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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

The Gathering Storm

Friday, December 9, 2022
A Decaying World
Manuel Henda
In what time period are we living today?

“In the days of Martin Luther, there were those that came to him and said, ‘We do not want your Bible, we want the Spirit.’ Martin Luther said to them, ‘I will rap your spirit on the snoot.’ However great their pretences, they are not the children of God.”1

In times past, the righteous felt it was impossible to be connected with Rome, and although antagonism against this system of error was maintained only at the risk of life and property, many still had the courage to remain separate, fighting for the truth. Biblical truth was more precious to them than wealth, honor, or even life itself. They could not bear to see the truth buried under a mass of superstition and lying sophistry.

The Reformers took the Word of God in their hands and raised the standard of truth before the people, courageously declaring what the Lord had revealed to them through careful examination of the Bible. They suffered the cruelest of deaths for their fidelity to God, but by the blood of Christ they acquired for us freedoms and privileges—which sadly, are now being readily handed over to the power of evil by many who claim to be Protestants.

Let us recall the 95 Theses of Martin Luther which once echoed through mountains and valleys and shook Europe as with an earthquake. This one courageous man called forth a spiritual army of noble followers of Christ—and the truth they defended could not be silenced by flames, torture, imprisonment, or death. And even today, the remnant voices of that noble army of martyrs unveils the Roman power and the apostasy—the mystery of iniquity that Paul foresaw—that would intensify in the last days.

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:1–7).

The truth watered down

When the early church was corrupted, moving away from the simplicity of the gospel and accepting paid rites and customs, it lost the Spirit and power of God—and in order to govern the conscience of the people, it sought the support of secular power. This resulted in the papacy, a church that directed the power of the state and employed it to favor its own ends, especially in the punishment of so-called “heresy.”

“Whenever the church has obtained secular power, she has employed it to punish dissent from her doctrines. Protestant churches that have followed in the steps of Rome by forming alliance with worldly powers, have manifested a similar desire to restrict liberty of conscience. An example of this is given in the long-continued persecution of dissenters by the Church of England. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, thousands of non-conformist ministers were forced to leave their churches, and many, both of pastors and people, were subjected to fine, imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom.

“It was apostasy that led the early church to seek the aid of the civil government, and this prepared the way for the development of the papacy—the beast. Said Paul, There shall ‘come a falling away . . . and that man of sin be revealed.’ [2 Thessalonians 2:3.] So apostasy in the church will prepare the way for the image to the beast. And the Bible declares that before the coming of the Lord there will exist a state of religious declension similar to that in the first centuries. ‘In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, despisers of those that are good, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, traitors, heady, highminded, but denying the power thereof.’ [2 Timothy 3:1–5.] ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.’ [1 Timothy 4:1.] Satan will work ‘with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.’ And all that ‘received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved,’ will be left to accept ‘strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.’ [2 Thessalonians 2:9–11.] When this state of ungodliness shall be reached, the same results will follow as in the first centuries.

“The wide diversity of belief in the Protestant churches is regarded by many as decisive proof that no effort to secure a forced uniformity can ever be made. But there has been for years, in churches of the Protestant faith, a strong and growing sentiment in favor of a union based upon common points of doctrine. To secure such a union, the discussion of subjects upon which all were not agreed—however important they might be from a Bible standpoint—must necessarily be waived.”2

The establishment of the image of the beast

John the Revelator describes: “I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Revelation 13:11–15).

The image of the beast is formed before the door of probation closes. This second beast in Revelation 13 exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence and causes the Earth and its inhabitants to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and 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” (Revelation 13:16, 17).

This is the final test through which God’s people called out of Babylon (confusion) will pass before they are sealed. All who show their loyalty to God by observing His law and refusing to accept a false Sabbath, place themselves under the banner of the Lord God Jehovah, and receive the seal of the living God. In contrast, those who renounce the truth of heavenly origin and instead accept Sunday (the first day of the week of the pagan sun-god) rather than Saturday (the seventh day—God’s holy rest day established at creation) will receive the sign of the beast.

A threefold union

The Revelator further describes: “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:13, 14).

“The teachings of religious leaders have opened the door to infidelity, to spiritualism, and to contempt for God’s holy law; and upon these; leaders rests a fearful responsibility for the iniquity that exists in the Christian world.

“Yet this very class put forth the claim that the fast-spreading corruption is largely attributable to the desecration of the so-called ‘Christian Sabbath,’ and that the enforcement of Sunday observance would greatly improve the morals of society. This claim is especially urged in America, where the doctrine of the true Sabbath has been most widely preached. Here the temperance work, one of the most prominent and important of moral reforms, is often combined with the Sunday movement, and the advocates of the latter represent themselves as laboring to promote the highest interest of society; and those who refuse to unite with them are denounced as the enemies of temperance and reform. But the fact that a movement to establish error is connected with a work which is in itself good, is not an argument in favor of the error. We may disguise poison by mingling it with wholesome food, but we do not change its nature. On the contrary, it is rendered more dangerous, as it is more likely to be taken unawares. It is one of Satan’s devices to combine with falsehood just enough truth to give it plausibility. The leaders of the Sunday movement may advocate reforms which the people need, principles which are in harmony with the Bible; yet while there is with these a requirement which is contrary to God’s law, His servants cannot unite with them. Nothing can justify them in setting aside the commandments of God for the precepts of men.

“Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul, and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome. The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.”3

By a decree aimed at imposing a papal institution in opposition to the law of God, the unclean spirit of apostate Protestantism clasps with one hand the Roman power and the other with spiritism. Under the influence of this alliance, the United States is induced to repudiate all the principles of its Constitution which had made it a Protestant and republican government, and instead adopts measures for the propagation of the errors and falsehoods of the papacy. As this takes place, we can know that the hour of Satan’s mesmerizing power is at hand and the end is near.

Romanists, Protestants and worldlings together will accept the form of godliness without the power and will see in this alliance a grand ushering in of the long-awaited millennium.

The focus of persecution by both Protestants and Catholics

Jesus forewarned His followers: “Beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:17–22).

Protestant persecutions on behalf of Romanism—for which the religion of Christ was almost annihilated—will come into full force when Protestantism and popery are united.

When the main churches of the United States, uniting on those points of doctrine common to them, influence the state to impose their decrees and support their institutions, Protestant America will then have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the inflicting of civil penalties against dissidents will be inevitable. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Our deep need for reform

We are approaching the end of earth’s history, and now is no time to seek out the customs and practices of the world; our focus instead should be to search out the will of God to see what the Scriptures say, and then walk according to the light that God has given us. Our inclinations, habits, and practices should not have the preeminence. The Word of God is to be our norm.

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:9–11).

There is no need to be spiritual dwarfs if we continually exercise our spiritual faculties. By merely praying for this and that does not meet the needs of the case. We need to accustom our mind to focusing intensively on spiritual matters.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:1–13).

Exercise builds strength and vigor. Many professed Christians find themselves on their way to losing both worlds. Being a halfhearted and half-worldly Christian makes one not partly saved, but entirely lost.

Conclusion

Everything that takes you away from God has got to be renounced.

“Mammon is the idol of many. The love of money, the desire for wealth, is the golden chain that binds them to Satan. Reputation and worldly honor are worshiped by another class. The life of selfish ease and freedom from responsibility is the idol of others. But these slavish bands must be broken. We cannot be half the Lord’s and half the world’s. We are not God’s children unless we are such entirely.”4

“Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.”5

Let us redeem the time while the door of probation is still open! We have not a moment to waste. The end is near. Soon the thoroughfares of travel available in order to convey the truth will be surrounded by dangers on the right and on the left. This is done to obstruct the path of the Lord’s messengers so they cannot accomplish what they can still do now. We must press forward with our work. The powers of darkness are working with intense energy that proceeds from beneath, and the stealthy steps of the evil one are seeking to overtake those who are now asleep.

We now have warnings that are possible to give, a work we are granted to do quickly. Soon it will be more difficult than we can imagine. May the Lord help us to stay on the side of right, to work with our eyes fixed on Jesus, our Leader, and, patiently and perseveringly, advance to victory!

References:
1 Sermons and Talks, vol. 1, p. 22.
2 The Great Controversy (1888), pp. 443, 444. [Italics by Author.]
3 Ibid., pp.587, 588.
4 Steps to Christ, p. 44.
5 Ibid., p.47, 48.