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A STEPHEN-SERMON TO THE CHURCH TODAY
"Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee." Acts 7:2, 3. "So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him" (Gen. 12:4), and went at His lead into Canaan, wherein he dwelt, though the Lord "gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child." Acts 7:5.
Then in time, the Lord purposed to lead Jacob and his household out of the land of Canaan, down into Egypt. Knowing, though, that the sons of Jacob would not go as did Abraham, by His simply telling them to, He therefore in His providence put into the heart of Jacob a greater love for Joseph than for his other children. This begot in them envy and jealousy, which in turn begot hatred and greed, manifesting itself in their cruel treatment and sale of Joseph, which resulted in his being carried away a slave into Egypt.
Years later when Joseph's brothers went into Egypt to obtain food during the seven-year famine, Joseph, recognizing Providential design in the strange drama of his life from enslavement to enthronement, said unto his brothers as he "made himself known" unto them: "Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life...and...to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance." Gen. 45:1, 5, 7.
Thus the Lord providentially exalted Joseph to share the throne of Egypt in order to predispose Pharaoh to grant Israel permission to enter into the land.
Next, to draw them there, He brought thereabouts the seven years of plenty, followed by the seven years of famine. Whereupon He sent word to Jacob that Joseph was yet alive. At the overjoying news, there sprang up in the father an irresistible desire to see his son. This and the life-taking hunger upon Joseph's brethren, compelled them to remove into Pharaoh's land of plenty, where they lived like kings.
Not purposing, however, to leave them there forever, the Lord did not let their living continue as pleasant as at the first, lest they refuse to take heed to Moses when he should come with the word that the time had arrived for them to go back home. But He brought about another saving
providence, this time permitting unbearable hardship to befall them, so that when called they would respond gladly. So slaves they had to become: and still worse, they had to be bereaved of their male children, then mercilessly driven with cruel lashes upon their backs to produce ever more bricks.
Thus the power of the Spirit combined with horrible suffering from their hard Egyptian servitude, was an over-powering force compelling them to forsake the heathen land and to return to their own.
Then, on their way back they met with another providence--their long wilderness sojourn, forty years in all--which God permitted for the express purpose of separating from them the unbelieving, unfaithful multitude who accompanied the Movement out of Egypt. These being destroyed, the survivors miraculously crossed the Jordan, just as they had forty years before crossed the Red Sea. There removing from their midst the one sinner, Achan, who then sprang up among them, they entered into the promised land and became the most glorious kingdom in their day. Slaves become kings--what a miracle indeed!
Naturally one would think that a people whom God had so miraculously freed from slavery, and of whom He had subsequently just as miraculously made a kingdom, would never fall now that they were strong. But losing sight of their Strength they again fell away into captivity! In weakness as slaves to Pharaoh, God had brought them to strength over their Egyptian masters; now in their strength as masters, themselves, He brought them down to servitude to the nations about them! Twice a miracle.
Here is proof positive that the Lord built them up, and also tore them down (2 Chron. 36:13,23), "that they" might, as He says, "know from the rising of the sun, and from the west. that there is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is none else.
In the course of time, with the fulfillment of the seventy years of which Jeremiah prophesied (Jer. 29:10), God once more brought Israel into their own land. But as the years wore on, replacing the old generations with new ones, Israel again lost sight of their Strength, this time so completely that when the long-looked for Messiah finally came, they rejected and crucified and spat on Him!
In divine retribution, God turned away His face in anger, and delivered them into the hand of the oppressor, who destroyed their temple and their city, drove them from their own land, and left them a forsaken, outcast race without God, without coin, without country, a people execrated by all nations from that day till this!
Not all, however, were thus cast away. A multitude of them had their eyes opened to the fact that their great men were falsely accusing the Lord, misapplying the prophecies concerning Him, and deceiving the people. Through those who remained faithful, He preserved the seed of Israel. Accepting Christ and becoming Christians, these faithful sons of Jacob had their name changed from Jew to Christian, as was foreshadowed in God's changing their father's name from Jacob to Israel, and their grandfather's from Abram to Abraham.
Starting out with 120 Spirit-filled disciples, this Jewish-Christian church converted 3,000 souls on the day of Pentecost by the preaching of one simple, Spirit-indited sermon, and then "added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47.
This great ingathering of souls so angered Satan that he avengingly "persecuted the woman [the Jewish-Christian church] which brought forth the man child. (Rev. 12:13), so as to prevent her from making converts, and to prevent those whom she succeeded in making converts, from fellowshiping with her.
(The bed rock facts that the woman's child Christ, Who was "caught up unto God," Rev. 12:5, was born to the Jewish church, and that the Christian church emerged from the Jewish, solidly establish the woman as a figure of the faithful servants of God in both the Old and the New Testament churches.)
As a result of persecuting the woman, Satan was, ironically, only helping rather than hindering the divine purpose. Indeed, the church's field (Matt. 13:38) grew only pure "wheat," the "net" (Matt. 13:47) caught only good "fish," because against such a persecution, only the faithful dared take their stand for Truth and to become members of the hated sect. So, seeing the results of his oppression, he quickly changed his tactics.
"By the edicts of toleration," says Gibbon, "he [Constantine] removed the temporal disadvantages which had hitherto retarded the progress of Christianity; and its active and numerous ministers received a free permission, a liberal encouragement, to recommend the salutary truths of revelation by every argument which could affect the reason or piety of mankind. The exact balance of the two religions [Christian and Pagan] continued but a moment....The cities which signalized a forward zeal by the voluntary destruction of their temples [the Pagan's], were distinguished by municipal privileges, and rewarded with popular donatives....The salvation of the common people was purchased at an easy rate, if it be true that, in one year, twelve thousand men were baptized at Rome, besides a proportionable number of women and children, and that a white garment with twenty pieces of gold, had been promised by the emperor to every convert." This was "a law of Constantine, which gave freedom to all the slaves who should embrace Christianity."--Gibbon's Rome, Vol. 2, pp. 273, 274 (Milman Edition).
Just as soon as Satan caused his agents to cease oppressing the Christians, and to start fellowshiping with them, he beguiled them into thinking him their friend. Thus being eased of his persecution, they fell asleep spiritually; and while they slept, he sowed the tares.
Yea, he made a complete turn-about and even compelled the heathen to join the church, thereby casting out of his "mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood." Rev. 12:15. From persecuting those who would unite with the church, he turned to persecuting those who would not, so that she might be flooded with unconverted heathen and thereby "carried away of the flood." Rev. 12:15.
In order to keep the multitude in darkness in the days of the reformers, he put his clamps on them, then opened wide his extinguisher against the burning light, and when it failed him, he set "sleeping preachers preaching to a sleeping people."--Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 337.
This highly successful course he has unremittingly pursued ever since, until as a result the church today is almost choked with tares. It is, as it were, infiltrated with a fifth column.
"That night I dreamed," says the servant of the Lord in a remarkable view of this very condition, "that I was in Battle Creek looking out from the side glass at the door, and saw a company marching up to the house, two and two. They looked stern and determined. I knew them well, and turned to open the parlor door to receive them, but thought I would look again. The scene was changed. The company now presented the appearance of the Catholic procession. One bore in his hand a cross, another a reed. And as they approached, the one carrying a reed made a circle around the house saying three times, 'This house is proscribed. The goods must be confiscated. They have spoken against our holy order.' Terror seized me, and I ran through the house, out of the north door, and found myself in the midst of a company, some of whom I knew, but I dared not speak a word to them for fear of being betrayed. I tried to seek a retired spot where I might weep and pray without meeting eager, inquisitive eyes wherever I turned. I repeated frequently 'If I could only understand this! If they will tell me what I have said, or what I have done!'
"I wept and prayed much as I saw our goods confiscated. I tried to read sympathy or pity for me in the looks of those around me, and marked the countenances of several whom I thought would speak to me and comfort me if they did not fear that they would be observed by others. I made one attempt to escape from the crowd, but seeing that I was watched, I concealed my intentions. I commenced weeping aloud, and saying, 'If they would only tell me what I have done, or what I have said!' My husband, who was sleeping in a bed in the same room, heard me weeping aloud, and awoke me. My pillow was wet with tears, and a sad depression of spirits was upon me."-- Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 578.
The promise, however, is that the flood of tares will remain therein only until the harvest, the natural time for their separation--the end of the world.
So long as Satan can successfully carry on this subversive work of flooding the church, he will never move a finger to persecute any for joining her, lest thereby he thwart his own evil design to honeycomb her ranks with his agents--the flood, the tares. To insure the success of this insidious work, he casts out those who dare live a consistent Christian life there among the tares, while he is going about with his extinguisher turned on, trying to put out every life-spark of light.
Finally, though, as prophecy discloses, the tables are turned, and the long controversy ends with the Lord's casting out and destroying (Rev. 12:16) Satan's agents, the "flood" (the tares, the bad fish), and then lighting the earth with the glory of His angel (Rev. 18:1)!
Here we see that the approaching work of making rid of the flood, thereby freeing the church from the unconverted, is the work of "the harvest" in "the end of the world." Matt. 13:39. Next we must ascertain whether the "end of the world" brings the millennial age of peace or the great time of trouble such as never was. To determine which, we must consult subsequent events.
Since it is after the earth swallows the flood, that the dragon is to be wroth with the woman and to go "to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:16, 17), there is no escaping the conclusion that the harvest, in taking away from the church Satan's flood, his multiplied tares, does not bring the millennium of peace. Indeed not, but rather it brings God's wrath--the time of trouble such as never was: the time in which His people in Babylon are called to "come out of her" and into His purified church--the Kingdom.
The harvest, therefore, is a short period of time just before, rather than the moment at, the appearing of Christ in the clouds. It is the very last days of probation for earth's kingdoms,-- the days and work which bring the end of the world.
The fact that there is a remnant (that which is left) of the seed of the woman, shows that her seed is divided into two parts, and that consequently the symbolism represents three groups of people: (1) the woman; (2) the first part of her seed--those who in this instance are not the remnant; (3) the second part of her seed--those who are the remnant.
In the light of this symbolical representation, the woman, herself, is seen to symbolize the mother part of the church--God's appointed and Spirit-filled ministers who bring in the born-again (John 3:3) converts. The first part of her seed must, accordingly, be the first fruits, the 144,000, who, separated from the sinners that were among them, are taken to Mount Sion, there to stand with the Lamb (Rev. 14:1). Hence, "the remnant of her seed" are in this instance those who are yet in the world when Babylon rides the beast (Rev. 17). Thus they are the second and last fruits which are to be taken to the purified church, the Kingdom, where there is neither sin nor fear of Babylon's plagues falling upon them (Rev. 18:4).
And now, since in her progression of time, the woman represents each successive ministry, therefore at the time that the dragon is wroth with her, she necessarily must represent the last ordained ministry, the 144,000, those who bring all their brethren from all nations to God's "holy mountain Jerusalem." Isa. 66:20.
With this light shining on the subject, the truth is clearly seen that after the earth swallows the flood, after the angels separate the wicked ("the tares," the "bad" "fish") from the righteous (the "wheat," the "good" "fish") in the church, and take the righteous to Mount Sion ("the barn," "the vessels" Matt. 13:30, 48), the dragon will then be angry with the woman (the servants of God), and as a result will war against the remnant (the second fruits, those who are then to be called out of Babylon--Rev. 18:4).
"In the last days," says Micah in his forecast of the time in which the first fruits stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion, and in which the second fruits leave Babylon to go to Mount Zion, "it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
"And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
"And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it." Mic. 4:1 through 4.
Conclusively, therefore, the Kingdom-church must be "set up" before the Devil turns upon the remnant, those who are left behind and who are then being gathered, and against whom he wars for refusing to worship him in the person of the beast and his image (Rev. 13:15).
In this cumulative light, one sees never so clearly that though the Lord is to allow persecution to come anew upon His people in Babylon, He will do so only to serve His own end to cause them to get out of her dominion (as He caused His ancient people to get out of Egypt), and to go into the Kingdom-church--the only place on earth where there will be no sin and upon which the destruction of the plagues will not fall. (See Revelation 18:4).
"Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee," O Lord, and "the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain." Ps. 76:10.
The separation of the wicked from among the righteous while sojourning in the wilderness in Moses' time, before entering the land of promise, was effected not only for the benefit of the church then (typical Israel) but also for an ensample to the church today (antitypical Israel), typically pointing to the forthcoming separation of the bad from among the good (Matt. 13:48), before the good are taken into the Kingdom, their own land, "the barn." Matt. 13:30. "All these things," therefore says Paul, "happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1 Cor. 10:11.
Through the forewarning, herein, of this imminent providence, the Lord is again pleading with each Present-truth believer:
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
"The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on Mine altar, and I will glorify the house of My glory.
"Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows? Surely the isles shall wait for Me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because He hath glorified thee. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in My wrath I smote thee, but in My favour have I had mercy on thee.
"Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted." Isa. 60:1 through 12.
So, dear brethren of Laodicean, plain it is that "while the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God's people upon earth."-- The Great Controversy, p. 425.
Then, "clad in the armor of Christ's righteousness, the church is to enter upon her final conflict. 'Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners,' she is to go forth into all the world, conquering and to conquer."--Prophets and Kings, p. 725. At that time "only those who have withstood temptation in the strength of the Mighty One will be permitted to act a part in proclaiming it [the Third Angel's Message] when it shall have swelled into the loud cry."--The Review and Herald, No. 19, 1908.
As a flaming torch in the blackness of night, stands forth the truth that the time of trouble such as never was, finds the church free from the flood of tares, free from the "bad fish," and consequently able not only to withstand the Devil but also to go forth conquering and to conquer in the mighty power of Michael, Whose standing up delivers "every one that shall be found written in the book." Dan. 12:1.
From this rehearsal of the long history of God's people, we see that Abraham is the only one with whom God was not compelled, in order to get the desired results, to resort to means other than the simple command: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." Gen. 12:1.
Abraham's unquestioning and unfailing faith and his unhesitating obedience to the Lord's naked command in every instance, made him a "friend of God," the "father of the faithful," and a great pillar of living truth, with a name to be remembered and venerated throughout time and eternity.
Jacob's faith in the promises of God, and his overmastering desire to work himself into the Lord's plans and to carry them out, resulted in his becoming the progenitor of the first fruits or ministry of the Kingdom-church--those who stand with the Lamb on Mt. Zion (Rev. 14:1).
Joseph's uncompromising fidelity to principle brought him into highest estate, in which he became the world's greatest provisioner as a type of Christ, the Great Spiritual Provisioner.
Moses, in his meekness (humbleness) and in his determination "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb. 11:25), rose to be the greatest general, leader, and deliverer of all times, and even to stand on the mount of transfiguration.
The apostles' sacrifice of life for the sake of Christ and His Truth, won them the exalted honor of having their names placed in the foundations of the Holy City (Rev. 21:14).
Luther's fearless and persevering efforts to lift up the down-trodden Truth (Dan. 8:11, 12; 11:31), fathered forth Protestantism.
Yet, Brother, Sister, none of these singularly glorious estates is greater than is yours to stand with the Lamb on Mount Sion. We beseech you, therefore, to "arise, shine; for thy light is come"! Isa. 60:1.
Now that on the one hand the Lord is pleading that you take hold of His mighty light of Truth and thereby be separated from sin, that you may escape His vengeance, be delivered from the coming trouble, and have a part in proclaiming the Loud Cry of the Three Angels' Messages; and that on the other hand Satan is pleading that you take hold of his all-exhausted extinguisher; you are brought to the valley of decision. Now has come the Zero hour to decide whether or not you will, if the Lord be God, follow His mighty Truth, or if Baal be God, follow his mighty men.
"Behold," says the Saviour, "I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." Rev. 3:20.
Will you not, then, do as did these faithful men of old, and be God's great men today! O let nothing, Brother, Sister, longer compromise and neutralize your efforts to obtain the promise now--the unmatched privilege of being Zion's priests and kings!
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith..." Rev. 3:22.
Answerer Book 2 pages 5 through 21.