies God had raised him up to destroy. He even tried to marry himself into their company, but they would not have him. These foreigners who were leaders in worldly matters, having wagons and carts and weapons of iron, persistently challenged Samson. Every time he consorted with them they asked him to surrender the key to his strength and become like "other men." His mission was under attack in a way that he little dreamed of.
Finally, after flirting with destruction and compromise, he weakened and began to toy with the foundations of his own prophetic vision. He told Delilah to weave "seven locks of my head" (Judges 16:13). (Strange symbolic language: seven being complete, a total loss involving his mind, the driving force of his character).
Now destruction was only one step away. This was no longer mere indulgence in sin; this was a denial of the covenant that formed the basis of his birth. His hair was the symbol of the prophetic injunction given when he was born. To surrender his hair was to surrender that vision, and "where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18).
This wisdom of the Proverbs was the truth of Samson's failed life. After Delilah took his hair, the Philistines took his eyes. He was unaware of what was happening. He now lost his strength, for the message in Judges 16:20 is: "He awoke out of his sleep."
Samson did not "know" his condition and so he said to himself, "I will go out and shake myself," unaware of what had happened. He did not know he had cut himself off from God. He thought he was rich and in need of nothing. The sad record is: "The Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house" (Judges 16:21). Jesus tells His people in the end-time there will be another group who awake and find themselves like Samson. No strength, no power, no oil in their lamps, destitute of the very thing most needed in the crisis hour (Matthew 25:1-13).
Samson was now poor, and blind and naked. But the truth is, he was in the best condition he had ever been throughout his life. Now, though blind, he could "see" his weakness. In this condition, he began to realize something that had eluded him. He sensed that he must see himself as sinful as "all other men" before he could fulfill his commission to deliver Israel and destroy her enemies. He sensed the solemn magnitude of corporate repentance.
Laboring amidst the Philistines under the bondage of sin, a new vision began to take form in his mind. The Lord was standing at the door knocking. Having been made blind, now Samson could "see." As his understanding grew, so did his hair. The desires that had enticed him into the camp of the Philistines, which eventually destroyed his sense of mission and his prophetic promise, now appeared as they truly were. The pleasures of worldly honor and approbation had become the shackles that now bit into his flesh, and he loathed his blindness and abhorred his weakness. Like the apostle Paul who had once walked among the mighty of the nation and was himself a Pharisee of the Pharisees, Samson now found the God whose "strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
It is a paradox that only the wisdom of God can solve, but the mystery of godliness and the mystery of iniquity mature simultaneously. The tares and the wheat are harvested together. As the spiritual vision of Samson matured so the presumptuous blasphemy of Israel's enemies also came to a climax. "Then the lords of the Philistines gathered together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. … And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport" (verses 23, 25). They reviled the truth that made Israel God's people.
Like Belshazzar centuries later, these enemies of God brought His sacred vessels to their religious feast to ridicule heaven and His people. But this challenge and insult were to be answered now for Samson had at last begun to "see" his prophetic mission. His birth with its restrictions that had separated him from "all other men," was now understood. Nothing mattered but the fulfilling of that purpose for which he had been born. His highest desire and delight now was to obey and to follow that prophetic destiny to its end. He had learned that "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).
At this point he could grasp the two "pillars" of truth and exert his strength in a direction that would finally fulfill its purpose. He had come to know his weakness and likeness to all other men, but he had learned that the goodness and mercy of God could make him different. He could repent. The judgment he pronounced upon the enemies of God, he also took upon himself and in so doing he shared the sufferings of the cross with Jesus.
In that judgment was his freedom, for in realizing the full depth of the depravity of his rebellion and sin, he was set free from the darkness and blindness of it. And in that eyesalve was to be found the strength that pulled down to the ground the temple of the enemies of God. And so the record says:
The question for the church to face today is: When will Laodicea understand? Can she perceive how she has been shorn and stands naked? Can we with Samson learn from our own history? By consorting with the Philistines we too have had the "seven locks" of truth shaved off our heads and so have lost our mission. Compromise after compromise has been made. Now we are being told we can shake ourselves and find strength apart from the truth that has sustained and made us a people throughout our history. We are told that such things as understanding the nature of Christ and "righteousness by faith in an end-time setting" are not essential to salvation nor for the mission of the church. We are falsely assured that the world church has never viewed these subjects as central, and they should be laid aside, for these are matters that Satan would use to take advantage of God's people. This can only be the declaration of those who have had their eyes plucked out.
But more than seeing and understanding the Source of our strength, we must know what the power of the gospel is and how to use it. Only when the church is willing to die will it live. It cannot exist to impress men, no matter how exalted their positions may be in Babylon. But restoring Adventism to its doctrinal correctness is not enough. The implications of our beliefs and doctrines must be allowed to work themselves into our lives and daily experience. The doctrines of truth we have been given must rend the veil of our souls and lay bare our hidden deformity. We must see ourselves as Samson did, like "all other men." When we do we will probe the depths of the common human problem of hidden depravity. Like Samson we will have found the fulcrum against which to lean our strength and from the shadows of that repentant despair will emerge the power to pull down the stronghold of falsehood.
Samson was born with strength and all the ingredients to fulfill his destiny as the deliverer of Israel. The only element he lacked was insight proportionate to that strength. As Seventh-day Adventists, we too have been granted our doctrinal pillars of strength. However, until we gain the total insight these truths demand, we face the liability of surrendering them and our strength, along with our prophetic hopes.
The prophet Isaiah declared Israel's bondage to Babylon for the same reason: "Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge" (Isaiah 5:13). The True witness repeats the same thing to the last church: "Thou … knowest not."
Samson was a "Laodicean" who was deceived by Israel's enemy, but when he became blind, he received his sight and then he repented and overcame the enemies of the Lord. When we know that we are blind and we repent, then we will receive our sight. Perhaps the time is now upon us when we will "know," and repent, and receive the "eyesalve" offered by the True Witness. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Revelation 3:22).
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