White addesses this with the question "Are we to wait until the fulfillment of the prophecies of the end before we say anything concerning them? Of what value will our words be then? Shall we wait until God's judgments fall upon the transgressor before we tell him how to avoid them? Dare we shun the responsibilities that God has given to His remnant people, or will we strive to warn the world that the day of our Lord's coming is near, even at the door!
Remember the story of Jonah?
The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White. Chapter Enmity Between Man and Satan
God called Jonah to warn the Ninevites but Jonah thought that they were too wicked to listen and change. Yet, we are told that when he obeyed God's command the entire town accepted the message and turned from their wicked ways. Let us not prejudge the people of our day as did Jonah but let us go forth boldly to fulfill the commission that our Lord has given to each and every one of us! There are precious souls earnestly searching for the truth, eagerly wanting to understand Biblical prophecy and desperate for the answers for today's problems.
This book, The Great Controversy Project, has the answers to all these questions and will lead the reader into a deeper study of the Word of God. White's writings are equal to Scripture in every sense that would matter. But her writings must nevertheless be kept distinct from Scripture, because that's the only way "to meet other Christians on a common ground.
White to be as authoritative as the Bible, because that would undermine Seventh-Day Adventist attempts to solicit agreement and endorsements from evangelicals. Now I realize it may sound like I'm putting a cynical slant on his argument, but that is clearly what he is implying. If both the Bible and "the revelation and inspiration" of Mrs.
White's writings are indeed "of equal quality"and if you're willing to be honest and up front about what you believe what would "common ground" have to do with anything? Faithful evangelicals who truly believe in the authority of Scripture don't downplay our conviction that the Bible is the Word of God in order to find "common ground" with unbelievers.
They come regularly in the mail from Seventh-Day Adventists who promise that reading it would awaken John MacArthur to a whole new understanding of the truth. It's a level of veneration Seventh-Day Adventists rarely show for Scripture. So that's the first characteristic of a cult: extrabiblical revelation. They do base their belief system on a gnostic-style secret that they have been made privy to through the visions of Ellen White.
What about characteristic number 2? Bear in mind that Mrs. White's very first vision, and her first influential prophecy, was that early declaration that the door of salvation was closed to everyone but the Millerites who remained faithful and still believed the prediction even after the Great Disappointment. They were the only ones going to heaven. She claimed she had this vision in December of , just weeks after the Great Disappointment.
Here, in her own words, is how she recorded that prophecy. She said: While praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell on me, and I seemed to be rising higher and higher, far above the dark world. I turned to look for the Advent people in the world, but could not find them when a voice said to me, "Look again, and look a little higher. On this path the Advent people were travelling to the City, which was at the farther end of the path.
They had a bright light set up behind them at the first end of the path. This light shone all along the path, and gave light for their feet so they might not stumble. And if they kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, who was just before them, leading them to the City, they were safe. But soon some grew weary, and they said the City was a great way off, and they expected to have entered it before. Others rashly denied the light behind them, and said that it was not God [who] had led them out so far.
The light behind them went out leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and got their eyes off the mark and lost sight of Jesus, and fell off the path down in the dark and wicked world below. It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another. Almost forty years later, in , when she was forced for pragmatic reasons to revise that doctrine, she admitted, "For a time after the disappointment in , I did hold, in common with the advent body, that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world.
I am still a believer in the shut door theory, but not in the sense in which we at first employed the term or in which it is employed by my opponents. The door was still open for others, as long as they embraced Mrs. White's prophecies when that new light was given to them and the Sabbatarian principle rather than the timing of the Lord's return moved to the head of the list. Obviously, the revised version still retains the same element of elitism. According to the new dogma, all those who knowingly refuse the group's seventh-day sabbatarianism will be sealed in their unbelief by the mark of the beast, and they will be excluded permanently from any possibility of salvation.
Modern Seventh-Day Adventists don't like to emphasize this idea, but it is their official teaching.
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In the exact words of Mrs. White, "The worshipers of God will be especially distinguished by their regard for the fourth commandment," but "the worshipers of the beast will be distinguished by their efforts to tear down the Creator's memorial. She was convinced, against all the evidence of the New Testament, that the practice of gathering on the first day of the week was a late revision to the law of God. Sunday worship, she insisted, was imposed on the church by a corrupt papacy.
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Like most Protestants in that era, she considered the Pope antichrist, so she reasoned that Sunday worship corresponds to the mark of the beast. And for her and millions of Seventh-Day Adventists Saturday Sabbatarianism is considered the single most important mark of true faith in Christ.
So look at our list: Extrabiblical revelation. How about the third characteristic of cults? The answer to that should be obvious by now. It is virtually impossible to find a credible Seventh-Day Adventist leader who does not give evidence of a slavish devotion to Ellen White, her doctrines, the mythology surrounding her, and even her quirky beliefs. Seventh-Day Adventism has been in flux with internal doctrinal controversies for at least four decades, and a lot of the discussions within the movement have focused on two issues: Sabbatarianism which is impossible to justify biblically and the doctrine of justification by faith, which is impossible to reconcile with the legalism that is at the core of virtually every Seventh-Day Adventist doctrinal distinctive.
Several well-known Adventist leaders over the past four decades have questioned the received doctrines on these matters. The best-known and most influential voice raising questions about Adventist doctrine is an Australian theologian and former Adventist pastor named Desmond Ford. His concerns have to do with issues that lie at the heart of gospel truth justification by faith, the role of good works, and the imputation of Christ's righteousness.
He has especially been a critic of a vital Adventist doctrine known as " investigative judgment. It's one of the novelties of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine that defines the Adventist confession of faith and sets them apart from all other denominations. White claimed that although Christ did not return to earth in , what happened was that He moved from the holy place in the heavenly tabernacle into the holy of holies in heaven.
And at that point, He began this process known as investigative judgment , reviewing the works of believers with an eye to final judgment. Remember, in those days Ellen White was teaching that the door of salvation was closed to everyone but the Millerites who kept the faith. But they were to be judged according to their works. So Christ was in heaven reviewing the instant replays or whatever, and as soon as He finished this work, He would return to earth.
That would be very soon, the Adventists still insisted. Anyway, the doctrine of investigative judgment has at its heart this very heavy emphasis on human works, and it's impossible to reconcile with the biblical teaching about justification by faith. But ever since Ellen White first introduced this doctrine, it has been considered one of the pillars of Seventh-Day Adventist belief.
Desmond Ford questioned it, and in , he was excommunicated from the cult for doubting that doctrine. He has not been formally a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination for more than 35 years. And yet he refuses to let go or even acknowledge some of the group's most egregious errors. He is still a Saturday Sabbatarian. He still follows a vegetarian lifestyle and many of Ellen White's odd notions about diet and health.
Most of all, he still reveres Ellen White and insists her writings are valuable if not inspired. He still thinks what this manifestly false prophetess wrote is superior to all other works on the Christian religion. It is very hard to cut that tie, once you are ensnared in a group like this. We have a few former Adventists in our church, and all of them will tell you that getting out of the cult is a very frightening and difficult proposition. The elitism that is so prominent in all cults instills a superstitious fear that leaving the group might forever lock a person out of heaven.
And in fact, many who leave end up either indifferent or overtly hostile to Christianity in general. For a while, Brinsmead dabbled in Reformed Theology.
He published a journal that got worldwide circulation for a few years was quite good. It was called Present Truth , and it featured some hard-to-find writings excerpted from the Puritans and older Reformed authors.
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The magazine was free. It was well-edited. And I subscribed to it during my college career. That magazine gave me my first exposure to Puritan works. Brinsmead also wrote a very fine critiques of Sabbatarianism. But after being out of Adventism for a few years Brinsmead began to derail spiritually.
He dabbled in neo-orthodoxy and then moved on to Socinianism, and today, he is an elderly recluse who professes no religion at all. Desmond Ford's son Luke followed an even more sinister path. At one point, he professed conversion to Judaism. Then he too seemed to abandon faith altogether and became a blogger who reported on trends in the adult industry. An article in Salon magazine called him "The Matt Drudge of porn.
And when the person discovers what he has been taught is actually based on lies, false prophecies, and unbiblical doctrines, it's hard to shake off the disillusionment and believe anything with real conviction. When you finally manage to cut that strong tie that binds you to the cult, if you don't embrace the true Christ with genuine faith and a renewed heart, you will have no anchor whatsoever. On the other hand, even if you get excommunicated like Desmond Ford, assuming you can stave off complete disenchantment with all religion, it's still hard to let go of the belief system you were so sold out to.
That's a major problem with any cult. But it's especially difficult to leave a legalistic group like the Seventh-Day Adventists. Legalism is a powerful bondage that is very, very difficult to break. Any of the former Seventh-Day Adventists here will affirm that. So let's review: these are the features of practically every cult: extrabiblical revelation, elitism, enslavement to the group and its rules.
Seventh-Day Adventism gets bad marks in every one of those categories. What about that fourth characteristic of a cult? Here again, we cannot avoid the conclusion that Seventh-Day Adventism qualifies as a cult. They are not as blatantly heretical as Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses, perhaps and certainly they aren't as far off track as Christian Science.
But the subtlety of the Seventh-Day Adventist error actually makes this cult a more immediate threat in our circle of fellowship. Seventh-Day Adventism is a close parallel to the heresy Paul confronted in his epistle to the Galatians. In the seminar I taught last year on Seventh-Day Adventism last year, I remarked that the Sabbath is to Adventists what circumcision was to the Galatian heretics. The error of the Judaizers in Paul's time would probably seem trivial to the average evangelical today. They were apparently churchmen who had some kind of affiliation with the fellowship of believers in Jerusalem.
They didn't deny the deity or humanity of Christ. They freely confessed that He was Israel's Messiah. They believed in the resurrection. They affirmed the necessity of faith, and they no doubt spoke with great passion about divine grace, the forgiveness of sins, and the promise of eternal life. They were advocates of holiness, and they appealed to the Scriptures as authoritative. There was only one significant difference between Paul and these heretics: Paul taught that good works were the fruit of justifying faith; the Judaizers insisted that good works were instrumental in justification.
To say it another way, they reversed the order of salvation. They said faith begets works, and faith plus good works beget justification. Scripture says faith alone begets justification, and good works are the fruit of God's regenerating work. Romans " to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. How often have its plaintive, tender tones called them to repentance. How often has it been heard in the touching entreaties of a friend, a brother, a Redeemer.
To the rejecters of His grace no other could be so full of condemnation, so burdened with denunciation, as that voice which has so long pleaded: "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die? Oh, that it were to them the voice of a stranger! Says Jesus: "I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof. That voice awakens memories which they would fain blot out--warnings despised, invitations refused, privileges slighted.
Page 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. Now they behold Him in His glory, and they are yet to see Him sitting on the right hand of power. Those who derided His claim to be the Son of God are speechless now. There is the haughty Herod who jeered at His royal title and bade the mocking soldiers crown Him king.
There are the very men who with impious hands placed upon His form the purple robe, upon His sacred brow the thorny crown, and in His unresisting hand the mimic scepter, and bowed before Him in blasphemous mockery. The men who smote and spit upon the Prince of life now turn from His piercing gaze and seek to flee from the overpowering glory of His presence. Those who drove the nails through His hands and feet, the soldier who pierced His side, behold these marks with terror and remorse.
With awful distinctness do priests and rulers recall the events of Calvary. With shuddering horror they remember how, wagging their heads in satanic exultation, they exclaimed: "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Vividly they recall the Saviour's parable of the husbandmen who refused to render to their lord the fruit of the vineyard, who abused his servants and slew his son. They remember, too, the sentence which they themselves pronounced: The lord of the vineyard "will miserably destroy those wicked men.
And now there rises a cry of mortal agony. Louder than the shout, "Crucify Him, crucify Him," which rang through the streets of Jerusalem, swells the awful, Page despairing wail, "He is the Son of God! He is the true Messiah! In the deep caverns of the earth, rent asunder by the warring of the elements, they vainly attempt to hide. In the lives of all who reject truth there are moments when conscience awakens, when memory presents the torturing recollection of a life of hypocrisy and the soul is harassed with vain regrets.
But what are these compared with the remorse of that day when "fear cometh as desolation," when "destruction cometh as a whirlwind"! Proverbs Those who would have destroyed Christ and His faithful people now witness the glory which rests upon them. In the midst of their terror they hear the voices of the saints in joyful strains exclaiming: "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. 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! 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 thy victory?
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 Page 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" Malachi 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!
The living righteous are changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Angels "gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 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.
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, Page 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.
For each there is a crown, bearing his own "new name" Revelation , and the inscription, "Holiness to the Lord. 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 for ever and ever.
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. With unutterable love, Jesus welcomes His faithful ones to the joy of their Lord. The Saviour's joy is in seeing, in the kingdom of glory, the souls that have been saved by His agony and humiliation.
And the redeemed will be sharers in His joy, as they behold, among the blessed, those who have been won to Christ through their prayers, their labors, and their loving sacrifice. As they gather about the great white throne, gladness unspeakable will fill their hearts, when they behold those whom they have won for Christ, and see that one has gained others, and these still others, all brought into the haven of rest, there to lay their crowns at Jesus' feet and praise Him through the endless cycles of eternity. As the ransomed ones are welcomed to the City of God, there rings out upon the air an exultant cry of adoration.
The two Adams are about to meet. The Son of God is standing with outstretched arms to receive the father of our race--the being whom He created, who sinned against his Maker, and for whose sin the marks of the crucifixion are borne upon the Saviour's form. As Adam discerns the prints of the cruel nails, he does not fall upon the bosom of his Lord, but in humiliation casts himself at His feet, crying: "Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain!
After his expulsion from Eden, Adam's life on earth was filled with sorrow. Every dying leaf, every victim of sacrifice, every blight upon the fair face of nature, every stain upon man's purity, was a fresh reminder of his sin. Terrible was the agony of remorse as he beheld iniquity abounding, and, in answer to his warnings, met the reproaches cast upon himself as the cause of sin. With patient humility he bore, for nearly a thousand years, the penalty of transgression. Faithfully did he repent of his sin and trust in the merits of the promised Saviour, and he died in the hope of a resurrection.
The Son of God redeemed man's failure and fall; and Page now, through the work of the atonement, Adam is reinstated in his first dominion. Transported with joy, he beholds the trees that were once his delight--the very trees whose fruit he himself had gathered in the days of his innocence and joy.
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He sees the vines that his own hands have trained, the very flowers that he once loved to care for. His mind grasps the reality of the scene; he comprehends that this is indeed Eden restored, more lovely now than when he was banished from it. The Saviour leads him to the tree of life and plucks the glorious fruit and bids him eat. He looks about him and beholds a multitude of his family redeemed, standing in the Paradise of God. Then he casts his glittering crown at the feet of Jesus and, falling upon His breast, embraces the Redeemer.
He touches the golden harp, and the vaults of heaven echo the triumphant song: "Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and lives again! This reunion is witnessed by the angels who wept at the fall of Adam and rejoiced when Jesus, after His resurrection, ascended to heaven, having opened the grave for all who should believe on His name.
Now they behold the work of redemption accomplished, and they unite their voices in the song of praise. 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.
It is the song of Moses and the Lamb--a song of deliverance.