The Everlasting Covenant and a Transforming
Knowledge of God
The purpose of the everlasting
covenant is to provide the means for salvation from sin; that is, to
provide for complete restoration of voluntary allegiance to God and to
the law of His kingdom.
In the kingdom of heaven no coercion is used to obtain allegiance. There are no jails and no execution chambers. The discipline of force and fear found in God’s dealings with people on this earth is a temporary expedient made necessary by the emergency of sin, and is for use only while God’s people are still at the level of wayward children. Step by step He has led the human race through their childhood and adolescence; and now He is about to let them graduate and assume the full responsibility for their own decisions. Those who have already chose to fly the flag of the kingdom of heaven will be led through their final experience of soul cleansing, and they will be given an opportunity to prove their total allegiance to be on a completely voluntary basis.
When God gave to man a freedom of choice, He essentially gave to him a share of His own prerogative and autonomy, and of His throne. For in this gift, man has an individual independence, a power to operate under his own initiative, to make his own decisions, and to manipulate the laws of nature for his own profit.
It was by the power of free choice that sin appeared. God was not in man choosing to sin. When man sinned, he did so by his own choice and apart from the choice of God. If God were in man choosing to sin, then God would also be a sinner. But sin is an abomination to Him; He does not transgress His own law. Therefore man has his own independent power of choice. He can, within his own sphere, choose to act independently of the choice of God.
When man uses this power of independent choice to transgress God’s law, he thereby commits sin. (1 John 3:4). Such action is an evidence of lack of faith or confidence in the righteousness of God’s decisions. Thus, the basic sin is really doubt of God’s integrity. Thus, conversely, faith in God’s integrity is basic righteousness, and expresses itself in allegiance to God and submission to His decisions. That is how righteousness comes by faith in God; it is faith in His righteousness, which leads to voluntary obedience of His law. Without faith, therefore, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)
Christ lost His kingdom on this earth when man chose to disobey Him. Eve believed the serpent’s false statement regarding the integrity of God. Adam loved his wife more than he loved God, and he chose to sin with her. These choices showed a disrespect for the integrity of God, a doubt of His honesty (on the part of Eve) and of His righteousness, and of His justice in placing an arbitrary restriction upon man’s freedom.
Essentially, God’s character was regarded as being not strictly one of self-denying love but rather one of selfishness. Such was the doubt of God’s integrity which was first introduced by Lucifer before the world was created; and this doubt was the result of self-deception caused by pride and exaggerated self-interest.
Fundamental sin is doubting the righteousness of God. Originally, this doubt is fostered by pride of self, which is an evidence of selfishness. When one deliberately chooses to break through the moral restriction which God has placed on the operation of the free will, thinking that he will thus obtain greater satisfaction, he thereby shows his distrust of God’s righteousness and judgment in establishing that restriction; and he thereby places himself at variance with the law of life, and he cannot survive except by the merciful intervention of Christ, the Saviour. The law of life for earth and heaven is self-renouncing love. (Desire of Ages, 20)
God began to lose His kingdom in heaven before the fall of man, when Lucifer first began to doubt the righteousness of His character. When Lucifer, and the angels he influenced, decided to choose independence of God’s law, they robbed God of His dominion over them.
Not that God was unable to make them obey; He could have forced them. But the moment God introduces force, He removes from His creatures their freedom of choice. As long as He operates His kingdom without coercion, He can reign over His subjects only while they voluntarily choose to obey Him. When a ‘teen-age lad’ flaunts the authority of his parents, they have lost dominion over him, unless they resort to force. It is even so with the kingdom of God. But apparently the gift of free choice to men and angels is regarded with such value by the Creator that He was willing to give His life in order to preserve it and to restore allegiance on a voluntary basis. (John 3:16) (cf. Mount of Blessing, 96, 97, 204)
Great Controversy 591 – “God never forces the will or the conscience; but Satan’s constant resort – to gain control of those whom he cannot otherwise seduce – is compulsion by cruelty. Through fear or force he endeavours to rule the conscience and to secure homage to himself.”
It should be evident, then, that the restoration of God’s kingdom in the hearts of men can occur only when the voluntary allegiance of His subjects has been restored. It is the purpose of the everlasting covenant to restore this allegiance.
Heb. 8:10 – “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (Ezekiel 36:25-28)
Jer. 31:33, 34 – “But this shalt be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; . . . I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Patriarchs and Prophets 372 – “The new covenant was established upon better promises (than the old covenant) –the promise of forgiveness of sins, and of the grace of God to renew the heart, and bring it into harmony with the principles of God’s law. . . .
“The same law that was engraved upon the tables of stone, is written by the Holy Spirit upon the tables of the heart. . . . Through the grace of Christ we shall live in obedience to the law of God written upon our hearts.”
But salvation from sin and restoration of allegiance to the government of God was also the purpose of the advent of Jesus.
Matt. 1:21 – “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.”
Isa. 9:6, 7 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
Therefore, the advent of Jesus is an inherent part of the outworking of the everlasting covenant.
It is significant that the last appeal which Christ ever made to His people, before relinquishing His former glory and assuming the garb of humanity at the first advent of Jesus, was an appeal for allegiance to His law delivered through Moses.
Mal. 4:4 – “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.”
And the last promise that He ever made to His people while yet in His former estate, ere His great sacrifice of condescension, was a promise of restoration of all that had been lost, lest the earth should be smitten with a curse.
v. 5, 6 – “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Jesus verified this by saying: “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” – Matt. 17:11. That this promise was not totally fulfilled by John the Baptist is evident from a comparison of Matt. 17:11-13 with John 1:21. All things were not restored by John the Baptist; and the dreadful day of the Lord was far removed from the people who lived in his day.
The everlasting covenant itself promised the means whereby its purpose would be accomplished; namely, through a revelation of the character of God.
Jer. 31:34 – “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me (cf. John 14:7-9), from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”
Such a revelation was the very purpose of the advent of Jesus.
John 17:26 – “And I have declared unto them thy name (i.e., His character; cf. Ex. 33:18-23; 34:5, 6), and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
God’s character of love has been misunderstood and misrepresented. A message for this time is to make known His true Character.
Christ’s Object Lessons 415 – “It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time (i.e., the last days; see p. 420 & 421) a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth.”
Isa. 60:2 – “Behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.”
But this knowledge of His character of love, while available theoretically to the new covenant saints by a study of the written Word (John 5:39), does not come home to the heart in transforming power except through the agency of the Holy Ghost.
Rom. 5:5 – “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
Thus, two things are involved in the revelation of God’s character of love to the new covenant saint: (1) the theoretical knowledge, as learned through a study of the written Word, and (2) the practical experiential knowledge, as delivered through the Holy Ghost. But when this knowledge is obtained, it will transform the heart, and thereby fulfil the promise of the covenant.
Christ’s Object Lessons 114 – The experimental knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent, transforms man into the image of God. It gives to man the mastery of himself, bringing every impulse and passion of the lower nature under the control of the higher powers of the mind. It makes its possessor a son of God and an heir of heaven.”
It is to identify the means whereby this revelation will become a personal possession of the saints, and thus fulfil the terms of the everlasting covenant, that this manuscript is being written. Such identification is necessary, else would many of God’s people misinterpret the strange experience which is to come upon them to purify them and clothe them with the imparted righteousness of Christ. For it is a paradox that the same experience which comes to God’s people to purge them will at the same time separate out from among them those who are unprepared – those who do not believe nor accept the counsel called forth by the testimony of the True Witness; and it will cause them to turn against God and His saints and to accuse Him and His saints of being the cause of their trials. Therefore it is necessary that the experience be identified and interpreted for what it really is, in order that those who are willing may be prepared. Unless we all repent and buy of Him gold tried in the fire, we will be spewed out of His mouth. (Rev. 3:14-19) But God will do nothing in the experience of His people except He first reveals it to His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7) Therefore, He is bringing it to our attention at this time, for He is about to accomplish it.
The theoretical knowledge of the character of God comes through a study of His written Word, but a practical soul-transforming, experimental knowledge of God comes through a personal experience. When that experience is received, a personal understanding of the magnitude of Christ’s love is brought home to the soul by the Holy Ghost, and this will transform the heart. By beholding we become changed.
Desire of Ages 389 – “It is by beholding His love, by dwelling upon it, by drinking it in, that we are to become partakers of His nature. . . . A theoretical knowledge will do us no good.”
2 Cor. 3:18 – “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The consequence of a fuller revelation of the glory of the Lord – His matchless character of self-denying love – is an empowering of a repentant sinner to cease from sin. For the expulsion of sin from the life is an act of the soul itself. (Desire of Ages, 466.6) It was by a decision of the will that Adam brought sin into the world, and it is by a decision of the will that sin will be expelled.
Yet the full revelation of the love of God will not come home to our hearts and bring us the power which transforms our hearts until we receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain.
Testimonies to Ministers 506 – “By the power of the Holy Spirit the moral image of God is to be perfected in the character. We are to be wholly transformed into the likeness of Christ. The latter rain, ripening earth’s harvest, represents the spiritual grace that prepares the church for the coming of the Son of Man.”
This is the experience for which God’s true people have long been praying, striving, and waiting – and wondering why it has not come.
The new birth experience has a progressive application. That which comes by the first conversion under the influence of the former rain is to provide for victory over sin – to gain the mastery over every wrong word and action. It is possible to keep the commandments under the former rain experience. Full sanctification is attainable under this dispensation.
But before this life-time work of full sanctification is reached (and many never reach it), the sinner is accepted into the family of God on the merits of Christ’s righteousness, which is accounted to the sinner and is imputed to him when he accepts Christ as his personal Saviour. Thus God sees the sinner as righteous by substitution. Christ makes up for the sinner’s deficiency with His own divine merit. (cf. 1 SM 382)
1 Selected Messages 215 – “The only-begotten Son of God has died that we might live. The Lord has accepted this sacrifice in our behalf, as our substitute and surety, and on the condition that we receive Christ and believe on Him. The sinner must come in faith to Christ, take hold of His merits, lay his sins upon the Sin Bearer, and receive His pardon. It was for this cause that Christ came into the world. Thus the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the repenting, believing sinner. He becomes a member of the royal family, a child of the heavenly King, an heir of God, and joint heir with Christ.”
Even he who attains to the expulsion of sin from his life and gains the victory is still dependent upon the substitutionary righteousness of Christ for acceptance with God. For the best obedience that man can offer while in his sinful body is still inadequate to meet the divine standard. Man’s righteousness is still as filthy rags in God’s sight.
This is so, because under the former rain the transformation of the heart and cleansing of the soul temple is not completed. Prior to 1844 our High Priest was still in the first apartment of the sanctuary; not until after 1844 was that sanctuary scheduled to be cleansed. Under the former rain, we are to cleanse our soul temples of every defilement by laying aside every cherished sin. This we must do before we can receive the latter rain. Inasmuch as the leopard cannot change his spots, neither can we change our sinful natures. We may indeed cease to sin, and this is the soul cleansing referred to under the former rain experience; but we accomplish this under the continued contrary pressures of the sinful nature. In this experience we offer the sacrifices of righteousness and place our trust in the Lord.
But after 1844 our High Priest entered the most holy place to minister on our behalf the merits of His shed blood in order to provide the total transformation of our sinful natures and to totally cleanse us from the complete record of all sin on our physical bodies, thereby removing the former pressures and bodily urges to sin and restoring us to the original purity of our first parents before the fall. This is the ultimate application of the new birth experience. It is the Messenger of the Covenant coming suddenly to His temple in the latter rain who cleanses and purifies the sons of Levi. (Mal. 3:1-3) Not until this occurs has the everlasting covenant fulfilled its purpose in our lives.
Christ will not come until the church is prepared to meet Him. The time for mastery over self and sin to occur and for the image of God to fully appear in His people is now, before Jesus comes. In fact, Jesus cannot come to receive His people until they do attain the likeness of His character.
Rev 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
Christ's Object Lessons, 69 – “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.
It is the privilege of every Christian, not only to look for, but to
hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Note that the hastening of the coming of the Lord is not here portrayed as depending on the extensiveness in spreading the gospel; it is dependent on the intensiveness of the gospel’s effect upon the heart of each individual. The purpose of spreading the gospel to all the world has no meaning with reference to the coming of the Lord unless it is spread for a witness. And unless that witness of the character of God transforms the heart, the spreading of the gospel to all the world will not hasten the coming of Jesus. (cf. Matt. 24:14).
Therefore, the time for the experimental knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ to come to His people is now. This is present truth.
Christ’s Object Lessons 415 – “The last message of mercy to be given to the world is a revelation of His character of love.” And if our eyes were anointed with eyesalve, we would readily see that this is the basic message represented by the mighty angel of Revelation 18 in the loud cry, which exposes and destroys for all time the false charges of the evil one against the character of God. The confusion of Babylon concerning the true nature of God’s justice, mercy, and love, some of which still exists even in the minds of His own people, is dissolved. The deceptions of the evil one are unmasked. Babylon falls. (This is not the only meaning of the fall of Babylon).
An experience awaits the people of God at this crucial hour, an experience which will give them a personal revelation of God’s most amazing character of self-denying love, which love will constrain them to obey Him. (2 Cor. 5:14).
The experience is to be found in the Word of God.
Christ’s Object Lessons 114 – “This is the knowledge (i.e., the experimental knowledge of God and of Christ) which is obtained by searching the Word of God.”
But, of course, we have already searched the Word of God; some of us have searched it all our lives. And we have still not found the experimental knowledge by which we become transformed into the image of Christ and gain full mastery of our sinful nature. I know that we have not found it, because if we had found it, we would even now have been in the kingdom. (cf. COL 114)
One reason we have not found it is because it is an experimental knowledge, a knowledge learned by experience. We have failed to recognize that the Word of God, while delivered mainly through the written Word of the Scriptures, is also delivered through two other books: the book of natural science, and the book of experience in God’s dealings with us.
Christ’s Object Lessons 125 – “The great storehouse of truth is the Word of God – the written Word, the book of nature, and the book of experience in God’s dealing with human life.”
The knowledge of God promised to all of us by the everlasting covenant (Jer. 31:34) is yet to come to us by a personal experience. We are to learn to know God by sharing in His experience – the experience which He underwent voluntarily for our sakes, in order to spare our lives and grant us probation and to provide us with the means of salvation. That experience involved intense and unfair suffering, a suffering revealed to our dull senses by His death on the cross. Through partaking of His sufferings we will be made obedient.
Education 263 – “The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him.”
A personal knowledge of the kind of suffering which our continued sin brings to the Son of God, combined with a personal knowledge of His enormous self-sacrificing love for us, is the incentive which motivates our obedience. But we will not realize experimentally the extent of that love until we share in the suffering which it caused Him to accept for our sakes. Obedience comes through accepting the discipline of God.
The Discipline of God
In an effort to raise a child into the ways of perfection, a parent exercises discipline over that child. God deals with His children in a similar way.
Heb. 12:7-11 – “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of Spirits, and live? For they (our earthly parents) verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he (God) for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
While the fathers exercise discipline over their children after their own pleasure, God does not do it for this reason alone; He does it for our sakes, to create in us the image of His righteousness and to bring about our partaking of His holiness. This is the means whereby we are made holy.
Have you been discouraged because you have not become perfect? Have you tried so many times and failed? Have you felt that you would never be able to succeed?
v. 12, 13 ibid. – “Wherefore lift up the hands, which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turn out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”
And would you like to know how it will be healed?
Isa. 53:5 – “. . . and with His stripes we are healed.”
We have generally assumed this to mean that because He accepted the stripes for us, we will be completely relieved of any permanent consequences of our own sins. Nevertheless, we must here be willing to open our eyes in stereoscopic vision of this most pertinent truth. For while Jesus did in fact bear the consequences of our sins and suffered the pain which they caused, yet He permits us to taste of that experience, to share in those sufferings, in order that we may learn by experience a little of what it costs Him to provide the forgiveness of our sins. Remember, the everlasting covenant promises a revelation of the character of God and the forgiveness of sins. (Jer. 31:33, 34):
Jer 31:33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jer 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
The revelation of God and the sufferings of Christ are intimately related; for it is by sharing the suffering of Christ that we learn by experience the true nature of His love for us – a love which would impel Him to suffer such ridiculously unfair and intensely severe emotional pain in order to forgive our sins and provide our escape from such a penalty of those sins. The stripes whereby we are healed are those same stripes with which He was afflicted.
Whose stripes were they, really, by which Christ was smitten?
Isa. 53:3-5 – “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our grief’s, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with His stripes we are healed.”
Therefore the peace and security and prolonged life which we enjoy is ours at the price of His chastisement, His suffering. And this suffering is not confined to the cross of Calvary, nor to Gethsemane, nor to the few years of His earthly ministry. It began at the inception of sin and continued for centuries down to the cross. (See Ed. 263, quoted below on this page).
On the cross He bore the sins of the world.
Desire of Ages 752 – “The guilt of every descendant of Adam was pressing upon His heart.”
Heb. 9:28 – “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.”
But subsequent to the cross, He has also continued to suffer because of the continued sins of His people, those who receive Him as their Saviour and are born again into His family. Any parent suffers when his son disobeys him and brings disrepute upon his name. So it is with Christ, our High Priest, who bears the burden and stigma of our continued sins. Let me quote again:
Education 263 – “The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him.”
Could it be that the cross is primarily a representation designed to penetrate our limited comprehension with the truth of the real and prolonged sufferings of Christ? If He died for my sins, which were not even committed at that time, how could my sins, which did not even exist, have caused Him any suffering then? At that time, He bore the sins of the world; He suffered once for these by the offering of Himself. (Heb. 9:25-28) Now He suffers vicariously as He bears the confessed sins of His acknowledged people.
Heb. 6:4-6 – “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Compare:
Mount of Blessing 9, 10 – “Jesus says, ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.’ John 12:32. And as one is drawn to behold Jesus uplifted on the cross, he discerns the sinfulness of humanity. He sees that it is sin which scourged and crucified the Lord of glory. He sees that, while he has been loved with unspeakable tenderness, his life has been a continual scene of ingratitude and rebellion. He has forsaken his best Friend and abused heaven’s most precious gift. He has crucified to himself the Son of God afresh and pierced anew that bleeding and stricken heart.”
The impossibility of being again renewed to repentance is not in the fact itself, but in the sense that we will not be able to bring ourselves to afflict the Lord anew with the stripes from our sins. We will loathe ourselves for doing Him such an injustice, and we will find it next to impossible to come again to Him and ask His forgiveness. Yet the only way we can be forgiven is to come again to repentance and permit Him to bear the affliction. And the covenant says He will forgive our iniquity even unto seventy times seven.
But the effect on us is to humble us to break our spirit. We must fall upon the Rock and be broken.
The above passages reveal that the sufferings of the cross are renewed in the heart of Christ because of our waywardness, and He bears the reproach of His failure to save His people from their sins, contrary to His promise. You see, He cannot save His people from their sins until they themselves voluntarily choose to refuse to sin. For sin is an independent choice of man; were God to compel man to obey, man would have no choice; hence his obedience could not be righteousness.
Desire of Ages 466 – “In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve. . . . The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself.”
We have not been earnest enough in our efforts. “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” – Heb. 12:4. When we fully realize the nature of the stripes with which we afflict the lowly Saviour every time we sin, we will loathe ourselves for our iniquities. Instead of basking in the peace and security of sins forgiven [as does mainline and nominal Christianity], we will afflict our souls as we come to the sanctuary to offer our sacrifice [on this, the antitypical Day of Atonement].
O yes, we know our sins are forgiven when we confess and repent; this is the promise of the new covenant; but with too little concern we lean on this prerogative, [and] we take unfair advantage of this precious gift, and we continue to afflict and crucify the Son of God. (Read also Early Writings 268, last half of page).
Truly, we were not there at Golgotha to crucify Him on the cross; so we may say He did not suffer for our sins. But the cross reveals the suffering which He endures in all ages since sin began and until it ends. This is the reason He asks His people to cease from sin; for He cannot lay down His priesthood [and come for us] until and unless we cease from sin. Therefore, He is a priest forever. (Heb. 7:17, 21, 25) In all future ages He will faithfully be there to bear the affliction if sin should ever arise again. This is the price of our eternal security.
But sin will not arise a second time (Nah. 1:9); for it will be conquered under the most trying of circumstances, midst the most severe temptations.
It is true that Christ will lay down His priestly robes during the time of the seven last plagues, but this is to demonstrate that His saints can stand before a holy God without an Intercessor, through the severest trials of the closing hours. They will not bow down to the beast nor his image, nor receive his mark in their foreheads at this time. If they can stand this, they will readily be able to stand in heaven where there is no temptation. In fact, those who go through this experience [to the end—the 144,000] will be fitted themselves for the priesthood, for they will be priests unto God for one thousand years during the millennium. [Only they enter the temple on Mt. Zion—Early Writings, 19 and Rev. 3:10-12—made pillars in the Temple].
This is brought to light in Revelation 20:4-6. Here it states that those who have refused to worship the beast and his image, and who have not received his mark in their foreheads or in their hands, are the ones who have been beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and that these shall have their part in the first resurrection, and they shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years as priests. Nevertheless the image of the beast is not set up until the last generation; and those who refuse to worship him at this time are the hundred and forty-four thousand, who live through to translation. They alone enter the Temple on Mount Zion and sing the son of Moses and the Lamb, which is the song of their experience of deliverance. (EW 19; GC 649; Rev. 14:1-3)
Yet the text says these have been beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of their testimony. If they have previously died but are now present in the last generation to go through the final conflict, it is obvious that they must have had a part in the first resurrection before the final conflict. Furthermore, unless the 144,000 are resurrected saints, they could not fulfil Hebrews 9:27, which says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
(The question of the resurrection of the 144,000 will be dealt with more fully later).
But Jesus cannot be released from His renewed sufferings of the cross and the work of His priesthood as long as we continue to sin. He does not cast us off; He chooses to continue to bear the pain. And the reason He cannot be released is that you and I have not yet learned to love Him enough to cease from sin.
John 14:15 – “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
John 14:23 – “If a man love me, he will keep my words.
Drinking the Cup
How are we going to learn to love Him? We do not love someone whom we have never seen and with whom we are not acquainted. Only by beholding, observing, getting to know someone, do we experience the growth of love for that one. That is precisely how we will learn to love Christ.
That is why the last message of mercy is a revelation of the true character of God! When we see that character, we will abhor ourselves for our iniquities, and we will not be able to bring ourselves to sin. (cf. Christ’s Object Lessons 415)
But how can we be brought to see the lovely Jesus as He really is? By being permitted to share, to partake of, the sufferings of Christ, SO THAT WE MAY LEARN BY EXPERIENCE WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE COST TO HIM to bear our sins and grant us release from their penalty, and to give us peace and security and eternal life. That is how it is done.
Gold is precious; but pure gold cannot be obtained without a refining process. This process requires heat. Only when the extreme heat of the fire is applied does the slag come to the top. Therefore, the True Witness counsels the Laodiceans to buy of Him gold tried in the fire. This gold is faith and love [or faith that works by love—EGW]. We are counselled to buy faith and love tried in the fire. (Desire of Ages 280; Christ’s Object Lessons 160)
The fullness of this experience will be unique to the Laodiceans, because in their lives exists the opportunity and privilege to obtain the supreme cleansing of the soul temple, which occurs on the Day of Atonement. Faith is the victory (1 John 5:4), and the love of Christ will constrain us to obey, as it did the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 4:14).
But there is a price to pay for this faith and love; it must be purchased. Nevertheless, faith is a gift, and love is a gift. This appears to be contradictory; but it is just another one of those things which must be viewed with binocular vision in order to see the harmony.
The kind of faith and love (gold) which leads to perfection and purification is that which has been tried in the fire. The price we have to pay to obtain it is a surrender of self to the will of God, a personal and total submission to the refining process. Only insofar as we do this will we be refined. This is the price.
But the gold, and the means for obtaining it, has been provided and made available for us by the supreme sacrifice of Christ. He paid a tremendous price to make this purification process available to sinners. He does not charge us for this; He provides it free of charge. But as long as the curing medicine remains in the bottle, it cannot cure. The gold of abiding faith and love cannot be personally appropriated unless we pay the price – the offering of our personal self surrender. Jesus paved the way before us by setting us an example; now we too are to take up our cross and follow Him, who is our example in suffering. We must buy the gold (Matt. 16:24; Rev. 3:18)
Let us be careful not to misunderstand this truth. We are not here talking about our ticket to eternal life. Salvation consists broadly of two things: (1) escape from eternal death; and (2) escape from the slavery of continuing in sin. These two are not synonymous.
We obtain our ticket to eternal life through the imputed righteousness of Christ. By faith in the merits of Christ’s righteousness as imputed to us, we are justified in God’s sight and receive membership in the family of God, with the gift of eternal life. But any man “saved” at this point, (as was the thief on the cross) is not an overcomer of sin in his own body, as was Christ; and he obtains eternal life as a child who has not yet grown up into the fullness of the stature of Christ.
The process of growing up into the stature of Christ is known as sanctification. A new-born baby is not immediately full-grown; maturity is reached after many years of development and experience. So it is with the born-again Christian. The attaining of the image of Christ’s character is a lifetime process; and heretofore the fullness of His stature has definitely not been attained by most of God’s people. Perfection has been reached only in a relative sense. At death, a man has reached the highest level of which he is capable under his circumstances; God does not normally take a man before he has attained this level. The imparted righteousness of Christ is obtained in measure, and not as a unit, in the sense that Christ makes up for the repentant sinner’s deficiency by His own divine merit, to whatever extent that sinner is deficient. (1 SM 382)
But in the last generation, God is going to do a work not heretofore seen. He is going to reassemble [regenerate—more on this in another manuscript] the members of His body temple and cleanse those temple members from every defilement. On this antitypical day of atonement, “His Sanctuary” is to be cleansed, and the glory of the Lord is to arise upon His people. He will impart to them His righteousness. They will gain the victory over continuing in sin, and their hearts will be transformed into the image of God. These saints will attain the full maturity of the re-birth into newness of life. In them divinity and humanity will be fully united (symbolized by the marriage), as it was in Jesus. They will attain imparted perfection, and be without fault before God, and stand before Him as brothers of Jesus and joint-heirs with Christ. They will no longer need the intercession of Jesus, for God has come to them directly to sup with them (Rev. 3:20), and to make His habitation in them (Eph. 4:15, 16; cf. V. 12, 13). In the new Jerusalem there is no temple; the tabernacle of God is with men. (Rev. 21:3, 22)
This is the ultimate experience we are talking about when we speak of buying the gold of faith and love tried in the fire Attaining this experience is a matter of taking advantage of the offer made by the True Witness.
Rev. 3:18-21 – “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.”
To obtain this experience is a privilege, and it is received on a voluntary basis. We are called and chosen in the refining furnace of affliction (Matt. 20:16; cf. Isa. 48:9-11); and if we remain faithful (that is, full of faith) (Rev. 17:14), we will share His throne (Rev. 3:21). If we are unable to endure the chastening and drink the cup (Matt. 20:20-23), we will be laid aside in the tomb at whatever stage of perfection we have attained; and Christ will make up for our deficiency with His own divine merit. (Isa. 57:1; & 1SM 382)
The cost price which made the gold of faith and love available for us was the cross of Christ – His sufferings for sin. He paid that price. He made a complete self sacrifice; He emptied Himself for us. But if we would share in His glory (that is, obtain His character and become heirs to His heritage), we too must share in His sufferings and offer the sacrifices of righteousness. We, too, must surrender all and take up our cross. This is the price.
Rom. 8:16, 17 – “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (That is, receive the glorious gifts provided by His sacrifice.” (cf. Matt. 10:38)
Bearing the cross (that is, sharing His sufferings) involves bearing the persecution of one’s own household.
Matt. 10:34-38 – “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”
The stereoscopic meaning of this passage is simply that those of his own household of faith (the members of his own [household] and church) will become a man’s foes. And the central issue of contention will be the personal possession of the Spirit of Prophecy [and doctrines held by the SOP as opposed to mainstream Christianity eg. The definition of the Holy Spirit, rb]. It is the sword of the Lord upon His people.
Matt. 10:40, 41 – “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.”
Many will rise up against the testimony of the True Witness, as it comes through those who will be endowed with the Spirit of Prophecy; and they will not bear the counsel revealed therein, nor will they accept the servants of God as servants of God but will regard them as deluded by the devil. It [the Spirit of Prophecy] is the sword of the Lord which will cause the shaking. Those who have failed to purchase the gold tried in the fire will not stand the test. “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house.” (Matt. 13:57).
Perfection Through Suffering
Obedience is learned and perfection is attained through suffering. To prove this, and lest any should murmur against God for bringing this suffering to bear upon them, Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, humbled Himself and subjected Himself to this process in order to become our example, that we might be able to follow through with the painful process, having the knowledge and assurance that He has gone the road before and triumphed.
Heb. 5:8-10 – “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedck.” (That is, after His perfection, He became a priest. He is our example; we too are to attain perfection and priesthood). See Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6.
Heb. 2:10, 11 – “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified is all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
But the kind of suffering whereby Jesus learned obedience was not the consequence of His transgression; it was the consequence of man’s sins. To share the sufferings of Christ means to share in suffering which we do not deserve.
1 Pet. 2:19 – “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. (cf. Rev. 14:12: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” The faith of Jesus is the faith which is tried in the fire, and it is the love of Jesus, also tried in the fire, which enables them to keep the commandments). For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guild found in His mouth:”
So we need to be prepared to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings, for this is the only way we can learn obedience. If there were any easier way, Christ would have provided it. Only by death to self, by taking up our cross and following Him, can we rise to the newness of life without sin. The new heart and the knowledge of God, promised by the everlasting covenant, come only by the process of sharing His sufferings.
1 Pet. 4:1, 2 – “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
1st Pet. 5:10 – “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
The reason we need to arm ourselves and brace up to meet this experience is that the experience is a fiery trial.
1st Pet. 4:12-14 – “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you (to purify the gold), as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you:”
Peter is not here speaking about suffering which is brought on by our own sins.
1 Pet. 4:15 – “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed.”
And when we do enter the furnace and suffer unjustly and unfairly, when our motives and character are grossly misconstrued (as is the character and motive of Christ, whose sufferings we are sharing), we should react not with rebellion and self-defense, but by committing ourselves to Him. This is where we emulate the “faith of Jesus;” for He depended totally upon the protection of His Father—even in Gethsemane He rebuked Peter for drawing the sword. And who could testify to this better than Peter!?
1 Pet. 2:23 – “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:” This is the faith of Jesus which we must emulate. (cf. Rev. 14:12)
1 Pet. 4:19 – “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”
God has called His people to offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put their total trust in Him. He has called His people to enter the fiery furnace of affliction in order to bring about their purification, the cleansing of their soul temples. This is according to His will. If we commit ourselves to His keeping, we will then become chosen in the furnace of affliction. (cf. Isa. 48:10) And if we are faithful – that is, if our faith in His loving-kindness and mercy and justice remain steadfast in the face of the terrible ordeal, if we can maintain our implicit trust in Him, then we become “called and chosen and faithful.” (cf. Rev. 17:14) Then we become counted among those who have the patience of the saints and the faith of Jesus.
God has put forth the call (Rev. 14:6, 7); we make the choice. And the degree to which we can remain faithful determines our position. This is the judgment of the living. Let me explain.
The first angel’s message presents the everlasting gospel and calls God’s people to fear Him and to give glory to Him, because the hour of His judgment is come. (Rev. 14:6, 7)
The everlasting gospel is the good news of sins forgiven and the provision for salvation from sin and from its penalty of eternal death. It is, in fact, the essence of the everlasting covenant. In view of this marvellous provision, we are called to fear God and give glory to Him. To fear God does not mean to be afraid of Him; rather it means to respect and reverence Him for His wonderful gift to man. To give glory to Him means to give Him credit for what He has done; to acknowledge Him as a God of love and righteousness.
The reason for His requesting us to do this is that the hour of His judgment is come. We have long regarded this judgment to refer to the saints, first and the dead and then the living. That is, we have taken it to mean our judgment – that we are being judged by Him. And there is no doubt that this is what it means. Nevertheless, the meaning of this passage is not exhausted by this one interpretation; for no human mind can exhaust a single passage of Scripture. (Education 171).
A few years ago there appeared in the Review and Herald an article which presented another view, one which I have personally held for a long time. The righteous nature of the character of the Godhead was originally challenged by Lucifer, and it has been consistently misrepresented by him for thousands of years. In the last generation, the true nature of the character of God is to be vindicated; His righteousness is to be fully revealed; He is to be justified in the eyes of His universe. The hour of His judgment (His court trial) is come, the hour when His witnesses are to come forward and proclaim Him righteous – to give glory to Him. He has long promised that Jesus came to save His people from their sins; now that promise is to be fulfilled in the lives of the 144,000. Their temples are to be fully cleansed. They are to be witnesses at His judgment, proving that His word is indeed true and that His character is all that He has claimed it to be.
“It is our privilege today to become His final witnesses. But we can become such only if we submit to the cleansing discipline of the cup of His sufferings and of His baptism. This discipline is a strange and fiery trial; but it will yield pure gold. The image of Jesus will be perfectly reproduced in His people – a testimony to the truthfulness of the promises of the everlasting gospel and new covenant.
Thus, not only are the living saints judged by their actual demonstration of victory, but their Lord is also judged and His righteous character vindicated by the same demonstration.
But the fiery trial will be so strange, so apparently unreasonable, that God has purposed to send a renewed message of interpretation to His people in this generation. For many would misunderstand it and be tempted to accuse God of unfaithfulness to His promise of care and protection. For the underlying instigator of the persecution is none other than Satan; God permits him to do it. Satan does it in an effort to break the faith of God’s people in the righteousness and mercy of their King. And without an understanding of its purpose, some would lose their faith. But God designs that it should try their faith, and strengthen it. The fiery trial is a trial that will separate and differentiate, a sword that will divide. Only those who accept the message for this hour will endure it.
Nevertheless, He does not suffer us to endure temptation beyond that which we are able to bear, but makes a way of escape. (1 Cor. 10:13) When the fire gets too hot (and hot it will get), we may ask Him to turn off the heat. Yet, if we are unable to bear the trial patiently, without murmuring and complaining, then the trial must be brought upon us again. We must be prepared to drink another draught of the bitter cup until it produces the desired effect.
Early Writings 46, 47 – “ If we overcome our trials, and get victory over the temptations of Satan, then we endure the trial of our faith, which is more precious than gold, and are stronger and better prepared to meet the next. . . . We must have on the whole armor of God, and be ready at any moment for a conflict with the powers of darkness. When temptations and trials rush in upon us, let us go to God, and agonize with Him in prayer. He will not turn us away empty, but will give us grace and strength to overcome, and to break the power of the enemy. Oh, that all could see these things in their true light, and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus! Then would Israel move forward, strong in God, and in the power of His might.
“God has shown me that He gave His people a bitter cup to drink, to purify and cleanse them. It is a bitter draught, and they can make it still more bitter by murmuring, complaining, and repining. But those who receive it thus must have another draught, for the first does not have its designed effect upon the heart. And if the second does not affect the work, then they must have another, and another, until it does have its designed effect, or they will be left filthy, impure in heart. I saw that this bitter cup can be sweetened by patience, endurance, and prayer, and that it will have its designed effect upon the hearts of those who thus receive it, and God will be honored and glorified. (cf. First angel’s message, Rev. 14:7). It is no small things to be a Christian, and to be owned and approved of God
“We must be partakers of Christ’s sufferings here, if we would share in His glory hereafter. . . .” “. . . They have the standard of piety altogether too low, and they come far short of Bible Holiness. Some engage in vain and unbecoming conversation and others give way to the risings of self.
We must not expect to please ourselves, live and act like the world, have its pleasures, and enjoy the company of those who are of the world, and reign with Christ in glory.” [Ibid, EW 47]
Here, then, is the faith and love tried in the fire. (Rev. 3:18) Only those who have fortified their minds with the truths of the Bible will be able to accept the fiery trial without losing faith in the justice, mercy, and love of God. The trial will cause a separation; some will prove to be gold; others wood, hay, and stubble. Some will see their suffering as an experimental knowledge of the love of God, who accepted such suffering for their salvation; others will see only the apparent injustice of a cruel God. Many will not be able to endure. This is because they have failed to heed the counsel of the True Witness to buy this gold and to make the preparation for the marriage and fill their lamps with oil. Unless their faith has been strengthened by the repeated exercise of trials, they cannot endure the final fiery test. Only a full, personal, experiential revelation of the love of God will suffice to motivate and constrain to a total allegiance. And this revelation comes through sharing the sufferings of Christ. By personal experience we learn a little of what Jesus endured for our sakes. And in learning this, we suddenly realize what a wonderful character of love He must possess, that it would constrain Him to go to such depths of misrepresentation and persecution and suffering in order to save us. This knowledge, this realization, bestirs within us a reciprocal love. It wins our allegiance. When we share His cross in full knowledge of the meaning of that experience, then He is lifted up in our hearts personally, and we are drawn to Him. (John 12:32) The love of God is born in our hearts. Christ is formed in us. When this love is strengthened, it impels us to obey every commandment of God.
Christ’s Object Lessons, 378 – “Belief in the propitiation for sin enables fallen man to love God with his whole heart, and his neighbor as himself.”
And this love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom. 13:10)
But the acquisition of faith and love by experience is progressive. And as these are progressively tested and the tests are successfully surmounted, they are strengthened. When the development attains a level sufficient to demonstrate implicit and total trust in God, and to produce unwavering and faithful allegiance to His commandments, then the full delivering of the everlasting covenant is experienced.
Nevertheless, it is a long and trying experience, and it will develop the patience of the saints.
Heb 10:35-38 – “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him."
Heb. 12:1, 2 – “. . .and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”
Jas. 1:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (trial); Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
Rev. 3:10-12 – “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take they crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God.” Cf. EW 19 – “Only the 144,000 enter this place (the temple on Mount Zion).”
But this entire procedure cannot be accomplished without the Spirit of God. All the provisions of the covenant, and the sacrifice of Christ, can be of no avail without the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Rom. 5:3-5 – “. . .but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us., For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
The Baptisms of Jesus [From here through the remainder of this manuscript]
Those who are to attain to an entrance into the temple on Mount Zion [the 144,000 (EW 19)] and to sharing the throne of Christ (Rev. 3:21), must not only drink of the cup of which He drank (Matt. 26:39), but they must also be baptized with His baptism. (Matt. 20:21-23) The Scripture reveals three kinds of baptism by which Jesus was baptized.
All of these apply to those of His followers who are called and chosen and faithful. (Rev. 17:14)
The first baptism is that of water. Jesus experienced this at the hand of John. (Matt. 3:13-15) Water baptism is a symbol that the candidate is taking on a new life and leaving the old behind. In the case of Jesus it meant that He was no longer to be the carpenter of Nazareth but the Messiah of Israel.
But water baptism is also an outward symbol that the candidate is to be anointed by the Holy Ghost and become a partaker of the divine nature. This is an inward experience which can only be represented outwardly by a symbol. Water baptism is an outward representation of the baptism of the Hoy Ghost, which is an inward experience. This is the second baptism by which Jesus was baptized. The evidence that Jesus was receiving this anointing was given immediately after His water baptism by John. (Matt. 3:16)
He promised a similar baptism for His disciples, which occurred first at Pentecost. (Acts 1:5, 8; 2:1-4, 16-18; cf. John 1:33) Subsequent converts were also to receive this baptism of the Holy Ghost after their conversion. (Acts 8:14-17) The anointing and baptism of the Holy Ghost at this stage was the former rain experience. There is also to be a latter rain experience. The time for this experience to occur is now.
But Jesus experienced another baptism. He spoke of this in His answer to James and John. At this time He asked them if they were able to drink of the cup whereof He would have to drink and be baptized with the baptism wherewith He would be baptized. (Matt. 20:22)
The cup was the suffering of emotional pain, of which He would drink the bitterest draught at Gethsemane and the cross. (Matt. 26:38, 39) James and John – and all others who are His chosen ones, to be His witnesses – will also taste of this cup. (Matt. 20:23; cf. 1 Pet. 4:1, 12, 13; 2:19-21)
But Jesus here also refers to a difficult and future baptism wherewith He was yet to be baptized.
Luke 12:50 – “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened (pained) till it be accomplished!”
This baptism was obviously still not consummated. In the associated verses, He explains the nature of it.
Luke 12:49-53 – “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law.”
This passage appears to be strangely contradictory in the light of His promise to bring peace on earth. (Isa. 9:6, 7; Luke 2:14; John 14:27) But the fire which He kindled is the fire of division and persecution resulting from variance in acceptance of Him as the Messiah.
All who would accept Him and demonstrate that acceptance by living “godly in Christ Jesus” would suffer persecution. (2 Time. 3:12) They too must be baptized with the baptism of fire. John the Baptist said:
“Matt. 3:11 – “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
This is clearly a reference to the purging and shaking of His people, to the purifying and singling out of the sons of Levi, the 144,000 priests. And it is here called a baptism of fire. It is expressed again quite plainly in Early Writings, as follows:
EW 67 – “I saw that those who of late have embraced the truth would have to know what it is to suffer for Christ’s sake, that they would have trials to pass through that would be keen and cutting, in order that they may be purified, and fitted through suffering to receive the seal of the living God, pass through the time of trouble, see the King in His beauty, and dwell in the presence of God and of pure, holy angels."
“As I saw what we must be in order to inherit glory, and then saw how much Jesus had suffered to obtain for us so rich an inheritance, I prayed that we might be baptized into Christ’s sufferings, that we might not shrink at trials, but bear them with patience and joy, knowing what Jesus had suffered that we through His poverty and sufferings might be made rich.” [EW 67].
But what is it that brings the fiery trial of purification upon the saints? It is the same thing which brought the fiery trial upon Jesus. Not as though He needed the trial for purification. O no! He was already pure. But He humbled Himself to the ordeal of His sufferings in order to pave the way for us to endure that trial which is the only means whereby we could become purified. Had He not gone that road before, we would lose our faith during those severe experiences and count Him to be an unjust and unmerciful God. That is why He accepted His cross. It was a revelation of His love for us. And that is why we will accept our cross; it is a revelation of the love we bear for Him.
But what was it that brought on His trial? In doing always the will of His Father, Jesus set Himself at variance with the leaders of His people; and He brought on division, misunderstanding of His true motives, and the fires of persecution among His own people and brethren and relatives. His message, the Word of God, was sharper than any two-edged sword; and it divided asunder. (cf. Heb. 4:12) It is not with pleasure that God brings the sword of His mouth upon His people. (cf. Ezek. 21:9-13) The pain which this brings to Him is His deepest sorrow; and it caused Jesus to publicly weep. Not often do men weep; and then, seldom in public. Why did He weep?
Luke 19:41-44 – “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
At the time Jesus spoke these words, he was riding into Jerusalem on a colt; and the multitude were rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice – but some of the Pharisees asked Him to rebuke those people. Jesus answered that if the disciples were to hold their peace, the very stones would cry out. (see v. 28-48) It was at this point that He wept.
Why did He weep? Because Jerusalem, His chosen people, would not receive Him; they did not recognize Him. Yet it was not for His own sake that He wept, but because He knew the sad consequences of rejection of the only One who could bring salvation to Jerusalem and save it from destruction. Only the sword of His mouth could bring the words of eternal life. Yet He knew that this sword would become to those who refused its truth a destroying weapon. (cf. Ezek. 9:1-6)
When He was in the temple, teaching, the chief priests and elders came to Him asking by what authority He did so. In reply He challenged them to tell whether the baptism of John was from heaven or of men. But they dared not answer that question either by “yes” or “no.” Then Jesus spoke to them two parables, both of which taught that others would receive the kingdom before they would; publicans and harlots would go in before them. He spoke of the stone which the builders rejected. (Read Matt. 21:23-46).
As John came in the spirit and power of Elias as the forerunner of the first advent of Jesus, calling the Jews and Jerusalem to the baptism of repentance, to prepare them to receive their Messiah and the baptism of the Holy Ghost in the early rain; even so is someone promised to come in the spirit and power of Elias as the forerunner of the second Advent, calling modern Jerusalem to repentance and reformation, in preparation for the sudden coming of the Holy Ghost to His temple by the baptism of fire in the latter rain. Jerusalem (God’s church) will then again have the opportunity of accepting or rejecting the message which comes by him. Men may again challenge the authority of the messenger and question his teaching. (TM 475; 4 BC 1184)
Should all Jerusalem choose to reject the messengers preceding the coming of Christ to His temple in the latter rain, the Lord would come to smite the earth with a curse. This He clearly disclosed in the last words of the Old Testament, the last words ever delivered through His prophets before laying down His eternal heritage to become an everlasting sacrifice on behalf of man. (Mal. 4:6; Mark 9:12; cf John 1:21 and Luke 9:30) But that same text verily promises that he who shall come to restore all things will have a message that will bear its fruit. And the word of prophecy is certain and sure. Therefore, as in the days of John many came to repentance, and as in the experience of Jesus all that the Father gave Him came to Him; even so, today, those who are called by the Sprit of Truth, and who choose to follow their Master all the way, will respond and be found faithful. But these must share in the experience of Jesus and receive of His baptisms – of water, and of the Spirit, and of fire.
The third baptism of Jesus represents an immersion in emotional pain and sorrow resulting from the misunderstanding, the slander, and the persecution, caused by His speaking forth the plain words of truth to His own people. In speaking forth His testimony, He must unavoidably make it appear to them (because of their own blindness and bigotry, not because of the truth) that He was a false prophet operating under the power of the prince of devils. (Matt. 10:25; 12:24) And their rejection of Him as their Messiah, and of the prophets who foretold His coming, seared and stung His sensitive soul. Thus also will the souls of His saints be seared and stung; and they will weep between the porch and the altar.
Early Writings 64 – “His life was one of toil, sorrow, and suffering; He then gave Himself for us. Those who, in Christ’s stead, beseech souls to be reconciled to God, and who hope to reign with Christ in glory, must expect to be partakers of His sufferings here. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.’ Ps. 126:5, 6.”
Remember, it is the counsel called forth by the testimony of the True Witness to the Laodiceans which causes the shaking and separating. Not that the words of truth are to blame, nor the speaking forth of those words; but the hearts of His beloved people in Jerusalem – His own kindred flesh and blood – are not entirely right with Him. They have made themselves lukewarm toward Him and spurned the totality of His love. If they had not done this, they would already even now have been in the kingdom. But they are not in the kingdom, because they have not responded wholeheartedly to His appeal, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” They do not even acknowledge the extent to which this request can be fulfilled; nor do they yet recognize His messengers of this truth for the present hour, whose message would open their understanding, if they would completely fulfil the conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit, whose enlightenment would guide them into all the truth for this day of emergency.
Jesus saw His rejection, as expressed in these words:
Mark 10:33, 34 – “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and unto the scribes and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him; and the third day he shall rise again.”
This vision was no doubt in His mind the day He rode the colt into Jerusalem. It was following this passage that HE spoke to James and John of His baptism. (See v. 34-40) He expresses it again in Matthew 23:37-39.
This experience will have its parallel in our day; for the words of Revelation eleven will have a renewed application to the two witnesses of the old and new covenants (which are the old and new testaments). These two witnesses will again bear their testimony, which is the sword of the Lord; and they will take the consequences; namely, the baptism of fire. Whoso readeth, let him understand.
The temple of God is to be measured – the living temple which is to become the dwelling place of God by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. (cf. Rev. 3:20; Mal. 3:1-3; 1 Cor. 3:16, cf. 6:19.)
Jesus’ emotional suffering in the baptism of fire was not caused only by the disappointment of His rejection by the Pharisees and leaders of His people, but because of His knowing that such rejection would cause many blind sheep of the flock, who were followers of their blind leaders, to also reject Him (Matt. 15:12-14) – and that such rejection would bring upon those people the abomination of desolation. He knew they would have to suffer the pangs of severe discipline, and that His chosen ones would have to flee from the sanctuary of Jerusalem and the shelter of Judea, under most difficult circumstances, when they should see the abomination of desolation stand in that holy place.
Matt. 23:37-39 – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Matt. 24:14-22 – “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day: For then shall great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
Here is a prime example of a passage of Scripture containing a stereoscopic meaning – a dual application. If the time of trouble here mentioned, referred primarily to the physical destruction of the temple and the flight of the saints from literal Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then the time of trouble spoken of in connection with the closing scenes of earth’s history could not be as great; for the passage says there will never again be such a time of trouble. Yet the Spirit of Prophecy says the final time of trouble will be unsurpassed. Therefore, these words of Christ have a deeper meaning than appears on the surface – even as the servant of the Lord says do all His sayings. (COL 110)
There is also another stereoscopic meaning here. Babylon is a representation of the fallen churches; but Jerusalem is a representation of God’s chosen church. Jesus wept over Jerusalem; we have no record that He wept over Babylon. The servants of God who will bear the straight testimony of the True Witness will be rejected by members of their own household, of their own family, and of their own church. They will mourn not only because of the persecution they must endure, but because they know the severe consequences which will ensue in the experience of those of their loved ones and brethren who reject the message. They will be deeply pained to see the complete misunderstanding, misrepresenting and the reaction on the part of some of their dear ones and friends, and of their brethren. They will be desolated to see the pain which their message causes to those friends and loved ones. Think not that it was an easy thing for Jesus to offend His people. (cf. John 6:61, 66, 67) Then do you wonder at all, now, why I should find it so difficult to bring you this portion of God’s testimony to you? Ezekiel 21:1-13 will come to pass; but let not Jeremiah 25:34-36 become true of you.
This is the baptism of fire and division and persecution of which the followers of Jesus will partake when they go all the way with Him. Will you choose with Jesus and James and John to go this route? Will you choose to take up your cross and follow Him? Or will you become one of the persecutors? Brethren, I implore you to heed the counsel to anoint your eyes with eyesalve, that you may discern what is the truth in this matter.
The Jews blamed Jesus for bringing dissension into their midst. But He was in fact bringing them the words of eternal life. His followers today will fare no better; they too will be accused of bringing in dissension. Satan has brought forth so many counterfeits in the experience of the Remnant Church that God’s people are now thoroughly conditioned to reject all innovations. That is why God’s last day messengers will not relish their task. They do not want to be branded as dissenters and troublemakers. But impelled by the Holy Ghost and endowed with the courage of Elijah, they will speak their message; and with a comparable fear they will shun the threatened retaliation. There will be times when they will cry to God for deliverance, even day and night. Nevertheless, it was the threat of Jezebel which drove Elijah to the wilderness, where in his utter defeat and exhaustion he was fed and strengthened by the angel’s food; and in this strength he was enabled to go up to the Mountain of God, where he met His Lord and received the communion of the still small voice. Then he returned to finish his task. (1 Kings 19:15-18)
Let us read again the warning of the True Witness to us. We are lukewarm. We think we are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing. How often we [as a church] reiterate and publish our great exploits. See the imposing statistics of our expanding assets. Hear the comforting assurance that we have all the truth needed to see us through to the kingdom – that there is no new message. I wonder if our spirit is always right in the sight of God when expressing these things? If there is no new message, let us note that the old message says: if we do not repent, He will spew us out of His mouth! Do you believe it?
But He says we are blind and naked. He is not talking about physical blindness; He is talking about spiritual blindness. And when He admonishes us to anoint our eyes with eyesalve, He is not talking about our physical eyes. We need the anointing of the Holy Ghost to enlighten our understanding of the old truths in a new way. We need the latter rain to guide us into all truth. (John 16:13).
Neither is He speaking of physical nakedness. He means we lack a spiritual covering to protect us in the time of trouble. He means we do not have the white-linen robe of His righteousness; we merely think we have it. If we had it, beloved, He would not advise us to buy it, would He? And if we had it, we would now be in the kingdom, would we not? There is then something about the meaning of the righteousness of Christ which we need to understand or apply in a manner not yet accomplished. And this something will be dealt with in succeeding pages at an appropriate time.
Do you then really believe the testimony of the True Witness to the Laodicean church? I know you believe. But do you have an ear to hear what the Spirit of Truth is saying to the church in our time – the last of the seven churches? (Rev. 3:22) If you do, your mind will be attuned to understand the solemn words contained in these pages, and you will recognize the truth of the statements which follow.
A true child of God will have sensitive feelings akin to those of Jesus. And the hardest kind of persecution such a man can bear for Jesus’ sake is the misunderstanding of his true position and motives by the loved ones of his household. This statement is literally true. Nevertheless, it has also a stereoscopic meaning. For a man’s household is the household of his faith – those who profess to believe the teachings of the church to which he belongs. (Gal. 6:10)
These also may become his greatest persecutors, even while not recognizing their actions as such, and even to thinking they are doing him and God a great favor.
Such is the baptism of fire awaiting the saints. It is the sword of the Lord upon His people, which causes the shaking. It is a personal experience which reveals to them with extreme vividness the nature of the sufferings which Christ endures in order to prepare the way of salvation for His sheep to follow. And His sheep will hear His voice as the still small voice of the Spirit of Truth; and they will follow. (John 10:22-27)
The sword of the Lord shall first be upon His people; and it is no easy thing for Him to bring that sword upon them, because He knows what they must endure and the effect which the sword will have. But for the joy beyond the cross, He sends the sword. And of His people, it shall first come upon the principals of the flock. Not until it has done its work will it become a destroying weapon upon all who reject the final message of the testimony of Jesus.
When the abomination of desolation is seen to stand in the holy place in Jerusalem, it is time for the saints to flee. For then shall be their time of trouble such as never was. It is at this time that false Christs and false prophets will arise in abundance. (See Matt. 24:15-25) And there is a time of trouble before the final close of probation. This time is rapidly approaching.
Mark 10:29-31 – “Verily, I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.”
Matt. 10:28-41 – “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. . . . Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. . . . A man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.” [Matt. 10:41]
He receives a prophet’s reward in that he receives the same message as the prophet; and it becomes his own, to keep and to share.
Matt. 23:34 – ‘Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: . . . Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”
This prophecy has a renewed application in our generation. And the scourging in the synagogues does not have to be physical; for God teaches by similitudes. (Hos. 12:10) Brethren, let us open our eyes!
Sister White makes a statement to the effect that when the messengers of truth see the reactions to their testimony, they will determine to remain quiet, and thus avoid the unpleasant controversy. But the power of God comes upon them and they are impelled to speak forth the truth regardless of consequences. Such behavior appears to be irrational; and these messengers will be labelled heretics, fanatics, troublers of the people, deluded servants of Satan, and even mentally disturbed.
A careful reading of the foregoing material will reveal significant implications to all whose minds are guided by the Holy Spirit. But to those whose preconceived opinions bar the door to an expanded understanding, no renewed meaning will appear. Not until we receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost will we be guided into a personal understanding of all the truth for this crucial hour; for such is the work of the Spirit of Truth.
In the outpouring of the latter rain, the Spirit is to prepare the saints for the final conflict with Satan and for their ultimate meeting with the personal Christ. This experience of receiving the latter rain is intimately related to the terms and the outworking of the everlasting covenant. (To be more fully explained later.) For by it the fiery trial becomes a purifier of silver and of the gold of faith and love; without it, the dross remains. By it the sword of the Word fortifies and seals; without it, the sword separates and destroys. When the fiery trial comes upon us, the true nature of our inmost souls will be laid bare. Then we come to the parting of the ways.
Let me make one more observation before terminating this section. All prophecy is for certain sure; it is immutable. But the precise nature of its application to any particular situation or person is conditional. It is within the power of your group choice whether and how this prophecy will apply to you, as a “city” organization; and it is within the power of your individual choice whether and how this prophecy will apply to you as an individual citizen in that city. You can determine which conditions shall prevail, as far as you are concerned.
Nevertheless, you will likely not yet be in a position to make a rational decision, because major areas of truth have not yet been covered. Forthcoming sections will bring to light numerous interpretations which have an important bearing on the experience of the final remnant. An irrevocable negative decision should not be made until those pages have been honestly considered and seriously pondered.
(At this point, you may wish to again read through the entire correspondence and manuscript – slowly, and with deliberate concentration. It is highly probable that new views will occur to you which you did not discern during your first exposure. Subsequent sections will add further insight and enlightenment to these pages.)
MH 478 – “Of all the gifts that heaven can bestow upon men, fellowship with Christ in His sufferings is the most weighty trust and the highest honor. Not Enoch, who was translated to heaven, not Elijah, who ascended in a chariot of fire, was greater or more honored than John the Baptist, who perished alone in the dungeon.”