At the Crossroads
The perfectly unique environment that God created for the plant, animal, and human life on our wonderful “blue planet” is optimally situated in the infinite universe. And what magnificent, unmatchable wisdom and craftsmanship are manifested in the insurpassably ingenious systems interacting in our bodies! These realities cannot but leave the sensitive observer in a profound state of amazement and reverence before the unequalled majesty of the Creator.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” ().
“For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else” ().
The psalmist brilliantly acknowledges to God: “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them” ()!
These are undeniable proofs that “the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves” ()—creation bearing a faithful and undeniable testimony about its Author: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” ( , ).
“I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him” ().
There is such unfathomable wisdom and stunning genius in everything God has made, it can only inspire us with deep, inexpressible awe:
“O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches” ().
“He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding” ().
At every step and in each detail of creation, one can recognize the infinite love pervading the whole creation, as the motive underlying each and every one of the Creator’s actions.
“Every flower, every shrub, every tree, answered the purpose of its Creator. Everything upon which the eye rested was lovely and filled the mind with thoughts of the love of God. . . . Not a drop of rain falls, not a ray of light is shed on our unthankful world, but it testifies to the forbearance and love of God.”1
“The lofty trees, the lovely birds caroling forth their happy songs to their Creator, speak to their senses of the goodness, mercy, and benevolence of God. Every leaf and flower with their varied tints, perfuming the air, teach them that God is love. All that is good and lovely and beautiful in this world speaks to them of the love of our heavenly Father. The character of God they may discern in His created works.”2
There can hardly be anything more wonderful and awe-inspiring than the perfect combination of God’s wisdom and love displayed in His creation. This we are to perceive clearly for ourselves, and also teach others “to see the wisdom and love of God in His created works.”3 Therein we can recognize the Creator as the omnipotent and absolute Sovereign of the universe, fully worthy not only of our admiration but also of our permanent, lifelong worship.
To impress this reality in our minds and souls, God blessed and sanctified the Sabbath day, setting it apart as a day of rest and communion of man with God, appointed to keep vivid for the human race the remembrance of the identity and magnificence of the Creator, as reflected in the marvelous work of creation. Later on, the fourth commandment brought additional details about the purpose and the right manner of keeping the Sabbath.
By dragging our first parents into disobedience, Satan managed to divert the human race from the worship we all owe to our Creator to such an extent, that God had to notice the sad reality “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 widespread prevalence of the evil seemed to announce the universal victory of evil over righteousness and the full allegiance of man to the archenemy in his rebellion against the Almighty Creator of the universe. Nonetheless, even though the circumstances seemed utterly desperate and without any hope, God had not yet uttered His last word. His cause seemed to be defeated in this world and there was hardly anyone left to stand truly on the side of obedience towards Him.
Thankfully, God’s decision was not to give up on us, but rather to reveal His infinite love for us by the most supreme sacrifice He could have ever made: Giving His only begotten Son to redeem us. And at Golgatha, the universe witnessed the highest and most glorious love declaration ever conceived.
When “the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” () “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” ( ). This light meant the one who introduced Himself by saying: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” ( ). This light pierced the gross darkness “and the darkness comprehended it not” ( ). And this was the light of the knowledge of the love of God revealed in the incomprehensible sacrifice He made for our redemption: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” ( ).
By the crucifixion of Jesus, which appeared to be the utter defeat of the plan of redemption and the destruction of His disciples’ hopes, God has actually achieved the ultimate crushing of the head of the serpent, and the shameful death of Jesus on the cross was followed by the glorious resurrection and ascension with the promise of His return to take all the faithful home to their heavenly-prepared mansions.
History has proven that God is a real master at overturning hopeless situations and making a glorious victory out of what seemed to be the utter defeat! And, based on the frequency of this pattern, it seems that He is not only able to do it, but that He really enjoys doing it! He would leave situations to develop until every glimmer of hope seems to have perished, and when least expected, He intervenes with His Almighty hand, turning everything into a brilliant, resounding victory of His cause!
● Jacob facing Laban and Esau and his men (Genesis chaptersand ).
● Joseph’s ascension from slavery to the position of the governor of Egypt (Genesis chapter).
● The delivery of the people of Israel out of Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus chapter).
● Elisha and his servant surrounded in Samaria (2 Kings chapter).
● David and Goliath (1 Samuel chapter).
● Esther and Mordecai (Esther chapters, ).
● Daniel and his 3 friends facing the destruction order of the king (Daniel chapter).
● Daniel’s 3 companions in the fiery furnace (Daniel chapter).
● Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel chapter).
All these instances, however glorious in themselves, are but small examples of the ultimate, supreme overturn through God’s Providence, culminating world’s history and imminently preceding the second coming of Jesus.
According to Bible prophecy, everything is going to get worse before it gets better—and even perfect—again.
announces the coming of a beastlike power which will force humanity to universal worship of another power, called “the first beast.” It will also bring about the establishment of “the image of the beast” which will eventually enforce the death penalty upon those who will refuse to worship it.
But prior to that, by abolishing democratic freedoms and human rights, this beastlike power will establish a worldwide dictatorial system, which will impose its mark upon the right hand or the foreheads of all inhabitants of the earth, “both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond.” By means of economic sanctions, the society will prohibit those whom they falsely deem as disobedient from engaging in any commercial transactions, so that “no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (). The reality is that these persecuted ones will be obeying the Creator and His word, not their persecutors.
There are quite a few elements involved in this final crisis:
1. Since it´s about worship, it definitely has a religious component, having to do with obedience either towards God as the Creator, or the created beast.
2. Since “all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond” will be required to get the “mark of the beast,” there needs to be a kind of global form of government with worldwide jurisdiction.
3. In order for those events to happen—for whatever reason—people need to be deprived of their civil rights and the democratic systems need to be abolished and replaced with oppressive ones.
4. The technical conditions need to be given in order that the prohibition from buying or selling may be enforced; a cashless society seeming to be the optimal environment for that.
5. Obedience to the beast stands in direct opposition to obedience to God and the worship of the Almighty Creator, so people will have to choose between the two and to accept the consequences, which can go progressively from losing basic civil rights and liberties to being deprived of the right to perform commercial transactions, and ultimately to life itself in the form of a death penalty.
And, during this past year, it has been the first time in world history for such conditions to be realistically in sight and the entire socio-political and economical setting to be configured to make it possible. In the book, The Great Controversy, the inspired author provides a glimpse into the terrifying scenes which are to happen soon:
“Those who honor the Bible Sabbath will be denounced as enemies of law and order, as breaking down the moral restraints of society, causing anarchy and corruption, and calling down the judgments of God upon the earth. Their conscientious scruples will be pronounced obstinacy, stubbornness, and contempt of authority. They will be accused of disaffection toward the government. Ministers who deny the obligation of the divine law will present from the pulpit the duty of yielding obedience to the civil authorities as ordained of God. . . .
“Political corruption is destroying love of justice and regard for truth; and even in free America, rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance. Liberty of conscience, which has cost so great a sacrifice, will no longer be respected.”4
“When [Christ] leaves the sanctuary, darkness covers the inhabitants of the earth. . . . The restraint which has been upon the wicked is removed, and Satan has entire control of the finally impenitent. . . . . Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old.
“Those who honor the law of God have been accused of bringing judgments upon the world, and they will be regarded as the cause of the fearful convulsions of nature and the strife and bloodshed among men that are filling the earth with woe. . . . Satan will excite to still greater intensity the spirit of hatred and persecution. . . .
“The persistent refusal of a small minority to yield to the popular demand will make them objects of universal execration. It will be urged that the few who stand in opposition to an institution of the church and a law of the state ought not to be tolerated; that it is better for them to suffer than for whole nations to be thrown into confusion and lawlessness. . . . A decree will finally be issued against those who hallow the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, denouncing them as deserving of the severest punishment and giving the people liberty, after a certain time, to put them to death. . . .
“The people of God will then be plunged into those scenes of affliction and distress described by the prophet as the time of Jacob’s trouble. ‘Thus saith the Lord: We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. . . . All faces are turned into paleness.”5
“As the decree issued by the various rulers of Christendom against commandment keepers shall withdraw the protection of government and abandon them to those who desire their destruction, the people of God will flee from the cities and villages and associate together in companies, dwelling in the most desolate and solitary places. Many will find refuge in the strongholds of the mountains. . . . The beloved of God pass weary days, bound in chains, shut in by prison bars, sentenced to be slain, some apparently left to die of starvation in dark and loathsome dungeons. No human ear is open to hear their moans; no human hand is ready to lend them help.”6
“When the protection of human laws shall be withdrawn from those who honor the law of God, there will be, in different lands, a simultaneous movement for their destruction. . . .
“The people of God—some in prison cells, some hidden in solitary retreats in the forests and the mountains—still plead for divine protection, while in every quarter companies of armed men, urged on by hosts of evil angels, are preparing for the work of death. It is now, in the hour of utmost extremity, that the God of Israel will interpose for the deliverance of His chosen. . . .
“With shouts of triumph, jeering, and imprecation, throngs of evil men are about to rush upon their prey, when, lo, a dense blackness, deeper than the darkness of the night, falls upon the earth. Then a rainbow, shining with the glory from the throne of God, spans the heavens and seems to encircle each praying company. The angry multitudes are suddenly arrested. Their mocking cries die away. The objects of their murderous rage are forgotten. With fearful forebodings they gaze upon the symbol of God’s covenant and long to be shielded from its overpowering brightness.
“By the people of God a voice, clear and melodious, is heard, saying, ‘Look up,’ and lifting their eyes to the heavens, they behold the bow of promise. The black, angry clouds that covered the firmament are parted, and like Stephen they look up steadfastly into heaven and see the glory of God and the Son of man seated upon His throne. . . . Again a voice, musical and triumphant, is heard, saying: ‘They come! they come! holy, harmless, and undefiled. They have kept the word of My patience; they shall walk among the angels;’ and the pale, quivering lips of those who have held fast their faith utter a shout of victory.
“It is at midnight that God manifests His power for the deliverance of His people. The sun appears, shining in its strength. Signs and wonders follow in quick succession. The wicked look with terror and amazement upon the scene, while the righteous behold with solemn joy the tokens of their deliverance. Everything in nature seems turned out of its course. The streams cease to flow. Dark, heavy clouds come up and clash against each other. In the midst of the angry heavens is one clear space of indescribable glory, whence comes the voice of God like the sound of many waters, saying: ‘It is done’ ().
“That voice shakes the heavens and the earth. There is a mighty earthquake, ‘such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.’, . The firmament appears to open and shut. The glory from the throne of God seems flashing through. The mountains shake like a reed in the wind, and ragged rocks are scattered on every side. There is a roar as of a coming tempest. The sea is lashed into fury. There is heard the shriek of a hurricane like the voice of demons upon a mission of destruction. The whole earth heaves and swells like the waves of the sea. Its surface is breaking up. Its very foundations seem to be giving way. Mountain chains are sinking. Inhabited islands disappear. The seaports that have become like Sodom for wickedness are swallowed up by the angry waters. . . . The proudest cities of the earth are laid low. The lordly palaces, upon which the world’s great men have lavished their wealth in order to glorify themselves, are crumbling to ruin before their eyes. Prison walls are rent asunder, and God’s people, who have been held in bondage for their faith, are set free. . . .
“Thick clouds still cover the sky; yet the sun now and then breaks through, appearing like the avenging eye of Jehovah. Fierce lightnings leap from the heavens, enveloping the earth in a sheet of flame. Above the terrific roar of thunder, voices, mysterious and awful, declare the doom of the wicked. The words spoken are not comprehended by all; but they are distinctly understood by the false teachers. Those who a little before were so reckless, so boastful and defiant, so exultant in their cruelty to God’s commandment-keeping people, are now overwhelmed with consternation and shuddering in fear. Their wails are heard above the sound of the elements. Demons acknowledge the deity of Christ and tremble before His power, while men are supplicating for mercy and groveling in abject terror.”7
“Soon there appears in the east a small black cloud, about half the size of a man’s hand. It is the cloud which surrounds the Saviour and which seems in the distance to be shrouded in darkness. The people of God know this to be the sign of the Son of man. In solemn silence they gaze upon it as it draws nearer the earth, becoming lighter and more glorious, until it is a great white cloud, its base a glory like consuming fire, and above it the rainbow of the covenant. Jesus rides forth as a mighty conqueror. Not now a ‘man of sorrows,’ to drink the bitter cup of shame and woe, He comes, victor in heaven and earth, to judge the living and the dead. . . . As the living cloud comes still nearer, every eye beholds the Prince of life. No crown of thorns now mars that sacred head; but a diadem of glory rests on His holy brow. His countenance outshines the dazzling brightness of the noonday sun. ‘And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.’.
“Before His presence ‘all faces are turned into paleness;’ upon the rejecters of God’s mercy falls the terror of eternal despair. ‘The heart melteth, and the knees smite together, . . . and the faces of them all gather blackness.’ 8; . The righteous cry with trembling: ‘Who shall be able to stand?’ The angels’ song is hushed, and there is a period of awful silence. Then the voice of Jesus is heard, saying: ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ The faces of the righteous are lighted up, and joy fills every heart. And the angels strike a note higher and sing again as they draw still nearer to the earth.”
“Amid the reeling of the earth, the flash of lightning, and the roar of thunder, the voice of the Son of God calls forth the sleeping saints. He looks upon the graves of the righteous, then, raising His hands to heaven, He cries: ‘Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust, and arise!’ Throughout the length and breadth of the earth the dead shall hear that voice, and they that hear shall live. And the whole earth shall ring with the tread of the exceeding great army of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. From the prison house of death they come, clothed with immortal glory, crying: ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’. And the living righteous and the risen saints unite their voices in a long, glad shout of victory. . . .
“All blemishes and deformities are left in the grave. Restored to the tree of life in the long-lost Eden, the redeemed will ‘grow up’ () to the full stature of the race in its primeval glory. The last lingering traces of the curse of sin will be removed, and Christ’s faithful ones will appear in ‘the beauty of the Lord our God,’ in mind and soul and body reflecting the perfect image of their Lord. Oh, wonderful redemption! long talked of, long hoped for, contemplated with eager anticipation, but never fully understood.
“The living righteous are changed ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.’ At the voice of God they were glorified; now they are made immortal and with the risen saints are caught up to meet their Lord in the air. Angels ‘gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.’ Little children are borne by holy angels to their mothers’ arms. Friends long separated by death are united, nevermore to part, and with songs of gladness ascend together to the city of God.”9
The faithful few will have acknowledged God as their Creator, and have worshipped “him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” () as the only Sovereign of the universe; they have kept themselves away from Babylon and separated from her false doctrines and wicked practices. They have not worshipped the beast nor accepted its mark, but instead have persisted in the patience of the saints, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
They have been faithful unto the end, and it is now time for them to receive the crown of life. Therefore, they will be addressed the words of acceptance, which will see them through into the eternal home of the children of God: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” ().