EZEKIEL 9 LITERAL OR SPIRITUAL
In our largest churches the greatest evils exist, because these have had the greatest light. They have not a true knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ whom he has sent. The leaven of unbelief is working, and unless these evils which bring the displeasure of God are corrected in its members, the whole church stands accountable for them. The deep movings of the Spirit of God are not with them; the glorious presence of the King of saints, and his power to cleanse from all moral defilement, are not manifest among them. Many come to the assembly as worshipers, like the door upon its hinges. They understand not the true application of the Scriptures, nor the power of God. They have eyes, but they see not; ears have they, but they hear not; they continue in their evil ways, yet regard themselves as the privileged, obedient people who are doers of the word. A carnal security and ease in Zion prevail. Peace, peace, is sounded in her borders, when God has not spoken peace. They have forfeited the terms of peace; there is reason for an alarm to be sounded in all "my holy mountain." The sinners in Zion should be afraid, in a time when they do not expect it, sudden destruction will surely come upon all who are at ease.
"The words spoken by Christ of Jerusalem are, '. . .O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.' The Lord forbid that this scene should now be repeated in the experience of God's professed people! "My Spirit," he says, "shall not always strive with man." The time will come when it must be said of the impenitent, "Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone."' Review and Herald, Dec. 23, 1890
Ezekiel Nine: Literal or Spiritual?
"Let more time be given to the publication and circulation of books containing present truth. Call attention to books dwelling on practical faith and godliness and to those that treat on the prophetic word. The people are to be educated to read the sure word of prophecy in the light of the living oracles. They need to know that the signs of the times are fulfilling....
"...Let the articles deal with the truths of the word of God, giving clear instruction regarding the saving truths for this time, and warning of the near approach of the judgments of God and the end of all things." Counsels to Writers and Editors p. 14.
"We are living in the most solemn period of this world's history. The destiny of earth's teeming multitudes is about to be decided. Our own future well-being and also the salvation of other souls depend upon the course which we now pursue. We need to be guided by the Spirit of truth. Every follower of Christ should earnestly inquire: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, with fasting and prayer, and to meditate much upon His word, especially upon the scenes of the judgment." Great Controversy p. 601.
Since the prophecy of Ezekiel Nine is a prophecy dealing with the judgment for the living, which commences at the house of God (His church on earth), this all important subject should take on a new perspective. It should engross the whole mind, the whole attention. (See Early Writings 118)
From time to time many Seventh-day Adventist have asked the question: Is the prophetic prophecy recorded in Ezekiel, chapter nine, LITERAL OR SPIRITUAL? Will the Lord in purifying His church actually separate the wheat from the tares by LITERALLY slaying those who do not receive the seal of God? Let us turn to the sure word of prophecy to find our answer.
The Spirit of Prophecy gives us a rule to guide us in establishing the correct interpretation of the Scriptures as to whether it is literal or symbolic.
"The truths most plainly revealed in the Bible have been involved in doubt and darkness by learned men, who, with a pretense of great wisdom, teach that the Scriptures have a mystical, a secret, spiritual meaning not apparent in the language employed. These men are false teachers. It was to such a class that Jesus declared: "Ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God." Mark 12:24. The language of the Bible should be explained according to its obvious meaning, unless a symbol or figure is employed. Christ has given the promise: "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." John 7:17. If men would but take the Bible as it reads, if there were no false teachers to mislead and confuse their minds, a work would be accomplished that would make angels glad and that would bring into the fold of Christ thousands upon thousands who are now wandering in error." Great Controversy pp. 598, 599 .
"We should make the Bible its own expositor." Testimonies to Ministers p. 106.
Another rule in making a correct decision upon any point of doctrine is to make our decision upon the weight of evidence.
"Those who desire to doubt will have plenty of room. God does not propose to remove all occasion for unbelief. He gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a humble mind and a teachable spirit, and all should decide from the weight of evidence." Testimonies, Vol. 3. 255.
"God will never remove every occasion for doubt. He gives sufficient evidence on which to base faith, and if this is not accepted, the mind is left in darkness." Patriarchs and Prophets p. 432.
"The unbelief that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to the evidence that God is pleased to give. He requires of His people faith that rests upon the weight of evidence, not upon perfect knowledge. Those followers of Christ who accept the light that God sends them must obey the voice of God speaking to them when there are many other voices crying out against it. It requires discernment to distinguish the voice of God.
"Those who will not act when the Lord calls upon them, but who wait for more certain evidence and more favorable opportunities, will walk in darkness, for the light will be withdrawn. The evidence given one day, if rejected, may never be repeated." Testimonies, Vol . 3 p . 258 .
"Men, women, and youth, God requires you to possess moral courage, steadiness of purpose, fortitude and perseverance, minds that cannot take the assertions of another, but which will investigate for themselves before receiving or rejecting, that will study and weigh evidence, and take it to the Lord in prayer. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Testimonies, Vol. 2 p. 130.
We are also told not to take the voice of the majority as an authority on making a decision on any point of doctrine.
"The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority--not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain 'Thus saith the Lord' in its support." Great Controversy p. 595.
"It is not enough to have good intentions; it is not enough to do what a man thinks is right or what the minister tells him is right. His soul's salvation is at stake, and he should search the Scriptures for himself. However strong may be his convictions, however confident he may be that the minister knows what is truth, this is not his foundation. He has a chart pointing out every waymark on the heavenward journey, and he ought not to guess at anything.
"...We should day by day study the Bible diligently, weighing every thought and comparing scripture with scripture. With divine help we are to form our opinions for ourselves as we are to answer for ourselves before God." Great Controversy p. 598.
Now let us study Ezekiel, chapter nine.
"He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar. And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem? Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not. And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head. And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me." Ezekiel 9:1-11.
The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that the sealing of the 144,000 recorded in Revelation seven, and this vision that Ezekiel had is the same event. "This sealing of the servants of God is the same that was shown to Ezekiel in vision. John also had been a witness of this most startling revelation." Testimonies to Ministers p. 445.
This clearly shows us that the sealing of the 144,000 as recorded in Revelation, chapter seven, is the same event as the marking of those in Jerusalem, the church, who sigh and cry for the abominations that are done in the church as recorded in Ezekiel, chapter nine. In Ezekiel 9 the man in linen places a mark in the forehead. In Revelation 7 he is called the sealing angel. The spirit of Prophecy says the angel who selects the wheat from the tares is the third angel. "I then saw the third angel. Said my accompanying angel, "Fearful is his work. Awful is his mission. He is the angel that is to select the wheat from the tares, and seal, or bind, the wheat for the heavenly garner. These things should engross the whole mind, the whole attention." Early Writings p.118.
Notice how the Spirit of Prophecy connects the prophecy recorded in Ezekiel 9 with the beginning of the judgment for the living which will commence with God's church.
"To His angels He gives the commission to execute His judgments. Let the ministers awake, let them take in the situation. The work of judgment begins at the sanctuary. "And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar." Read Ezekiel 9:2-7." Testimonies to Ministers p. 431.
Notice in Ezekiel 9:3, that the Lord Himself, directs this marking and slaying while at the threshold of His earthly house, the church. His coming to the threshold of the house is not a visible coming as is His second advent when every eye shall see Him.
These six men that come from "the way of the higher gate which lieth toward the north" (Ezek.9:2), must be heavenly beings as the Spirit of Prophecy says: "The time of the harvest will fully determine the character of the two classes specified under the figure of the tares and the wheat. The work of separation is given to the angels of God, and not committed into the hands of any man." Testimonies to Ministers p. 47.
The sides of the north, form which these six men come is in the direction where heaven is located, as the Scriptures tell us that Lucifer wanted to exalt his throne above God's throne, which is in the sides of the north. "For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High." Isa. 14:13,14.
Thus again we see that these six men that come from the way of the higher gate must be heavenly beings, as the work of separation is not given into the hands of any man, but is given unto the hands of the angels.
One of these six men has a writers inkhorn by his side (Ezek.9:2-4). The Lord commissioned him to go through the midst of the city (the church) and set a mark (or seal) upon the foreheads of those only who sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in Jerusalem (the church). The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that this mark is not a mark that human eyes can see. "What is the seal of the living God, which is placed in the foreheads of His people? It is a mark which angels, but not human eyes, can read; for the destroying angel must see this mark of redemption (Letter 126, 1898).
"The angel with the writer's ink horn is to place a mark upon the foreheads of all who are separated from sin and sinners, and the destroying angel follows this angel (Letter 12, 1886).
" . . . it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved." 4 Bible Commentary 1161, E.G. White.
"The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place." 2 Selected Messages p. 380.
"The time of the judgment is a most solemn period, when the Lord gathers His own from among the tares. Those who have been members of the same family are separated. A mark is placed upon the righteous." Testimonies to Ministers p. 234.
If this is a spiritual slaughter or separation, why is it called "a terrible ordeal"? How could those who are members of the same family be separated bodily, if this is only a spiritual slaying? Has there ever been such a thing as a "spiritual slaying" ? Why does the Spirit of Prophecy say that even though this is a terrible ordeal, that is must take place. We find our answer in Vol. 3 of the Testimonies p. 270: "God's displeasure is upon His people, and He will not manifest His power in the midst of them while sins exist among them and are fostered by those in responsible positions."
Thus we see that the outpouring of the Holy Sprit to enable us to give the Loud Cry for the last great harvest, is dependent upon the purification of God's church.
"While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven,...there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God's people upon earth." Great Controversy p. 425.
The Spirit of Prophecy again brings out this same truth of a literal separation in the Testimonies: "Many, I saw, were flattering themselves that they were good Christians, who have not a single ray of light from Jesus. They know not what it is to be renewed by the grace of God. They have no living experience for themselves in the things of God. And I saw that the Lord was whetting His sword in heaven to cut them down. Oh, that every lukewarm professor could realize the clean work that God is about to make among His professed people!" Testimonies, Vol. 1 p, 190.
"...Angels keep a faithful record of every man's work, and as judgment passes upon the house of God, the sentence of each is recorded by his name, and the angel is commissioned to spare not the unfaithful servants, but to cut them down at the time of slaughter. . . ." Testimonies, Vol. 1 p. 198.
Dear brothers and sisters, do you know that when we say that the slaughter of Ezekiel nine is not literal, we are actually fulfilling prophecy? Listen to what the Spirit of Prophecy says concerning Ezekiel nine. "Here we see that the church--the Lord's sanctuary--was the first to feel the stroke of the wrath of God. The ancient men, those to whom God had given great light and who had stood as guardians of the spiritual interests of the people, had betrayed their trust. They had taken the position that we need not look for miracles and the marked manifestation of God's power as in former days. Times have changed. These words strengthen their unbelief, and they say: The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil. He is too merciful to visit His people in judgment. Thus "Peace and safety" is the cry from men who will never again lift up their voice like a trumpet to show God's people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins. These dumb dogs that would not bark are the ones who feel the just vengeance of an offended God. Men, maidens, and little children all perish together." Testimonies, Vol. 5 p. 211.
"God has not changed toward His faithful servants who are keeping their garments spotless. But many are crying, "Peace and safety," while sudden destruction is coming upon them. . . .When purification shall take place in our ranks, we shall no longer rest at ease, boasting of being rich and increased with goods, in need of nothing." Testimonies, Vol. 8 p. 250.
When we say the purification of God's church is spiritual we are in reality saying, "peace and safety." If this is a spiritual slaughter, why is it that the unfaithful watchmen can never again lift up their voice to show God's people their transgressions? This same truth is brought out in the Review & Herald, Nov. 19, 1908. "Only those who have withstood temptation in the strength of the Mighty One will be permitted to act part in proclaiming it," the third angel's message, "when it shall have swelled into the loud cry." What happens to those who have not overcome?
"Our own course of action will determine whether we shall receive the seal of the living God or be cut down by the destroying weapons. Already a few drops of God's wrath have fallen upon the earth; but when the seven last plagues shall be poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation, then it will be forever too late to repent and find shelter. No atoning blood will then wash away the stains of sin." Testimonies, Vol. 5 p. 212.
Ezekiel 9, whether literal or figurative, effects a separation between the good and the bad, the tares and the wheat, in the church (Judah and Israel), just as the plagues finally do in Babylon (Rev.18:4). And as the plagues are literal, then how can the slaughter be any less literal?
The Word of God tells us that after the church is purified, the only ones left therein are holy people. "And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." Isa. 4:3,4.
The Spirit of Prophecy applies this Scripture to the sealing of the 144,000. See Testimonies, Vol. 5 pp. 475, 476.
Again the question: What happens to those in ZION who are not holy?
Let us go to another Scripture that speaks of the same event.
"For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. . . .And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles." Isa. 66:16,19.
Notice, the Lord pleads before He slays. "God does not send judgments upon His people without first warning them to repent. He uses every means to bring them back to obedience and does not visit their iniquity with judgments until He has given them ample opportunity to repent." Testimonies, Vol. 4 p. 179.
WHOM DOES THE LORD PLEAD WITH FIRST?
"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts." Isa. 28:9
Is it not God's people that are pleaded with first? They are more advanced in spiritual truths than those in Babylon. See Heb. 5:12-14.
WHERE DOSE THE JUDGEMENT BEGIN, WHEN IT COMMENCES FOR THE LIVING?
"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" 1 Peter 4:17.
Notice what the Lord does with those who escape the slaughter. They are sent to the Gentiles who have never heard of God's fame. See Isa. 66:19,20.
"Warnings and reproofs are not given to the erring among Seventh-day Adventists because their lives are more blame worthy than are the lives of professed Christians of the nominal churches, nor because their example of their acts are worse than those of the Adventists who will not yield obedience to the claims of God's law, but because they have great light, and have by their profession taken their position as God's special, chosen people, having the law of God written in their hearts. They signify their loyalty to the God of heaven by yielding obedience to the laws of His government. They are God's representatives upon the earth. Any sin in them separates them from God and, in a special manner, dishonors His name by giving the enemies of His holy law occasion to reproach His cause and His people, . . .
""The Lord reproves and corrects the people who profess to keep His law. He points out their sins and lays open their iniquity because He wishes to separate all sin and wickedness from them, that they may perfect holiness in His fear. . . . God rebukes, reproves, and corrects them, that they may be refined, sanctified, elevated, and finally exalted to His own throne." Testimonies, Vol. 5 pp. 661,662.
IS THE LORD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD SIN AND SINNERS ANY DIFFERENT TODAY, THAN IT WAS IN ANCIENT TIMES ?
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." Heb. 13:8.
"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, . . ." 1 Peter 1 :17.
If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and if He is no respector of persons, then all we need to do to find out if His judgments are literal or spiritual is to see how He dealt with sin in ancient times.
"Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1 Cor. 10:11.
"And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all." Luke 17:26,27.
"God determined to purify the world by a flood; but in mercy and love He gave the antediluvians a probation of one hundred and twenty years. " 1 Bible Commentary p. 1088, E.G. White.
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
"Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace." Gen. 19:24, 27, 28.
"The judgments of God are soon to be poured out upon the earth. "Escape for thy life" is the warning from the angels of God. Other voices are heard saying: "Do not become excited; there is no cause for special alarm." Those who are at ease in Zion cry "Peace and safety," while heaven declares that swift destruction is about to come upon the transgressor. . . .Thus it was at the destruction of the old world and when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed by fire. On the night prior to their destruction the cities of the plain rioted in pleasure. Lot was derided for his fears and warnings. But it was these scoffers that perished in the flames. That very night the door of mercy was forever closed to the wicked, careless inhabitants of Sodom." Testimonies, Vol . 5 pp. 233, 234 .
WAS THIS JUDGMENT OF GOD SPIRITUAL OR LITERAL?
SLAYING OF THE FIRST-BORN IN EGYPT.
"And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead." Ex. 12:29,30.
"When the destroying angel was to pass through Egypt, to destroy the first-born of man and beast, Israel was commanded to gather their children and families into their houses with them and then mark their door-posts with blood, that the destroying angel might pass by their dwellings, and if they failed to go through with this process, there was no difference made between them and the Egyptians.
"The destroying angel is soon to go forth again, not to destroy the first-born alone, but 'to slay utterly old and young, both men, women and little children' who have not the mark.." Review & Herald, Sept. 19, 1854. See also Testimonies, Vol. 5 p. 505.
As the slaying of the first-born in Egypt was literal, then how can the slaughter recorded in Ezekiel 9 of those who have not the mark (or seal) be any less literal?
REBELLION OF KORAH, DATHAN AND ABIRAM.
"And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also." Numbers 16:32-34.
This destruction came upon God's own people. Was it not literal?
ACHAN AND HIS FAMILY DESTROYED.
"And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day." Joshua 7:24-26 .
The Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible in speaking of the remnant church in the last days compares her purification to the Valley of Achor experience.
"...If the presence of one Achan was sufficient to weaken the whole camp of Israel, can we be surprised at the little success which attends our efforts when every church and almost every family has its Achan?..." Testimonies, Vol. 5 p. 157.
"I was shown that the manner of Achan's confession was similar to the confessions that some among us have made and will make. They hide their wrongs and refuse to make a voluntary confession until God searches them out, and then they acknowledge their sins. A few persons pass on in a course of wrong until they become hardened. They may even know that the church is burdened, as Achan knew that Israel were made weak before their enemies because of his guilt. Yet their consciences do not condemn them. They will not relieve the church by humbling their proud, rebellious hearts before God and putting away their wrongs. God's displeasure is upon His people, and He will not manifest His power in the midst of them while sins exist among them and are fostered by those in responsible positions." Testimonies, Vol. 3 p. 270.
"And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt." Hos. 2:15.
Note, this valley of Achor experience is to be similar to the one ancient Israel had when she came up out of the land of Egypt. The camp had to be cleansed before Israel could go forward to enable her to stand before her enemies.
WAS THIS VALLEY OF ACHOR EXPERIENCE SPIRITUAL OR LITERAL?
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN 70 A.D.
The Spirit of Prophecy in speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. says: "Both the city and the temple were razed to their foundations, and the ground upon which the holy house had stood was "plowed like a field." Jeremiah 26:18. In the siege and the slaughter that followed, more than a million of the people perished; the survivors were carried away as captives, sold as slaves, dragged to Rome to grace the conqueror's triumph, thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheaters, or scattered as homeless wanderers throughout the earth." Great Controversy p. 35.
The Spirit of Prophecy compares Jerusalem's experience in 70 A.D. to an experience modern Israel (God's church, today) is to experience.
"The neglect to bring purity and truth into practice will grieve the Spirit of God and weaken them because God is not in their midst to bless. Internal corruption will bring the denunciations of God upon this people as it did upon Jerusalem. Oh, let pleading voices, let earnest prayer be heard, that those who preach to others shall not themselves be castaways. My brethren, we know not what is before us, and our only safety is in following the Light of the world. God will work with us and for us if the sins which brought His wrath upon the old world, upon Sodom and Gomorrah and upon ancient Jerusalem, do not become our crime." 2 Selected Messages pp. 378,379.
The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that we have done worse than ancient Israel. "I saw that many who profess to believe the truth for these last days think it strange that the children of Israel murmured as they journeyed; that after the wonderful dealings of God with them, they should be so ungrateful as to forget what He had done for them. Said the angel: "Ye have done worse than they.'" Testimonies, Vol. I p. 129.
"The scenes that transpired at the destruction of Jerusalem will be repeated at the great and terrible day of the Lord, but in a more fearful manner (MS 40, 1897)." 5 Bible Commentary p . 1123, E. G. White.
The great and dreadful day of the Lord, begins with the purification of God's remnant church. It will be great for those who receive the seal, but dreadful for those who do not.
We are sure all will agree that this destruction upon ancient Jerusalem was literal.
Now let us examine the Scriptures concerning God's judgments in the future to see if they are literal or spiritual.
SEVEN LAST PLAGUES.
"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. . . .Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." Rev.18:4,8.
The Spirit of Prophecy in commenting on the seven last plagues says: "The plagues upon Egypt when God was about to deliver Israel were similar in character to those more terrible and extensive judgments which are to fall upon the world just before the final deliverance of God's people. . . . Yet they will be the most awful scourges that have ever been known to mortals." Great Controversy pp. 627,628,629.
If the ten plagues that fell on Egypt were LITERAL, would not the seven last plagues that fall on Babylon be literal? Are not both of these punishments, judgments of God?
WICKED SLAIN AT THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. 2 Thess. 2:8.
Do we not all agree that this is a LITERAL DESTRUCTION OR JUDGMENT FROM GOD?
DESTRUCTION OF THE WICKED AFTER THE 1,000 YEARS.
"And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." Rev. 20:9.
"In the cleansing flames the wicked are at last destroyed, root and branch-Satan the root, his followers the branches." Story of Redemption p. 429.
Do we not agree that this is a literal destruction?
Has there ever been a spiritual slaying in the history of this world?
Are there any prophecies in the word of God that tell us of any spiritual slayings?
One can be "dead in trespasses and sins, " but the one who is in this condition brings this about by his own choice. God does not slay anyone spiritually. God is in the business of giving spiritual life, not taking it away. When God sends His judgments upon anyone or any nations, it is always literal.
Dear brothers and sisters, where is the weight of evidence? Will we take the Scriptures just as they read? The Word of God tells us to "Come now, let us reason together." Why would the Lord deal with the wicked in our church any differently than He has at any time, be it past or future? Could the Lord be just and "no respector of persons" if He were more lenient with sin in our midst today than with the wicked at any other time in the history of this world? If this were true, how could He be the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow?
Let us take to heart the inspired counsel recorded in the Spirit of Prophecy: "In the days of Samuel, Israel thought that the presence of the ark containing the commandments of God would gain them the victory over the Philistines, whether or not they repented of their wicked works. Just so, in Jeremiah's time, the Jews believed that the strict observance of the divinely appointed services of the temple would preserve them form the just punishment of their course.
"The same danger exists today among the people who profess to be the depositaries of God's law. They are too apt to flatter themselves that the regard in which they hold the commandments will preserve them from the power of divine justice. . . . Neglect to repent and obey His word will bring as serious consequences upon God's people today as did the same sin upon ancient Israel. There is a limit beyond which He will no longer delay His judgments. The desolation of Jerusalem stands as a solemn warning before the eyes of modern Israel, that the corrections given through His chosen instruments cannot be disregarded with impunity." Testimonies, Vol. 4 pp. 166, 167.
"But few know what our churches are to experience. I say that at present we are under Divine forbearance, but no one can say how long this will continue." Testimonies, Vol. 5 p. 76.
"The purging and cleansing will surely pass through every church in our land that has had great opportunities and privileges, and has passed them by unheeded. More evidence is not what they want. They need pure and sanctified hearts to gather up and retain all the light that God has given, and then they will walk in that light." Testimonies to Ministers p. 414.
"Many a star that we have admired for its brilliancy will then go out in darkness. Chaff like a cloud will be borne away on the wind, even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat.. . .
"When trees without fruit are cut down as cumberers of the ground, when multitudes of false brethren are distinguished from the true, then the hidden ones will be revealed to view, and with hosannas range under the banner of Christ. Those who have been timid and self-distrustful will declare themselves openly for Christ and His truth. The most weak and hesitating in the church will be as David--willing to do and dare." Testimonies, Vol. 5 p. 81.
The servant of the Lord forewarned the remnant people of God when she said: "I saw that the remnant were not prepared for what is coming upon the earth. Stupidity, like lethargy, seemed to hang upon the minds of most of those who profess to believe that we are having the last message. My accompanying angel cried out with awful solemnity, "Get ready! get ready! get ready! for the fierce anger of the Lord is soon to come. His wrath is to be poured out, unmixed with mercy, and ye are not ready. Rend the heart, and not the garment. A great work must be done for the remnant. Many of them are dwelling upon little trials." Said the angel, "Legions of evil angels are around you, and are trying to press in their awful darkness, that ye may be ensnared and taken. Ye suffer your minds to be diverted too readily from the work of preparation and the all-important truths for these last days." Early Writings. 119.
The Lord's explicit command to each of us is: "So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. . . .Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Ezekiel 33: 7-9,11.
"The sins and iniquities of rebellious Israel are recorded and the picture presented before us as a warning that if we imitate their example of transgression and depart from God we shall fall as surely as did they." Testimonies, Vol. 1 p. 609.
May we heed the warning that "...the iniquity of God's professed people will not go unpunished. The greater the knowledge of God's will, the greater the sin of those who disregard it." Patriarchs and Prophets p. 584.
Could there be any doubt in anyone's mind that the purification of the church as recorded in Ezekiel chapter nine is LITERAL? Dear brothers and sisters, we plead with you, do not be deceived, God means just what He says. The most important step we can take today, is to make the proper preparation to receive the seal of God in our foreheads, as we are told: "Our own course of action will determine whether we shall receive the seal of the living God or be cut down by the destroying weapons." Testimonies, Vol. 5 p. 212.
"The class who do not feel grieved over their own spiritual declension, nor mourn over the sins of others, will be left without the seal of God." Testimonies, Vol. 5 p. 211.
May none of us be guilty of saying that: "we need not look for miracles and the marked manifestation of God's power as in former days," that "times have changed," that God "is too merciful to visit His people in Judgement." Testimonies, Vol. 5 p. 211.
It is our earnest prayer that the reader of this booklet may realize that"... the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning.... God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness. Those who are accounted good workers will need to draw nigh to God, they will need the divine touch. They will need to drink more deeply and continuously at the fountain of living water, in order that they may discern God's work at every point..." Testimonies to Ministers p. 300.
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