Have you ever been on the horns of a dilemma? That’s where I am right this moment. For the past thirty-eight years I have been preaching this beautiful message, and calling people into the joys of the family of Christ. No work could be more satisfying or rewarding. The last twenty years have been spent in full-time evangelism, and God has graciously given me 200 souls per year for His kingdom, just from my public crusades. What a thrill it has been to watch the Spirit of God transform the lives of those whom He has led into the meetings! Thousands of others have been won by the Amazing Facts literature and radio-TV outreach. I expect to be doing this work until Jesus comes.
But let’s return to my dilemma. I am puzzled about what to do for those who are members of the remnant church. Most of my ministry has been directed toward public evangelism, and winning new people to the truth.
Only one out of the thirty-six books I have authored is directed to Seventh-day Adventists in particular. All the others are especially written to reach the general public with the great doctrinal and prophetic messages which we hold dear. Obviously, in this book I am addressing myself in particular to those who already are in the church, and who are committed to it just as I am.
My crusade appointments have taken me into hundreds of churches where I have had the opportunity to make friends with many thousands of our faithful people in the United States and Canada. It has been a heartwarming experience. Naturally, I have also been able to observe firsthand many of the spiritual problems which the grass-roots membership are struggling to overcome. My heart goes out to them. There are no better people in the world than those who belong to this last-day church of prophecy. Neither is there any group whom Satan hates with such intensity. He is angry with the woman and her seed, because they keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.
Even though the book of Revelation identifies our church as the “remnant,” it also applies another name to it in the context of the seven prophetic churches. The last one before Christ returns is given the significant title of “Laodicea.” We have never denied our historical relationship to this final manifestation of God’s called out people. At the same time, we have not been very eager to accept the characterization so vividly depicted by the apostle John. He described this church as a strange mixture of flesh and spirit. Apparently blinded by its compromising posture, it seems unable to recognize the true nature of its nauseous, lukewarm state.
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” Revelation 3:15-18.
How fortunate we are to have this divine preview of the special snare Satan will use against us in these last days. We have not only been forewarned; we have also been assured of God’s willingness to provide the divine remedy for this potentially fatal condition. He offers eyesalve to overcome the blindness, white raiment to overcome the nakedness, and gold to overcome the poverty. In other words, no one really needs to remain lukewarm and Laodicean. Says the True Witness:
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:19, 20.
The most exciting thing I see in these verses is that God loves Laodicea, even though she is self-deceived and divided in her loyalty. He pleads with her to turn back and accept His solution for all her ills. In plain, simple language He says, “Repent, and open the door for me to come into your heart.” Here we find the buying power to obtain all the prescriptions for a total recovery. The person of Jesus, received into the heart, will bring righteousness, faith, and the Holy Spirit. Those who were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked now enter into an overcoming experience that leads them at last to sit side by side with the Father on His throne. What a prospect!
Please take note that the Laodicean message is a call to “repent” and “open the door” to Jesus. But what are we to repent of? Obviously those who are deep into this paralyzing predicament do not even recognize that they are sinning. They claim to be rich and in need of nothing! Lukewarm water causes one to relax and become lethargic. Laodiceans are oblivious to their desperate and lost condition. “And
knowest not that thou art wretched . . . and blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17. That’s the real problem with Laodicea. She really can’t see. The most tragic thing about the worldly state of the church is that she doesn’t recognize her own miserable plight. She is comfortable with the way things are going. Platitudes and generalizations roll over the ears of Laodiceans without making the tiniest impression. Books and articles have also been written about the need to repent of this loathsome attitude which God detests. Yet, we see the situation almost growing worse. Why? Why hasn’t the message been heeded? I’ve analyzed many of the appeals in our publications, and they are wonderfully presented. But as I studied deeper, I discovered that almost none of them spelled out what to repent of. Suddenly it became clear to me why there was little response. Those eloquent appeals to turn from sin bring no response because Laodiceans cannot see. They are incapable of discerning sin. Vague terms like “sin” do not really register with them. They need to have sin defined, described, and delineated. We have assumed too often that the Holy Spirit will take over and teach the details if we just provide the general appeals.
I searched deeper into the Spirit of Prophecy and discovered that Sister White brought some of the strongest rebukes against those who would not boldly give the straight testimony and call sin by its right name. It was then that I began to realize that in these final probationary moments, God is depending on watchmen to blow a trumpet of warning in such clear notes that not even a blind, sleepy Laodicean can fail to get the message. When people are half asleep, it often requires much more stimulation to shake them back to full reality.
Just how serious is the Laodicean condition? And how important is the work of arousing the sleeping saints?
Sister White wrote:
“The testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded. The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded. This testimony must work deep repentance, and all who truly receive it, will obey it and be purified.” Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 181.
Surely we need no stronger words than these to impress us with the necessity of properly understanding the message. The urgency of the repeated call to “cry aloud and spare not” and “call sin by its right name” indicates that a very pointed testimony is to be borne to the church.
What does it mean to call sin by its right name? Does it mean to declare boldly that adultery is a sin, stealing is a sin, etc.? If so, then every Adventist pastor around the world has been faithfully preaching the Laodicean message throughout our history. Yet Sister White declared that in her day such pastors were “few indeed.” (Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 300.) Is it any better in our day? Is the straight testimony being presented throughout the church? If it is, why hasn’t the shaking occurred long ago? She said, “Some will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God’s people.” Early Writings, p. 270.
Let’s face it. No one is rising up in the church against ministers who identify adultery as a sin, lying as a sin, and Sabbathbreaking as a sin. No one will do it, either. It is expected by everyone in the church that watchmen will preach against such activities and will label them as evil.
Is it not obvious to all of us that the reason for many “rising up” against the straight testimony of the Laodicean message is because it not only defines sin, but relates sin directly with those in the church who are committing it? Wrote the servant of God:
“They wish smooth things spoken unto them. And if the wrongs of individuals are touched, they complain of severity, and sympathize with those in the wrong. . . . Let the truth cut. I have been shown that why ministers have not more success is, they are afraid of hurting feelings, fearful of not being courteous, and they lower the standard of truth.” Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, pp. 284, 285.
The true message to Laodicea will boldly declare that sins are being committed by the church members, and even by the institutions of the church. “Unless these evils which bring the displeasure of God are corrected in its members, the whole church stands accountable for them.” Review and Herald, December 23, 1890,
“Oh, if ever a temple upon earth needed purifying, the institutions in Battle Creek need it now! Will you not seek God most humbly, that you may give the Laodiceen message with clear, distinct utterance? Where are God’s watchmen who will see the peril and give the warning. . . . ‘Cry aloud, spare not, . . . show My people their transgression.’ Testimonies to Ministers, p. 296.
“John the Baptist met sin with open rebuke in men of humble occupation and in men of high degree. He declared the truth to kings and nobles, whether they would hear or reject it. He spoke personally and pointedly. He reproved the Pharisees of the Sanhedrin because their religion consisted in forms. . . . He spoke to Herod in regard to his marriage with Herodias, saying, It is not lawful for thee to have her. . . . The message we bear must be as direct as was the message of John. He rebuked kings for their iniquity. He rebuked the adultery of Herod.” Selected Messages, Bk. 2, pp. 149-151.
I do not doubt that some will complain that they are not comfortable with this book. No one has ever said that the Laodicean message is to make people comfortable. If it were possible to trim it and refine it until all were comfortable with it, it would no longer be the straight testimony to Laodicea. The prophecy is that “some will rise up against it.”
Does this mean that the true message of God for this time will be divisive? Indeed, the effect of such a straight ‘ testimony will cause a separation among the professed people of God.
Listen to this:
“The searching testimony of the Spirit of God ‘will separate those from Israel who have ever been at war with the means that God has ordained to keep corruptions out of the church. Wrongs must be called wrongs. Grievous sins must be called by their right name.”’ Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 676.
But now I am brought back to the horns of my dilemma. How does one speak so boldly about specific sins in the church without being accused of attacking the church? After all, there are scores of snipers on the outside (and a few on the inside) who spend all their time fighting the brethren and criticizing the leadership. Of course, the true Laodicean message must be given from within the church, not from outside. But would it not be resented and rejected by many? No one likes to have his sins pointed out, and churches and people are equally sensitive to personal censure. Could this be the reason that I found so many of the “straight testimony” articles so lacking in straight testimony? The message must be given, the sins must be exposed, and it must be done with love and loyalty.
I struggled and prayed over these very real concerns. The more I weighed the matter, the more convicted I became. Like any other conscientious minister, I could readily see the disturbing, basic problem of lukewarm Laodicea. She was not all the way into the world, or she would have been cold. But neither was she fully into Christ, or she would have been hot. There was a mixture-a halfway commitment on the part of many which had created an atmosphere of lassitude and unconcern.
Should I undertake to write a book that would dare to address the total picture of worldly compromise and the true causes of it? I felt that God had shown me the major issues and tragic consequences of the phenomenon which many Seventh-day Adventists have come to know as the “new theology” crisis. It involved both laymen and ministers. My greatest anxiety was that my fellow ministers-most of them dedicated and loyal-might misconstrue my head-on approach as some sort of oblique attack on them. Neither did I want my beloved church to misinterpret the strong, incisive language which I felt was needed to strike conviction to a sleeping congregation.
As you open this book to the following chapters, please try to empathize with me in the unsolicited assignment which I believe the Lord has laid on me. I love my church, its members, and its leaders. It is going through to the kingdom. It is the apple of God’s eye, and the object of His greatest solicitude and love on earth. Nothing I might express in my poor, human way is to be perceived as demeaning or dishonoring it in any manner whatsoever. I pray that after you have read this book, you will love the remnant church more than ever before, but will hate the sins that would separate her from our loving Saviour.
Although we will be focusing on the aspect of lukewarmness and compromise, there are two facts that must not be overlooked. First: The church is a body, and whatever affects one part of it, will also affect other parts.
Second: We must see the problem of Laodicea as only one portion of Satan’s great overall program to subvert the remnant church. There are many interrelated causes and effects which operate within the delicate, spiritual framework of the church body.
In the following chapters, I have sought to analyze the unfolding events within the church in the light of Satan’s overall plan and purpose. Why would he try to create certain conditions in one department of the church in order to carry out his design for the full body? What long-range strategies has he developed to break down gradually the strong defenses of this citadel of truth? It has been a fascinating, and sometimes terrifying, experience to diagnose the diabolical manipulation of events and circumstances on the part of Satan to accomplish his ends. There is no question that he has made many inroads, and has succeeded in somewhat diluting the truth, but all the forces of hell cannot prevail against the church of the living God. This is not just another denomination. It is a movement of prophecy, destined to restore generations of fallen truth, and it cannot and will not fail. Even though, in the fierce heat of Satan’s final assault, the church may seem about to fall, it does not fall. It will survive and triumph. And all those who remain faithful through its shaking, testing experience will triumph with it. My prayer is that the exposure of Satan’s operating tactics will prepare us to avoid the terrible pitfalls which have been and will be placed in our path.