Old Paths

Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. Psalm 25:14

Vol. 21, No.3 Straight and Narrow March 2012


Hot springs at Hierapolis, six miles to
the north of Laodicea


The Grace of God for Worms

Perhaps you have heard it said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to some people, worms may seem very beautiful. I do not think most people would agree, but compared to a sinner, worms do not look so bad. “But,” you say, “they eat and live in dirt.” That is true, but they faithfully fulfill their God-given purpose and are at least honorable in this respect. A sinner does not deserve better treatment than a worm and, in fact, deserves eternal death. God has shown mercy to the sinner, who was originally made in the image of God but is now lower than a worm, and has provided a chance for him to have eternal life, instead of eternal death.

When the father of Dr. Harry Ironside lay dying, the descending sheet which Peter saw in a vision was dominant in his mind (Acts 10:9–15). Over and over he mumbled, “A great sheet and wild beasts, and . . . and . . . and . . . ” Seemingly he could not recall the next words and would start over again.

A friend whispered, “John, it says, ‘creeping things.’” 

 “Oh, yes, that is how I got in! Just a poor, good-for-nothing creeping thing! But I got in—saved by grace!”

Salvation by grace through faith is one of the great teachings of Scripture and part of the platform of truth that must be clearly comprehended by God’s people. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians has been called the crown jewel of his writings. In the second chapter he straightly sets forth the simple doctrine of grace:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:1–9)

The Greek root word translated grace is cháris. In secular Greek cháris “is what delights. It may be a state causing or accompanying joy. It is joyous being or ‘charm,’ the element of delight in the beautiful, the favor shown by fortune, i.e., what is pleasing in it. As a mood cháris means ‘sympathy’ or ‘kindness,’ with a reference to the pleasure that is caused” (Theological Word Book of the New Testament, Abridged Edition – Little Kittel).

The meaning of the word begins to change as we see its usage in Hellenism. It “becomes a fixed term for the ‘favor’ shown by rulers, with such nuances as ‘gracious disposition’ or ‘gracious gift’” (Ibid.). 

The LXX uses cháris especially for Heb. hen, which seems to derive from the widespread verbal stem hnn, found in Ancient Babylon, Akkadian, and Assyria, and also in Ugaritic, Aramaic, Syriac, and Arabic. 

b. The verbal stem denotes a gracious disposition that finds expression in a gracious action (cf. Gen. 33:5; Ps. 119:29). (Ibid.) 

In the New Testament we find Paul using cháris to expound “the structure of the salvation event. The basic thought is that of free giving. This view is not just a quality in God, but its actualization at the cross (Gal. 2:21) and its proclamation in the gospel. We are saved by grace alone. It is shown to sinners (Romans 3:23–24), and it is the totality of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:1) that all believers have. (Ibid.) 

Ellen White declares that grace is simply “unmerited favor” (The Review and Herald, December 20, 1892) and “a free gift” (The Story of Redemption, p. 342). Paul declares that we are saved by free unmerited favor we have not deserved. It is free to us but this reminds me of the proverb, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” While the person not eating may not be the one paying, every lunch costs somebody and while salvation is free to humanity, it cost God the life of his dear Son.

In March 1951 Judge Irving Kaufman presided at the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were charged with and convicted of treason against the United States. They were sentenced to death because they had supplied the Soviet Union with the information needed to build an atomic weapon.

 In his summation at the end of the bitter trial, the lawyer for the Rosenbergs said animatedly, “Your Honor, what my clients ask for is justice.”

 Judge Kaufman replied calmly, “What the court has given them is what they ask, justice! What they really want is mercy. But mercy is something this court has no right to give them.” He went on to write: 

I consider your crime worse than murder. Plain deliberate contemplated murder is dwarfed in magnitude by comparison with the crime you have committed. In committing the act of murder, the criminal kills only his victim. The immediate family is brought to grief and when justice is meted out the chapter is closed. I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country. No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension. We have evidence of your treachery all around us every day for the civilian defense activities throughout the nation are aimed at preparing us for an atom bomb attack. (University of Missouri–Kansas City Law School website: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/rosenb/ROS_SENT.HTM) 

We do not know if the Rosenbergs asked God for mercy, but we know that, despite the enormity of their crime, grace was available to them. We are told: “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20), and the Apostle John wrote: “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). 

Here the picture is “grace” taking the place of “grace” like the manna fresh each morning, new grace for the new day and the new service. (Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, for John 1:16; electronic version) 

The Bible says that we are to grow in grace. Peter especially dwelt upon this theme: 

 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18) 

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, … And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. (2 Peter 1:2, 5–7) 

This knowledge of God embodies life eternal, for Jesus said: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). 

God’s grace, his free unmerited favor, is given for justification, but also for sanctification, so that our daily walk with God might be harmonious and pleasing to him. 

Grace comes to the believer through faith and yields obedience. Paul writes: 

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11–14) 

This grace brings salvation, redeeming the believer from all iniquity and purifies him, so that he lives “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” We do not have to wait for Jesus’ second coming to live properly, for his grace is great enough not only to save us from sin, but out of sin. Paul noted that the Romans had “received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations” (Romans 1:5). Here we see the need for grace in order to be able to obey God and to be obedient to the faith. The inspired record states that the priests who accepted Jesus during the apostolic age “were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). 

Ellen White wrote about this grace, when she commented upon God’s love for his church in sending them a most precious message: 

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones.This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92) 

God’s grace is truly an empowering grace, and though not all, or even some, great minds have understood or received it, it is still powerful. 

Jonathan Edwards was the third president of Princeton University and has been considered by some as one of America’s greatest thinkers of his time. However, he had Calvinist views of salvation that affected his thinking in some situations. 

It is said that Edwards had a daughter with an ungovernable temper that was only known to the inside members of the family. A worthy young Christian man fell in love with this daughter and asked Edwards for her hand in marriage. Jonathan Edwards abruptly replied, “You can’t have her,.” The young man questioned why, stating that he loved her and that she loved him. But again Edwards replied, “You can’t have her.” 

The young man again asked, “Why?” 

Edwards then said, “Because she is not worthy of you.”  This struck the young suitor, and he inquired if she was not a Christian. Edwards replied,  “Yes, she is a Christian, but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else could ever live.” 

What does that kind of answer teach about grace? While it might say that God has great grace, it also denies that he is able to give that grace for obedience and right living! 

God gives grace. “The LORD will give grace and glory” (Psalm 84:11). If God did not provide the grace, it would cease to be grace! Paul notes: 

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Romans 11:6) 

God says that he will pour out mercy to his people. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications” (Zechariah 12:10). 

If there is anything that is good or righteous about any person, it is only because of the grace of God. Paul says he was made a minister by God’s grace: 

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. (Ephesians 3:1–7) 

Interestingly, Jesus Christ is never quoted using the word grace in a direct manner in the KJV of the Bible but he clearly believed, taught, and demonstrated grace all his life. Luke 4:22 says that Jesus spoke “gracious words,” or words of grace. The Greek word translated gracious is derived from a word that comes from cháris. The words and the actions of Jesus all employed mercy. 

Think of the woman taken in the act of adultery. Jesus told her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). In that command there was both forgiving grace and empowering grace to do the command. 

When Jesus met a leper who wanted to be cleansed, Jesus showed mercy. The Bible says that Jesus was “moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean” (Mark 1:41). 

To the thief on the cross, Jesus gave the promise of paradise (Luke 23:43)! 

Yes, this grace is both forgiving and empowering and will make God’s people a “peculiar people.” 

And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments. (Deuteronomy 26:18) 

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:14) 

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Peter 2:9) 

God’s grace will not bring his children into conformity with the world, but will make them appear to be different and, even, strange. Those who profess the name of Christ but who have not received empowering grace will look upon those who have received it as odd, fanatical, or deluded: 

There are many in the church who at heart belong to the world, but God calls upon those who claim to believe the advanced truth, to rise above the present attitude of the popular churches of today. Where is the self-denial, where is the cross-bearing that Christ has said should characterize his followers? The reason we have had so little influence upon unbelieving relatives and associates is that we have manifested little decided difference in our practices from those of the world. Parents need to awake, and purify their souls by practicing the truth in their home life. When we reach the standard that the Lord would have us reach, worldlings will regard Seventh-day Adventists as odd, singular, straight-laced extremists. “We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.”  (The Review and Herald, January 9, 1894; emphasis supplied) 

Paul says that “we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9). 

Finally, if we wish to receive God’s grace into our lives, we must be willing to show that same grace to others. Jesus said: 

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:1, 2) 

Jesus explained that if we wish to receive the grace of God, we must show undeserved grace towards others. Notice these two similar, but yet different, statements. 

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. (Luke 6:32, 33) 

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:46, 47) 

The major difference in these two statements is the words thank and reward. The Greek root word for reward is misthos and means reward, but the word for thank is not misthos, but cháris. 

 Jesus is saying that if you only love those who love you, what grace do you have? He says that sinners also love those who love them. And if you do good to them who do good to you, what grace do you show? Jesus says that even sinners do the same. 

This principle is well-illustrated in the follow true experience of Charles Spurgeon, a famous preacher of the 19th century: 

Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker both had churches in London in the 19th century. On one occasion, Parker commented on the poor condition of children admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. It was reported to Spurgeon however, that Parker had criticized the orphanage itself. Spurgeon blasted Parker the next week from the pulpit. The attack was printed in the newspapers and became the talk of the town. People flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear his rebuttal. “I understand Dr. Spurgeon is not in his pulpit today, and this is the Sunday they use to take an offering for the orphanage. I suggest we take a love offering here instead.” The crowd was delighted. The ushers had to empty the collection plates three times. Later that week there was a knock at Parker’s study. It was Spurgeon. “You know Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed. (Moody Monthly, December 1983, p. 81) 

Beloved, we are all in need of this grace. While never neglecting the desire to be obedient children, let us ever remember that both our title and fitness to heaven come to us through the righteousness of Jesus Christ by his mercy. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Romans 16:24).  Allen Stump

Smyrna Broadcasts

Recently we were informed that the conferencing service we have been using for the last few years is being discontinued. This news is challenging, since our virtual congregation has grown by over 50 percent in the last two months.

As you may know we have been broadcasting our prayer meeting and Sabbath worship service, as well as a youth Sabbath school and a Monday evening story hour, each week. These broadcasts have been available via the phone. They have also been available through the Internet by using Skype.

As of this writing we are currently trying to find a replacement for our conference service and hope to have a solution by the time this issue is published. Please check our website at www.smyrna.org for details on what we are able to currently offer. Thank you for your patience in this matter.

The Valiant of God

What do you think of when you hear the word violent?  Do you think of a street mob, hockey players fighting, or, perhaps, war and all of its terror? Do you think of riots and looting? How about genocide? You may not think of a widow or a foreigner with a sick, possessed child. You may not think of an old man praying for his safety and the safety of his family, but today, we may have to think again, as we consider two texts found in Matthew and Luke. In Matthew we read the words of Jesus, given during the Galilean ministry, somewhere between AD 29–30: 

 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:7–15) 

Now let us consider some of the words of Jesus from his Peraean ministry, given between AD 30–31: 

 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (Luke 16:13–16) 

The connecting link between these two sets of verses is found in the Greek verb biazo (biavzw), translated violence in Matthew and presseth in Luke. These are the only two places in the New Testament where this word is used. The meaning of the word “is always to ‘forced’ as distinct from voluntary acts. The middle means ‘to compel,’ ‘overpower.’” (Theological Word Book of the New Testament, Abridged Edition on Matthew 11:12; electronic version) 

In classical Greek, biazo was used by the Greek poet Pindar (circa 522-ca 438 BC) “in the sense of ‘strong,’ ‘bold’ or ‘brave’” (Theological Word Book of the New Testament). Brave and bold are synonyms for valiant! Jesus was saying that the valiant ones are those who take the kingdom of God. 

We find in the words of Jesus a progression of revelation. Jesus said that “the law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached” (Luke 16:16). Then in Matthew 11:12, he says: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence.” What do these words of Jesus mean? In Matthew 11:13, he says: “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”  The term law and prophets represent the Old Testament (see Luke 24:27). Jesus is saying that “until” the preaching of the “kingdom of God” by John, the sacred writings of the Old Testament constituted man’s primary guide to salvation. Paul noted that this was the chief advantage that the Jews had over the Gentiles: 

What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1, 2) 

Some surface readers of scripture would have us believe that “the law and the prophets,” the Old Testament scriptures, had lost their value or force when John began to preach. But the word until in no way implies that. What Jesus means is that until the ministry of John “the law and the prophets” were all that men had. The gospel came, not to replace, or annul, what Moses and the prophets had written, but, rather, to supplement, to reinforce, and to confirm those writings. The gospel does not stand in place of the Old Testament, but in addition to it.  

Throughout the New Testament there is not a single place where the Old Testament is in any way belittled. On the contrary, the Old Testament supplied the foundation for the New Testament believer’s strong faith. The Old Testament were, in fact, the only Bible that the first-generation New Testament Church possessed. Jesus encouraged the study of the scriptures: 

 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39) 

Paul appealed to the scriptures as the source of truth. 

Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come. (Acts 26:22) 

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. (Acts 28:23) 

However, though they could have found truth in these scriptures, men in Jesus’ time did not seek to advance with the light: 

As the light and life of men was rejected by the ecclesiastical authorities in the days of Christ, so it has been rejected in every succeeding generation. Again and again the history of Christ’s withdrawal from Judea has been repeated. When the Reformers preached the word of God, they had no thought of separating themselves from the established church; but the religious leaders would not tolerate the light, and those that bore it were forced to seek another class, who were longing for the truth. In our day few of the professed followers of the Reformers are actuated by their spirit. Few are listening for the voice of God, and ready to accept truth in whatever guise it may be presented. Often those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love, in order to declare the plain teaching of the word of God. And many times those who are seeking for light are by the same teaching obliged to leave the church of their fathers, that they may render obedience.  (The Desire of Ages, p. 232) 

When Jesus said “since that time” (Luke 16:16), he meant that since the proclamation of the kingdom of God by John the Baptist, additional light had been shining upon the pathway of salvation and that the Pharisees had no excuse whatsoever for being “covetous” (Luke 16:14). There had been sufficient light for them in the Old Testament (vs. 29–31), but they had rejected that light. Now they took the same attitude toward the increased light shining forth through the life and teachings of Jesus (John 1:4; 14:6). 

“John the Baptist was the last Old Testament messenger and the first preacher of the New Age.” (The Gospel According to Luke, Logos Edition) 

The Valiant Take the Kingdom

Let us go back to our word biazo (biazw), translated suffereth violence in Matthew and presseth in Luke: 

And from the days of John the Baptist till now, the kingdom of heaven is forcing its way in, and men of force take it. (Matthew 11:12; The Bible in Basic English

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, {Or has been coming violently} and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12; English Standard Version) 

“The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” The violence here meant is a holy earnestness, such as Jacob manifested. (The Review and Herald, February 9, 1897) 

Beloved, we need a holy earnestness about our lives, about our relationship with God, and about our witness. 

Jacob developed that kind of experience. When Jacob was at the brook Jabbok, going back to meet Esau, hope seemed to fail him that he or his family would live past the next day. Scouts reported that Esau was coming with four hundred men (Genesis 32:6). Surely these men were not coming to welcome Jacob! Esau and his men were coming as men going to war. 

Jacob was distraught and he began to pray. After some time Christ came to Jacob in the form of an angel and began to wrestle with Jacob: 

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. (Genesis 32:24, 25) 

At this point Jacob realized it was no ordinary bandit with whom he had been struggling, but with the Lord himself: 

And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.  And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. (Genesis 32:26–29) 

Jacob’s life and experience have many lessons for us today. Ellen White notes: 

Many, very many, are making a fatal mistake by failing to heed this lesson of God’s providence. Peace and rest can be secured only by conflict. The powers of light and darkness are in array, and we must individually take a part in the struggle. Jacob wrestled all night with God before he gained the victory. As he pleaded with God in prayer, he felt a strong hand laid upon him; and thinking it to be the hand of an enemy, he put forth all his strength to resist him. He wrestled for hours, but gained nothing over his opponent, and he dared not relax his efforts for one moment, lest he should be overcome and lose his life. Thus the contest went on until the dawn of day, and neither had gained the victory. Then the stranger brought the conflict to a close. He touched the thigh of Jacob, and the wrestler’s strength was paralyzed. It was not until then that Jacob learned who his opponent really was; and, falling crippled and weeping on his neck, he pleaded for his life. 

The angel could easily have released himself from the grasp of Jacob, but he did not do this. “Let me go,” he pleaded, “for the day breaketh.” But the answer came from the suffering but determined Jacob, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” The suppliant’s tears and prayers gained for him what he struggled in vain to obtain. “What is thy name?” the angel asked. “And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. . . . And he blessed him there.” 

Jacob was in fear and distress while he sought in his own strength to obtain the victory. He mistook the divine visitor for an enemy, and contended with him while he had any strength left. But when he cast himself upon the mercy of God, he found that instead of being in the hands of an enemy, he was encircled in the arms of infinite love. He saw God face to face, and his sins were pardoned. 

“The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” This violence takes in the whole heart. To be double minded is to be unstable. Resolution, self-denial, and consecrated effort are required for the work of preparation. The understanding and the conscience may be united; but if the will is not set to work, we shall make a failure. Every faculty and feeling must be engaged. Ardor and earnest prayer must take the place of listlessness and indifference. Only by earnest, determined effort and faith in the merits of Christ can we overcome, and gain the kingdom of heaven. Our time for work is short. Christ is soon to come the second time. May God help those who have heard the warning message to remember that “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (The Youth’s Instructor, May 24, 1900) 

Here we see the violent, or valiant ones, have persistence. There must be a willingness to stay at the task, regardless of the difficulty. Commenting upon Luke 16:16, one expert Greek scholar has noted: 

Here the meaning clearly is that everyone forces his way into the kingdom of God, a plea for moral enthusiasm and spiritual passion and energy that some today affect to despise. (Robinson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament on Luke 16:16) 

We have seen that Jacob was a valiant, or violent, person when it came to having a holy earnestness, a determined effort, and an unyielding faith. In the New Testament we often think of Peter and Paul as valiant, or violent, persons; however, there are two other people we may not readily think of as valiant, or violent. Who are these people? The first person has no name but has been called by some biblical commentators as the importunate widow because she was persistent in her request: 

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? (Luke 18:1–7) 

Clearly the judge was unjust. He feared not God nor regarded man, but because of the widow’s continual coming, he granted her request. Ellen White says that it was the “bare force of her determined pleading” that convinced the judge to grant her request. 

We must act like men in earnest. We need to obtain a rich daily experience in prayer; we should be like the importunate widow, who, in her conscious need, overcame the unjust judge by the bare force of her determined pleading. God will be enquired of to do these things for us; for this is giving depth and solidity to our experience. The soul that seeks God will need to be in earnest. He is a rewarder of all those that seek him diligently. (The Paulson Collection, p. 104) 

Those who are conscious of their need may seek not simply an unjust judge, but the righteous king of the universe, and if they are earnest and come to God in faith, God will reward them. God is too wise to give us all we need without coming to him, for when we, with persistence, come to him in faith, we gain a “depth and solidity to our experience” that we would not otherwise have. As Hebrews 11:6 says, those who come to “God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” 

An excellent example of someone who was a diligent seeker is our second violent person of the New Testament; the Syrophoenician woman mentioned in Matthew 15. This woman had a determination that would not be repulsed: 

Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.  And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. (Matthew 15:21–28) 

In this story Jesus tests this woman’s faith and her earnestness, and her increased earnestness demonstrated that her faith worked by love and that nothing was too strong to destroy her love for her daughter: 

Christ did not immediately reply to the woman’s request. . . . But although Jesus did not reply, the  woman did not lose faith. As He passed on, as if not hearing her, she followed Him, continuing her supplications. . . . The woman urged her case with increased earnestness, bowing at Christ’s feet, and crying, “Lord, help me.” . . . The Saviour is satisfied. He has tested her faith in Him. By His dealings with her, He has shown that she who has been regarded as an outcast from Israel is no longer an alien, but a child in God’s household. As a child it is her privilege to share in the Father’s gifts. Christ now grants her request, and finishes the lesson to the disciples. Turning to her with a look of pity and love, He says, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”  From that hour her daughter became whole. The demon troubled her no more. The woman departed, acknowledging her Saviour, and happy in the granting of her prayer. (The Desire of Ages, pp. 399–402) 

“O woman, great is thy faith.” True faith that works by love is persistent and patient. The last-day saints’ patience will be demonstrated by their keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12). Those who are the valiant of God will not be exempted from trials and temptations, but they will be given the empowerment of God’s Spirit to walk through fire, if need be; to walk on water, if need be; and to climb any hill of difficulty that lies in front of their paths. We have been warned: 

Trials will come. God will test the strength of our faith. He will prove us to see if we will trust him under difficulties. The silver and the gold are the Lord’s; and when his stewards have done their duty fully, and can do no more, they are not to sit down at ease, and let things take their course. It is then that they should cry to God for help. There should be stated seasons for prayer. Let those who have faith seek the Lord earnestly, remembering that the “kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (The Review and Herald, October 12, 1886) 

Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy shortly before his execution. Though facing certain death he could write: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). The Greek word translated fear is deilias (deilivas). Deilias is defined as: 

A state of fear because of a lack of courage or moral strength—”cowardice, timidity.” … “for God has not given us a spirit of timidity” or ‘a spirit of cowardice’ 2 Tm 1:7. (Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains

There was nothing timid about Sir Ernest Shackleton. In 1909 he achieved the furthest south point to that date, coming within one hundred miles of the South Pole. While the honors of being the first to the pole went to Roald Amundsen, exploration of the South Pole was not over for Shackleton. In 1914 he began on what would be known as the Trans-Antarctic expedition. Shackleton and a crew of twenty-eight men began a journey that would turn into the greatest self–rescue ever. The plan called for Shackleton and five other men to be the first people to cross Antarctic from one side to the other; however, their ship, Endurance, became trapped in frozen ice and was finally crushed by the ice. Abandoning the ship and taking as many supplies from Endurance as possible in her three life boats, the men set up camp on a large ice flow. After the ship sank beneath the ice, Shackleton simply said, “Ship and stores are gone, so we’ll go home now.” Please consider that this was at a time when there were no radios or phones that could be used to call for help. Nobody was there to help them. Nobody was daring enough to be in those waters but Shackleton. Their position was terrible. Being stranded on the moon without a rocket ship has been suggested as a modern-day equivalent! Yet Shackleton had said, “We’ll go home now.” After they put the three life boats upon sledges and prepared to begin the seemingly impossible task to move to a position where they could sail to Robinson Island, Shackleton quoted a line from poet Robert Browning’s Prospice

For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave. 

In the case of Shackleton’s group, this was certainly true. Against the most terrible odds imaginable, the entire party of men were saved. If someone were writing a novel about an impossible rescue they could not have written something more unbelievable than Shackleton’s story. Yet, in the not distant future there will be group of people seemingly stranded near the South Pole, who seem to have no way of escape. This will be a group of people that the world will turn against and willattempt to destroy. It will be a time when the this world will turn to the worst. All of the world will be against God and his people. Today we live in comparative ease and we are reminded of the words of Jeremiah: 

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5) 

Today is the day of preparation. Today is the day to hide our souls in Christ and to find in him our courage and strength.  We can be a part of that great group of saints who proclaim the kingdom of God with bravado, courage, and  determination. 

We can be a part of God’s modern-day mighty men (2 Samuel 23:8) and women in the last days, but we have to purpose in our hearts that we will stand and stand valiantly. 

Ever remember that “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” We need to cultivate that persevering faith which will hold fast to the promises. Humble yourself, but exalt God.  Empty the soul of selfishness and sin, and lay hold of God’s power. Then you can claim His promise, “Ask, and ye shall receive.” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 17, pp. 131, 132) 

Allen Stump

Bird Flu Mutation Created

Just before the end of last year, Reuters News, a very reputable news agency, reported that the World Health Organization had acknowledged that “scientists . . .  have engineered a highly pathogenic form of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, saying their work carries significant risks and must be tightly controlled.” 

Currently the bird flu virus has not, of itself, mutated into a form that can easily be transferred from human to human. However, two different groups, one in the Netherlands and one in the United States, have worked in laboratories to produce a virus that they believe can be easily transmitted from human to human as an airborne virus. This research was done under the concept of gaining more knowledge about the bird flu virus. 

The report noted that “H5N1 bird flu is extremely deadly in people who are directly exposed to it from infected birds.” Scientists say that if a variation of the H5N1 virus were released, it could be easily transmitted from person to person. The pandemic that would follow might match some of the worst in recorded history: 

“Influenza viruses keep changing. They mutate. And they exchange genetic material with other flu viruses, a process called reassortment. All that’s needed is a mutation or reassortment that produces a new variant of H5N1 one that’s as deadly as the current strain but as easily transmitted from human to human as lots of other flu strains. Most virologists believe something like this will happen sooner or later, and many believe it will happen soon. When it does, H5N1 will inevitably spread throughout the world. Worldwide mortality estimates range all the way from 2–7.4 million deaths (the ‘conservatively low’ pandemic influenza calculation of a flu modeling expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to 1 billion deaths (the avian influenza pandemic prediction of one Russian virologist).”  (http://www.avianinfluenza.org/mutated-avian-influenza-virus-h5n1.php; quoting from Pandemic Influenza Risk

If such a pandemic were to happen, as some believe it will (and sooner, rather than later), it would certainly be a terrible thing, and only the strong would survive. Surely such news is a wake-up call to God’s people to be practicing health reform, so that the body’s immune system is at its best to fight off such viruses. 

The seriousness of this threat is highlighted by the fact that the researchers agreed to a sixty-day moratorium on their work. In an interview with National Public Radio’s program Living on Earth, Dr. Michael Olsterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told host Bruce Gellerman about his concerns for biosafety and for security which led him to recommend limiting the publication of this new research: 

If this virus does readily transmit between humans, just as it’s now doing between ferrets, which, to date have been the best animal model we have for predicting its performance or behavior in humans, and if in fact, this virus is as lethal in humans as it is in the ferrets, this would be as serious an infectious disease encounter that the human population has ever known. You can take all other areas of influenza, you can take small pox, you take SARS, you can take the plague back to the Medieval Ages, and this one could really be a very, very serious challenge. So we cannot afford to be even a little bit wrong here. (Transcript from “Living on Earth’s” program of January 27, 2012, http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=12-P13-00004&segmentID=5) 

Gellerman then asked Osterholm, “So, is there some knowledge that is so deadly that it must be kept secret?” To this, Osterholm responded: 

Well, I think in this case, absolutely! I mean, there’s a whole world of classified information that is not information about censorship meaning that no one should ever know it, but it’s about how do you share information in a way that those who have a need to know, know about it. 

… we can’t make mistakes. You can’t un-ring a bell. If we make a mistake, this virus either gets out accidentally or it is, in fact, developed by someone who has a nefarious purpose in mind, obviously we haven’t done our job. (Ibid.) 

Furthermore, when reading of such things, I am reminded of one of Ellen White’s early visions, in which she testified: 

The Lord has shown me that precious souls are starving, and dying for want of the present, sealing truth, the meat in due season; and that the swift messengers should speed on their way, and feed the flock with the present truth. I heard an Angel say, “speed the swift messengers, speed the swift messengers; for the case of every soul will soon be decided, either for Life, or for Death.” 

I saw that those who had the means, were required to help speed those messengers, that God had called to labor in his cause, and as they went from place to place, they would be safe from the prevailing pestilence. But if any went that were not sent of God, they would be in danger of being cut down by the pestilence; therefore all should earnestly seek for duty, and be sure and move by the direction of the Holy Spirit 

What we have seen and heard of the pestilence, is but the beginning of what we shall see and hear. Soon the dead and dying will be all around us. I saw that some will be so hardened, as to even make sport of the judgments of God. Then the slain of the Lord will be from one end of the earth, to the other; they will not be lamented, gathered, nor buried; but their ill savor will come up from the face of the whole earth. Those only who have the seal of the living God, will be sheltered from the storm of wrath, that will soon fall on the heads of those who have rejected the truth. (The Present Truth, September 1, 1849) 

This vision seems to state that some form of pestilence which began in Ellen White’s day would continue to just before Jesus comes and would gather great strength. Perhaps this was some form of influenza that has finally become the bird flu virus. We do not claim to know, nor do we claim that we may ever know, all that this testimony means; however, it seems certain that it is telling us that we are at the end of time. 

If there was ever a time for God’s people to come into line with the message of health reform, it is certainly today. God will shield his people from plagues and pestilences to come, but he certainly expects his people to live within the safeguards of health reform and to do all within their ability to have healthy immune systems, so disease does not gain a foothold. Allen Stump

Laodicea—A Somber and Solemn Message

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, 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. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:14–22).

Geography and History

Laodicea was a well-ordered city that lay in a small valley nestled among foothills which, in turn, were part of a larger valley that spread out between two great mountains ranges. A number of important roads crossed through Laodicea, one being the central route of the Roman Empire. This great roadway came from the coast, entered Laodicea at the Ephesian Gates, passed through the middle of the city, and left it at the Syrian Gates on its way east. Another road system ran northeast to southwest from Pergamos to Pisidia, and other roads from eastern Caria and from Phrygia also converged in Laodicea. It was a thriving metropolis and a bustling intersection of commerce and travel.

Two major cities lay near Laodicea—Colossae, eight miles to the southeast, and Hierapolis, six miles to the north. Hierapolis was well-known for its many hot springs and Colossae for its fresh springs, and because Laodicea lacked a natural water supply, it was dependent on its neighbors. In fact, this lack of water was its one weakness in case of attack. A five-mile aqueduct, for example, was buried underground, and all an enemy had to do was cut off the source of water and the city would cease to be able to sustain itself. Nevertheless, by the time the water reached Laodicea, whether it came from hot springs or from cold mountain springs, it was lukewarm.

Laodicea was one of the wealthiest cities of Asia, with several thriving industries and an advantageous position on trade routes. The city was famous for its textile, banking, and medical industries. Principal among its products were garments styled from the distinctive glossy black wool of its sheep. Small, cheap upper garments and several kinds of tunics were manufactured in Laodicea. Laodicea was also a noted banking center. In 51 BC, for example, Cicero cashed bank drafts there, and the city had its own mint. Laodicea’s second most famous and widely-exported product (after wool products) was an eye salve that came from the school of medicine located in the city.

The date the book of Revelation was written cannot be ascertained with accuracy, other than to say it was written during the latter part of the first century. We do know, however, that no book of the Bible was written after Revelation that offers any explanation for its passages. John was instructed to simply write in his book the things he had seen: “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Revelation 1:19; see also 1:11). He was not instructed to write any explanation for the things he had seen. Throughout the book of Revelation, you will find numerous references (at least forty-two) to things John had seen. Every chapter in Revelation, save two, has the words “I saw,” “I looked,” “there appeared,” “he shewed me,” “I, John, saw,” or “there was seen,” and a number of chapters contain such words more than once. John faithfully executed his command to write the things he had seen. It truly is a book of revelations.

The two chapters that contain no reference to things seen are the chapters we have been studying—chapters 2 and 3. The messages to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea are special words from our heavenly Father. The messages were not seen, but heard, by John, so in accordance with the instruction given in Revelation 1:19, these messages must be about things which were either true at the time they were penned or were to become true in the future. Since no part of the Bible written after Revelation explains any of its prophecies, visions, or messages, all three have been difficult to understand. Individuals over the centuries have had to seek understanding for them under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through personal study (often coupled with the book of Daniel) and through prayer, but during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, nearly two thousand years after the revelation was given to John, a marvelous gift was bestowed upon the Seventh-day Adventist Church—again the spirit of prophecy was made manifest. Someone else began to see things:

I saw that the remnant were not prepared for what is coming upon the earth. Stupidity, like lethargy, seemed to hang upon the minds of most of those who profess to believe that we are having the last message. My accompanying angel cried out with awful solemnity, “Get ready! get ready! get ready! for the fierce anger of the Lord is soon to come. His wrath is to be poured out, unmixed with mercy, and ye are not ready.” (Early Writings, p. 119; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted}

I saw evil angels contending for souls, and angels of God resisting them. The conflict was severe. Evil angels were corrupting the atmosphere with their poisonous influence, and crowding about these souls to stupefy their sensibilities. Holy angels were anxiously watching and waiting to drive back Satan’s host. But it is not the work of good angels to control the minds of men against their will. (Counsels for the Church, p. 319)

I saw that many were neglecting the preparation so needful, and were looking to the time of “refreshing” and the “latter rain” to fit them to stand in the day of the Lord, and to live in His sight. Oh, how many I saw in the time of trouble without a shelter! They had neglected the needful preparation, therefore they could not receive the refreshing that all must have to fit them to live in the sight of a holy God. . . .

I saw that none could share the “refreshing,” unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action. We should, therefore, be drawing nearer and nearer to the Lord, and be earnestly seeking that preparation necessary to enable us to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord. Let all remember that God is holy, and that none but holy beings can ever dwell in His presence. (Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, pp. 112, 113)

Ellen White also saw that the message to the Laodicean Church was to be applied to God’s people:

I saw that the testimony to the Laodiceans applied to God’s people at the present time . . . Many, I saw, were flattering themselves that they were good Christians, who have not a single ray of light from Jesus. They know not what it is to be renewed by the grace of God. They have no living experience for themselves in the things of God. And I saw that the Lord was whetting his sword in heaven to cut them down. O that every cold, lukewarm professor could realize the clean work that God is about to make among his professed people. Dear friends, do not deceive yourselves concerning your condition. You cannot deceive God. Says the True Witness, “I know thy works.” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 186, 189; written 1859)

This application spanned many years:

The message to the Laodiceans is applicable to Seventh-day Adventists who have had great light and have not walked in the light. (Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, p. 360; letter written 1893)

The church is in the Laodicean state. The presence of God is not in her midst. (Notebook Leaflets from the Elmshaven Library, vol. 1, p. 99; written 1898)

The message to the Laodicean church reveals our condition as a people. . . . If ever a people were represented by the Laodicean message, it is the people who have had great light, the revelation of the Scriptures, that Seventh-day Adventists have received. (Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, pp. 192,193; written 1902)

The message to the church of Laodicea is a serious message, and it applies to us. At no time does Ellen White ever retract these statements. At no time does she ever say the Seventh-day Adventist Church is no longer Laodicea or is no longer in the Laodicean state. What great light have we been given that we have not walked in? One area is the perfection God requires of his people. Here is what God asked of Laodicea:

[Revelation 3:15–22 quoted.] This is the testimony borne concerning the church at Laodicea. This church had been faithfully instructed. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”

Much excellent labor was bestowed upon the Laodicean church. To them was given the exhortation, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” But the church did not follow up the work begun by God’s messengers. They heard, but they failed to appropriate the truth to themselves, and to carry out the instruction given them. The result that followed is the result always sure to follow the rejection of the Lord’s warnings and entreaties. (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 964; MS 128, written in 1903)

Another characteristic of Laodicea is living for self:

Those who live for self are ranged under the head of the Laodicean church who are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. The ardor of the first love has lapsed into a selfish egotism. The love of Christ in the heart is expressed in the actions. If love for Christ is dull, the love for those for whom Christ has died will degenerate. There may be a wonderful appearance for zeal and ceremonies, but this is the substance of their self-inflated religion. Christ represents them as nauseating to His taste. (Our High Calling, p. 348; taken from MS 61, written in 1898)

Also envy, pride, passion, evil surmising, bitterness, and formalism characterize Laodicea:

They may be crying, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we,” while their hearts are filled with unholy traffic and unrighteous barter. The courts of the soul temple may be the haunt of envy, pride, passion, evil surmising, bitterness, and hollow formalism. Christ looks mournfully upon His professed people who feel rich and increased in the knowledge of the truth, and who are yet destitute of the truth in life and character. (Ibid., p. 349)

As well as love of the world’s fashions:

I was shown that some of the people of God imitate the fashions of the world, and are fast losing their peculiar, holy character, which should distinguish them as God’s people. I was pointed back to God’s ancient people, and then was led to compare their apparel with the mode of dress in these last days. What a difference! What a change! . . . Young and old, God is now testing you. You are deciding your own eternal destiny. Your pride, your love to follow the fashions of the world, your vain and empty conversation, your selfishness, are all put in the scale, and the weight of evil is fearfully against you. You are poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked. . . . And I saw that the Lord was whetting his sword in heaven to cut them down. O that every cold, lukewarm professor could realize the clean work that God is about to make among his professed people. Dear friends, do not deceive yourselves concerning your condition. You cannot deceive God. Says the True Witness, “I know thy works.” (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, pp. 227, 229; written in 1860)

The Foundations Are to Stand

The foundations laid early in our history are to endure, and we dare not become lukewarm about them or deny them, for we are told this would be a great deception, and we know Laodiceans are deceived.

Let none seek to tear away the foundations of our faith—the foundations that were laid at the beginning of our work by prayerful study of the word and by revelation. Upon these foundations we have been building for the last fifty years. Men may suppose that they have found a new way and that they can lay a stronger foundation than that which has been laid. But this is a great deception. Other foundation can no man lay than that which has been laid (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 297; published 1904).

Nevertheless, men have brought in new ideas and new ways of doing things, causing a deception among God’s people:

A new order of things has come into the ministry. There is a desire to pattern after other churches, and simplicity and humility are almost unknown. The young ministers seek to be original, and to introduce new ideas and new plans for labor. (The Signs of the Times, December 27, 1899)

In a vision of the night I was shown distinctly that these sentiments [in the book The Living Temple] have been looked upon by some as the grand truths that are to be brought in and made prominent at the present time. I was shown a platform, braced by solid timbers—the truths of the Word of God. Someone high in responsibility in the medical work was directing this man and that man to loosen the timbers supporting this platform. Then I heard a voice saying, “Where are the watchmen that ought to be standing on the walls of Zion? Are they asleep? This foundation was built by the Master Worker, and will stand storm and tempest. Will they permit this man to present doctrines that deny the past experience of the people of God? The time has come to take decided action.”

The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced.* The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. (Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 204, 205; published in 1904)

But God will take things into his own hands:

Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 300; written 1896)

The Lord Jesus will always have a chosen people to serve Him. When the Jewish people rejected Christ, the Prince of life, He took from them the kingdom of God and gave it unto the Gentiles. God will continue to work on this principle with every branch of His work. When a church proves unfaithful to the word of the Lord, whatever their position may be, however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities. But, if these in turn do not purify their lives from every wrong action, if they do not establish pure and holy principles in all their borders, then the Lord will grievously afflict and humble them and, unless they repent, will remove them from their place and make them a reproach. (Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, p. 102; written 1903)

In the balances of the sanctuary the Seventh-day Adventist church is to be weighed. She will be judged by the privileges and advantages that she has had. If her spiritual experience does not correspond to the advantages that Christ, at infinite cost, has bestowed on her, if the blessings conferred have not qualified her to do the work entrusted to her, on her will be pronounced the sentence: “Found wanting.” By the light bestowed, the opportunities given, will she be judged. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 247; written 1903)

Just as we read in Pilgrim’s Progress of a few people leaving the City of Destruction for the Celestial City, there are people in spiritual Laodicea who think they have left Laodicea for the heavenly city, but are, in reality, “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” In 1856 Ellen White saw in vision two roads—one leading to eternal life and the other to eternal death:

Those traveling in the narrow way are talking of the joy and happiness they will have at the end of the journey. Their countenances are often sad, yet often beam with holy, sacred joy. They do not dress like the company in the broad road, nor talk like them, nor act like them. A Pattern has been given them. A Man of sorrow and acquainted with grief opened that road for them, and traveled that road himself. His followers see his footsteps, and are comforted and cheered. He went through safely, so can they if they follow his footsteps. In the broad road all are occupied with their persons, their dress, and the pleasures in the way. Hilarity and glee they freely indulge in, and think not of their journey’s end, of the certain destruction at the end of the path. Every day they approach nearer their destruction, yet they madly rush on faster and faster. Oh, how dreadfully this looked to me!

I saw many traveling in this broad road who had written upon them, “Dead to the world, The end of all things is at hand, Be ye also ready.” They looked just like all the vain ones around them, except a shade of sadness which I noticed upon their countenances. Their conversation was just like the gay, thoughtless ones around them; but they would occasionally point to the letters on their garments with great satisfaction calling for the others to have the same upon theirs. They were in the broad way, yet they professed to be of that number who were traveling the narrow way. Those around them would say, “There is no distinction between us, We are all alike, We dress, and talk, and act alike.” (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4b, pp. 13, 14; written 1856)

The (supposedly) Christian travelers in the broad road had compromised with the world. In every way they looked, talked, and acted like those in the world, with one exception—they had words on their garments which the others had not, words stating “dead to the world; the end of all things is at hand; be ye also ready.” In 1856 Ellen White wrote that in the broad way everyone’s thoughts were centered upon themselves and their pleasure and that many who claimed to be Christians were traveling there also. One hundred fifty-six years later, Christianity has grown to 33,830 denominations (as tabulated by the World Christian Encyclopedia), with the United States having the largest Christian population of any nation. Would it be safe to say that these 33,830 denominations form a broad path? I think so. Today a picture might be better visualized having two broad paths leading to destruction—the traditional worldly path and the path of Christianity—for of the 33,380 denominations, only a very small percentage is non-trinitarian, and of that small percentage, not one denomination understands the final atonement that is taking place as we speak, and not one understands the beast of Revelation 13, or the call of Revelation 18, or the great controversy between Christ and Satan. You, brothers and sisters, who understand all these things, are the elect of God, and I beg of you to not be guilty of failing to heed the message to the Laodiceans, for “destruction is coming like a mighty whirlwind”:

The Lord gave me a view, January 26, 1850, which I will relate. I saw that some of the people of God are stupid and dormant, and but half awake; they do not realize the time we are now living in, and that . . . some are in danger of being swept away. I begged of Jesus to save them, to spare them a little longer, and let them see their awful danger, that they might get ready before it should be forever too late. The angel said, “Destruction is coming like a mighty whirlwind.” (Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, p. 106; written 1850)

The Amen

Revelation 3:14 is the only place in Scripture that Jesus describes himself as “the Amen,” and it is important for us to understand why he does so here. In the Old and New Testaments, amen is a word used to confirm the acceptance of a task or to confirm the personal application of words to oneself. It is the acknowledgment that something is valid and binding for that person. It is like saying Yes! in response to something, and Jesus is saying Yes! to his heavenly Father. All that Jesus did and does is the will of his Father and only the will of his Father. He is completely submitted to him and likewise, Laodicea must completely surrender to Jesus in order to recover from its terrible condition.

Often before his sayings in the gospel records, we read of Jesus saying “verily, verily.” The Greek word translated verily is the same Greek word translated Amen in Revelation 3:14, and it is used by Jesus in the gospels to mean that the words he says following “verily, verily” are true and reliable. Jesus is the true and faithful witness because he says Yes! at all times and in all ways to his heavenly Father. This is what makes him the faithful and true witness.

The Beginning of the Creation of God

Jesus is also the “beginning of the creation of God.” In the Greek this expression can be interpreted in one of two ways. It can either mean that Jesus is the first creature that God ever created, or it can mean that Jesus is the chief agent of creation that God has. Letting the Bible interpret itself, we find that the latter position must be accepted because the Apostle Paul wrote:

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16–19; see also Revelation 21:6; 22:13; 1:11; 1 Corinthians 8:6)

I Know Thy Works

The words “I know thy works” are repeated in each of the messages of the seven churches. Regardless of how we apply the messages, Jesus knows the person, persons, and/or churches to whom he is speaking. He is not forgetful of any word spoken or any deed done. He knows everything, completely and thoroughly, as if freshly executed:

If every man who has influence could ascend some mount of vision from which he could behold all his works as Christ beholds them when He declares, “I know thy works”; if the laborer could trace from cause to effect every objectionable word and act, the sight would be more than he could bear (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 963; MS 128, written 1903)

Sobering words, indeed, but God has a plan:

But does not God know? Is there not knowledge with the Most High? Our God sees our hearts in a different light from that in which we see them. He is acquainted with our secret thoughts. He searches into the hidden recesses of our nature. He sends answers to our prayers, when we are filled with uneasiness and distress. He gives ear to our inward groanings, and reveals to us the plague spots in our characters, that we may overcome defects, instead of being overcome by them. When unknown chapters in regard to ourselves are opened before us, the test and the trial come; and the question is, whether or not we will accept the reproof and the counsel of God. Will we cling to our own ideas and plans, and value ourselves more highly than we ought? God knows better than we do what is good for his children; and if they could see their real necessity as he does, they would say that the Lord had dealt most wisely with them. The ways of the Lord are obscure to him who desires to see things in a pleasing light to himself. God can discern the end of his purpose from the beginning; but because the Lord’s ways are not man’s ways, they appear dark, severe, and painful to our human natures. But God’s ways are ways of mercy, and their end is salvation and blessedness. (The Review & Herald, July 3, 1888)

We are given the sacred privilege of bringing all our sinfulness to Christ, with repentant hearts and a turning away from sin, knowing that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Jesus will heal our backslidings, if we will only return to him:

Oh, how precious was this promise, as it was shown to me in vision! “I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” Oh, the love, the wondrous love of God! After all our lukewarmness and sins He says: “Return unto Me, and I will return unto thee, and will heal all thy backslidings.” This was repeated by the angel a number of times. “Return unto Me, and I will return unto thee, and will heal all thy backslidings.” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 143; written 1857)

The Laodicean Church Is No Different in God’s Sight than Babylon!

Please read carefully Revelation 3:15–18. The voice of Jesus Christ is heard. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore [not half-hearted], and repent. Behold, I [your Saviour] 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. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcome, and am set down with My Father in His throne” [Revelation 3:19–21].

Will the churches heed the Laodicean message? Will they repent, or will they, notwithstanding that the most solemn message of truth—the third angel’s message—is being proclaimed to the world, go on in sin? This is the last message of mercy, the last warning to a fallen world. If the church of God becomes lukewarm, it does not stand in favor with God any more than do the churches that are represented as having fallen and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. Those who have had opportunities to hear and receive the truth and who have united with the Seventh-day Adventist church, calling themselves the commandment-keeping people of God, and yet possess no more vitality and consecration to God than do the nominal churches, will receive of the plagues of God just as verily as the churches who oppose the law of God. Only those that are sanctified through the truth will compose the royal family in the heavenly mansions Christ has gone to prepare for those that love Him and keep His commandments. (Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, pp. 175, 176; brackets in original; written 1898)

Buy Gold and White Raiment

The gold that Jesus would have us buy of Him is gold tried in the fire; it is the gold of faith and love, that has no defiling substance mingled with it. The white raiment is the righteousness of Christ, the wedding garment which Christ alone can give. The eyesalve is the true spiritual discernment that is so wanting among us, for spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. (The Review & Herald, April 1, 1890)

The true Witness has said, “Buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.” What is the shame of this nakedness and poverty? It is the shame of clothing ourselves with self-righteousness, and of separating ourselves from God, when He has made ample provision for all to receive His blessing. (Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, p. 139; written in 1886)

Anoint Eyes

The Laodiceans boasted of a deep knowledge of Bible truth, a deep insight into the Scriptures. They were not entirely blind, else the eye-salve would have done nothing to restore their sight, and enable them to discern the true attributes of Christ. Says Christ, By renouncing your own self-sufficiency, giving up all things, however dear to you, you may buy the gold, the raiment, and the eye-salve that you may see.

The Lord sees the necessities and the peril of the soul. He came to our world in the garb of humanity, that his humanity might meet our humanity. While we were in sin, he pledged his life for us. He loves the sinner, but hates the sin. Therefore he does not leave his tempted ones with eyes that are nearly blind to their own imperfections. The man who uses the eye-salve is enabled to see himself as he is. His wretchedness is discovered; he feels his imperfections, his spiritual poverty, and his need of being healed of his spiritual malady. (The Review & Herald, November 23, 1897)

Even as I Also Overcame

Only to the people of Laodicea does Jesus offer his own example of overcoming as the pattern. Every message has promises for overcomers, but only in the message to the Laodiceans does Jesus set before his people his example of overcoming. Why? To explain to a lukewarm people with utmost seriousness and clarity that compromised overcoming is not acceptable in heaven. In order to sit with him in his throne, the believer’s overcoming must be exactly as was his—complete and with no compromise with sin.

“True piety begins when all compromise with sin is at an end” (Gospel Workers, p. 363; 1892 version).

Christ came to give to the world an example of what perfect humanity might be when united with divinity. . . . The reconciliation of mercy and justice did not involve any compromise with sin, or ignore any claim of justice; but by giving to each divine attribute its ordained place, mercy could be exercised in the punishment of sinful, impenitent man without destroying its clemency or forfeiting its compassionate character, and justice could be exercised in forgiving the repenting transgressor without violating its integrity.

The love of a holy God is an amazing principle, which can stir the universe in our behalf during the hours of our probation and trial. But after the season of our probation [those living when Jesus comes], if we are found transgressors of God’s law, the God of love will be found a minister of vengeance. God makes no compromise with sin. The disobedient will be punished. The wrath of God fell upon His beloved Son as Christ hung upon the cross of Calvary in the transgressor’s place. The love of God . . . reaches out to transform the sinner into an obedient, faithful child of God; but not a soul can be saved if he continues in sin.

Sin is the transgression of the law, and the arm that is now mighty to save will be strong to punish when the transgressor passes the bounds that limit divine forbearance. . . .

There are many who profess Christ, but who never become mature Christians. They admit that man is fallen, that his faculties are weakened, that he is unfitted for moral achievement, but they say that Christ has borne all the burden, all the suffering, all the self-denial, and they are willing to let Him bear it. They say that there is nothing for them to do but to believe; but Christ said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus kept the commandments of God. (Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 313, 314; published 1890)

Having no compromise with sin also includes all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to sin:

God makes no compromise with sin. A genuine conversion changes hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong. (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1101; written 1893)

 But Laodicea is a city of compromise, called so by historians because of its ability to prosper although faced with a diversity of people and cultures which traversed its highways and which traded goods and built businesses within its borders:

There is no city whose spirit and nature are more difficult to describe than Laodicea. There are no extremes, and hardly any very strongly marked features. But in this even balance lies its peculiar character. Those were the qualities that contributed to make it essentially the successful trading city, the city of bankers and finance, which could adapt itself to the needs and wishes of others, ever pliable and accommodating, full of the spirit of compromise. (W. M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches, pp. 311, 312)

The Meaning of the Shaking

The counsel Jesus gave to the church of Laodicea is thankfully heeded by some and is responsible for a shaking among God’s people:

“I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God’s people.” (Early Writings, p. 270; published 1882)

Please note that straight truth and the straight testimony are equated in the above testimony. In another vision, Sister White saw two crowns—one heavenly and the other earthly. Perhaps those seeking after the earthly treasure are Laodiceans at heart, people who think they are rich and increased with goods but who are really wretched and blind and in a position of compromise with the world.

In a vision given me at Battle Creek, Michigan, October 25, 1861, I was shown this earth, dark and gloomy. Said the angel, “Look carefully!” Then I was shown the people upon the earth. Some were surrounded by angels of God, others were in total darkness, surrounded by evil angels. I saw an arm reached down from heaven, holding a golden scepter. On the top of the scepter was a crown, studded with diamonds. Every diamond emitted light, bright, clear, and beautiful. Inscribed upon the crown were these words: “All who win me are happy, and shall have everlasting life.”

Below this crown was another scepter, and upon this also was placed a crown, in the center of which were jewels, gold, and silver, reflecting some light. The inscription upon the crown was: “Earthly treasure. Riches is power. All who win me have honor and fame.” I saw a vast multitude rushing forward to obtain this crown. They were clamorous. Some in their eagerness seemed bereft of reason. They would thrust one another, crowding back those who were weaker than they, and trampling upon those who in their haste fell. Many eagerly seized hold of the treasures within the crown, and held them fast. The heads of some were as white as silver, and their faces were furrowed with care and anxiety. Their own relatives, bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh, they regarded not; but, as appealing looks were turned to them, they held their treasures more firmly, as though fearful that in an unguarded moment they should lose a little, or be induced to divide with them. Their eager eyes would often fasten upon the earthly crown, and count and recount its treasures.

Many who sought this earthly crown were professed Christians. Some of them seemed to have a little light. They would look wishfully upon the heavenly crown, and would often seem charmed with its beauty, yet they had no true sense of its value and glory. While with one hand they were reaching forth languidly for the heavenly, with the other they reached eagerly for the earthly, determined to possess that; and in their earnest pursuit for the earthly, they lost sight of the heavenly. They were left in darkness, yet were anxiously groping about to secure the earthly crown.

I then saw a company pressing through the crowd with their eyes intently fixed upon the heavenly crown. As they earnestly urged their way through the disorderly crowd, angels attended them, and made room for them to advance. As they neared the heavenly crown, the light emanating from it shone upon them and around them, dispelling their darkness, and growing clearer and brighter, until they seemed to be transformed, and resembled the angels. They cast not one lingering look upon the earthly crown. Those who were in pursuit of the earthly, mocked them, and threw black balls after them. These did them no injury while their eyes were fixed upon the heavenly crown, but those who turned their attention to the black balls were stained with them. The following scripture was presented before me:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:19–24. (Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, pp. 161, 162, 163; vision occurred 1861)

René Favaloro was a cardiac surgeon who spent many years at the Cleveland Clinic, and in 1967, Dr. Favaloro performed the very first cardiac bypass surgery. In 1971 he returned to his native Argentina and established an institution patterned after the Cleveland Clinic. He trained many residents, he offered hygienic and disease-prevention information to the poor in an effort to reduce the mortality rate, he turned no one away who needed medical care, regardless of the ability to pay, and he refused to join the corrupt medical system of bribes and kickbacks. His standards were high, he had a vision for health care in Argentina, and his foundation grew into the largest in Central and South America, but the promised funding from social services in Argentina never fully came, other payments due the foundation dried up, and his collaborators urged him to join the corrupt system—it seemed to them the only way to succeed. His foundation employed 1,000 people and layoffs were beginning because payroll could not be met. He was faced with financial ruin and with the failure of his dream of health care for his beloved people of Argentina.

René Favaloro had high standards, he had skill and knowledge, he had compassion for the poor and needy, but he did not have the True and Faithful Witness, the Amen of God, and because of this he could not face the future; instead, in the year 2000, this gifted and talented man took his life.

Just before Jesus returns to this earth, there also will be a people who cannot face the future. They will call for the mountains and rocks to fall on them:

And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:16, 17)

We, beloved, do not need to be poor and needy Laodiceans. Instead, let us be the overcomers who have a right to the tree of life and who fear not “the face of him that sitteth on the throne”—the great God of the universe—for our God and Father will accept us with open arms when we truly say Yes! to his Faithful and True Witness.

Onycha Holt

Youth’s Corner—Wise Counsel to Youth

“I write unto you, young men,” says the apostle, “because ye have overcome the wicked one.” There is a work of overcoming to be done, and it is given to the youth to experience the joys of the overcomer. Into the life of every believing child of God is to be brought the work of resisting evil.

Take the promises of God, and claim them as your own. If you fail,—and you may; for older persons fail,—do not give up in discouragement, and say, The Lord has forsaken me. If you have done wrong, go to the one you have wronged, and confess your fault. Then go to the Lord, and ask his forgiveness. He will receive you; for he has promised. “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When Christ abides in your life, you may look to him to complete the work he has begun in you.

God will give wisdom and understanding and knowledge to the youth who seek him with sincerity of heart. He will help the student to be a power for good in the schoolroom, and outside the school to live so true a life that the world will take knowledge of him that he has been with Jesus and learned of him. He will enable the older members of the family to set a true example before the younger members, and will teach them how to seek together for perfection of character.

God wants us to be good and to do good. It is your privilege to learn of God, and then teach others what they must do to be saved. The voice is a wonderful talent. God wants you to improve this talent, that you may be a blessing to others. Learn to speak the kind and helpful and tender word. It is your privilege to break away from every form of wrong-doing. By putting away pride and selfishness and coming into right relation with God, you may begin to have heaven right here on earth. And in this work you will be laborers together with God.

Do not cease to pray. The Lord will hear the prayer of the contrite heart. Repeat the promise. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” With this threefold promise God desires to impress your hearts with the assurance that if you will go to him in your need, he will surely help you. When you make an entire surrender to God, he will give you most precious thoughts, and heavenly angels will co-operate with you. The Spirit of God will give you words to speak that will touch hearts and help you to reach souls.

Satan has a great desire to ruin souls; Christ has a great desire to save them. “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,” he invites, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This is a blessed invitation to lay all our perplexities at the feet of Jesus, and to rest in his love.

Take time to think of the pleasures that await those who are faithful. When this earthly pilgrimage is ended, you will have the Saviour’s presence with you continually. He will lead you to behold the beautiful scenes of the earth made new. He will talk to you about the things most precious, and will teach you a fuller knowledge of his way. The education you gain in the things of God in this life will not end here. All that you gain you will take with you to the future life; and Christ, as your teacher, will continue the work of education through the eternal ages. And your love for him will broaden and deepen as you realize more fully all that his sacrifice has purchased for you. Ellen G. White

(The Youth’s Instructor, April 28, 1908)

WV and CA Camp Meetings Planned

SGM and PVF wish to announce the dates for the West Virginia camp meeting (June 26–30) in Smyrna Valley and the dates for the California camp meeting (July 24–29). There are also plans for a youth camp-out camp meeting, tentatively scheduled for July 30–August 4. Please record these important events on your calendar now.

For the youth camp we are considering a nice national park, such as Yosemite, King’s Canyon, or other such parks located in the western part of the United States. All attendees must provide their own transportation, camping gear, and food. We are actively seeking input on where and how this camp meeting can be the most blessing to as many as possible. If you would like, or think you would like, to attend and have suggestions or ideas, please contact Pastor Stump at allen@smyrna.org or call him at 304–732–9204 as soon as possible.   

Earthquake at Andrews

Can you imagine authorities saying an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale is only a small tremor? Furthermore, what if only a small minority of people acknowledged an earthquake had happened, despite their homes lying in ruin and disaster being all around? Surely that sounds impossible. Perhaps it might be impossible in the physical realm, but on February 2 and 3, 2012, there was a grand seismic spiritual event in Adventism and hardly a spiritual seismograph noticed the quake.

The theological seminary at Andrews University invited Michael Kinnamon, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches, to be their keynote speaker for the annual Seminary Scholarship Symposium. According to the university website,

Kinnamon is a prominent religious leader in the United States. He is a clergyman in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a well-known ecumenical leader and educator, as well as the Allen and Dottie Miller Professor of Mission, Peace, and Ecumenical Studies at Eden Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. Previously, he served as the general secretary of the Consultation on Church Union and executive secretary of the World Council of Church’s Commission on Faith and Order. Kinnamon earned his PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School. (http://www.andrews.edu/news/2012/01/symposium.html)

Kinnamon’s theme was “The Ecumenical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved.” Denis Fortin, dean of the seminary, noted that the invitation was extended “after consultation with university administrators” (http://www.andrews.edu/agenda/item/23877). Therefore, we know that the university at the highest levels approved of this invitation. The presence of Kinnamon and his theme was downplayed by Denis Fortin. On the website for Andrews Univeristy, we read:

The Seminary Scholarship Symposium is done within an academic context with academic value. Kinnamon will speak at the plenary session on Thursday evening, Feb. 2, about current trends in the ecumenical movement in America and the voice Adventism could have in the Christian world. Then Nicholas Miller, associate professor of church history and director of the International Religious Liberty Institute, will provide our students with a response on behalf of the Seminary.

Our invitation to Michael Kinnamon is also intended to reach out to the wider Michiana community in hopes of attracting local people to Andrews for this lecture and symposium. Kinnamon is very well known and respected in broad circles of Christianity. He is also very active and influential in American politics and religious life. He is known as a spokesperson on various social issues and is passionate about Christianity and religious freedom.

This invitation and lecture should not be perceived or crafted as an attempt at rewriting our historical Adventist faith. We believe in the Three Angels’ Messages and the other tenets of our faith. We continue to promote religious liberty and the freedom of conscience. This is not a first step to join the NCC or any other such organizations and we are not promoting ecumenism. People should not exploit this event to create fear in the hearts of other Adventists. (Ibid.)

This is simply doublespeak at its best. It is claimed that in the interest of academia we will have one of the main representatives of what Adventism has in the past called Babylon come and tell us why we should join Babylon and be a part of Babylon. Then the dean of the seminary says that there are no such plans and Kinnamon’s visit to the seminary should not be exploited to cause concern among believers! All in the name of academic freedom! Beloved, when did truth cease to be important!? When did partaking of the fruit of good and evil become fashionable and acceptable in the interest of academia and for the sake of community outreach? When did the statement of Jesus, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), fail? When did the following statement become a lie?

Error is never harmless. It never sanctifies, but always brings confusion and dissension. It is always dangerous. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 292)

It is of interest that Andrews University did not choose to record these meetings or, at least, has not made recordings publicly available. However, to Dr. Kinnamon’s credit, he graciously was willing to share the prepared remarks for one of his meetings, “The Ecumenical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved,” with us by email. Though we do not have any official recordings, we do have a transcript of this presentation. There have also been a few firsthand accounts from those who actually attended the meetings. To our knowledge, the first record of the event was published by Spectrum. While not the most favored publication by conservatives, Spectrum has, at least, provided some news on Kinnamon’s talks through the correspondence of Landon Schnabel, who is currently studying at the seminary. Some of the following key points he noted were taken from the Thursday morning talk of February 2:

Kinnamon stated that “the ecumenical movement’s aim is to make visible the unity which is our gift in Jesus Christ. Not a unity which we create, but a unity which is a gift to us in Jesus Christ.” In regard to Adventist fears of ecumenism, he said that he does not want us to lose our distinctives, but that Adventism has things to offer that other Christian churches have let atrophy and need to relearn. He made it clear that he does not want us to give up our convictions. Speaking of the Sabbath, he said,

“Heaven’s no, we don’t want you to give up the Sabbath. We need to learn from you about the Sabbath.” (http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2012/02/02/former-head-national-council-churches-speaks-andrews-seminary-symposium—part-i)

However, another source related to us that later in this talk Kinnamon made clear that it was not the day of the Sabbath that they wanted to learn about from Adventists but, rather, the spirit of keeping the day. This means they want us to teach them how to keep Sunday better. Perhaps those Adventists who accept the mark of the beast will be very glad to teach by precept and example.

Using Kinnamon’s notes as a source, we find the second session, entitled “The Ecumnical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved,” included the following appreciation about Adventists, after he first stated an appreciation of the welcome he had received:

It is important to say at the outset that there is much I appreciate about the Adventist tradition, including your network of schools and emphasis on education for all, your initiatives on behalf of religious liberty, your tradition of volunteer service, your support of hospitals and concern for the ministry of healing, and your celebration of the diversity of the human family. (Michael Kinnamon, “The Ecumnical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved,” paper delivered to the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, February 2, 2012)

Kinnamon noted that Dean Fortin suggested that he talk about trends in the ecumenical movement, but to Kinnamon that seemed to be putting “the cart before the horse.” Kinnamon then went on to discuss seven points that explained what ecumenism is and what it is not:

1. Ecumenism is not a movement aimed at creating the unity of the church. 

2. It follows that ecumenism is by no means the same as tolerant cooperation.

3. . . .ecumenism is not a matter of tinkering with the church through negotiations, but of repentance and conversion to a new way of seeng one another—namely, as sisters and brothers in God’s one church.

4. In seeking to manifest the unity we have in Christ, ecumenical, at its best, refuses to split doctrinal reconciliation from active commitment to justice. (Ibid. Emphasis is in the original)

Before proceeding to points 5–7, we would note that the point in number 4 is that the church does not separate theological truth from social justice, rather the church is to bring theology and justice together. Kinnnamon continues:

5. Ecumenism should not be the province of specialists who gather periodically in places like New York and Geneva. The ecumenical movement began as a lay-driven protest against the way the church has so often succumbed to the divisions of the world.

6. . . . ecumenism cannot be identified with the various structures that give it expression.

7. Ecumenism is not to be confused with interfaith relations. . . . interfaith engagement is not simply a wider circle of ecumenism, which, as I have indicated, seeks to make visible the koinonia Christians have with one another through Christ in order to witness more faithfully and effectively to the gospel. (Ibid.)

After discussing these seven points, Kinnamon then suggested two reasons why Seventh-day Adventists have “resisted fuller involvement” in the ecumenical movement:

1. An underemphasis on the “givenness” of the church.

2. . . . an overemphasis on your hold on truth. (Ibid.)

Within these points Kinnamon noted:

This is the key insight of the ecumenical movement: Christians bear witness to the unity of God, to God’s uniting power and grace, not just by what we say or by what we do (important as these can be), but by what we are–by the way we live with one another. Nietzsche once said that he might believe in their Redeemer if only Christ’s followers would look more redeemed! Let’s put it in scriptural terms: “By this will they know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

By the way, there are a number of ecumenically-involved churches that claim to be the true remnant or, simply, the true church. The Orthodox, for example, insist that membership in a council of churches does not necessarily mean that they accept the other members as “churches” in the full theological sense of the term.

The Orthodox, however, are able to participate with integrity because, at their best, they recognize that the boundaries of the church, to use their language, are charismatic not canonical. It is the presence of the Spirit, not canonical or even doctrinal restrictions, that determines the contours of the church. “We know where the church is,” they say in effect, “we just don’t know where it isn’t.” And so they enter into conciliar life and other dialogues with a certain humility, open to discern the Spirit’s movement in places they may not have expected. I offer this for your consideration. (Ibid.)

Kinnamon introduced the concept of Laodicea which believes it has prospered and needs nothing from others, implying that we think we have no need to learn from others:

Paul is quite clear in I Corinthians: The danger is not that the members of the body will say, “You have no need of me,” but that they will say, “I have no need of you.” One of the saddest statements in all of scripture is that attributed in Revelation to the church at Laodicea: “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” (Ibid.)

Kinnamon concluded his remarks by stating:

My concern, if I can put it this way, is with your grammar. “Adventist” is a wonderful adjective, but an idolatrous noun. You are not “Seventh-Day Adventists” but “Seventh-Day Adventist Christians.” This is the noun that defines us—a recognition that we have communion with all those who have communion with him. This is a gift. And it is very Good News!

Kinnamon’s closing statement matches what he said in earlier talks using other denominations, such as the Methodists. To be known as Seventh-day Adventists is idolatrous to Kinnamon, but in the spirit of academia, we have invited those who worship a false god on a false day to speak to our future priests, so they can better serve their flocks!

To the credit of some in the congregation, we learned that later in the session “Kinnamon asked if Saturday is the key, or if to make more of an impact on other churches we can speak about Sabbath-keeping with the question of the particular day as a secondary issue. The tension in the room rose and a resounding ‘no!’ could be heard throughout the auditorium. Kinnamon then said that if we hold to the ‘no,’ then we are outside the ecumenical movement as it had been discussed” (http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2012/02/02/former-head-national-council-churches-speaks-andrews-seminary-symposium—part-ii).

We have been told that “It is a backsliding church that lessens the distance between itself and the Papacy” (The Signs of the Times, February 19, 1894). When we cuddle up to the papacy or her daughters, there comes a point when we are not simply backsliding, but backslidden!

Allen Stump

Next Month: “Why You Should Not Be Involved in the Ecumenical Movement.”

Preventing Heart Attacks

The January 26, 2012, issue of the Adventist Review carried an article on health entitled “After a Heart Attack,” by Doctors Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless. The main message of this article was highlighted in large, colored type in the center of the page which stated: “The single most important factor in preventing a heart attack is appropriate exercise” (p. 25). While appropriate exercise is helpful for preventing heart attacks, it is not the single most important factor in preventing a heart attack. How can I say this against the published statement of well-known Adventist medical doctors? I say it because sound research declares that diet trumps everything, including exercise.

Since becoming an Adventist over thirty-five years ago, I have believed in health reform but have had serious reservations concerning most of the various different ideas about what constitutes health reform. Anyone who has been in Adventism, for even a short time, has had the chance to be exposed to many and various ideas and philosophies of what constitutes health reform. Some of these ideas are anything but sound and lack good scientific support. In December 2010, I received an email with a link to a recording of an interview with Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. at Radio New Zealand. While I usually do not have time to view or to listen to a lot of what is sent me, I did listen to the whole interview. The information was right on target, and we actually published the interview in two parts in the January and February 2011 issues of Old Paths. After doing more research, after hearing Dr. Esselstyn present at a health seminar in May 2011, and after recording an interview him for use at camp meeting, I was sold on the main thrust of his gospel of health. I could see that it was not only scientifically correct, but that it also was in line with the laws of health God has been pleased to provide the remnant people.

Why do I even bring Dr. Esselstyn into the discussion, if we are supposed to already know the laws of health? That is a good question. Sadly, most Adventists do not follow the health message. Statistics tell us that, in reference to our diet, only about half of Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarians and that only about 10 percent live on a plant-based diet, using no animal products. Yet, even in this narrow range of vegan Adventists, we still find heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Why? We find these diseases, in part, because meat, dairy, and eggs are not the only foods promoting them.

 Sugar is considered by many to be a junk food, and we readily agree with this. Food that provides empty calories, that has virtually no nutrition other than calories, is considered junk food, and there is a food that almost everyone consumes that has more empty calories per ounce than even sugar and no more vitamins or minerals. That food is, please sit down, added oil in the diet in all forms. That is right, added oil, whether it is canola, corn, soybean, and even olive and coconut oils. These oils are simply junk foods when served outside their natural containers.

Let me make something very clear. The human body needs some oil to be healthy, and it acquires this needed oil from the foods we eat. Without oil, you will die, but how much oil and how we should obtain this oil is what is important to know. We should not get it from a deep fryer or a skillet or from the salad dressings and toppings we often eat. God has provided, in a natural setting, the amount of oil we need in the foods we eat when we eat them in their natural states. Almost all foods have some oil in them, and this amount of oil is just in the proper proportion to what the body needs. A wise and wonderful Creator has seen fit to make all things, so that they may be a blessing when properly used.

You might be thinking didn’t Ellen White recommend olive oil for some diseases? Yes, Ellen White spoke of the oil from olives, but let us see what she said in context: “The oil, as eaten in the olive, is far preferable to animal oil or fat” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 298). So, in the natural package that God has provided, some olive oil is good.

A totally plant-based, whole-foods diet perfectly agrees with the counsels God has been pleased to give us. This diet is naturally low in fat and high in the nutrients that we need for good health. What Dr. Esselstyn and others have done is to provide the scientific basis for why this diet works so dramatically well in preventing disease and even in reversing much heart disease, as well as other chronic health problems.

Plant-based nutrition has become the basis for former President William Clinton to restore his health from savage heart disease. It has helped him so much that his number one national agenda now is the health of America.

Not everyone is a believer. Dr. Greg Smith, of the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, who performed President Clinton’s bypass surgery in 2004, has stated: “There is no medical treatment for reversing the obstructions that have already formed in his blood vessels” (“The Last Heart Attack,” CNN Special Report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta). However, the twenty-five plus years of research of Dr. Esselstyn and of others, such as Dean Ornish, have proven that heart disease need never exist, and if it does happen, it need not become worse.

Now let us go back to the Adventist Review article for a few minutes and see if we can clarify some misconceptions. The article begins with a question from the wife of a man who had recently had a heart attack, wanting to know the best thing to do to prevent another attack. This certainly is a good question, and the answer is also the answer to the question about how we can prevent heart attacks in the first place. That answer is to adopt the eight laws of health into our lives, especially a proper diet. The article by Doctors Handysides and Landless calls for appropriate exercise as being the most important factor, but this is not correct. According to Dr. Esselstyn “diet trumps everything.” Why? Because patients who are too sick to perform any exercise can, through modifications of diet alone, reverse heart disease and begin to lead normal lives in which they can walk, run, and do other exercise. Many people who exercise vigorously end up with heart problems due to poor nutritional choices. For example, let us examine the case of Dick Dubois, one of Dr. Esselstyn’s patients whom he writes about in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease:

Then there’s the case of Dick Dubois, a chronic marathoner and president of a container recycling facility in New York State. In the fall of 2004, Dick began to experience occasional tightness in his chest during his training runs. A stress test showed nothing abnormal, and he continued running. But the pain worsened, and by February 2005, an echo stress test suggested a partial blockage of the right coronary artery. His doctors prescribed cholesterol-reducing medication, aspirin, and a beta-blocker. But the pain persisted. He began walking, instead of running. Even so, through the summer of 2005, he continued to have chest pain.

In September of that year, an angiogram revealed multiple blockages in Dick’s coronary arteries. The worst was an 80 percent blockage at the origin of the left circumflex and left anterior descending artery. Dick’s cardiologists were concerned that any attempt at angioplasty or stenting could be fatal, and they scheduled an appointment for a bypass procedure with a leading cardiac surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic.

As it happened, shortly after the angiogram Dick had read The China Study, T. Colin Campbell’s brilliant work on nutrition and disease. He was interested in the chapters that described my work, and ultimately contacted me. On October 9, 2005, Dick and his wife, Rosalind, come to Cleveland for counseling. They decided to try my approach at least until the December appointment with the heart surgeon. When the surgeon called to say there was an unexpected opening in his schedule, and gave Dick an earlier appointment on October 26, Dick thought about it, but decided to stick with our program for at least two months. By the time the surgeon called just eleven days after our counseling session, he was no longer experiencing any chest pain during his walking workouts. Eventually he canceled the surgery . . . (pp. 107, 108)

Here we have the case of an avid exerciser, in fact, a chronic marathoner. If exercise was the key component to his heart health, he would surely have been well-protected from heart disease by his vigorous workouts. No doubt his heart muscle was very healthy and strong, but the problem is not so much the heart as the plumbing that goes to the heart. A faulty diet can destroy the body’s ability to properly circulate the blood, no matter how much exercise we perform.

Lining the blood vessels are endothelial cells which are the guardians of the circulatory system. They produce nitric oxide which acts like Teflon in the blood stream. The importance of nitric oxide to good health is highlighted by the fact that in 1998, Doctors Robert F. Furchgott, Ferid Murad, and Louis J. Ignarro won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering its use. What does nitric oxide do?

1. It relaxes blood vessels, selectively boosting blood flow to the organs that need it.

2. It prevents white blood cells and platelets from becoming sticky, and thus starting the buildup of vascular plaque.

3. It keeps the smooth muscle cells of arteries from growing into plaques.

4. It may even help to diminish vascular plaques once they are in place. (Ibid., p. 42)

Animal fat and even vegetable oil, including olive oil, have a damaging effect upon the endothelial cells. This has been well-documented by Dr. Robert Vogel, using the brachial artery tourniquet test (BART). The BART has demonstrated that even one meal with excess oil can causes the endothelial layer to not function properly for several hours, reducing blood flow by more than 30 percent. No wonder excess oil is junk food! We look with contempt upon a McDonald’s hamburger, and rightfully so, but then we add even more fat calories than found in a Big Mac to our salad by making it swim in olive oil which is 14–17 percent saturated fat! So we think we are eating a healthy salad, when we are really eating a Big Mac in disguise!

The Adventist Review article acknowledges the importance of diet, but then says “we know that the older recommendations of extremely low total fat intake are not best, as omega-3 fatty acids are both reparative and beneficial.” This is confusing because no definition for “extremely low” is provided. The truth is that a plant-based, whole-foods diet provides all the omega-3 fatty acids, which are polyunsaturated, we need. Furthermore, fish oil, as suggested as a source of the omega-3 fatty acids in the Adventist Review article, is not needed. Flaxseeds and green leafy vegetables are good sources of these essential nutrients. The article mentions “oil in nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and even peanuts, are healthful” but fails to mention that these foods are 70 to 80 percent fat by calories; therefore, nuts, if eaten, should be eaten in very small quantities.

One argument that has been given by some who fail to adopt reform is that our genetics determine our fate. However, as Handysides and Landless correctly state, “our lifestyle also contributes a great deal.” It has been said that genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger. As Dr. T. Colin Campbell explains:

Genes do not determine disease on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed. (The China Study, p. 233)

While appropriate exercise is important, it is not the most important factor in preventing and reversing heart disease. The most important single factor, rather, is diet. This is encouraging, for there are some patients who are so sick that they cannot exercise, even by moderate walking. The diet or lifestyle that has been proven to not only prevent, but also to reverse heart disease, consists of eating an entirely plant-based, whole-foods diet, without any added oil—in other words, all plant-based foods and no highly-refined or highly-processed foods. The first and easiest rule is to eat nothing with a mother or a face, but there are some basic rules for those with heart disease or for those who wish to never develop heart disease that Ann Esselstyn outlines in her husband’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Here are some of these rules:

Do not eat meat.

Do not eat chicken, even white meat.

Do not eat fish.

Do not eat any dairy products. That means no skim milk, no nonfat yogurt, no sherbet, and no cheese at all.

Do not eat eggs. That includes egg whites and even egg substitutes that contain egg whites.

Do not use any oil at all. Not even virgin olive oil or canola oil.

Use only whole-grain products. That means no white flour products. Be sure the list of ingredients uses a phrase like “whole wheat” or “whole grain.” Avoid semolina and wheat flour, which are actually white. Use brown rice. (pp. 120, 121)

Earlier in the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Dr. Esselstyn discusses the effects of sugar upon the heart and the blood system, and we add that to our list of things to avoid.

What are we to eat instead? The whole grains, as mentioned in the last of the listed items above, along with vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes. Because of their high fat content, Dr. Esselstyn also recommends that his patients who already have heart disease eat no avocados or coconut. Nuts are not recommended, either, if there is already a diagnosis of heart disease. Interestingly, in listing the foods necessary for making good blood, Ellen White does not list nuts as necessary: “The simple grains, fruits of the trees, vegetables, have all the nutritive properties necessary to make good blood. This a flesh diet cannot do” (Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 322). The foods that especially help to rebuild the endothelial cells are the leafy green vegetables, such as kale, collards, swiss chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and lettuce in all forms, among others. Eat very liberally of these for good heart health.

Adventists should be leading the world in heath and good nutrition, However, I am fearful that when doctors like Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., Dean Ornish, John McDougall, and other non-Adventists, who are currently leading the field in these areas, see how shallow our lifestyle is compared to what we know, we quickly lose our credibility with them and others. Let it not be said of us that we let them, and the watching world, down. You can prevent and reverse heart disease, and with it, you will also prevent obesity, cancer, hypertension, and most diabetes and strokes, all by simply doing what is best to do in the first place. And the bonus of it all is that when properly prepared, it all tastes great! Editors

Old Paths is a free monthly newsletter/study-paper published monthly by Smyrna Gospel Ministries, HC 64 Box 128-B, Welch WV 24801-9606. U.S.A. It is sent free upon request. The paper is dedicated to the propagation and restoration of the principles of truth that God gave to the early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers. Duplication is not only permitted, but strongly encouraged. This issue, with other gospel literature we publish, can be found at our web sites. The urls are: http://www.smyrna.org and http://www.presenttruth.info. Phone: (304) 732-9204. Fax: (304) 732-7322.

Editor: Allen Stump - E-mail: editor@smyrna.org.
Associate Editor: Onycha Holt - E-mail Onycha@smyrna.org

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This page was last updated: Sunday, May 26, 2013