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While it is true that the Three Angels’ Messages contain truth of a general nature – for example, “worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” – it is also important to note that the vision of three angels flying one after the other, represents a sequence of prophesied events. These events were fulfilled at specific times, in a similar way as the four Beasts of Daniel 7 arose sequentially and represented four successive kingdoms. Likewise, the Seven Churches are sequential in their prophetic fulfilment and represent God’s Church at specific times, some of which overlap with the periods represented by the three angels.
The first angel represents the initial stages of the Advent Movement, before the disappointment of 1844, as they preached a message of the second coming of Christ and the hour of God’s judgement approaching. The second angel represents a later stage of the same Movement, starting in the summer of 1844, when the focus of the message was a call for people to leave Babylon, the churches that had rejected the message of the soon return of Jesus Christ. The third angel represents the later Advent Movement that has been preaching the Sabbath and warning people against the Mark of the Beast, from shortly after the disappointment in 1844.
There is an overlap between the time period covered by the three angels and the time period covered under the last three of the seven churches, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. It was said to Sardis that “thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.”; to Philadelphia, “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it”; and to Laodicea, “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” (Rev. 3:1-17). Unlike Sardis and Laodicea, there was no rebuke for Philadelphia.
Many persons view Philadelphia as the period covering what is known as the Great Awakening or the Evangelical Revival, extending up to the disappointment in 1844; and Laodicea, they see as the period from 1844 onward. In this, they give God’s commendations of Philadelphia to a brand of Christianity that was considered by men to be alive, but which God’s message declared was dead. The testimony concerning the churches that rejected the Advent Message before the disappointment was as follows:
“But the churches generally did not accept the warning . . . . . . The message which God had sent for the testing and purification of the church revealed all to surely how great was the number who had set their affections on this world rather than upon Christ. The ties which bound them to earth were stronger than the attractions heavenward. They chose to listen to the voice of worldly wisdom and turned away from the heart-searching message of truth.
“In refusing the warning of the first angel, they rejected the means which Heaven had provided for their restoration. They spurned the gracious messenger that would have corrected the evils which separated them from God, and with greater eagerness they turned to seek the friendship of the world. Here was the cause of that fearful condition of worldliness, backsliding, and spiritual death which existed in the churches in 1844.”
– White, Ellen G., The Great Controversy, p. 379, 380.
The churches were dead, even though they were thought to be alive. This was the period leading up to the disappointment in 1844.
Where then would Philadelphia fall? Philadelphia comes immediately after the dead Sardis. Consider what was said of Philadelphia: “I have set before thee an open door and no man can shut it” and “thou hast a little strength”, “hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” and “hast kept the word of my patience” (Rev. 3:8-10). This is an apt description of the early Pioneers of the Adventist Movement just after the disappointment of 1844. The testimony concerning the Pioneers was as follows:
“I was pointed back, and saw the condition of God’s people in 1844. Then God was pleased with them, and his love rested upon them.” – White, Ellen G., Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, p. 279.
“I saw a company who stood well guarded and firm, and would give no countenance to those who would unsettle the established faith of the body. God looked upon them with approbation. I was shown three steps—one, two and three—the first, second and third angels’ messages. Said the angel, Woe to him who shall move a block, or stir a pin in these messages. The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance. The destiny of souls hangs upon the manner in which they are received. I was again brought down through these messages, and saw how dearly the people of God had purchased their experience. It had been obtained through much suffering and severe conflict. Step by step had God brought them along, until he had placed them upon a solid, immovable platform.” – White, Ellen G., Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1, p. 168, 169.
How long did this period of Divine approval last? It did not last more than a few years. The transition to Laodicea took place by 1857. In that year, the situation was described as follows:
“In the spring of 1857, I accompanied my husband on a tour East. His principal business was to purchase the Power Press. We held conferences on our way to Boston, and on our return. This was a discouraging tour. The testimony to the Laodicean church was generally received; but some in the East were making bad use of it. Instead of applying it to their own hearts, so as to be benefited by it themselves, they were using the testimony to oppress others . . . . . .”
“I saw that the testimony to the Laodiceans applied 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.” – White, Ellen G., Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, p. 222, 223.
It is significant, what a main cause for this condition was. We are told:
“And I saw what God marked above everything else was their contented state. They have the truth. None can successfully oppose, and they enjoy it, as if the Saviour had no work for them to do in the salvation of souls.” – White, Ellen G., Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, p. 279.
This point in time was not immediately after the disappointment when they were struggling to hammer out the truth by tireless study of the scriptures. They were now at a point when they had the truth and were contented that nobody could oppose them. This was even before the organization was established. By 1857, much of the severe hardship had already passed. The account was:
“Could some be placed back ten or twelve years, and labor through the discouragements that then existed, they would find a great change in the labor now, compared with what it was then. Then the friends of the cause were few, their means limited, and it was a constant battle against error and fanaticism. Privation and want were then endured by God’s servants without murmuring.” – White, Ellen G., Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, p. 286.
The Church of Philadelphia was the Post-Disappointment, Pre-Organization Movement that had a short span from the end of the 2300 days in 1844, as was prophesied by Daniel, when the “open door” became applicable, to around 1856 when the Church of the Laodiceans started. Daniel prophesied that at the end of the 2300 days God would start a work of restoring the truth that had been trampled underfoot. Sure enough, on the very next day, after the disappointment at the end of the 2300 days on October 22, 1844, God started to reveal new light to those who had just “a little strength”, who had “kept” His word, and had “not denied” His “name”. Starting with Hiram Edson’s vision, of Christ moving through the “open door” from the Holy Place to the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary in heaven, to the first vision of Ellen White (nee Harmon) later that same year, God restored the major truths that would keep His people grounded until the second coming of Christ. By 1858 God had already revealed that “Step by step had God brought them along, until he had placed them upon a solid, immovable platform” and that “God looked upon them with approbation” – White, Ellen G., Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1, p. 168, 169.
Establishing clearly the period that God in His wisdom described as Philadelphia, as distinct from the Sardis and Laodicean periods might seem like a small point, but it is very important. It saves us from looking for inspiration from the wrong period. Many Adventists today glorify the period of the so-called Great Awakening among Evangelicals, while speaking with derision of the early Adventist pioneers, not reckoning that, in God’s eyes, the first group was dead, while it was upon the latter group that God looked with approbation.
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
For further information, please visit Patience of the Saints at http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/
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The world is going through unprecedented times that call for wisdom, courage and most importantly righteousness. Unfortunately, in seeking to address the present scourge that the world is experiencing, a growing spirit of intolerance is rearing its ugly head, resulting in actions that are not only unwise but unrighteous.
Let it be understood at the outset that this presentation is not intended to question the science or efficacy of the popular solutions that are being promoted to address the present health challenges that the world is now experiencing. The view that is taken here is that persons should avail themselves of the best advice and solutions that they can access but they should not be forced.
This presentation is also raising two issues: firstly, is it consistent with our moral values, our concepts of liberty of conscience and freedom from slavery to force people to have substances put in their bodies, that they are not fully persuaded of as being in their best interest, with the threat of them losing their livelihoods and being denied normal access to their rights as citizens if they do not submit to such coercion?
Secondly, is the global drive to deny people the freedom to buy or sell unless they submit to receiving specified substances in their bodies possibly linked to an end-time system of enforcement that the Bible has warned against?
Fundamental issue of freedom from slavery
Regarding the first issue, a firm view is taken that if one cannot exercise the right to refuse a substance being put in their body without facing sanction or punishment, then all our vaunted talk about freedom from slavery and liberty of conscience is meaningless. Sam Sharpe and all our ancestors who sacrificed their lives to secure our freedoms would have died in vain. In an age of supposed enlightenment, human rights, and democracy, we would be no better than the evil society that tolerated slavery in the dark distant past. We would be no better than the slave-master who branded his slaves and punished them if they resisted.
Let it be clear, that the position taken here is not against the value of the solution that scientists, health experts and governments are so fully persuaded of. Rather, what is firmly rejected is the notion that it is the only solution. There are persons who have used natural remedies and other healing modalities effectively and they should have a right to do so.
The notion that someone is a threat to society simply because they refuse certain substances being put in their bodies, even though they are not sick, is spurious, evil and sets a framework for persecution of innocent people. Christians who claim to serve a loving God, do their Creator and Saviour great dishonour in accepting such notions.
Further, it is wicked and intolerant to consider a law-abiding citizen who has been paying their taxes faithfully as forfeiting their right to the services of the State simply because they refuse certain substances being put in their bodies. This matter is of fundamental significance.
Sunday law and subtle persecution
This leads me to another related issue. In seeking to address the present scourge, the Government has announced that Sundays are now no-movement days. If the Government had just announced, under normal circumstances, that no work would be allowed on Sundays, many Sabbath-keepers would have protested it as a move towards a certain end-time prophetic fulfilment that the Bible has warned against. However, the announcement of Sundays as no-movement days, in the context of a relaxation of the earlier inclusion of Mondays and Tuesdays, seem to have been met with wide acceptance. But there is no reason why normal work cannot be allowed on Sundays.
Prohibiting normal work on Sundays is a move in the wrong direction as it encourages the populace to break the Sabbath by making the seventh day Sabbath more attractive as a workday preceding the no-movement day. But one might say that it is not the business of Government to concern itself with whether citizens wish to rest or work on the Sabbath. The more fundamental issue, however, that Government ought to concern itself with is the fact that such an arrangement initiates subtle persecution of Sabbath-keepers who are now deprived of the only day that many of them would normally have to do some of their personal business.
Many Sabbath-keepers are at work Mondays to Fridays, they rest on the Sabbath, Saturdays, and would only have Sundays to go to Coronation Market or fulfil other personal necessities. Now they are deprived. This is subtle persecution. The law should allow normal work and movement on both Saturdays and Sundays so that those who wish to work on Saturday and rest on Sunday can do so, and likewise allow those who rest on Saturday and work on Sunday to do so.
The Mark of his Name
My second substantive issue is the mysterious Biblical concept of the Mark of the Beast. Many will immediately say that the present scourge and the global response to it has nothing to do with the Mark of the Beast. And maybe they are right. Let it be understood clearly that it is not being suggested here that a substance being injected in people’s bodies for health reasons is the Mark of the Beast. However, there are some issues.
The concept of the Mark of the beast, a Biblical concept, is well known, even though, many persons will admit that it is a mystery to them as to what that mark is. What is less considered is that the Bible, in speaking of this mysterious mark, mentions not only the Mark of the Beast but also the Name of the Beast and the Number of his Name – “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.” (Rev. 13:17).
The Bible further speaks of the Mark of the Beast as being the Mark of his Name – “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” (Rev. 14:11).
It should therefore be evident that both the “number of his name” and “the mark of his name” are proxies for the Name of the Beast. Name signifies identity and character, as evident, for example, when God proclaimed His Name to Moses – “And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:5, 6).
In contrast to God, who is merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, the Beast is the opposite – intolerant, unkind, impatient, wicked, and untruthful. It should therefore be recognized that it is the Name or character of the Beast that is most anti-Christ in nature, and that elicits God’s most stern warning against the Beast and his Image. It is the Name or character of the Beast that ultimately undergirds the system that will prevent persons from being able to buy or sell. God is love (1 John 4:8) and all God’s commandments are summarized as love to God and love to our fellowmen (Matt. 22:36-40). The Beast and his Image represent the opposite.
God warns against worshipping or giving homage to the Beast and his Image in the Third Angel’s Message as follows:
“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, 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.” (Rev.14:9-11).
It is interesting that the warning does not include condemnation of those who receive the Number of his Name. This is understandable because numbers are often hidden in codes and persons might receive the Number in a hidden code without realizing it. In fact, the mention of the number includes a hint that it will not be “in your face”, so to speak – “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” (Rev. 13:18). For those who can exercise wisdom and understanding, they may be able to recognize the number 666 – “Six hundred threescore and six”, though possibly hidden, and thus identify the footprints of the Beast.
The key is to make sure, that even if one takes the Number inadvertently, they do not embrace the Name (or character) of the Beast by becoming intolerant of those who would not have received it, so that they give homage to the Beast, supporting a system whereby innocent people are victimized and prevented from being able to buy or sell. If that happens, one would have already been sucked in, so that receiving the Mark of the Beast (whatever it is) would only be a matter of time.
What is worship?
Finally, what is worship? The Bible warns against worshipping the Beast and his Image. Does worship mean bowing down and saying, “I worship you”? Worship may include that, but it is much more than that. Worship comes from the concept of worth – “worth-ship”. It is about who you trust and obey. The Bible is clear that children of God should be subject to the authority of their respective governments – “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same” (Rom. 13:1-3). From this, it is also evident that governments are expected to act righteously and be a terror to evil and not to the good.
What happens, however, if government acts unrighteously, and demands of its citizens obedience to dictates that conflict with the law of God? The Bible is clear that God comes first. Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:21). Caesar represented the government of the day. From this it is evident that there are some things that belong to and pertain to Caesar and there are other things that belong to and pertain to God. One such thing that belongs to God is worship and supreme authority.
In this regard, where there is a conflict, the Bible is clear that God is the supreme authority – “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). Further, Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28).
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:15).
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