Synagogue of Satan and excommunication of the saints

The Church, the synagogue of Satan and the excommunication of the saints

From the very beginning we want to mention that by the term saints we don’t mean perfect people, persons who don’t make any mistake. We use it to designate those who declared war to the flesh, to the sin and to the devil. It’s about people who “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12) and want to live as Jesus lived (1 John 2:6). The term doesn’t include those who claim to be Christians, but they indulge in sinning, defend the apostasy from their houses, churches and the apostasy of different leaders, and many times they persecute those who address the call to repentance.

Persecution of the faithful. Put out of the synagogue.

Hebrews 11:36-38 “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

John 16:2,3 “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”

John 9:34 “They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. ” [not just out of the room where the man was judged, but out of the synagogue] “And in no gentle manner they thrust him out of the synagogue. The sheep was cast out of the fold for being a living witness to the power of Christ. Many have been cast out of the church whose names were registered upon the book of life. Wolves in sheep’s clothing were ready to cast out of the fold and devour one who was entitled to the Lord’s pasture; but Jesus, the True Shepherd, sought him, and gave him a place within the fold ” {ST December 4, 1893, par. 8}

There was no period in the human history when the presence and the activity of those who walked with God was tolerated. Moses could have been killed by the Jews in the desert if God hadn’t intervened to defend him. Elijah was excommunicated in his time and many of the prophets were even killed. Jesus was both excommunicated and killed. The same happened to many of the Reformers in Europe in the Middle Ages. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:12 „ Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” „Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber? The only reason is that the church has conformed to the world’s standard and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled.” GC 48

Courage to expose error, abuse, apostasy and to face opposition

1 Kings 18:17,18 „And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.”

Why people like Elijah and the reformer Martin Luther (and many others) didn’t fear the threat of being excommunicated by the church from their time?

First of all they had the conviction that the Bible and God were on their side. “I do not say that I am a prophet; but I say that they ought to fear precisely because I am alone and that they are many. I am sure of this, that the word of God is with me, and that it is not with them.” GC 142

Secondly, they understood that the definition of the church was not the one taught by the Roman Catholic Church. Here it is just a short inspired quote, and after that you will see more of them about what church really means: “Romanists have persisted in bringing against Protestants the charge of heresy and willful separation from the true church. But these accusations apply rather to themselves. They are the ones who laid down the banner of Christ and departed from “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 3” GC 51

When the papal bull reached Luther, he said: “I despise and attack it, as impious, false…. It is Christ Himself who is condemned therein…. I rejoice in having to bear such ills for the best of causes. Already I feel greater liberty in my heart; for at last I know that the pope is antichrist, and that his throne is that of Satan himself.”—D’Aubigne, b. 6, ch. 9.

Yet the mandate of Rome was not without effect. Prison, torture, and sword were weapons potent to enforce obedience. The weak and superstitious trembled before the decree of the pope; and while there was general sympathy for Luther, many felt that life was too dear to be risked in the cause of reform. Everything seemed to indicate that the Reformer’s work was about to close.

But Luther was fearless still. Rome had hurled her anathemas against him, and the world looked on, nothing doubting that he would perish or be forced to yield. But with terrible power he flung back upon herself the sentence of condemnation and publicly declared his determination to abandon her forever. In the presence of a crowd of students, doctors, and citizens of all ranks Luther burned the pope’s bull, with the canon laws, the decretals, and certain writings sustaining the papal power.” GC 141-142

The church: definition, authority

What is or who is the Church?

The word church (Greek ἐκκλησία – ekklesia, made up of two parts: ek and kaleo) means those who are called out of something. The New Testament says that we are called out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9), called out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4).

Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”

This is the Church, a group of people, sometimes a very small group, gathered in the name of Jesus. But what does it mean to be gathered in His name?

God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Where Christ is, even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church. Where two or three are present who love and obey the commandments of God, Jesus there presides, let it be in the desolate place of the earth, in the wilderness, in the city, [or] enclosed in prison walls. The glory of God has penetrated the prison walls, flooding with glorious beams of heavenly light the darkest dungeon. His saints may suffer, but their sufferings will, like the apostles’ of old, spread their faith and win souls to Christ and glorify His holy name. The bitterest opposition expressed by those who hate God’s great moral standard of righteousness should not and will not shake the steadfast soul who trusts fully in God.” {17MR 81.4}

This definition of the church must be remembered when we quote other writings saying that the Church will not fail. The church spoken about in those quotes is the one defined in the previous paragraph. And truly the church defined so will never fail because its foundation is Christ and those who are part of it are overcomers by the blood of the Lamb. Those quotes don’t talk about a packaging without content, about ecclesiastical structures who betray God and ignore the truth, they don’t speak about those who persecute the faithful ones.

What other definitions do we have in the Bible?

Ephesians 2:19-22 “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

1 Timothy 3:15 – “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

Jude 3 – “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

1 Peter 2:5 “ Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

Rev. 12:6 “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” – the church in the wilderness

Rev. 12:17 „And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Here are some other inspired quotes who define what the church is:

“This was in harmony with the gospel plan of uniting in one body all believers in Christ, and this plan Paul was careful to follow throughout his ministry. Those who in any place were by his labor led to accept Christ as the Saviour were at the proper time organized into a church. Even when the believers were but few in number, this was done. The Christians were thus taught to help one another, remembering the promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20” AA 185

The church is God’s fortress, His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of the church is treachery to Him who has bought mankind with the blood of His only-begotten Son. From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth. In every age the Lord has had His watchmen, who have borne a faithful testimony to the generation in which they lived. These sentinels gave the message of warning; and when they were called to lay off their armor, others took up the work. God brought these witnesses into covenant relation with Himself, uniting the church on earth with the church in heaven. He has sent forth His angels to minister to His church, and the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against His people.” AA 11

During ages of spiritual darkness the church of God has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations, the pure doctrines of heaven have been unfolding within its borders. Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.

“Whereunto,” asked Christ, “shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?” Mark 4:30. He could not employ the kingdoms of the world as a similitude. In society He found nothing with which to compare it. Earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power; but from Christ’s kingdom every carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion, is banished. This kingdom is to uplift and ennoble humanity. God’s church is the court of holy life, filled with varied gifts and endowed with the Holy Spirit. The members are to find their happiness in the happiness of those whom they help and bless.” AA 12

God’s Church is a place where sin is rebuked, not tolerated or promoted:

Hebrews 12:16 “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.”

Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

1 Corinthians 5:1,11-13 “ It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

The plain, straight testimony must live in the church, or the curse of God will rest upon His people as surely as it did upon ancient Israel because of their sins. God holds His people, as a body, responsible for the sins existing in individuals among them. If the leaders of the church neglect to diligently search out the sins which bring the displeasure of God upon the body, they become responsible for these sins. But to deal with minds is the nicest work in which men ever engaged. All are not fitted to correct the erring. They have not wisdom to deal justly, while loving mercy. They are not inclined to see the necessity of mingling love and tender compassion with faithful reproofs. Some are ever needlessly severe, and do not feel the necessity of the injunction of the apostle: “And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” 3T 269

Wheat, tare and … thorns

“Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church [these are the “thorns”, because they can harm the growing of the wheat – Mt.13:7], but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive. He knows our nature too well to entrust this work to us. Should we try to uproot from the church those whom we suppose [there is no clear proof] to be spurious Christians, we should be sure to make mistakes. Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. Were we to deal with these souls according to our imperfect judgment, it would perhaps extinguish their last hope. Many who think themselves Christians will at last be found wanting. Many will be in heaven who their neighbors supposed would never enter there. Man judges from appearance, but God judges the heart. The tares and the wheat are to grow together until the harvest; and the harvest is the end of probationary time.

There is in the Saviour’s words another lesson, a lesson of wonderful forbearance and tender love. As the tares have their roots closely intertwined with those of the good grain, so false brethren in the church may be closely linked with true disciples. The real character of these pretended believers is not fully manifested. Were they to be separated from the church, others might be caused to stumble, who but for this would have remained steadfast.” COL 71-72

The tare was very well personified by Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Nobody from the disciples discerned that Judas was a thief and a traitor. Judas didn’t make public sins, to make others be suspicious about his character. He was able to display an exemplary morality. Only Jesus knew the dark side of his life. When there is open apostasy, that can’t be labelled as tare among the wheat, but thorns, and if the thorns are not put away or if the wheat will not stay away, then the spiritual life of the believers and of their children will suffer.

You can see below an example from England and you can ask if that is tare or thorns:

Another sad example comes from the Pan European SDA Youth Congress. Two divisions joined their hands to do something we should be ashamed of, as it can seen in the following video:

Authority of the church

Mat 18:18 “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (KJV) A much better translation of this verse is the one from The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV): “Truly I say to you, Whatever you bind on the earth will be, having been bound in Heaven. And whatever you loose on the earth will be, having been loosed in Heaven.”

As it can be seen in the LITV, the meaning of this verse is very clear. It doesn’t support the absolute ecclesiastical authority of any priest/pastor or church (including Roman-Catholic, Greek Orthodox etc). Spiritual leaders on earth are called to understand first what is bound or loosed in Heaven and after that only they can do the same here on earth. It means that they need to understand first how God evaluates different matters and people to be able to make right decisions themselves about the same issues, in harmony with God’s will. When this doesn’t happen, the religious leaders on earth lose their authority and their decisions are nor valid because they don’t reflect what Heaven decided.

The authority of religious leaders is not an absolute one and unconditional. The Bible encourages people to check always if their leaders lead them on the right path. To listen and follow blindly some leaders is not recommended by the Bible. Peter was rebuked by Paul publicly (because there was a public mistake), and Peter didn’t feel any offence and didn’t ask other Christians to excommunicate Paul for daring to rebuke him. (Galatians 2:11-14 describes this incident).

The believers from Berea thought that it was their duty to check if what Paul preached was in harmony with the Bible (Acts 17:10,11), and Paul didn’t despise them for this, neither felt he offended because they didn’t trust him. No teaching should be accepted if it has not a solid biblical foundation, no matter the reputation and the position of a preacher.

Rev. 2:2 “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” Christians in the first century were appreciated by God because they tested all the teachers. We need to follow their example.

The following of leaders has to be “in the Lord”, only as much as they submit themselves to God’s authority and His Word. (1 Peter 5:1-3)

Nowhere in the Bible we can find a recommendation to follow other people unconditionally, no matter how high is their position. A very interesting example is that of king Saul’s soldiers. They refused to obey the orders of the king, the anointed of the Lord, to kill the priests, because they considered it an unjust order, an abusive one. (1 Samuel 22:16-18). We don’t know the consequences of their holy disobedience (the Bible is silent about this), but their moral courage is an exceptional one and worthy to be followed by the true believers today.

Synagogue of Satan or Church?

If we replace the word Jew with SDA (seventh-day adventist) in the verses below, and the phrase circumcision with baptism we have a very interesting application for our times. The application is not a forced one because the Jews were seventh-day Adventist in the first century because they worshiped on Saturday and they were waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

Rev. 2:9 “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.”

Rev. 3:9 “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”

Romans 2: 21-29 “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

What signs show that a local church has become a synagogue of Satan?

-departure from sound teachings

-sin is not rebuked, but tolerated and even promoted from pulpits and by the example of the local leaders and their families

-marginalization, isolation and persecution of those who speak healthy things and rebuke the sin

Consequences are devastating for those who are making their first steps to know God because they tend to copy the example of those from the “synagogue”, thinking that they have more experience in the faith (Matthew 23:15).

What should we do when we see that things are going in a wrong direction in a local church?

-After careful personal consecration (removing first the beams from our eyes), we need to contact the leaders of the local church and share with them our concerns. We need to be able to present a clear “it is written” for our concerns, to show that it’s not about subjective opinions and feelings. The ideal scenario is when the leaders acknowledge the problems and will try to start some educational programs to address those issues and help the church grow in the right direction. We need to do the best we can to help the local church. Running away from this responsibility is the easiest option but not the biblical one. Only if any attempt we make is rejected and if things are getting worst, as a last solution, for God’s glory, for the sake of the church and for the sake of our families (as children are usually seriously affected by the apostasy from a church) we need to leave that congregation (who practically became a dissident church, by rejecting biblical principles and refusing the reform). This will be a call to repentance by itself. Hosea 4:17

-The next step is to search for another congregation where our family can participate to the worship, without being disturbed by things which are not biblical, and be able to invite other people we meet in our personal evangelism. If we can’t find such a place at a reasonable distance, we need to make our house a place of worship. If there are 2-3 families in the same situation, they can hire a place to worship together and invite their friends. We shouldn’t forget from where we left: it’s sad if the new group becomes another synagogue of Satan. Prayer and permanent cleaning of our own lives are very much needed, we need to watch and fight to raise the standard in our midst. It’s good to inform the Conference about the desire to form a new group and the reasons behind this decision. Normally they should defend those who remain faithful to God. If this doesn’t happen, the Conference disqualifies itself and loses the very meaning of its existence.

The imperative to depart from iniquity and from those who indulge into apostasy:

When any call to reform is received with contempt and rejection, the faithful ones can not worship any more together with those who are mocking God by the apostasy from their midst.

Exodus 23:2 “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil”.

Exodus 32:25-29 “And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:) Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.”

Exodus 33:7 “And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.”

Numbers 16:26,34 “And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins… And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.”

Hosea 4:17 “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.”

1 Cor 5:11 “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

Ephesians 5:11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

2 Tim 2:19 “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

2 Tim 3:1,2,5 “ This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy… Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Tit 2:11,12 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”

2 John 10,11 “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

“Let the churches who claim to believe the truth, who are advocating the law of God, keep that law and depart from all iniquity. Let the individual members of the church resist the temptations to practice evils and indulge in sin. Let the church commence the work of purification before God by repentance, humiliation, deep heart searching, for we are in the antitypical day of atonement—solemn hour fraught with eternal results.” 12MR 320

Separation from the Church or separation from dissident churches/congregations (who became synagogues of Satan)?

What is a dissident congregation? Who is a dissident?

1 Peter 1:22 “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.”

Disobedience, living in rebellion towards what God says, can not lead to sanctification, to building a character after the divine model. Refusal to reform (followed by the persecution of those who address the call to repentance) transforms the so called believers in dissident persons and dissident congregations. The big number of those who refuse the reform is not an argument in their favor. They may have the power to put true believers out of the “synagogue” (John 16:2; 9:22) but this doesn’t mean that they are the Church. In reality they are the ones excluded from the Church because of their rebellion and disobedience (even if their names are still kept in church books, because they have the control over those books). They become a synagogue of Satan because they show his rebellious spirit towards God’s law and towards any call to reform.

Disfellowshipped from the Church – Matthew 18:18 – a congregation can bind or loose only what was already bound or loosed in Heaven. “Truly I say to you, Whatever you bind on the earth will be, having been bound in Heaven. And whatever you loose on the earth will be, having been loosed in Heaven.” LITV – Literal Translation of the Holy Bible. Whenever somebody is not disfellowshipped first in Heaven, he/she can sleep very well and assured that God takes care. Whatever the visible congregations may do, it can not really affect their salvation.

Lessons from History

“After a long and severe conflict, the faithful few decided to dissolve all union with the apostate church if she still refused to free herself from falsehood and idolatry. They saw that separation was an absolute necessity if they would obey the word of God. They dared not tolerate errors fatal to their own souls, and set an example which would imperil the faith of their children and children’s children. To secure peace and unity they were ready to make any concession consistent with fidelity to God; but they felt that even peace would be too dearly purchased at the sacrifice of principle. If unity could be secured only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war.” GC 45

Romanists have persisted in bringing against Protestants the charge of heresy and willful separation from the true church. But these accusations apply rather to themselves. They are the ones who laid down the banner of Christ and departed from “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 3” GC 51

The claim to be SDA and the danger to become as the spiritual Babylon and be excluded/disfellowshipped by God

Revelation 3:16 “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Jeremiah 23:33 “And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD.”

The Jewish people from the first century, as the modern spiritual Israel, loved to quote Bible verses where there were divine promises, forgetting that there are conditions linked with those promises. We love New Year promises, but we don’t want to hear about the long list of curses (Deut. 28:15-68) which are the part of those who rebel against God’s Word.

Jeremiah 17:25 “Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.”

Isaiah 33:20 “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.”

Ezekiel 37:28 “And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.”

We do the same, quoting from the Spirit of Prophecy different statements, thinking that no matter how low are the standards we promote, God will still be with us to bless us, ignoring warnings like those you can read in the next paragraphs:

When Jerusalem was divorced from God it was because of her sins. She fell from an exalted height that Tyre and Sidon had never reached. And when an angel falls he becomes a fiend. The depth of our ruin is measured by the exalted light to which God has raised us in His great goodness and unspeakable mercy. Oh, what privileges are granted to us as a people! And if God spared not His people that He loved, because they refused to walk in the light, how can He spare the people whom He has blessed with the light of heaven in having opened to them the most exalted truth ever entrusted to mortal man to give to the world?” 12MR 319

“Our life is to be a life of earnest, thoughtful service to God. Those who feel no real obligation to represent the truth in life and character, who do not testify to the power of the grace of Christ by revealing the reformation it has wrought in them, fail to exalt the law of God before those whose characters are demonstrated in making that law void by their wrong principles.

The true commandment-keeping people of God show to the world a character of unspotted integrity, testifying by their own course of action that the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. Thus the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, through His obedience to the law of God, exalted and made that law honorable. God will surely condemn every member of every church claiming to be Seventh-day Adventist, who is not doing Him service, but through pride, selfishness, and worldliness, is showing that the truth of heavenly origin has not worked a reformation in his character.” 19MR 175 [compare with Rev. 2:2,9]

“Will the churches heed the Laodicean message? Will they repent, or will they, notwithstanding that the most solemn message of truth—the third angel’s message—is being proclaimed to the world, go on in sin? This is the last message of mercy, the last warning to a fallen world. If the church of God becomes lukewarm, it does not stand in favor with God any more than do the churches that are represented as having fallen and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. Those who have had opportunities to hear and receive the truth and who have united with the Seventh-day Adventist church, calling themselves the commandment-keeping people of God, and yet possess no more vitality and consecration to God than do the nominal churches, will receive of the plagues of God just as verily as the churches who oppose the law of God. Only those that are sanctified through the truth will compose the royal family in the heavenly mansions Christ has gone to prepare for those that love Him and keep His commandments.” 19MR 176

We must as a people arouse and cleanse the camp of Israel. Licentiousness, unlawful intimacy, and unholy practices are coming in among us in a large degree; and ministers who are handling sacred things are guilty of sin in this respect. They are coveting their neighbors’ wives, and the seventh commandment is broken. We are in danger of becoming a sister to fallen Babylon, of allowing our churches to become corrupted, and filled with every foul spirit, a cage for every unclean and hateful bird; and will we be clear unless we make decided movements to cure the existing evil?” 21MR 380 [compare with Rev.18:2, part of the verse is quoted here by EW]

These quotes were written more then 100 years ago. Did the situation of God’s people get better or what we can see with our own eyes is that things are getting worst, under the coordination and supervision of most of the leaders?

All who claim to be Sabbath-keeping Adventists, and yet continue in sin, are liars in God’s sight. [compare with Revelation 2:2,9 and 3:9] Their sinful course is counter working the work of God. They are leading others into sin. The word comes from God to every member of our churches, “And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” [Hebrew 12:13-17].” 19MR 177

“Elder Haskell, our testimony must be clear cut—there must be no daubing with untempered mortar. Sins of a grave character are cherished in our borders, and unless there is an awakening such as we have not seen for some time, which will convict and convert professed Sabbathkeepers, they will die in their sins. The punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah will be light in comparison with that of those who have had great light and precious opportunities, and have been earthly-minded, corrupt in thoughts and practices, and have not purified their souls by obeying the truth. {12MR 332.2}

… Now, those who have had years in this same experience, know not God nor Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and should such go forth as representatives of Jesus Christ? These men will never give the right mold to other minds; they have not grown up to the full stature of men and women in Christ. They simply have the name of Christians but are not fitted for the work of God, and never will be until they are born again, and learn the A.B.C. in true religion of Jesus Christ. There is a little hope in one direction: Take the young men and women, and place them where they will come as little in contact with our churches as possible, that the low grade of piety which is current in this day shall not leaven their ideas of what it means to be a Christian.” {12MR 333.1} Letter 16f, 1892. (Written to S. N. Haskell, May 9, 1892, from Preston, Melbourne, Australia.)

The Lord Jesus will always have a chosen people to serve Him. When the Jewish people rejected Christ, the Prince of life, He took from them the kingdom of God and gave it unto the Gentiles. God will continue to work on this principle with every branch of His work. When a church proves unfaithful to the word of the Lord, whatever their position may be, however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities. But if these in turn do not purify their lives from every wrong action; if they do not establish pure and holy principles in all their borders, then the Lord will grievously afflict and humble them, and, unless they repent, will remove them from their place and make them a reproach.” 14MR 102

“I was confirmed in all I had stated in Minneapolis, that a reformation must go through the churches. Reforms must be made, for spiritual weakness and blindness were upon the people who had been blessed with great light and precious opportunities and privileges. As reformers they had come out of the denominational churches, but they now act a part similar to that which the churches acted. We hoped that there would not be the necessity for another coming out…” 11MR 229

What about that quote where EW says that the church may appear to fall but it won’t fall? Let’s have a closer look at it:

“We are to be ready and waiting for the orders of God. Nations will be stirred to their very center. Support will be withdrawn from those who proclaim God’s only standard of righteousness, the only sure test of character. And all who will not bow to the decree of the national councils and obey the national laws to exalt the sabbath instituted by the man of sin, to the disregard of God’s holy day, will feel, not the oppressive power of popery alone, but of the Protestant world, the image of the beast.

Satan will work his miracles to deceive; he will set up his power as supreme. The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out—the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place. None but those who have been overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony will be found with the loyal and true, without spot or stain of sin, without guile in their mouths. We must be divested of our self-righteousness and arrayed in the righteousness of Christ.” 2SM 380

As we can see very clear the quote speaks about the time after the Sunday Law, when the faithful ones will be persecuted. The concept of church is used here in the highest sense, as it is described in the Bible and other inspired quotes (see the beginning of this article), and not to define an ecclesiastical structure, not in a denominational sense. God’s church, as described in this quote, will be formed by overcomers, people who overcame the sin by God’s grace, people who overcame the beast and the image of the beast, people who heard the call from Revelation 18:1-4 and came out of Babylon, they departed from iniquity.

If the sifting out is a process led by human beings, within the structures of a visible church, considering the fact that those unconverted and unprepared for Heaven are a majority (as it can be seen in the quote below), they would sift out the faithful believers. The final sifting out described in the quote will take place because of the persecution and it will be led by God and the faithful angels.

It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner.”. — Christian Service, 41 (1905). LDE 172

The Authority of the General Conference

In the Church Manual there is just one quote from EW, mentioned to underline the authority of the General Conference:

“I have often been instructed by the Lord that no man’s judgment should be surrendered to the judgment of any other one man. Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work and to say what plans shall be followed. But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body.” 9T 260

Many people quote these lines and consider them as a blank cheque for the leadership of the church. You can read below some other inspired quotes saying the contrary. So, how do we make peace between them? God has never given absolute and unconditional authority to any ecclesiastical earthly hierarchy, independent of its behavior and relationship with God. Human authority always derives from God and His Word. When humans submit themselves to the Bible, their authority must be respected. When the Bible and its principles are ignored, any ecclesiastical hierarchy loses its authority. We are not called to follow blindly a “thus says the church” (may it be even the General Conference), when it comes in contradiction with a “thus says the Lord”.

We quote here entirely one of the letter sent by EW while she was in Australia:

Let those in America who suppose the voice of the General Conference to be the voice of God, become one with God before they utter their opinions. The Word of God is to be lived as well as preached. It is to be brought into every phase of the Christian work done in this world. The men God has appointed to do His work must be emptied of self. Let Jesus in. Open the door of the heart to the heavenly Guest. Let no man be looked up to as God. When those who come nigh [to] God in service are consecrated, cleansed, and purified, approaching nearer and still nearer the divine benevolence, they can voice the commission of God, and be respected.

The obeying of the Word of God will lead to a state of things vastly different from that which now exists. There will be the putting away of fleshly lusts and greed for gain. That this sin has existed could not be better demonstrated than by the grasping for large wages by those who were professedly acting in Christ’s stead, claiming to be a peculiar people, zealous of good works. God is displeased that His work is not advancing in new territories.”—Letter 187, 1899. (Written to S. N. Haskell, from “Sunnyside,” Cooranbong, N. S. W., November 16, 1899.) 13MR 291

A second letter, equally interesting, describes serious problems at the highest level of the church, one hundred years ago:

“Evil Counsels Followed at the Review and Herald and the General Conference

(Written October 12, 1895, at Granville, NSW.)

The reproofs that have been coming to the men who have walked away from God into false paths have not been for anything that has come suddenly. There has been a working of the great deceiver upon human minds, after human methods that God has not sanctioned. Men controlled by the Holy Spirit, familiar with the principles of the law of God, could not engage in it if they had been looking to God and trusting in God. But men, human men, have had a settled determination to carry out their own devisings as if the Lord had authorized them to do this work. Men were working upon principles that God has condemned, which God will not accept, but in the great day of God He will say, “Who has required this work at your hands?” {17MR 177.1}

The natural traits of the human heart are always warring against the Spirit. The old man, not dead, will revive and have power to do mischief that will sink souls in ruin. Man has been building up the things he once destroyed. He has permitted himself to increase and Christ to decrease. He exalts his planning and devising as very wise, and Christ is left out of his counsel.{17MR 177.2}

These men have had light; they have had the warnings and messages from God sent to them. I have often been aroused at twelve and one o’clock at night and have felt charged by the Spirit of God to write to you, but you have received other counsel, of men, and ignored the counsel of God, else things would have never come to this. Evil counsels have been exalted and honored. Why have you done this? Much money has been used in the erecting of buildings to make an appearance of prosperity, “to give character to the work,” it is said, and to give the impression that the men managing this institution were superior business men. You have voiced their decisions; you have wanted them to be according to their representations; and Christ has decreased, and the men counterworking away from God’s plans have increased.

I could not entrust the light God has given me to the publishing house at Battle Creek. I would not dare to do this. As for your book committee, under the present administration, with the men who now preside, I would not entrust to them for publication in books the light given me of God, until that publishing house has men of consecrated ability and wisdom. As for the voice of the General Conference, there is no voice from God through that body that is reliable.

There is nothing to be depended upon. Everything is diverted into selfish channels. The Conference taking the publishing interest from Review and Herald Publishing Association does not relieve the situation at all, for the very same methods, the very same selfish plans, the very same ideas and devising remain. Enough robbery and dishonesty in deal have been practiced without now spreading to the General Conference this leprosy of cunning and double dealing and turning away men from their rights. I have now no words of sufficient force to describe the situation that has been steadily carried forward, notwithstanding all the warnings, all the messages given of God. When the word of the Lord is respected more highly than the words of men who have given evidence that they have no living connection with God, then the Lord’s will and my will [will] be done.{17MR 178.2}

Oh, how my heart aches, that spiritual wickedness should prevail in high places! The working of minds under the inspiration of Satan has come to a high pass. The men have been listening to the suggestions of Satan, and they know not from what source their wisdom came. They know not that that wisdom was from beneath, and would stop at nothing until they saw that all control was in the power of a set of men who were taking the place of God. The principle has been at work either to control or to crush all that cannot be controlled. There has been a spirit of deep, deep heart opposition to the truth of the gospel. Oh, to what obstinacy can the heart of man be brought! I stood nearly three years in Battle Creek. The power of God was revealed. Evidence was piled upon evidence, and on different occasions I hoped for a thorough work to be done.”—Manuscript 57, 1895. 17MR 177-179

One year later, the following words were written:

The men who have been connected with the greatest interest upon this earth have tainted and corrupted the work of God. The instrumentalities which He designs shall be used in advancing His cause have been used to forward unlawful schemes, which are in direct opposition to the work which God has specified as His. God has been forsaken by the men who have voiced decisions regarding His work, which has thereby become entangled. Men have seemed determined to place the mold and superscription of their human wisdom upon the work of God. They refused to be worked by the Holy Spirit, and brought in their own wisdom and devising.

The result of this has been in various ways. The sacred character of the cause of God is no longer realized at the center of the work. The voice from Battle Creek, which has been regarded as authority in counseling how the work should be done, is no longer the voice of God; but it is the voice of—whom? From whence does it come, and where is its vital power? This state of things is maintained by men who should have been disconnected from the work long ago. These men do not scruple to quote the word of God as their authority, but the God who is leading them is a false god.”. – Letter 4, 1896 , 17MR 185

After another five years (1901), we find a similar situation:

Where did the money go that was raised for the Southern field? How long has it been since that money was raised? It was raised five years ago, but I do not know where it went, and if there is anyone here who has knowledge on this point, I wish he would tell me. Those who kept back the money that was raised for the Southern field in response to my appeal are accountable to God, for He led me to make this appeal…

It is working upon wrong principles that has brought the cause of God into its present embarrassment. The people have lost confidence in those who have the management of the work.

Yet we hear that the voice of the conference is the voice of God. Every time I have heard this, I have thought that it was almost blasphemy. The voice of the conference ought to be the voice of God, but it is not, because some in connection with it are not men of faith and prayer; they are not men of elevated principle. There is not a seeking of God with the whole heart; there is not a realization of the terrible responsibility that rests upon those in this institution to mold and fashion minds after the divine similitude.” Ms 37, 1901, 2SAT 159

God’s prophet didn’t offer any blank cheque for the church authority. Any institution and any ministry has to be tested in the light of the Word, how much it is in harmony with divine principles.

Pope Gregory VII proclaimed the perfection of the Roman Church. Among the propositions which he put forth was one declaring that the church had never erred, nor would it ever err, according to the Scriptures. But the Scripture proofs did not accompany the assertion.” GC 57

We need to remember the beginnings of Protestantism in Europe and its foundation:

„The principles contained in this celebrated Protest … constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this Protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. Instead of these abuses, Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church.” GC 203

The Church in the Wilderness

Whenever the apostasy was universal, the faithful ones were part of what the Bible calls “the church in the wilderness” (Revelation 12:6) The most frequently mentioned example is that from the Middle Ages, when the papal persecution was fierce, but the same phenomenon happened in the days of Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus.

“The faith which for centuries was held and taught by the Waldensian Christians was in marked contrast to the false doctrines put forth from Rome. Their religious belief was founded upon the written word of God, the true system of Christianity. But those humble peasants, in their obscure retreats, shut away from the world, and bound to daily toil among their flocks and their vineyards, had not by themselves arrived at the truth in opposition to the dogmas and heresies of the apostate church. Theirs was not a faith newly received. Their religious belief was their inheritance from their fathers. They contended for the faith of the apostolic church,—“the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 3. “The church in the wilderness,” and not the proud hierarchy enthroned in the world’s great capital, was the true church of Christ, the guardian of the treasures of truth which God has committed to His people to be given to the world.

Among the leading causes that had led to the separation of the true church from Rome was the hatred of the latter toward the Bible Sabbath. As foretold by prophecy, the papal power cast down the truth to the ground.” GC 64

“The deputies had admonished the councilors to continue in the church, out of which, they declared, there was no salvation. Zwingli responded: “Let not this accusation move you. The foundation of the church is the same Rock, the same Christ, that gave Peter his name because he confessed Him faithfully. In every nation whosoever believes with all his heart in the Lord Jesus is accepted of God. Here, truly, is the church, out of which no one can be saved.”—D’Aubigne, London ed., b. 8, ch. 11. As a result of the conference, one of the bishop’s deputies accepted the reformed faith.” GC 181

“As members of the Church of England they were strongly attached to her forms of worship, but the Lord had presented before them in His word a higher standard. The Holy Spirit urged them to preach Christ and Him crucified. The power of the Highest attended their labors. Thousands were convicted and truly converted. It was necessary that these sheep be protected from ravening wolves. Wesley had no thought of forming a new denomination, but he organized them under what was called the Methodist Connection.” GC 257

“There were some, however, who refused to yield to the authority of pope or prelate. They were determined to maintain their allegiance to God and to preserve the purity and simplicity of their faith. A separation took place. Those who adhered to the ancient faith now withdrew; some, forsaking their native Alps, raised the banner of truth in foreign lands; others retreated to the secluded glens and rocky fastnesses of the mountains, and there preserved their freedom to worship God.” GC 64

Promises for difficult times

Rev. 3:21 „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.”

Rev. 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Rev. 15:2 “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.”

Rev. 17:14 “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.”

John 16:20 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”