The Search for the True Church  

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by Joe Crews
Copyright © 1991

C H A P T E R 1
The Search
Is there a true church in the world today? And if so, how can it be identified?

Of all the religious questions facing the modern truth-seeker, this is certainly the most demanding and also the most frustrating. Conflicting voices from every quarter declare that they have the answer. Denominations, sects, and cults make strident claims based upon emotional interpretations of isolated Bible texts.
The average Christian today has been so totally turned off by these exaggerated boasts that many have even discounted the possibility that any “true church” could really exist. Others have questioned the criteria by which any church could be tested and rated as “truer” than another.
It is very important to recognize that no church can be proven superior because its members are without sin. People are people, and all are subject to the same frailties of human nature. Yet, it is also true that every Christian has access to the same mighty power of God for overcoming those frailties. Therefore, any church today will necessarily be made up of individuals who are at varying levels of personal sanctification. The wheat and tares will still be mingled together, and no church will be made up entirely of perfect people.
But the question remains: Is there some valid way to identify the church which is closest to the biblical standards of truth? Some feel that the distinctive name of the organization will set it apart as the right one. Obviously, this could be no accurate test, because the choice of a name would reveal nothing about the spiritual nature of that church. Such shallow claims only serve to discourage intelligent searchers after the truth.
It must be apparent to all that if God has a special church in the world today, He will reveal it clearly and explicitly in His holy Word. The information must be couched in language that will appeal to human logic and should consist of more than just vague generalities or insinuations.
I am reluctant to make any claims for what you are about to read, although I know very well that it could revolutionize your life. Do not scan or read lightly the material which follows. I ask only that you study it prayerfully and with an open mind. Then judge it on the basis of the Scriptures and your own spiritual convictions. If it is truth, the Holy Spirit will guide you into joyful recognition of it. My personal feeling is that you will find this experience to be the most exciting adventure you have ever had in God’s Word.
Our quest for truth will focus upon the twelfth chapter of Revelation. Limited time and space does not allow for an exhaustive study, but two principles will be given priority—accuracy and simplicity. Over twelve hundred years of history must be dealt with only briefly as we follow the absorbing story of the true church to its surprising climax. Further confirming evidence for the historical part of the prophecy has been provided in my book entitled “The Beast, the Dragon, and the Woman.”

C H A P T E R 2
The Woman Symbolizes the Church
Revelation 12 is basically the narrative account of a beautiful, sun-clad woman and her descendants. “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1).
Here we are introduced to one of the most familiar symbols in the Bible. In both the Old and the New Testaments, God represents His people by a woman. As the bridegroom, He is married to the church. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2).
All through the Bible we can follow the record of this symbolism. God said in the Old Testament, “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman” (Jeremiah 6:2). And again, “Say unto Zion, Thou art my people” (Isaiah 51:16). The church is called Zion and God compares it with a beautiful woman. In the Old Testament, Israel was the chosen people so often portrayed as being married to God. In the New Testament, the true Israel of God is no longer a nation but a church composed of Jews and Gentiles who receive Christ as their Savior. Therefore, the woman of Revelation 12 flashes us the picture-story of the church at the time of Christ. The clothing of sunlight typifies the glorious New Covenant of grace, and the twelve stars represent the twelve apostles. The moon under her feet indicates the fading glory of the Old Covenant in the presence of the true Lamb of God.
Now begins the thrilling part! We are going to follow the unfolding future of that true church of our Lord Jesus. The next verses vividly delineate the course of truth through the ages. We want to know where that woman can be found TODAY! Don’t miss a step of the prophecy as we trace the vicissitudes of the true church right down to the present day!
The first thing we discover is that the woman is about to give birth to a baby. “And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads . . . and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne” (Revelation 12:2-5).
Who is this man-child destined to rule all nations and who was caught up to heaven? Only one person can meet this description—Jesus Christ. And who does the dragon represent, who tried to kill Christ at His birth? It was Herod, the representative of Rome, who sent out the order for all babies of two years and under to be slaughtered. Ordinarily, the dragon is used as a symbol of Satan, but in this case, the devil was working so closely with the Roman power to kill Jesus that the dragon also symbolizes Rome.
How did Jesus escape the diabolical decree of Herod? Joseph and Mary were warned of the danger in a dream and fled to Egypt with the infant. Later, after the death of the tyrant, they returned and settled in the town of Nazareth.
Even though the devil was foiled in his initial plot to kill Jesus, he did not abandon his purpose. Repeatedly, he sought to take the life of Jesus, and finally, he managed to bring Him to that mockery of a trial where He was tortured, crucified, and buried. But the grave could not contain the Son of God, and on the third day He burst out of the tomb. Later, He ascended to His Father in heaven.

C H A P T E R 3
Persecution of the Church
With no direct access to Jesus, the dragon (Rome) now turned his anger against the followers of Christ, the church: “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child” (Revelation 12:13).
These words provide only a tiny hint of the horror of the violence which broke forth against the apostolic church. Practically all the early disciples and church leaders were martyred for their faith. Cruel pagan emperors turned the sporting arenas and coliseums into theaters of death for those who followed the true gospel.
Soon pagan Rome yielded to papal Rome, and the persecutions continued with even greater force. Millions died under the terrible inquisitions which sought to eradicate all opposition to the papal system. Historians estimate that during the Dark Ages more that fifty million people laid down their lives rather than yield up their Protestant faith.
But let’s follow the tragic story in our prophetic outline. Revelation 12:14 tells us what the true church did as the pressures of persecution built up to a climax: “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.”
In order to escape extinction, the faithful Protestant refugees fled back into the Alpine mountains and valleys holding onto the true doctrine delivered by Jesus. Another book of Acts could be written about the heroism of the Waldenses, Huguenots, and Albigenses who refused to surrender their faith during those centuries of fierce oppression. God fought for them, and sometimes the pursuing armies of Rome were cut off by mysterious avalanches and rock slides. At other times the mountain streams were reddened by the blood of those faithful ones who sealed their devotion to the truth with their lives. The Revelation prophecy gives a symbolic picture of the desperate attempts made to wipe out those minority Christians who were now in hiding for their very survival: “And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood” (Revelation 12:15). How long was the true church to remain out of sight in the wilderness? The prophecy declares it would be for “a time, times, and half a time.” How mysterious! What is meant by this strange description of the time period involved? When would it end? The answer is found in verse 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.”
Now the picture begins to clear up. One verse says the woman was in the wilderness for 1,260 days and the other verse says she was there for “a time, times, and half a time.” These two periods are equal. This means that a “time” has to be a year in prophetic symbolism, “times” is two years, and “half a time” is half a year. When we add up the one, the two, and the half, we get three and a half years. And that is equal to exactly 1,260 days, using the Bible reckoning of 30 days to the month.
There is one more principle of prophetic interpretation to take into account here. In symbolic Bible prophecy a day always stands for a year. You will find the key for that principle in Ezekiel 4:6: “I have appointed thee each day for a year.” It is laid down elsewhere in these words: “. . . forty days, each day for a year” (Numbers 14:34).
Please note that this applies only to symbolic prophecy, and cannot be read into other portions of the Scripture. A day is used for a year only in the setting of an obvious prophetic context. This places the woman in her wilderness hideaway for the full period of 1,260 literal years.
Our conclusion must be, then, that the true church could not appear in the world until the end of the 1,260 years. Did such a thing happen to the true people of God? How long did the papal power continue to suppress the true doctrines by the exercise of her religio-political authority?
Here is a fascinating point of history. In a.d. 538 a decree by Emperor Justinian went into effect which assigned absolute spiritual preeminence to the church of Rome. Gradually, this religious tyranny drifted into union with civil powers until eventually kings were forced to seek permission from the pope before they could begin to rule. This authority remained in force until the year 1798 when Europe was rocked by the French Revolution. In the subsequent rebellion of the oppressed peasants against the privileged clergy, the pope was captured in 1798. The papal property was confiscated, and the French Directory government decreed that there would be no more Bishop of Rome. The oppressive rule of the papacy ended exactly 1,260 years after it was inaugurated in A.D. 538.

C H A P T E R 4
Three Marks of the True Church
This brings us to a most important observation: THE TRUE CHURCH COULD NOT APPEAR IN THE WORLD UNTIL AFTER THE YEAR 1798. It was to remain in hiding until the end of the 1,260 years, and that “wilderness” period ended in 1798. We have before us now one of the most amazing marks of identification for the true church. It is not based on some emotional feeling or upon some strained interpretation of a single Bible text. It is rooted in a prophetic revelation of a specific time period which can be verified by scores of historical records. The woman (church) simply could not make her appearance until the inhibiting powers of papal opposition had been taken out of the way. That prophesied event took place in 1798, and the truth which had been clothed in sackcloth now began to emerge from obscurity, soon to appear as the glorious remnant of the woman.
Now we are brought to an actual description of the woman as she would appear before the world sometime after the year 1798: “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” (Revelation 12:17).
This text is one of the most crucial to be found in the entire Bible. Nowhere is there a more concise description of the last-day remnant of the original apostolic faith as it was preserved through the ages. Here is an actual verbal definition of the true church for the present day. It is so important that we are going to analyze every word in order to extract the full meaning. If the true church can be discovered at all in the Bible, this will be the verse to reveal it.
“AND THE DRAGON . . .” Who is the dragon? There can be no question on this point. In Revelation 12:9 the dragon is called “the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.”
“WAS WROTH . . .” What does that mean? “Wroth” is the Old English word for “angry.” It simply means that Satan was angry. Whom was he angry with? “WROTH WITH THE WOMAN . . .” Who was the woman? We have already found that she is the true apostolic church, representing the great, original teachings of Jesus. “AND WENT TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REMNANT OF HER SEED . . .” Here a new word is introduced into the picture. Satan is going to fight against the REMNANT of the true church. What is a remnant? It is the last end piece on a bolt of cloth. It is exactly like the first piece that came off the bolt, but it happens to be at the very end and is always a small piece.
What does this tell us about the remnant of the woman? It is the last part of the true church, at the very end of time, which will be holding the exact same doctrines as did the early, apostolic church. But let’s read on.
“WHICH KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD. . .” What commandments would this be referring to? This designates the great moral law written by the finger of God on tables of stone. The Ten Commandments reflect the character of God, reveal His will for all His creatures, and form the basis for all morality and true worship.
Here we are confronted with the second intriguing mark of identification of the true church. Not only must it arise some time after the year 1798, but on the authority of the Word of God, it would have to be keeping ALL the Ten Commandments of God.
But now let’s finish reading this fantastic verse. “AND HAVE THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST.” Here is another characteristic of the true remnant. Not only will this last-day church arise after 1798 and keep all the Ten Commandments, but it will have the testimony of Jesus. But what is the testimony of Jesus? That is an unfamiliar phrase, and we need more than human wisdom to uncover its meaning
Notice how the Bible specifically defines this expression for us. If this text truly contains the heart of ultimate truth for us, the Word of God would have to clarify every part of it. The definition is provided by the word of an angel sent all the way from heaven to explain it to John. “I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
There it is! We know now without a shadow of doubt that the testimony of Jesus is the SPIRIT OF PROPHECY. And this is the third great mark of identity for the last-day true church!
Let me ask you something: Does a spirit of excitement rise up in you as these plain biblical statements zero in on the mostsought-after secret in the Word of God? We are getting closer and closer to identifying the special people of God in our day and their special message. And we are doing it by allowing the Bible to make the identification. We have not fabricated a single one of these three definitive characteristics. No one can honestly challenge their application to the end-time church of Jesus Christ. That remnant church will have to possess all three of these biblical tags of identity:


I know that some are already puzzling over that third mark. The “spirit of prophecy” is just about as incomprehensible as the “testimony of Jesus.” But stay with me, and we will get the explanation for that point very shortly.

C H A P T E R 5
A Fourth Identifying Characteristic
Right now I would like to add a fourth crucial mark of identification to our list. We have found this church to be the last, end-piece of historic truth. It will be proclaiming the final message of God just before Jesus returns. In fact, if God has any kind of special counsel or warning for the world at the end of time, He would surely give that message through His last-day remnant church. I think we can all see the logic of this conclusion.
Does God indeed have such a message, and is it identified clearly in the Bible? Jesus indicated that the proclaiming of a certain definite truth would immediately precede the conclusion of human history. Listen to His words: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
The last sign of Christ’s coming will be a worldwide preaching of the “gospel of the kingdom.” After that, the end will come. Now follow me closely. John the Revelator actually saw in vision the fulfillment of Christ’s words. He wrote, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice . . .” (Revelation 14:6, 7).
The next few verses describe precisely what that special last proclamation of the gospel will consist of. Then immediately John said, “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle . . . and he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped” (Revelation 14:14-16).
Did you catch that? The end comes just as soon as this particular “gospel” message has gone to every nation on earth. Jesus said the same thing, “this gospel . . . shall be preached in all the world . . . and then shall the end come.”
I submit to you that whatever this message is, it has to be the most urgent and compelling one that human ears have ever heard. Both John and Jesus testify that upon completion it will usher in the glorious kingdom of Christ.
Can we know what that final warning will contain? John spelled it out so simply that none need be in doubt. “Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come” (Revelation 14:7). Notice that a part of this last call of God will be announcing that the judgment has already started. “IS COME,” not “will come.” We must look and listen for the preaching of such a pre-advent judgment message to all nations of the earth.
The next part of the first angel’s message is this: “And worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water” (Revelation 14:7). Does that sound familiar? It should, for it is quoted almost word for word right from the fourth commandment of the decalogue, which strongly indicates that the Sabbath will be a part of the “gospel” proclamation which must go to the whole world just before the end.
How do you worship God as the Creator? Right in the heart of the Ten Commandments God wrote the answer: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11).
True worship stems from a recognition of God’s creative power and authority, and the Sabbath is God’s own established sign that He is the maker of everything. Over and over throughout the Bible God claims worship BECAUSE He created all things. “thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: FOR THOU HAST CREATED ALL THINGS.” (Revelation 4:11).
God challenged the false gods repeatedly because they could not create. “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth . . . He hath made the earth by his power” (Jeremiah 10: 11, 12). “God himself . . . formed the earth and made it . . . I am the Lord; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:18).
The Sabbath was instituted by God as a great reminder-sign of His sovereign authority as the only God to be worshiped. The Creator set in motion the arbitrary cycle of the seven-day week to mark off the true Sabbath, so that the world would be without excuse in knowing whom to worship and when. Thus the first angel’s message called for men to “worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea”—a call to true Sabbath-keeping.
The second and third angels’ messages described by John can be summarized briefly: “Babylon is fallen . . . If any man worship the beast . . . and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:8-10). Contrary to the opinion of many, this plain, bold preaching of the beast message is included in the everlasting gospel of God’s kingdom. Even warnings against the mark of the beast will be heralded to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. THEN THE END WILL COME!
We are now prepared to add a fourth characteristic to the list of three others. The true remnant church of the last days will surely be used of God to carry His final warning message to all inhabitants of planet earth. That message will include (a) the judgment hour is come, (b) true Sabbath worship, (c) the fall of spiritual Babylon, and (d) the mark of the beast.
This completes the amazing array of specific characteristics of the present day’s true church:

ANGELS (Revelation 14) ON A
Could any thinking person be indifferent toward what we have discovered thus far? We have in our hands right now the key to unlock one of the most fantastic spiritual secrets in the world. God has concentrated all the clues in this one, tremendous, prophetic chapter of Revelation. Look at the marks of identification. This is God’s list, not mine. I simply lifted them from the inspired pages of God’s Book. What do they tell us about the true church today?
First of all, it could not have arisen before 1798. This eliminates most of the great popular Protestant churches of the world. Practically all of them were formed before 1798. Secondly, it would have to be a church which keeps all the Ten Commandments. At first glance, this would seem to be a very poor definitive test for discovering which church is right. Surely all of them would teach and practice obedience to the great moral law of God— or would they? The fact is that very few contemporary denominations even lay claim to keeping all the Ten Commandments. Most of them admit freely that they do not observe the seventh-day Sabbath required by the fourth commandment. They observe the first day of the week instead of the Sabbath.

C H A P T E R 6
Most Churches Fail the Biblical Test
Doesn’t that seem strange? God wrote with His own hand, “the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work” (Exodus 20:10). No one has ever been confused about the day God sanctified and commanded. All preachers and churches freely admit that Saturday is the seventh day of the week. Yet most of them are transgressing the commandment of God every week by blatantly doing work on the Sabbath, which God has prohibited.
To compensate for the breaking of the seventh-day Sabbath, they have substituted another day—the first day of the week—in place of the one God commanded.
How do they justify such willful manipulation of the great moral law of God? The situation is astounding no matter how we view it! Many churches brush aside the Ten Commandments as mere ceremonial rules of Moses and teach that they were abolished at the cross! Others take the position that all the Ten Commandments, EXCEPT THE SABBATH, were carried over into the New Testament. In either case, the fourth commandment, containing the special sign of God’s creative and redemptive power, has been rejected and desecrated.
Yet we have just discovered that the true church will be distinguished for keeping the commandments. Mark it down: according to the clear teaching of the Bible, no church could be the remnant of the woman unless it keeps the seventh-day Sabbath as well as all the other nine commandments. Suddenly, we see the vast majority of those who passed the first test failing to meet the second.
But now we move on to the third requirement of the prophecy. The last-day remnant church must have the spirit of prophecy manifested in it. What does that mean? Without doubt this particular flag of identity is the most important one on our list. We shall discover that this involves more than merely understanding and preaching prophecy.
Finally, this special church will be distinguished by the unique message it proclaims to all nations on earth—the judgment is begun, the seventh day is the Sabbath, Babylon is fallen, and warnings against the mark of the beast.
Before we say more about any modern church system which might match these inspired characteristics, let us return to identifying point number three, which still has not been fully explained.

C H A P T E R 7
The Spirit of Prophecy
Under the inspiration of God, John declared that the remnant of the woman would have the “testimony of Jesus.” Since that expression is somewhat ambiguous, John later gave a clarification which still leaves much to be desired. He said simply, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
At least this is moving in the right direction, but we must now discover what John means by that expression, “spirit of prophecy.” Whatever it is, it ranks high with God, because He designates it as one of the ways by which to recognize His true church in these last days.
The picture begins to clear up when we examine the full context of the statement. An angel appears to John, and John falls upon the ground in awe and admiration. Said the Revelator, “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). In this verse, please notice who is described as having the testimony of Jesus, or the spirit of prophecy. Only John’s “brethren” are identified as having it. Now we must seek for some further information as to who John’s brethren were. The Word does not fail us. In Revelation 22:8, 9 John repeats the story of the angel and adds a little more detail. “And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets . . . worship God.” John’s brethren were the prophets, and they alone are said to have the spirit of prophecy.
Suddenly, the whole puzzle falls into place. The only ones who had the spirit of prophecy were the prophets themselves. If just knowing prophecy and preaching it could be called the “spirit of prophecy,” then many modern teachers and evangelists might qualify. But the Bible makes it exceedingly clear that it is the actual ability to prophesy. In other words, it is the gift of prophecy. Only the prophets had it.
This fact is supported by the apostle Paul. “That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ (spirit of prophecy) was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:5-7).
Here the testimony of Jesus is called a “gift” instead of the “spirit” of prophecy. And the implication is very strong that the gift will be in operation at the return of our Savior.
With this inspired insight from Paul we are back on familiar ground again. We have no problem with the term “gift of prophecy.” The New Testament epistles are filled with references to all the gifts of the Spirit, including the gift of prophecy. Paul told the church at Ephesus just how and when the gifts were bestowed: “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Ephesians 4:8).
Little comment is needed on this. It is a well-known fact that when Jesus returned to heaven He left certain special “gifts” or abilities with His people on earth. In fact, they are named: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).
For what reason did Jesus endow certain ones in the church with these appropriate spiritual gifts? “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). He did it to build up the believers and strengthen the church. These gifts were to mature and perfect the leaders of the body of Christ as they sought to edify the members.
The next verse tells exactly how long those gifts would be needed in the church. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the nature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
If language has any meaning at all, these words convey one idea very clearly. All the gifts which Christ placed with His church were to continue operating until the very end of time. They would be needed to bring the church to perfection and to the fullness of Christ’s stature.
Dare we ask the next obvious question? Where are these gifts today? If they were intended by our Lord to do their sanctifying work right down to the end of time, then they should all be seen operating in the churches around us. Let’s inquire if they are. Do we find teachers in most churches today? The answer is yes. What about pastors and evangelists? Practically all denominations have them. What can we say about apostles? Since this word literally means “missionaries,” (coming from a Greek word meaning “one who is sent”), again we can say that most modern churches qualify on this particular gift.
So far, so good. But we have one more inquiry—what about prophets? From most religious quarters there is no ready reply to this question. Practically no church claims that such a thing has ever been a part of its ministry.
But why? If all the other gifts are necessary, why should prophets not be necessary as well? It was certainly counted so in the early church. In fact, all the spiritual gifts were very much in evidence, according to the book of Acts. “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon . . .” (Acts 13:1). Here we have evidence that two of the gifts, teachers and prophets, were a part of the church at Antioch. Then in Acts 21:9 we read that a “man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” Notice that these four women from one family were appointed by the Spirit to be prophetesses. They had the spirit of prophecy.

C H A P T E R 8
Why Did Prophets Disappear
from the Church?
It is obvious that all the gifts were operating equally in the apostolic age and immediately afterward. But why did the gift of prophecy seem to drop out of sight after two or three hundred years into the Christian era? We do not have the same record of it through the ages as we do the other gifts. Why don’t we find prophets in all the churches of today along with pastors, teachers, etc.?
We dare not avoid the question as so many millions of Christians are currently doing. The Word of God meets the issue head-on and pulls no punches in the process. It is easy to see why most churches try to ignore the absence of this gift in their midst, especially when we discover the reason for its absence.
That post-apostolic period is not the first time that the spirit of prophecy had been removed from among God’s people. The truth is that God was dealing with the church then in the same way He had always dealt with His people. All through the Old Testament God led and instructed them by two divine agencies—the law and the prophets. Through the prophet Jeremiah God spoke to Israel, “If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you . . . Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth” (Jeremiah 26:4-6).
THE LAW AND PROPHETS! The two go together. Not only do they refer to the writings of Scripture, but they also refer to the two means of divine guidance. “Keep my law and hear my prophets” was the requirement of God. And the sacred record indicates that if they rejected one of those divine agencies, God would remove the other also, because they were actually rejecting His leadership. On numerous occasions the children of Israel turned away from the law of God, only to find the prophetic voice silenced as well.
Jeremiah wrote, “The law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD” (Lamentations 2:9). Ezekiel put it this way: “Then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients” (Ezekiel 7:26). The wise man laid down the very same principle: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18).
In times of open disobedience of His law, God used the prophets only to rebuke and to call back, not for counsel or guidance. When they turned from the law, they understood that they were also forfeiting the only other avenue by which they could receive divine direction. In his apostasy Saul cried out, “God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams” (1 Samuel 28:15).
We have a perfect example of this in Ezekiel 20:3 when the people came to inquire after God’s counsel. “Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God; Are ye come to enquire of me? As I live, saith the LORD God, I will not be enquired of by you.” Why would He not answer them in this case? Verses 11-13 give the answer: “And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.”
Surely we can see that the reason God gave no divine direction was because they _had forsaken His law and had broken His Sabbath. It was the violation of the fourth commandment which especially provoked the displeasure of God.
Now we are prepared to deal with the question of prophets in the New Testament, and why they disappeared after two or three centuries. What happened to God’s law at the very same time the gift of prophecy disappeared from the church? The history of that early period shows that the Sabbath was set aside in favor of the pagan day of the sun. A disgraceful compromise with heathen sun-worship led to an open rejection of the true seventh-day Sabbath. And when this happened, God did exactly what He had always done before when His people turned from His holy law; He withdrew the guidance of the spirit of prophecy. Prophets disappeared from the church. This brings us face-to-face with an exciting and challenging question. Is there reason to believe that when the church restores the law and begins to observe the Sabbath again, that God will also restore the gift of prophecy to the church? This leads us right back to that dynamic prophecy of Revelation 12 and God’s description of the true remnant. Now, for the first time, we can see the full significance of that seventeenth verse: “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.”
Do you see it? The law, so long neglected, is right back where it belongs—in the church. And hand-in-hand with the law is the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy. Think of it! The law and the prophets get back together again in the last remnant piece of God’s true apostolic church! All the gifts are again operating as they did in the days before the apostasy.
Remember that a remnant has to be exactly like the original except that it is on the very end, and it is a small piece. This fantastic prophecy reveals that there will be an end- time restoration of the faith of the apostles. The same Sabbath will be restored. The same gifts of the spirit will be manifested, and all the great apostolic doctrines will be stripped of the effects of 1,260 years of papal distortion.
A church, called the remnant, must appear on the scene some time after 1798. It will restore the foundation of many generations by keeping the Sabbath, the same one that Jesus made for man during creation week, and the same Sabbath He observed when He was on the earth. In that church will be manifested the true gift of prophecy. Under the anointing of unusual spiritual blessing and power that remnant church will carry the special last warning message of Revelation 14 to all the countries in the world. As we have already discovered, this glorious gospel of the three angels includes the present-hour judgment, the Sabbath, the fall of Babylon, and the beast message.
This church is identified again by John in these words: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). Do not overlook the fact that these commandment-keeping saints are empowered to do what they do only by trusting Jesus. When you find them, they will not be boasting of their righteousness, or depending on their good works to save them. Above all people they will have a loving, personal relationship with the Savior they worship. Their obedience will be based solely upon the merits of Christ’s imputed and imparted righteousness. They will keep the commandments because they have been saved by grace and not to gain any favor with God.
By this time you are probably in a state of excited curiosity as to whether any church in existence can meet the incredible conditions laid down in the Bible. Many claim to be the true church, but their claims are not based upon the requirements of the Word of God. Only those who fit the four specific marks outlined in the book of Revelation can be qualified for consideration. Just suppose we could find only one church in the world today which meets all these biblical tests. Could we expect it to be a perfect church with flawless members in it? On the contrary, it would surely be composed of average men and women, subject to the same failings as all other human beings. It would have to be a comparatively small church to meet the criteria of “remnant.” Jesus said the way of truth was narrow and “few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). Again He declared, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man” (Luke 17:26). None should be deceived by trusting great numbers, the majority. The saved will be comparable to the eight souls taken into the ark at the time of the great flood. Truth has never been popular, and it will be less so in the final age of sensual pleasure and materialism. The remnant church will not be found among the great, popular churches with their indulgent life-styles. Said Jesus, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Paul’s counsel was: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17). To Titus he wrote, “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 . . . a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
These and many other related verses seem to indicate that the true church of the last days will be looked upon by the world in the same manner that Jesus and His followers were esteemed in their day. Since the remnant is merely an extension of the great original, it will be despised by the majority, counted as peculiar, and finally, like the early church, as worthy of death. The book of Revelation exposes a diabolical plan of the end-time “beast” power to enforce a mark on every individual, and those who will not receive that mark will be condemned to death. As you might suspect at this point, those who resist that beast mark will be those who “keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). In other words, the remnant church.
Again, it must be emphasized that all those who belong to the remnant church will not necessarily be saved. Like all other churches it consists of ordinary people who must maintain a constant saving relationship with Jesus Christ. It is undoubtedly true that there will be people saved and lost out of all denominations and sects. Every person will be judged on the basis of revealed truth, and how he obeyed what he knew. Members of the remnant church will have great light, and they will be judged accordingly. Many will fail the test, because they depend on their knowledge of the truth rather than the saving merits of Christ’s righteousness. This is why it is altogether possible for many even in the “remnant” church to be lost. Others who have not so great light will be accepted if they know Jesus and walk in all the light that has been revealed.
But after making those observations, we must also concede that God has a special church with a special message which is designated as the “remnant” of the woman. It will appear near the end, holding the same doctrines as did the apostolic church, keeping all the Ten Commandments (including the Sabbath), having the gift of prophecy, and preaching Revelation 14 to the entire world.

C H A P T E R 9
Does Any Church Meet
the Four Tests?
Is there such a church in the world right now which meets all the requirements of these biblical texts? God does not leave us to wonder. He has made the marks so distinct and clear and simple in the Bible that all can know what to look for. Is it difficult to match the four great distinguishing signs with the hundreds of confusing church names and bodies? Not at all.
How many of those churches arose after 1798? A small minority. And how many of this minority are keeping all the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath? Very few. They can be counted on the fingers of one hand. How many of these few also have the spirit of prophecy? And finally, how many are proclaiming the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 in all the countries and languages of earth?
The sifting and eliminating has led us down to just one church, believe it or not. It would be less than honest to leave you hanging at this juncture, wondering if God had described some impossible, hybrid church that would never exist. Out of all the ecclesiastical systems in existence at this date, there is only one that fully meets the biblical criteria of the remnant.
This must be our conclusion based upon historical facts and not because we have any axe to grind for some particular church. The inspired record of Revelation 12 contains no emotional bias toward any existing church. The most disinterested person would have to come to the same conclusion after examining the full, prophetic picture. This leaves no room for boasting or pride. The secret was not revealed by any man but by the Word of God.
As we name the church, it must be with some trepidation. There will always be a few ready to charge us with sectarianism in spite of the undeniable evidence before us. Others will allow personal prejudice to rob them of this glorious truth.
The only church fulfilling the prophetic description of the true remnant is the Seventh-day Adventist church. Arising around 1844 this movement of destiny began the predicted program of restoring the truth which had been lost or distorted during the Dark Ages. One after another of the original doctrines of Christ and the early church were returned to their former luster and beauty. As the authority of the law and the Sabbath was re-established, God did exactly what He had promised to do: He restored the beautiful spirit of prophecy to the remnant church. That gift was manifested through the life and teachings of Mrs. Ellen G. White. This young woman, with only a grammar school education, received special revelations that extended over a period of more than six decades. From her inspired pen poured more than seventy books, many of which were acclaimed by the highest secular critics to be matchless in form and content.
Although the gift of prophecy served in a powerful manner to give impetus to the new movement, it professed only to be a “lesser light” to the sovereign authority of the Holy Scriptures. In harmony with the Bible rule to “try the spirits,” every manifestation had to be tested by the Word of God. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Had her writings not conformed to the Bible in every respect, they would have been rejected as counterfeit, but they spoke in perfect agreement with the Scriptures. In no way have they been considered a part of the sacred canon of Scripture. Though inspired by the same Spirit, they do not add to nor take away from the Holy Writ, but like a magnifying glass they bring out the beauty and truth of the Word.
Perhaps the greatest wonder of all is how the emerging remnant church, in the providence of God, settled upon the very same doctrines of Revelation 14—the ones specified by Jesus and John as the final message—as the heart of its teaching. But there is yet another miracle! How could that infant church, with only a few hundred members in 1860, reach out with its unpopular message and evangelize every country in the world? Yet, that is exactly what has happened! The work of Seventh-day Adventists has been established in countries representing nearly 100 percent of the world population. And every one of these unique doctrines of Revelation 14, including the judgment, the Sabbath, and the beast message, is being witnessed to those nations.
There are several churches which qualify on the first point of identity, and there are a few who fit the second also; but, it is a singular fact that only one church conforms perfectly to all four points. With a simplicity and logic that appeals to human reason, God has fulfilled His promise to guide us into all truth. The next move must be up to us. What will we do about the persuasive conclusions to which we have been led?
No one can avoid making a decision over this kind of truth. We can decide to accept it, or reject it. We can choose to obey or disobey. But one thing is certain—you can never be the same again, no matter which decision you make. Conviction has a way of staying with us even when we try to ignore or banish it. You can never forget the things you have learned about the true church. You are now in possession of the most sought-after secret in the whole Bible.
I would urge you not to make a decision to accept it just because it has convinced you intellectually. No one should join the church, which is the body of Christ, unless they have been drawn spiritually into a relationship with Jesus.
Behind the fantastic prophecy of the true remnant I want you to see the Lamb of God dying on the cross in your place. He hangs there because of sin—because someone did not love Him enough to obey Him. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
We can’t obey Him until we have knelt, broken-hearted because of our sin, and accepted Him as Lord and Savior. Love for Him provides both the motive and the power to fulfill His Word. If you haven’t accepted Him already, make that your first decision. Then under the strength of that new love relationship follow Him into service as a member of the true remnant church.


The Abomination of Desolation  

Posted by rsagala in

by Gary Gibbs

"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. . . For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24: 15, 16, 21).

What is this prophecy all about, and does it really affect Christians in today's world?
One of the most interesting prophecies in the Bible concerns the abomination of desolation. The element that makes this prophecy especially intriguing is that Jesus identifies it as a specific sign that the end is near.
It was in answer to the disciples' question, "When shall these things be and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" that Jesus spoke of the abomination of desolation. He said, "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... for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not sincethe beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:3,15-21).
Christians of many persuasions recognize this text as a definite and peculiar sign concerning the last days. Yet even though the majority of them can agree that the abomination of desolation is an important sign, they can't seem to agree on its specific nature. Even preachers are thrown into a quagmire of confusion - looking for something that no one is very sure about. It is a perfect example of the blind leading the blind.
Of course, some believe they know the identity of the abomination of desolation. Some teach that this prophecy was fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanes interrupted the temple sacrifices between 168 and 165 B.C. The abomination they point to is the pig Antiochus had offered on the altar in the temple complex. Others believe the abomination of desolation refers to a future time when an atheistic antichrist will overthrow the temple in Jerusalem and use it as his throne. Then there are those who believe the abomination of desolation is the Roman standards which were worshipped in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. at the time of its destruction by Titus.
Just what exactly is the abomination of desolation? Is it any one of these alternatives? Is it all of them at the same time? Or could it be possible that not any of these interpretations are correct? The answer to these questions is vitally important. Jesus clearly implies that our very lives could be at stake over this matter.
Jesus tells us that our study of the abomination of desolation should focus on the book of Daniel (Matthew 24:15). When one makes a careful study of this book, he discovers that the abomination of desolation can be divided into three parts. These parts are: the abomination of desolation in Daniel's day (involving the first temple); the abomination of desolation in Jesus' day (involving the second temple); and finally the abomination of desolation in the time of the end (involving the whole Christian church). The issues that come into play in the abomination of desolation as treated in the book of Daniel remain consistent in each of its three phases. Therefore they are types, or examples, of each other.

The First Abomination
The key that unlocks the mystery of this prophetic event is found in the first two verses of Daniel. "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and beseiged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god" (Daniel 1:1,2). In these two short sentences Daniel provides a concise historical background to the remainder of the book which follows.
Further study of Daniel's prologue reveals the abomination of desolation was existent in his time and led to Jerusalem's captivity. The Chronicler reveals the reason the Jewish kings fell to Babylon. "Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign... and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God." It was because of Jehoiakim's iniquitous life that God allowed him to be taken captive.
The significant feature of this is that Jehoiakim's evil deeds are described this way: "Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and his abominations which he did, and that which was found in him, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead" (2 Chronicles 36:5-8). It was specifically the abominations of Jehoiakim that led him and his city to forfeit God's protection and thus fall to Nebuchadnezzar.
Unfortunately Jehoiachin, his son, didn't do much better. Scripture tells us he also did "that which was evil in the sight of the Lord." Consequently he too was taken captive to Babylon, and "Zedekiah his brother" was placed as king over Judah and Jerusalem (v. 9-11).
The Bible goes on to record that not only did Zedekiah turn out to be just as evil as his two predecessors, but "moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen" (v. 12-14). God's political and religious leaders, as well as the people, adopted heathen ways as their own. They did this at the expense of God's revealed truth. Notice where these abominations were committed: the people "transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem" (v. 14). These abominations were standing in God's consecrated holy place, the "house of the Lord." The religious leaders of the day had purposefully led the people to adopt heathen worship practices and incorporated them into their worship of God. In substituting for God's commandments the vain notions of men, the leaders of God's heritage provoked his wrath. The people rejected God's calls to repentance and reformation and were left to reap the consequences. "Therefore, he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary" (v. 17).
This judgment was felt not only in the spilling of the blood, but in the complete destruction of the city and sanctuary (v. 19). This all was done "To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath to fulfill threescore and ten years" (v. 21). The result of God's people practicing the religious abominations of the heathen was the desolation of their land, city and sanctuary.

Breaking The Sabbath
Brought Desolation
Just what were these abominations that resulted in such desolation? Since this was all done "To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah," then Jeremiah should be able to tell us what substitutions in worship had been made. In Jeremiah 17 the prophet is told to stand in the gate of the people and prophesy. Under a divine mandate, Jeremiah told the people that if they would honor God's seventh-day Sabbath their city would remain forever, and that this faithful obedience would lead them into such a relationship with Himself that they would be used to convert the surrounding heathen nations (ch. 17:19-26).
On the other hand, if they would not keep the Sabbath day holy God would allow their city to be desolated. "But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then I will kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched" (v. 27).
Sadly, the Jews chose to continue breaking God's Sabbath and thus inaugurated their own destruction and captivity. The abomination that led to their desolation was breaking the Sabbath. Thus, we see the significance of 2 Chronicles 36:21: "To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath."
Ezekiel, who lived during the same time, also tells us about the abominations God's people were practicing in the holy place. In Ezekiel 8, the prophet was brought by vision to the door of the inner gate. God proceeded to show his servant the progressively greater outrages His people were committing. In verses 5 and 6 He speaks of an image that provoked Him to jealousy. In an escalation of outrage, unclean beasts had been brought into the house of God, women were weeping for Tammuz and the greatest abomination of all was twenty-five men standing in God's holy place "with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east" (Ezekiel 8:16).
God had instructed the Jews to erect the temple in a manner that would discourage the imitation of their heathen neighbors in sun worship. The ark of the covenant, the very focal point of the Jews' worship, was placed at the western end of the tabernacle. Thus the children of Israel would face the west, their backs to the rising sun, when they worshipped the true God. Yet the entrance of paganism among God's people had grown to such proportions that Judah's leading men were actually turning their backs on the temple of God. This was a significant act of apostasy.
Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah list the heathen practices that had been incorporated into the worship of God. Whether it was breaking the second commandment by idol worship, adoring unclean beasts, worshipping Tammuz, the mythological god of the pagans, or breaking God's holy Sabbath and worshiping the sun on the day consecrated to it, these practices all were classed by God as abominations. It was because the Jews persisted in justifying their own course and continued in these heathen customs that God permitted the desolation of their city.
Daniel himself agrees that it was the sins committed by God's people that caused their desolation. "O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and the iniquities of our fathers.... cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate.... open thy eyes, and behold our desolations..." (Daniel 9:16-18). It is important to note that the abominations were done by the apostate people of God. This in turn resulted in their forfeiture of God's protection and called down His judgments and chastisement in their desolation. This scenario of the abomination of desolation in Daniel's day, involving the first Jewish temple period, prefigures the two other abominations of desolation prophesied in Daniel. The next one we shall consider is the one that concerns the second Jewish temple period.

The Second Temple Desolated
After their release from Babylonian captivity and rebuilding the city and temple, the Jewish leaders erected a mountain of rules and regulations designed to protect them from repeating the sins that had led to their bondage. The fourth commandment's seventh-day Sabbath became a special object of amendment. The Jews reasoned that since it was transgression of the Sabbath that led to their captivity, they needed to define in minute detail how the Sabbath should be kept.
Over 500 rules concerning Sabbathkeeping eventually resulted. Some of these Sabbath laws were as ridiculous as this: one could not leave an egg in the sun on the Sabbath because the sun might cook it, and cooking on the Sabbath was a violation of the fourth commandment. Of course, this only resulted in a system of pure legalism. At last the people began to believe that favor with God depended on how well they obeyed the traditions of their elders.
Ultimately the people were led full circle to disobedience again. Jesus comments that in spite of their apparent religiosity they were still breaking God's law even as their forefathers had during Isaiah's and Daniel's day. "Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men... full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition... making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered" (Mark 7:6-13). Once again the people found themselves immersed in vain and rebellious worship.
Even though their apostasy expressed itself in legalism instead of laxness, it was still based on the same principle upon which all pagan religions are based - that man can save himself by his own works. Jesus, like Jeremiah of old, rebuked this religious system and called it an abomination. "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15).
Jesus expressed His displeasure for their abominations on numerous occasions. Most notable were the two times He cleansed the temple. On these times He expressed His anger at the desecration of His holy place. The controversy between Jesus and the Jews steamed, boiled and spewed over religion. The religious leaders hated Him because He didn't look like the Messiah, He didn't respect their traditions and most notably He didn't keep the Sabbath in the manner they thought it should be kept. This latter issue infuriated the Jews and led them to seek Jesus' death (See John 5:10-16; Matthew 12:1-4; Mark 3:1-6).
In spite of the religious leaders' resistance, Jesus sought time and again to bring them to repentance and reformation. Often He reproved them for their erroneous ways and pointed the way to true and undefiled religion that is of great price in the sight of God. Yet they hardened their hearts and beat back the waves of God's mercy.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, His prophetic eye saw the consequences of their constant rebellion. With a grief-stricken heart and tears coursing down His cheeks, He prophesied the coming doom of the city: "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 in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (Luke 19:41-44).
After teaching in the temple for several days, Jesus left its precincts for the last time. Again He was choked with anguish as He saw the ultimate result of His people's apostasy. He exclaimed, "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 gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:37,38).
On both these occasions Jesus placed the guilt upon the people by stating, "they knew not the time of their visitation" and "ye would not." As a result of not responding to God's call to turn from their abominations, their temple was to be desolated. This prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Roman armies of Titus burned the temple to the ground. This second desolation of the temple perfectly paralleled its first destruction. On both occasions the abominations were done by the apostate people of God and the desolation was an act of judgment performed by a heathen army.
This desolation of Jerusalem was prophesied by Daniel to come as a result of the people rejecting Messiah the prince. A careful study of Daniel 9:25-27 will show this to be the case. In verse 25 Messiah is promised to Israel and the city's restoration is also predicted. But then, ominously, all is prophesied for doom again. Verse 26 speaks of Messiah being killed by His own people and of how this act would cause their city and sanctuary to be desolated once again.
As Daniel heard Gabriel relay this prophecy, it was to his mind a replay of what he had seen happen to the Jerusalem of his day. The prophecy indicated that history would repeat itself, and this is exactly what happened. The abominations that God's people committed resulted, in both 586 B.C. and 70 A.D., in the destruction of their sanctuary and city -- first by Nebuchadnezzar, then by Titus.
Because Israel rejected the Messiah they lost their place as God's favored people. Jesus predicted this would take place by saying, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matthew 21:43). Israel forfeited their franchise of the gospel by their own obstinate sin.
Who would be the new nation to receive the kingdom of God and bring forth the fruits thereof? The Bible provides a clear and concise answer in the apostle Peter's letter to the Gentile converts who "In time past were not a people, but are now the people of God." Of the converts to Christianity, the new people of God, he further says, "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 marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9,10).
In the new dispensation God bestows upon the converted Christians all the privileges and promises that had been made to the literal seed of Abraham (see Galatians 3:26-29). Now converted Christians assume the role of Israel, and the Christian church absorbs the status of the temple or sanctuary of God. The Scriptures make this abundantly clear in such texts as Romans 2;28,29; Ephesians 2:11-13; 19-22; and 1 Peter 2:5.

The Final Desolation
It is in the light of this New Testament principle of spiritual Israel that Daniel speaks of the abomination of desolation the third and final time. These references can be found in Daniel 8:13; 11:31; and 12:11. Discerning students of prophetic history realize that these verses predict the formation and ascension of power by the Papacy. It is an indisputable fact of history that the Papacy brought into the Christian church the very same practices of paganism for which ancient Jerusalem was destroyed. One has to do only a little study to see how image worship, Tammuz worship, and sun worship were introduced to Christianity during the Dark Ages. Many of these abominations are still with us in the form of statues, candles for the saints, rosary beads, Easter sunrise services and Sunday worship. [For more information on this subject, see Amazing Facts' booklet Baptized Paganism.]
By no means does the papal apostasy exonerate Protestantism. Most Protestant churches accede to the apostasy by continuing the practice of abominations that have their roots firmly fixed in ancient pagan religions, which were established to destroy God's truth. Both Catholicism and Protestantism have fostered abominations in God's holy place, His church. The Christian church is mirroring literal Israel. We are repeating many of the same sins and will consequently reap the same punishment of desolation, unless we are willing to read the handwriting on the wall and flee from Babylon.
It is clear that the three occasions of abomination of desolation found in Daniel result from apostasy on the part of God's people, but what is the sign that will tell us when the desolation is nigh?
In Luke 21:20 Jesus told His disciples what would be the last sign of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem. He said, "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh." This text does not indicate that the armies are the abomination, but rather that the armies were the instrument to cause desolation. Through the Roman armies God would execute "the days of vengeance" for Israel's abominations.
When the Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem, it was a sign that most of the city's leaders and inhabitants had passed the boundaries of grace and had filled their cup of iniquity. To the Christians living in the city, this was to be a sign that Jerusalem would soon suffer God's judgment. As soon as the first opportunity arose, these Christians were to "flee to the mountains" (v. 21). In 66 A.D. when Cestius, the Roman general, surrounded the city the Christians knew the promised sign had arrived and the time had come to flee. At their first opportunity to escape they did so, and not one Christian died in the horrible destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Just as God gave the early Christians a sign of when to flee Jerusalem, so He has given us a sign. He has made it possible for every Christian to know when this world's probationary hour is nearing its close.
In Revelation 13 and 14 John records a list of omens that will tell us just how close we are to the end. The sign that will show this nation has filled its cup of iniquity will be when it makes an image to the Papacy by uniting church and state. How much more neatly could this be effected than by the passage of a national Sunday law commanding everyone to honor a pagan day of worship? Such an event will be a direct fulfillment of Revelation 13:15-17, and provide assurance that the end of this earth's time is quickly approaching.
One author describes coming events this way: "As the approach of Roman armies was a sign to the disciples of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, so may this apostasy be a sign to us that the limit of God's forbearance is reached, that the measure of our nation's iniquity is full, and that the angel of mercy is about to take her flight." When the churches have apostasized in their abominations to such a degree that they enact legislation of a religious law which displaces God's holy Sabbath with a pagan holiday, we may leave our cities, knowing that a time of trouble will be forthcoming.
The abomination of desolation is an important subject in these last days. If we study this prophecy carefully, we will find that in each of its three fulfill-ments refers to a national apostasy by God's people that ends in their tragic destruction. We are now living in the time of the Chistian church's final apostasy, which makes of none effect the commandments of God. We need to see that we are in the midst of fulfilling prophecy and keep our eyes open for the culmination of all things.
Our only sure protection against the abomination of desolation is to give our lives unreservedly to Jesus, loving others as He loves them and worshiping Him in the way that His word teaches. The greatest commandment is simply to love God with all our heart and soul and strength. If we have such love, it will be natural for us to do all things to please and honor Him. In return, He will see us safely through the desolation that will close this earth's history just before He comes again.


Christmas is Coming

"Christmas is coming," is the note that is sounded throughout our world from east to west and from north to south. With youth, those of mature age, and even the aged, it is a period of general rejoicing, of great gladness. But what is Christmas, that it should demand so much attention? This day has been made much of for centuries. It is accepted by the unbelieving world, and by the Christian world generally, as the day on which Christ was born. When the world at large celebrates the day, they show no honor to Christ. They refuse to acknowledge Him as their Saviour, to honor Him by willing obedience to His service. They show preference to the day, but none to the one for whom the day is celebrated, Jesus Christ.

The twenty-fifth of December is supposed to be the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, and its observance has become customary and popular. but yet there is no certainty that we are keeping the veritable day of our Saviour's birth. History gives us no certain assurance of this. The Bible does not give us the precise time. Had the Lord deemed this knowledge essential to our salvation, He would have spoken through His prophets and apostles that we might know all about the matter. But the silence of the Scriptures upon this point evidences to us that it is hidden from us for the wisest purposes.

In His wisdom the Lord concealed the place where He buried Moses. God buried him, and God resurrected him and took him to heaven. This secrecy was to prevent idolatry. He against whom they rebelled while he was in active service, whom they provoked almost beyond human endurance, was almost worshiped as God after his separation from them by death. For the very same purpose He has concealed the precise day of Christ's birth; that the day should not receive the honor that should be given to Christ as the Redeemer of the world--one to be received, to be trusted, to be relied on as He who could save to the uttermost all who come unto Him. The soul's adoration should be given to Jesus as the Son of the infinite God.

To Glorify God, Not Man

There is no divine sanctity resting upon the twenty-fifth of December; and it is not pleasing to God that anything that concerns the salvation of men through the infinite sacrifice made for them, should be so sadly perverted from its professed design. Christ should be the supreme object; but as Christmas has been observed, the glory is turned from Him to mortal man, whose sinful, defective character made it necessary for Him to come to our world.

Jesus, the Majesty of heaven, the royal King of heaven, laid aside His royalty, left His throne of glory, His high command, and came into our world to bring to fallen man, weakened in moral power, and corrupted by sin, aid divine. He clothed His divinity with humanity, that He might reach to the very depths of human woe and misery, to lift up fallen man. By taking upon Himself man's nature, He raised humanity in the scale of moral value with God. Those great themes are almost too high, too deep, too infinite, for the comprehension of finite minds.

Parents should keep these things before their children and instruct them, line upon line, precept upon precept, in their obligation to God--not their obligation to each other, to honor and glorify one another by gifts and offerings. But they should be taught that Jesus is the world's Redeemer, the object of thought, of painstaking effort; that His work is the grand theme which should engage their attention; that they should bring to Him their gifts and offerings. Thus did the wise men and the shepherds.

The Day Not to Be Ignored With Children

As the twenty-fifth of December is observed to commemorate the birth of Christ, as the children have been instructed by precept and example that this was indeed a day of gladness and rejoicing, you will find it a difficult matter to pass over this period without giving it some attention. It can be made to serve a very good purpose.

The youth should be treated very carefully. They should not be left on Christmas to find their own amusement in vanity and pleasure-seeking, in amusements which will be detrimental to their spirituality. Parents can control this matter by turning the minds and the offerings of their children to God and His cause and the salvation of souls.

The desire for amusement, instead of being quenched and arbitrarily ruled down, should be controlled and directed by painstaking effort upon the part of the parents. Their desire to make gifts may be turned into pure and holy channels, and made to result in good to our fellow men by supplying the treasury in the great, grand work for which Christ came into our world. Self-denial and self-sacrifice marked His course of action. Let it mark ours who profess to love Jesus; because in Him is centered our hope of eternal life.

Substitute Innocent Pleasures for Sinful Amusements

Youth cannot be made as sedate and grave as old age, the child as sober as the sire. While sinful amusements are condemned, as they should be, let parents, teachers, and guardians of youth provide in their stead innocent pleasures which shall not taint or corrupt the morals. Do not bind down the young to rigid rules and restraints that will lead them to feel themselves oppressed and to break over and rush into paths of folly and destruction. With a firm, kindly, considerate hand hold the lines of government, guiding and controlling their minds and purposes, yet so gently, so wisely, so lovingly, that they still will know that you have their best good in view.

How many parents are lamenting the fact that they cannot keep their children at home, that they have no love for home. At an early age they have a desire for the company of strangers; and as soon as they are old enough they break away from that which appears to them to be bondage and unreasonable restraint, and will neither heed a mother's prayers nor a father's counsels. Investigation would generally reveal that the sin lay at the door of the parents. They have not made home what it ought to be--attractive, pleasant, radiant with the sunshine of kind words, pleasant looks, and true love.

The secret of saving your children lies in making your home lovely and attractive. Indulgence in parents will not bind the children to God nor to home; but a firm, godly influence to properly train and educate the mind would save many children from ruin.

A Christmas Tree

On Christmas, so soon to come, let not the parents take the position that an evergreen placed in the church for the amusement of the Sabbath school scholars is a sin; for it may be made a great blessing. Keep before their minds benevolent objects. In no case should mere amusement be the object of these gatherings. While there may be some who will turn these occasions into seasons of careless levity, and whose minds will not receive the divine impress, to other minds and characters these seasons will be highly beneficial. I am fully satisfied that innocent substitutes can be devised for many gatherings that demoralize.

Christmas is coming. May you all have wisdom to make it a precious season. Let the older church members unite, heart and soul, with their children in their innocent amusement and recreation, in devising ways and means to show true respect to Jesus by bringing to Him gifts and offerings. Let everyone remember the claims of God. His cause cannot go forward without your aid. Let the gifts you have usually bestowed upon one another be placed in the Lord's treasury. . . . In every church let your smaller offerings be placed upon your Christmas tree. Let the precious emblem "evergreen" suggest the holy work of God and His beneficence to us; and the loving heart-work will be to save other souls who are in darkness. Let your works be in accordance with your faith. . . .

Every tree in Satan's garden hangs laden with the fruits of vanity, pride, self-importance, evil desire, extravagance--all poisoned fruit, but very gratifying to the carnal heart. Let the several churches present to God Christmas trees in every church, and then let them hang thereon the fruits of beneficence and gratitude--offerings coming from willing hearts and hands, fruits that God will accept as an expression of our faith and our great love to Him for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Let the evergreen be laden with fruit, rich and pure and holy, acceptable to God. Shall we not have such a Christmas as Heaven can approve?

Christmas Gifts

Thousands of dollars (in 1884) are needlessly spent every year in gifts to each other. That is means lost to God, lost to His cause. It pleases the vanity, encourages pride, creates all kinds of dissatisfaction, murmuring, and complaints, because perhaps the gifts are not just what was desired, not of the high value wanted or expected.

Christmas is not observed as its name implies it should be. Man has forsaken God in almost everything, and has turned the attention to self. He has left the pure springs of living waters which flow from the throne of God, and hewn out to himself broken cisterns which can hold no water. God gave man a probation that he might be fitted for heaven. He was to look upward to God, who was to be the soul's adoration, but talent, skill, and inventive powers are all exercised to make self the supreme object of attention. Man has withdrawn his gaze from Deity, and fastened his eyes upon the finite, the earthly, the corruptible.

Satan is in this work to put God out of the mind and interpose the world and self that the eye shall not be single to the glory of God. Satan captivates and ensnares the mind. His infernal wisdom is continually exercised to mold and fashion the material with which he has to deal, to make God the least and the last object of devotion.

Turn the Current Heavenward

The various amusements of society have been the ruin of thousands who, but for these devices of Satan, might be servants of the living God. There are wrecks of character seen everywhere who have been destroyed by gilded, fashionable pleasure; and still the work is going forward. Thousands more will go to ruin who will not open their eyes to see and sense the fact that, although they are professed Christians, they are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. . . .

Now, brethren, let us on Christmas make special efforts to come before the Lord with gifts and grateful offerings for the gift of Jesus Christ as a Redeemer to the world. Let nothing now be spent needlessly, but let every penny that can be spared be put out to the exchangers. Satan has had his way in managing these occasions to suit himself. Now let us turn the current heavenward instead of earthward. Let us show by our offerings that we appreciate the self-denial and sacrifice of Christ in our behalf. Let God be brought to remembrance by every child and parent; and let the offerings, both small and large, be brought to the storehouse of God.

You that have means, who have been in the habit of making donations to your relatives and friends until you are at a loss to know what to invent that will be new and interesting to them, seek to put your ingenuity to the test, as well as your influence, to see how much means you may gather to advance the work of the Lord. Let your skill and your capacities be employed to make the coming Christmas one of intense interest, paying your addresses to the God of heaven in willing, grateful offerings. Follow no longer the world's customs. Make a break here, and see if this Christmas cannot show thousands of dollars flowing into the treasury, that God's storehouse may not be empty.

You may not be recompensed on earth, but you will be rewarded in the future life, and that abundantly. let those who have so long planned for self now begin to plan for the cause of God, and you will certainly have increased wisdom. Let the conscience be enlightened, and the love of truth and of Christ take the place of idolatrous thoughts and love of self.

Will you not arise, my Christian brethren and sisters, and gird yourselves for duty in the fear of God, so arranging this matter that it shall not be dry and uninteresting, but full of innocent enjoyment that shall bear the signet of Heaven? I know the poorer class will respond to these suggestions. The most wealthy should also show an interest and bestow their gifts and offerings proportionate to the means with which God has entrusted them. Let there be recorded in the heavenly books such a Christmas as has never yet been seen, because of the donations which shall be given for the sustaining of the work of God and the upbuilding of His kingdom.--Review and Herald, December 9, 1884. (Portion in The Adventist Home , pp. 477-483).

Holiday Gifts

The holiday season is fast approaching with its interchange of gifts, and old and young are intently studying what they can bestow upon their friends as a token of affectionate remembrance. It is pleasant to receive a gift, however small, from those we love. It is an assurance that we are not forgotten, and seems to bind us to them a little closer.

Brethren and sisters, while you are devising gifts for one another, I would remind you of our heavenly Friend, lest you should be unmindful of His claims. Will He not be pleased if we show that we have not forgotten Him? Jesus, the Prince of Life, gave all to bring salvation within our reach. . . . He suffered even unto death, that He might give us eternal life.

It is through Christ that we receive every blessing. . . . Shall not our heavenly Benefactor share in the tokens of our gratitude and love? Come, brethren and sisters, come with your children, even the babes in your arms, and bring your offerings to God according to your ability. Make melody to Him in your hearts, and let His praise be upon your lips. Let us rejoice that our Saviour liveth to make intercession for us in the presence of Jehovah. As a people we have backslidden from God; let us return unto Him, and He will return unto us, and will heal all our backslidings. Let us, upon the coming Christmas and New Year's festivals, not only make an offering to God of our means, but give ourselves unreservedly to Him, a living sacrifice. . . .

While urging upon all the duty of first bringing their offerings to God, I would not wholly condemn the practice of making Christmas and New Year's gifts to our friends. It is right to bestow upon one another tokens of love and remembrance if we do not in this forget God, our best friend. We should make our gifts such as will prove a real benefit to the receiver. I would recommend such books as will be an aid in understanding the Word of God, or that will increase our love for its precepts. Provide something to be read during these long winter evenings. . . .

We need to think more of God and less of ourselves. If we would but think of Him as often as we have evidence of His care for us, we would keep Him ever in our thoughts, and would delight to talk of Him and praise Him. We talk of temporal things because we have an interest in them.

We talk of our friends because we love them; our joys and our sorrows are bound up with them. Yet we have infinitely greater reason to love God than to love our earthly friends; we receive more from Him than from any other friend, and it should be the most natural thing in the world to make God first in all our thoughts, to talk of His goodness and tell of His power, and to respond to His love by our freewill gifts and offerings for His cause.--Review and Herald , December 26, 1882.

Diverted From the True Object

Our children have been educated to expect gifts from parents and friends upon Christmas. Christmas is celebrated to commemorate Christ's birth. If we celebrate it only in seeking to give pleasure to our children and one another, our offerings are diverted from the true object. We should bring our thank offerings to the Lord, laying our gifts at the feet of Him who has opened the treasures of heaven to us.

The enemy plans that human minds and hearts shall be diverted from God and His cause, to praise and honor one another. God has been left out of the question, and positively dishonored. Christmas has been made a day of feasting, of gluttony, of selfish indulgence.

Now let every family consider this matter in all its bearings. Let the parents place it in all its wonderful significance before their children and friends, and say: "This year we will not expend money in presents upon ourselves, but we will honor and glorify God. We will testify of our gratitude to Him who gave His Son to die as our sacrifice, that we might have the gift of eternal life." Let us show that we appreciate this gift, and respond as far as it is in our power with thank offerings. Let us celebrate Christmas by remembering God instead of remembering our friends and relatives with gifts which they do not need.

The Reward of Self-Denial

Will not God acknowledge the offerings thus bestowed? Will He not bless the little ones who bring some offering of their own to the Master? Indeed He will! Is not this a most precious opportunity to educate your children in the work of self-denial for Jesus' sake? Tell the children of the great missionary field and talk to them of the love of Christ, of the great sacrifice made because He loved us and wanted us to have a home with Him in His kingdom. He came to our world to bless it with His divine presence, to bring peace, and light and joy. But the world would not receive Him and put the Prince of Life to death. His death was to bring the treasures of heaven within the reach of all who should believe in Jesus.

Make this glorious theme plain to your children, and as their young hearts expand with love to God let them present their little offerings that they may act their part in sending the precious light of truth to others. Thus the children may become little missionaries for the Master. Their little offerings, coming into the treasury like many tiny rivulets, may swell the stream to a river that shall refresh many souls who are thirsting for the truth of God; and even these children may see some souls saved in the kingdom of God as the result of their self-denial.--Review and Herald Extra, December 11, 1888.

The Holidays

We are rapidly approaching the season of the holidays, and many conscientious ones are now questioning what course they may pursue that will be pleasing in the sight of God. By the world the holidays are spent in frivolity and extravagance, gluttony and display. It is the prevailing custom at this time to make and receive presents. And it is no small burden upon the mind to know how to distribute these gifts among friends so that none will feel slighted. It is a fact that much envy and jealousy are often created by this custom of giving presents.

Thousands of dollars will be worse than thrown away upon the coming Christmas and New Year's in needless indulgences. But it is our privilege to depart from the customs and practices of this degenerate age, and instead of expending means merely for the gratification of the appetite, or for needless ornaments or articles of clothing, we may make the coming holidays an occasion in which to honor and glorify God.

We advise all our brethren and sisters to make a decided reform in regard to these festal days. Those who appreciate the gift of God's dear Son to save them from ruin, now have a favorable opportunity to give tangible proofs of their gratitude by rendering to God their thank offerings. Let old and young lay aside their mites as sacred offerings to God. If we would give to the cause of our Redeemer one-half as much as we have bestowed upon our friends, we would do much good and receive a blessing for giving.

Follow Christ's Example

Let us seek to faithfully represent Christ on the coming festal days by imitating His example as He went about doing good. It is impossible to enjoy the approbation of God while living for self. As Christians who profess a living faith in the near coming of the Son of man, keeping all of God's commandments, let us make earnest efforts to draw near to God through Jesus Christ and make a covenant with Him by sacrifice. In our principles of action we must be elevated above the customs and fashions of the world. Christ came to our world to elevate the minds of men to the divine level, and to bring them into sympathy with the mind of God.

As every blessing we enjoy is brought to us through the condescension, humiliation, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we should render to Him our best gifts above all not withholding ourselves. The infinite sacrifice which Christ has made to free us from the guilt and woe of sin should work in every heart a spirit of gratitude and self-denial which is not manifested by the world. God's gift of Christ to man filled all heaven with amazement, and inspired at His birth the angelic song "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Christmas day, precious reminder of the sacrifice made in man's behalf, should not be devoted to gluttony and self-indulgence, thus exalting the creature above the Creator. Let us who are partakers of this great salvation show that we have some appreciation of the gift by rendering to God our thank offerings. If we would indulge less in feasting and merriment upon these occasions, and instead make them the means of benefiting humanity, we should better meet the mind of God. It is a pleasure and gratification to exchange gifts with our friends, but are there not nobler and more glorious objects for which we may give our means, and thus do good by shedding light upon the pathway of others?

Gift Suggestions

There are many who have not books and publications upon present truth. Here is a large field where money can be safely invested. There are large numbers of little ones who should be supplied with reading. The Sunshine Series, Golden Grains Series, Poem, Sabbath Readings,* etc., are all precious books, and may be introduced safely into every family. The many trifles usually spent in candies and useless toys may be treasured up with which to buy these volumes.

[*Note: Reference is made in this article to current publications and building projects. As the principles set forth in this connection are applicable today these specific references are left in the article as it is duplicated.]

Children need proper reading, which will afford amusement and recreation, and not demoralize the mind or weary the body. If they are taught to love romance and newspaper tales, instructive books and papers will become distasteful to them. Most children and young people will have reading matter; and if it is not selected for them, they will select it for themselves. They can find a ruinous quality of reading anywhere, and they soon learn to love it. But if pure and good reading is furnished them, they will cultivate a taste for that.

Especial efforts should be made to exclude from our homes that class of literature which can have no beneficial influence upon our children. Many times I have been pained to find upon the tables or in the bookcases of Sabbathkeepers, papers and books full of romance, which their children were eagerly perusing.

There are those who profess to be brethren who do not take the Review, Signs, Instructor, or Good Health, but take one or more secular papers. Their children are deeply interested in reading the fictitious tales and love stories which are found in these papers, and which their father can afford to pay for, although claiming that he cannot afford to pay for our periodicals and publications on present truth. Thus parents are educating the taste of their children to greedily devour the sickly, sensational stores found in newspaper columns. All such reading is poisonous; it leaves a stain upon the soul and encourages a love for cheap reading which will debase the morals and ruin the mind.

Parents should guard their children and teach them to cultivate a pure imagination and to shun, as they would a leper, the love-sick pen pictures presented in newspapers. Let publications upon moral and religious subjects be found on your tables and in your libraries, that your children may cultivate a taste for elevated reading. Let those who wish to make valuable presents to their children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces, procure for them the children's books mentioned above. For young people, the Life of Joseph Bates is a treasure, also the three volumes of Spirit of Prophecy. These volumes should be placed in every family in the land. God is giving light from heaven, and not a family should be without it. Let the presents you shall make be of that order which will shed beams of light upon the pathway to heaven.

Offerings Consecrated to God

Anciently the children of Israel were commanded to keep three annual feasts each year: The Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Feast of Weeks. The Lord gave directions that on these occasions their gifts and offerings were to be consecrated to Him, and none should appear before Him empty-handed. But in our day it has become fashionable to observe these festal occasions in a manner that would divert the mind from God instead of bringing glory to His name. Those whom God has blessed with prosperity should acknowledge the Giver, and feel that where much is given, much will be required.

Our holidays have been perverted from their intended use. Gifts are lavished upon one another, and praise which should have been given to God, to whom all these things belong, is bestowed upon poor mortals.

Our houses of worship in Oakland and Battle Creek are under the pressure of debt. The Dime Tabernacle belongs to us all; we should all have a special interest in it.

In order to accommodate the students at the College, the patients at the sanitarium, the laborers at the Office, and the large number of worshipers constantly coming in from abroad, the erection of this spacious house of worship was a positive necessity. Great responsibilities rest upon those at Battle Creek, and also upon those whose arms should be reached out to sustain these interests at the great heart of the work. Not in all the world is there a battle field for truth and reform like this. Great interests are involved here. The Sabbath school and college are educating the young, and determining the future destiny of souls. There is here a continual necessity of devising ways and means for the advancement of truth and the conversion of souls. Our people are not half awake to the demands of the times. The voice of Providence is calling upon all who have the love of God in their hearts to arouse to this great emergency. Never was there a time when so much was at stake as today. Never was there a period in which greater energy and self-sacrifice were demanded from God's commandment-keeping people.

A Christmas Tree

We are now nearing the close of another year, and shall we not make these festal days opportunities in which to bring to God our offerings? I cannot say sacrifices, for we shall only be rendering to God that which is His already, and which He has only entrusted to us till He shall call for it. God would be well pleased if on Christmas each church would have a Christmas tree on which shall be hung offerings, great and small, for these houses of worship. Letters of inquiry have come to us asking, Shall we have a Christmas tree? Will it not be like the world? We answer, You can make it like the world if you have a disposition to do so, or you can make it as unlike the world as possible. There is no particular sin in selecting a fragrant evergreen and placing it in our churches; but the sin lies in the motive which prompts the actions and the use which is made of the gifts placed upon the tree.

The tree may be as tall and its branches as wide as shall best suit the occasion; but let its boughs be laden with the golden and silver fruit of your beneficence, and present this to Him as your Christmas gift. Let your donations be sanctified by prayer and let the fruit upon this consecrated tree be applied towards removing the debts from our houses of worship at Battle Creek, Michigan, and Oakland, California.

A word to the wise is sufficient.--Review and Herald, December 11, 1879.

A New Year's Tree

At the close of my long journey East, I reached my home in time to spend New Year's eve in Healdsburg. The college hall had been fitted up for a Sabbath school reunion. Cypress wreaths, autumn leaves, evergreens, and flowers were tastefully arranged, and a large bell of evergreens hung from the arched doorway at the entrance to the room. The tree was well loaded with donations, which ere to be used for the benefit of the poor and to help purchase a bell. Except in a few instances, the names of the donors were not given, but appropriate Bible texts and mottos were read as the gifts were taken down from the tree. On this occasion nothing was said or done that need burden the conscience of anyone.

Some have said to me, "Sister White, what do you think of this? Is it in accordance with our faith?" I answer them, "It is with my faith." In Healdsburg, San Francisco, and Oakland, there are many things to attract our children; large sums are expended every year on Christmas and New Year's in purchasing gifts for friends. These gifts are not generally satisfactory, for many receive presents that they do not need, when they would be glad to have some other article; some receive the same article from several different persons, and others receive nothing at all.

Interesting Holidays

We have tried earnestly to make the holidays as interesting as possible to the youth and children, while changing this order of things. Our object has been to keep them away from scenes of amusement among unbelievers. Instead of following a selfish custom and giving to those from whom presents will be expected in return, let us make our offerings to the Lord. This plan has proved successful in many of our churches, and it was a success on this occasion, the donations amounting to $138. Thus the new year was opened with offerings to the Giver of all our mercies and blessings.

I have thought that while we restrain our children from worldly pleasures that have a tendency to corrupt and mislead, we ought to provide them innocent recreation to lead them in pleasant paths where there is no danger. No child of God need have a sad or mournful experience. Divine commands, divine promises, show that this is so. Wisdom's ways "are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." Worldly pleasures are infatuating; and for their momentary enjoyment many sacrifice the friendship of Heaven, with the peace, love, and joy that it affords. But these chosen objects of delight soon become disgusting, unsatisfying.

The Attractions of the Christian Life

We want to do all in our power to win souls by presenting the attractions of the Christian life. Our God is a lover of the beautiful. He might have clothed the earth with brown and gray, and the trees with vestments of mourning instead of their foliage of living green; but He would have His children happy. Every leaf, every opening bud and blooming flower is a token of His tender love, and we should aim to represent to others this wonderful love expressed in His created works.

God would have every household and every church exert a winning power to draw the children away from the seducing pleasures of the world, and from association with those whose influence would have a corrupting tendency. Study to win the youth to Jesus. Impress their minds with the mercy and goodness of God in permitting them, sinful though they be, to enjoy the advantages, the glory and honor, of being sons and daughters of the Most High. What a stupendous thought, what unheard of condescension, what amazing love, that finite men may be allied to the Omnipotent! "To them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." Can any worldly honor equal this?

Let us represent the Christian life as it really is; let us make the way cheerful, inviting, interesting. We can do this if we will. We may fill our own minds with vivid pictures of spiritual and eternal things, and in so doing help to make them a reality to other minds. Faith sees Jesus standing as our Mediator at the right hand of God. Faith beholds the mansions He has gone to prepare for those who love Him. Faith sees the robe and crown all prepared for the overcomer. Faith hears the songs of the redeemed, and brings eternal glories near. We must come close to Jesus in loving obedience if we would see the King in His beauty.--Review and Herald, January 29, 1884.

Ellen G. White Estate
September, 1962
Revised December, 1989
Silver Spring, Maryland