At the Brink of Eternity
God’s message of mercy to fallen man has been offered to each successive age. The Sovereign of the universe has raised up self-denying men and women to woo with “bands of love” (), using them as a blessing in every generation. In His great mercy, He sent angels on a special mission to save three souls with the simple message, “Escape for thy life” ( ). And our beloved Saviour also came to save an extreme yet valuable man with the startling appeal, “Why persecutest thou me?” ( ).
Likewise, in our generation, this message of mercy is no less important than in the past. We are the town criers of the last generation because to us has been revealed the final hour in which God’s mercy is being manifested.
The great controversy between Christ and Satan, now underway for nearly 6,000 years, is about to close. Satan is redoubling his efforts to sabotage the work of Christ in behalf of humanity and to bind souls in their bonds. His aim is to have the people submerged in darkness and impenitence until the mediatorial work of the Saviour is finished and there is no more sacrifice for sin.
“The great controversy between Christ and Satan, that has been carried forward for nearly six thousand years, is soon to close.”1 “For six thousand years, faith has builded upon Christ. For six thousand years the floods and tempests of satanic wrath have beaten upon the Rock of our salvation; but it stands unmoved.”2
Divine inspiration thus reveals to us that the time period for our planet and the acts to unfold in this drama—either in its favor or in its destruction—span approximately 6,000 years.
Having this clear evidence with respect to time, certain events have been determined in the great controversy. The building of faith in Christ, the unshakable Rock of Ages, has remained the only Source of salvation in the face of every storm.
1. A time of probation. In the early period of earth’s history, when the world was still young, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” ().
The Eternal One declared, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” ().
2. The call for destruction. The Almighty warned of the destruction of man, beasts, reptiles, and birds. “And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them” ().
3. The instrument of destruction. The instrument of destruction was to be a worldwide flood: “Behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die” ().
4. The solution. The solution was to enter the ark: “And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” ().
Notice that for this pre-Flood generation, the last message of mercy specified the period of time to remain; it also determined the creatures that would be destroyed, the instrument of destruction that would be used—and finally the way the people could be saved. Hence it is clear that the antediluvian generation perished not because of any neglect on God’s part to inform them and offer His grace. No, God in His great mercy placed their entire salvation within reach. But they refused it. This is why the word of God refers to the antediluvians as those “which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (). The patience of God lingered while the ark was being prepared—and any could freely enter. But sadly, the vast majority rejected that last invitation because they had no faith, and thus their own disobedience sealed their destiny.
1. The time of probation. The people established in the cities of the plain had been richly prospered. Unfortunately, an abundance of bread brought with it selfish idleness and sin despite the fact that God sent His messengers with the purpose of saving and not destroying them. These messengers appealed fervently that night. They explained clearly their divinely-appointed purpose, for “the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous” (). This grievous sin was to be the cause of their destruction.
“And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; and he said, Behold, now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night” (, ). That was the final night for the city.
2. The call for destruction. The angels warned, “Whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it” (, ).
3. The instrument of destruction. “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven” ().
4. The solution. When Lot’s family had been mercifully led out by the angels, they were warned, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” ().
God never fails to give in His word everything that is essential to be accomplished. He had a specific aim in the flames that shot from the sky. At the request of Lot, God did not direct His punishment toward Zoar, which was also in the plain. Amid this scene we see the supreme love and mercy of God in saving that small city of Zoar—along with Lot and his daughters.
The above illustrations from the book of Genesis are only in the past. Now we need to engage in an analysis of our own present and future:
1. The time of probation. The time allocated for this planet is limited. The Lord Jesus Christ is soon to issue the solemn proclamation: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (, ). In this case, to some extent the time specified is partly determined by our own behavior:
“It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in ‘because of unbelief’ . Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.”
“We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ’s sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action.”4
“In mercy to the world, Jesus delays His coming, that sinners may have an opportunity to hear the warning and find in Him a shelter before the wrath of God shall be poured out.”5
2. The call for destruction. In the last days, the spiritual crisis at hand is the worship of the beast and his image. The third angel of Revelation 14 warns, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” ().
3. The instrument of destruction. John the Revelator, who was shown in vision the closing scenes of earth’s history, writes, “I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth” (). As a result of the seven last plagues that follow, the Eternal One declares, “The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end” ( ). Ultimately, with regard to the enemies of God, the Revelator was given a prophetic view that “fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” ( , ) until finally, “Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame . . .” ( ).
4. The solution. Follow the Lamb wherever He goes. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. . . . Here is the patience of the saints: her are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (, , ).
At the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in 1888, “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. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family.”6
What were the effects of the last message of mercy on the angel of the church of the Laodiceans? The reactions were mixed. Strong opposition developed in Battle Creek and the Lord’s messenger supported Elders Jones and Waggoner in taking the message to the churches.
Sister Ellen G. White testified, “I became the subject of remarks and criticism, but no one of our brethren came to me and made inquiries or sought any explanation from me. We tried most earnestly to have all our ministering brethren rooming in the house meet in an unoccupied room and unite our prayers together, but did not succeed in this but two or three times. They chose to go to their rooms and have their conversation and prayers by themselves. There did not seem to be any opportunity to break down the prejudice that was so firm and determined, no chance to remove the misunderstanding in regard to myself, my son, and E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones.”7
Yet she also related a more positive subsequent experience: “I have never seen a revival work go forward with such thoroughness, and yet remain so free from all undue excitement. . . .
“There were many who testified that as the searching truths had been presented, they had been convicted in the light of the law as transgressors. They had been trusting in their own righteousness. Now they saw it as filthy rags, in comparison with the righteousness of Christ, which is alone acceptable to God. While they had not been open transgressors, they saw themselves depraved and degraded in heart. They had substituted other gods in the place of their Heavenly Father. They had struggled to refrain from sin, but had trusted in their own strength. We should go to Jesus just as we are, confess our sins, and cast our helpless souls upon our compassionate Redeemer.”8
“The Lord calls for a decided reformation. And when a soul is truly reconverted, let him be rebaptized. Let him renew his convenant with God, and God will renew His covenant with him. . . . Reconversion must take place among the members, that as God’s witnesses they may testify to the authoritative power of the truth that sanctifies the soul.”9
“. . . The workers in the cause need now to be wide awake. Many need to be converted anew and rebaptized. When they learn to drink of the Spiritual Rock which followed the army of Israel in the wilderness, when they partake daily of the heavenly manna, how their experience will change! What the food we eat is to our physical needs, Christ is to our spiritual necessities.”10
“I speak to our leading brethren, to our ministers, and especially to our physicians. Just as long as you allow pride to dwell in your hearts, so long will you lack power in your work. For years a wrong spirit has been cherished, a spirit of pride, a desire for preeminence. In this Satan is served, and God is dishonored. The Lord calls for a decided reformation. And when a soul is truly reconverted, let him be rebaptized. Let him renew his covenant with God, and God will renew His covenant with him.”11
“Have not many in this ministerial school seen their mistake of not abiding in Christ? Can not they have the privilege of repenting, and of doing their first works? Who shall condemn this work of repentance, of confession, of baptism? If some conscientiously feel that their first duty is to repent of their sins, confess them, and be baptized, is not this the first works that they must do?”12
“So much coarseness, such a lack of Christian politeness, has come into the lives of men who stand in official positions that my heart is sick and sore, and I can but weep to see how little of the tenderness of Christ they bring into their dealing with the children of God, the purchase of the blood of His only begotten Son. . . .
“It is this baptism of the Holy Spirit that the churches need today. There are backslidden church members and backslidden ministers who need re-converting, who need the softening, subduing influence of the baptism of the Spirit, that they may rise in newness of life and make thorough work for eternity. I have seen the irreligion and the self-sufficiency cherished, and I have heard the words spoken, ‘Except ye repent and be converted, ye shall never see the kingdom of heaven.’ There are many who will need rebaptizing, but let them never go down into the water until they are dead to sin, cured of selfishness and self-exaltation; until they can come up out of the water to live a new life unto God.”13
We should not despair when considering the vast territory around the world where we are not yet represented as a church. Our God is well aware of this reality, and He wants us to have a victorious Christian experience in our lives and thus be fitted for the latter rain. Only then will we actually be in a position to go to the whole world as promised in God’s Holy Word, the Bible, and in the Spirit of Prophecy. (See.)
“Clad in the armor of Christ’s righteousness, the church is to enter upon her final conflict. ‘Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners’ (), she is to go forth into all the world, conquering and to conquer.
“The darkest hour of the church’s struggle with the powers of evil is that which immediately precedes the day of her final deliverance. But none who trust in God need fear; for ‘when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall,’ God will be to His church ‘a refuge from the storm’ (14).”
Esteemed and beloved people of God who are scattered throughout many parts of the planet: The period of divine mercy is almost over for us, and as God’s people, our preparation time is almost over. The situation is very urgent. With all that we know and love, we need to act now at all levels of God’s work, and also as members and supporters of this great final message—with actions continuously wrought through the Divine channel. Following the Lamb wherever He goes, I will not hesitate to give a childlike jump into His loving arms, obeying His every word as a child does with his father who loves him. Following the Lamb wherever He goes means not to be passively strolling year after year on the same path, because “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (). To follow the Lamb wherever He goes means to move upward (vertically) because “the way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath” ( ). This last message of mercy that God has granted us does not allow us to stay and move on a horizontal plain—no, every day He elevates us as He did with Enoch and soon we will be closer to heaven and farther away from this world.