The Reformation Herald Online Edition

The Purifying of God's Remnant Church

The Purifying of God’s Remnant Church
The Purifying of God’s Remnant Church
Part 2 of 2
A compilation from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, with commentary by M. B. Southwell
What does God use to test and sift His people?

1. Tested by messages

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). “God has revealed sacred and holy truths to separate His people from the ungodly and purify them unto Himself.”1

Sister White wrote: “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. . . .

“This testimony must work deep repentance; all who truly receive it will obey it and be purified.”2

2. Tested by the third angel’s message

“I saw that the holy Sabbath is, and will be, the separating wall between the true Israel of God and unbelievers; and that the Sabbath is the great question to unite the hearts of God’s dear, waiting saints.”3

3. Tested by the health message

“The work of health reform is the Lord’s means for lessening suffering in our world and for purifying His church.4

4. Tested by the dress reform message

“The dress reform is treated by some with great indifference and by others with contempt, because there is a cross attached to it. For this cross I thank God. It is just what we need to distinguish and separate God’s commandment-keeping people from the world. The dress reform answers to us as did the ribbon of blue to ancient Israel.”5

5. Tested by trials

“God has shown me that He gave His people a bitter cup to drink, to purify and cleanse them.6

“I was pointed to the providence of God among His people and was shown that every trial made by the refining, purifying process upon professed Christians proves some to be dross. The fine gold does not always appear. In every religious crisis some fall under temptation. The shaking of God blows away multitudes like dry leaves. Prosperity multiplies a mass of professors. Adversity purges them out of the church. As a class, their spirits are not steadfast with God. They go out from us because they are not of us; for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, many are offended.”7

“As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren.”8

It was written in 1882: “Soon God’s people will be tested by fiery trials, and the great proportion of those who now appear to be genuine and true will prove to be base metal.

. . . To stand in defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few—this will be our test. At this time we must gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason. The nation will be on the side of the great rebel leader.”9

Sister White wrote in 1888: “As trials thicken around us, both separation and unity will be seen in our ranks. Some who are now ready to take up weapons of warfare will in times of real peril make it manifest that they have not built upon the solid rock; they will yield to temptation. Those who have had great light and precious privileges, but have not improved them, will, under one pretext or another, go out from us. . . . When the storm of persecution really breaks upon us, the true sheep will hear the true Shepherd’s voice. Self-denying efforts will be put forth to save the lost, and many who have strayed from the fold will come back to follow the great Shepherd. The people of God will draw together and present to the enemy a united front.”10

“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.”

Trials identified

Just before World War I, Sister White wrote in 1909: “Fearful tests and trials await the people of God. The spirit of war is stirring the nations from one end of the earth to the other.”11 And in 1913, “I see a crisis before us, and the Lord calls for His laborers to come into line.”12 “I have been deeply impressed by scenes that have recently passed before me in the night season. There seemed to be a great movement—a work of revival—going forward in many places. Our people were moving into line.”13 (Remember the statement quoted above from The Great Controversy, p. 608, describing how, as the storm approaches, a large class of Seventh-day Adventists abandon their position.)

“A new life is coming from heaven and taking possession of all God’s people. But divisions will come in the church. Two parties will be developed.”14

In an article written in 1907, Sister White warned against the spirit of ecumenism and compromise as described in Isaiah’s references to confederacies: “In this representation of the prophet, we see that Satan is at work not only with worldlings, who have not the fear and love of God before them, but also with those who profess faith in Christ. Here are plainly represented two distinct parties, formed from a company that was once united. The members of one of these parties are in resistance to the will of God. They have taken themselves from the side of the loyal and true, and are now resisting the warnings of the Spirit of God. To the obedient the Lord will be ‘for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 8:14).”15

Tested by the 1888 message

God is calling us to heed the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14–22 and 18:1–4. As quoted earlier, Sister White saw a tremendous shaking, explained as follows: “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.”16

What is the result when a church rejects a message from God?

“Where the message of divine truth is spurned or slighted, there the church will be enshrouded in darkness.”17

Is this work of purification a quick work?

“This is an age famous for surface work, for easy methods, for boasted holiness aside from the standard of character that God has erected. All short routes, all cutoff tracks, all teaching which fails to exalt the law of God as the standard of religious character, is spurious. Perfection of character is a lifelong work, unattainable by those who are not willing to strive for it in God’s appointed way, by slow and toilsome steps.”18

“Courage, fortitude, faith, and implicit trust in God’s power to save do not come in a moment. These heavenly graces are acquired by the experience of years. By a life of holy endeavor and firm adherence to the right the children of God were sealing their destiny. Beset with temptations without number, they knew they must resist firmly or be conquered.”19

“I was shown that the testimony to the Laodiceans applies to God’s people at the present time, and the reason it has not accomplished a greater work is because of the hardness of their hearts. But God has given the message time to do its work. The heart must be purified from sins which have so long shut out Jesus. This fearful message will do its work. . . . Nearly all believed that this message would end in the loud cry of the third angel. But as they failed to see the powerful work accomplished in a short time, many lost the effect of the message. I saw that this message would not accomplish its work in a few short months. It is designed to arouse the people of God, to discover to them their backslidings, and to lead to zealous repentance, that they may be favored with the presence of Jesus, and be fitted for the loud cry of the third angel. . . .

“God will prove His people. Jesus bears patiently with them and does not spew them out of His mouth in a moment. Said the angel: ‘God is weighing His people.’ If the message had been of as short duration as many of us supposed, there would have been no time for them to develop character. . . .

“God leads His people on, step by step. He brings them up to different points calculated to manifest what is in the heart. Some endure at one point but fall off at the next. At every advanced point the heart is tested and tried a little closer. . . . Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation.”20

“The mighty shaking has commenced and will go on.”21

“God has given the message time to do its work. The heart must be purified from sins which have so long shut out Jesus. This fearful message will do its work.”

Shaking — sealing — latter rain

“Said the angel, ‘Look ye!’ My attention was then turned to the company I had seen, who were mightily shaken. I was shown those whom I had before seen weeping and praying in agony of spirit. The company of guardian angels around them had been doubled, and they were clothed with an armor from their head to their feet. They moved in exact order, like a company of soldiers. Their countenances expressed the severe conflict which they had endured, the agonizing struggle they had passed through. Yet their features, marked with severe internal anguish, now shone with the light and glory of heaven. They had obtained the victory, and it called forth from them the deepest gratitude and holy, sacred joy.”22

“I saw that God has honest children among the nominal Adventists and the fallen churches, and before the plagues shall be poured out, ministers and people will be called out from these churches and will gladly receive the truth. . . . But the light will shine, and all who are honest will leave the fallen churches, and take their stand with the remnant.”23

A people who will bear the ark

“You are exhorted to touch not the unclean thing; for in touching this, you will yourself become unclean. It is impossible for you to unite with those who are corrupt and still remain pure.”24

“There is a people who will bear the ark of God.”25

“The present is a time of great peril to the people of God. God is leading out a people, not an individual here and there. He has a church on the earth that abide in the truth.”26

“Before the destruction of Sodom, God sent a message to Lot, ‘Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed’ (Genesis 19:17). The same voice of warning was heard by the disciples of Christ before the destruction of Jerusalem: ‘When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains’ (Luke 21:20, 21). They must not tarry to secure anything from their possessions but must make the most of the opportunity to escape.

“There was a coming out, a decided separation from the wicked, an escape for life. So it was in the days of Noah; so with Lot; so with the disciples prior to the destruction of Jerusalem; and so it will be in the last days. Again the voice of God is heard in a message of warning, bidding His people separate themselves from the prevailing iniquity.

“The state of corruption and apostasy that in the last days would exist in the religious world was presented to the prophet John in the vision of Babylon, ‘that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth’ (Revelation 17:18). Before its destruction the call is to be given from heaven, ‘Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues’ (Revelation 18:4). As in the days of Noah and Lot, there must be a marked separation from sin and sinners.”27


Jesus said in John 4:34, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” The work on earth will soon come to an end, and Jesus will return to this corrupt, polluted world and claim His purified, unified church “not having spot, or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27). To accomplish this cleansing, He sends messages and trials.

As we look back to the phase of the Sardis church (the Protestant movement), we see Jesus sending the first angel’s message that shook the Protestant world and separated about 50,000 or more souls who were known as Millerites. Hence the message, “Babylon is fallen.”

To these souls, who then constituted the Philadelphian church, Jesus said He would make of the synagogue of Satan those who said they were Jews and were not (Revelation 3:9; Early Writings, p. 15). This I believe depicts the separation of the tares from the wheat during the Laodicean period.

The bitter disappointment of 1844 purged the Millerite (Philadelphia) movement.

Understanding the sanctuary doctrine with the help of the Spirit of Prophecy gave rise to the Seventh-day Adventist reformatory movement (Laodicean period). This movement had to be purged by messages and trials:

1. the health reform message.

2. the dress reform message.

3. the message of the True Witness to the Laodiceans; the 1888 message of Christ and His righteousness, beginning the work of the fourth angel of Revelation 18:1–4.

Two distinct classes were prophesied to come into existence from within the Advent movement. One class, which included the majority of Seventh-day Adventists, would eventually join the ranks of the opposition (the world). Meanwhile, the small class would cling to Jesus (truth) and be led out from the world.28 The trials on the commandments of God vs. the commandments of men came first to the Advent movement by the Civil War in the United States. The church was victorious during that particular trial, but when global war broke out in 1914, the majority of Seventh-day Adventists went the way of the world.

“In the choice of instrumentalities for the reforming of the church, the same divine plan is seen as in that for the planting of the church. The heavenly Teacher passed by the great men of the earth, the titled and wealthy, who were accustomed to receive praise and homage as leaders of the people. They were so proud and self-confident in their boasted superiority that they could not be molded to sympathize with their fellow men and to become colaborers with the humble Man of Nazareth. To the unlearned, toiling fishermen of Galilee was the call addressed: ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19).”29

1 Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 404.
2 Early Writings, p. 270.
3 Ibid., p. 33.
4 Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 112, 113.
5 Ibid., vol. 3, p. 171.
6 Early Writings, p. 47.
7 Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 89.
8 The Great Controversy, p. 608.
9 Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 136.
10 Ibid., vol. 6, pp. 400, 401.
11 Ibid., vol. 9, p. 17.
12 Testimonies to Ministers, p. 514.
13 Ibid., p. 515.
14 Selected Messages, bk2, p. 114.
15 The Review and Herald, July 18, 1907.
16 Early Writings, p. 270.
17 The Great Controversy, p. 378.
18 Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 500.
19 Ibid., p. 213.
20 Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 186, 187.
21 Early Writings, p. 50.
22 Ibid., p. 271.
23 Ibid., p. 261.
24 The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1102.
25 Testimonies to Ministers, p. 411.
26 Selected Messages, bk2, p. 79.
27 Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 166, 167.
28 See The Great Controversy, p. 608; Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 136; Ibid., vol. 6, p. 400; Early Writings, p. 271.
29 The Great Controversy, p. 171.