Should We Abandon Zion’s Ship
By Elder Lawrence Nelson
Some years ago an impressive dream was given to the servant of the Lord. Ellen White often likened the church to a sea-going vessel. In this dream she saw a terrible storm coming in which the waves dashed violently over the ship, threatening the lives of all on board. A cry arose, “Let’s abandon the ship!” This inspired dream is found in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 571.
I’m quoting, “I thought that you were on a strong vessel, sailing on very rough waters. Sometimes the waves beat over the top, and you were drenched with water. You said: ‘I shall be get off; this vessel is going down.’ ‘No,’ said one who appeared to be the captain, ‘this vessels sails into the harbor. She will never go down.’ But you answered: ‘I shall be washed overboard. As I am neither captain nor mate, who cares? I shall take my chances on that vessel you see yonder.’ Said the captain: ‘I shall not let you go there, for I know that vessel will strike the rocks before she reaches the harbor.’ You straightened yourself up and said with great positiveness: ‘This vessel will become a wreck; I can see it just as plain as can be.’ The captain looked upon you with piercing eye, and said firmly: ‘I shall not permit you to lose your life by taking that boat. The timbers of her framework are worm-eaten, and she is a deceptive craft. If you had more knowledge you could discern between the spurious and the genuine, the holy and that appointed to utter ruin.’”
Now before we explore this terrible coming storm let us seek heavenly guidance. O loving Father, we are now facing a storm of trouble such as never was. As we enter this new millennium we will soon be facing a Sunday law of dire consequence. We shall need divine direction in making the right decisions and with courage to remain faithful. In this study, we pray, that Thou wilt fortify our minds with truth for we ask for Infinite wisdom in the blessed name of Jesus, Amen.
In Holy Scripture we are commanded, “Hold the truth.” Romans 1:18. “Hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21. “Lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:12. “Hold fast to sound words.” 1 Timothy 6:12. “Hold fast the confidence.” Hebrews 3:6. “Hold fast the profession.” Hebrews 10:23. Such admonition from God’s Word can be summed up in the words of Jesus Christ found in Revelation 3:11, “Behold, I come quickly. Hold that fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown.”
Now why did the Lord say this? Because a storm is coming in which I’m sad to say, the majority now within our church will be lost. On page 608 of Great Controversy , this tragedy is clearly stated. “As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side.”
This brings us back to the dream. The lesson is clear. Regardless how terrible this coming storm is, don’t get off the ship, not even when mountainous waves of heresy go over the top of the ship drenching the passengers. Never, never let Satan tempt you to get off the ship. Let the Captain’s voice continually vibrate in your ears so you will obey His commands for Zion’s ship will sail into heaven’s harbor.
But now I can hear some of you asking, “What do you mean, Brother Nelson, ‘Don’t get off the ship?’ Are you talking about the church structure – the Seventh-day Adventist Church denomination?” The answer is found in Inspiration, and mark these words carefully. I’m reading from Upward Look p. 315, “God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20). Where Christ is, even among even the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.”
I like the way Leola Rosenvold brings this quotation into clear perception. “The church is not the structure, it is not the organization, as is so often accepted as being an undisputed fact. The church is the people. God does not save or translate to heaven a structure or a corporation. He saves only individuals. Individuals who work as officers and leaders in the corporation, yes; individual laymen who sit in pews of our churches, yes; individuals of various ranks and position and spiritual conditions make up God’s church. After the church is purified and faultless it will consist only of the people who love God and keep His commandments.”
This is why I have been led by God to present this message. For week after week I receive letters and telephone calls stating that these things are getting so bad in the church that individuals are condemning me for not preaching that the church has become Babylon and we should come out and leave the church. But our church is not Babylon for Inspiration clearly states, “The message to pronounce the Seventh-day Adventist Church Babylon, and call the people of God out of her, does not come from any heavenly messenger, or any human agent inspired by the Spirit of God. …He [God] does not once call them [His people] Babylon, nor ask them to come out.” The Remnant Church p. 5, 6.
In Testimonies to Ministers p. 41 I read, “When anyone arises, either among us or outside of us, who is burdened with a message which declares that the people of God are numbered with Babylon, and claims that the loud cry is a call to come out of her, you may know that he is not bearing the message of truth. Receive him not, nor bid him Godspeed; for God has not spoken by him, neither has He given a message to him, but he has run before he was sent.”
Let me ask you a question. “What turns a church into Babylon?” Ellen White clearly answers this question. She points out that it is a church that teaches false doctrines rather than the lifestyle and the sins of its members. Before specifically identifying these false doctrines she quotes Revelation 18:1-8 as found in Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 67,68. “‘And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
“‘For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. 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. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
“‘Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. 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.’
“The whole chapter shows that Babylon that has fallen is the churches who will not receive the messages of warning the Lord has given in the first, second, and third angels’ messages. They refused the truth and accepted a lie….How Satan would exult to have a message go broadcast that the only people whom God has made the repositories of His law are the ones to whom this message applies.
“The wine of Babylon is the exalting of the false and spurious sabbath above the Sabbath which the Lord Jehovah hath blessed and sanctified for the use of man, also [it is] the immortality of the soul. These kindred heresies, and the rejection of the truth, convert the church into Babylon.”
She further pinpoints these false doctrines as, “The fallen denominational churches are Babylon. Babylon has been fostering poisonous doctrines, the wine of error. This wine of error is made up of false doctrines, such as the natural immortality of the soul, the eternal torment of the wicked, the denial of the pre-existence of Christ prior to His birth in Bethlehem, and advocating and exalting the first day of the week above God’s holy and sanctified day.” Testimonies to Ministers p. 61.
Again, may I quote from Leola Rosenvold. “Surely it is clear that the aforementioned false doctrines are not a part of fundamental Seventh-day Adventist teachings. In the light of the above counsel, regardless of her present lukewarm spiritual condition and apostasies, how can any of us be guilty of calling God’s church Babylon? Despite the fact that the Lord’s servant has repeatedly told us that the true church is not Babylon and will never become Babylon, some eager would-be reformers continue to infer that God’s church has become Babylon. Let history settle this matter – in the type, Zion never became Babylon and Babylon never became Zion [that is Jerusalem]. True, there were some spiritual Babylonians in Jerusalem and some spiritual Israelites in Babylon, but the two cities never exchanged their identities even in periods of deep Israelite apostasy.
“So in our day, we have false members (spiritual Babylonians) in our midst. Even though the apostasy should become so wide spread that at times we are tempted to wonder if the whole church is in apostasy we must bear in mind that those who sponsor heresies, regardless of their numbers, will, in due time, be sifted out. In turn, some of the false Babylonian churches have true Israelites in their midst, who will during the Loud Cry, respond and join God’s modern Israel [the purified church]. Finally, all will together be privileged to become part of the church triumphant who will someday stand on the sea of glass in heaven above.”
But we cannot shut our eyes as to what is taking place within our church, for a division has already come within the church. Divine providence foresaw that two distinct parties would develop which God calls the “wheat” and the “tares.” I am reading from Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 113, 114, “But divisions will come in the church. Two parties will be developed. The wheat and the tares grow up together for the harvest. The work will grow deeper and become more earnest to the very close of time.”
In this end-time two powers will exert an influence to quickly mature the wheat and the tares for the harvest. Reading from Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 113, “A new life is coming from heaven and taking possession of all God’s people.” And now compare this with Satan’s plan. Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 382, letter 55, 1886 tells us, “A new life is proceeding from satanic agencies to work with a power we have not hitherto realized.”
So in this end time God will work as never before for His faithful few, and Satan will perform supernatural wonders with his tares. It will be God’s program to purify the church, while the work of Satan is to corrupt the people of God. As a result, we must expect to find two distinct parties within the church. Both are completely opposite in nature from one another. Leadership may plead for unity but it will not be found in the church until the harvest. Review and Herald, July 18, 1907 says, “Here are plainly represented two distinct parties, formed from a company that was once united.”
At this point it’s time for some godly counsel. Although many of us cry aloud over the abominations found in our church today, we must never leave the church for we are told in Christ Object Lessons p. 70 , “It is in the church that we are to grow and ripen for the garner of God.” And this includes also the tares which will also ripen in the church. Why? – God is a God of love. He gives every possible advantage to the unconverted, for He is a God of mercy. We find this statement in Christ Object Lessons p. 71, The “true and false believers [are] mingled in the church.” But a time will come shortly when a final separation will take place between these two parties and then they will no longer mingle together.
In Testimonies to Ministers p. 235 236, “The tares and the wheat are now commingled, but then the one hand that alone can separate them will give to everyone his true position….The righteous are those who keep the commandments of God, and they will be forever separated from the disobedient and unrighteous who trample underfoot the law of God. The pure ore and the dross will no longer commingle.”
But this will not happen instantly. The tares will continue until probation closes believing that they are right and will bring untold harm and severe persecution upon the faithful. Reading from Great Controversy p. 608, “They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbathkeepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.”
Now this brings us to a point that you may never have thought of. How will this final separation be accomplished? Will it be because the tares are disfellowshipped? – Absolutely not. This is not God’s method of dealing with the unrighteous. Believe it or not, it will be the righteous wheat that will be put out of the church and persecuted. And this is already happening today.
As Jesus foresaw these last-day problems, you remember what He said in John 16:1-3, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
Then in Acts of the Apostles p. 431 we read, “All who in the evil day would fearlessly serve God according to the dictates of conscience, will need courage, firmness, and a knowledge of God and His word; for those who are true to God will be persecuted,…their best efforts misinterpreted, and their names cast out as evil.” Did you notice the word “all”? Such persecution will be universal. Now in view of these coming persecutions should we draw apart? Please pay close attention for here is the answer that many have been looking for. I’m reading from Selected Messages, Book 3, p. 21, “No advice or sanction is given in the Word of God to those who believe the third angel’s message to lead them to suppose that they can draw apart. This you may settle with yourselves forever.” Forever is a long time; certainly until the harvest.
But what about a home church? There may be a time when a given situation demands that Seventh-day Adventists worship in a home church. And home churches are biblical. I am reading from Philemon 2, “To the church in thy house.” Colossians 4:15, “The church which is in his house.” 1 Corinthians 16:19, “The church that is in their house.” So listen carefully. If Celebration, with its ungodly rock music, its drama, clapping, and entertainment, has perverted your church, if the teachings of spiritualism are being preached that you cannot keep God’s law even with the help of the Almighty, that you will sin until Jesus comes, if the doctrines of devils are being presented, encouraging you to keep Sunday as your day of worship, and there is no other church nearby where the pastor preaches to love God and keep His commandments, surely it would be proper in the eyes of your Lord to withdraw, not from God’s church (which is His people), but to attend a home church where you will become a part of His saints who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This should be done with much prayer and study and divine counsel.
Now for a few moments let us consider how God actually uses the heresies now seen within many a church to cleanse His church. Turning to Inspiration we read in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 707, “God will arouse His people; if other means fail, heresies will come in among them, which will sift them, separating the chaff from the wheat.” Apparently other means have already failed for every wind of false doctrine is blowing in His church. Erroneous teachings borrowed from Babylon are being taught to the members of God’s church.
Consider how this is taking place. There are today among us, laymen who are constantly looking for new light who are sponsoring home-cottage study meetings, spreading a mixture of truth and error. And then there is the scheme of Satan to influence leading men such as our ministers, teachers and scholars within the denomination to obtain doctor’s degrees from Babylonian universities where they are daily exposed to false teachings. Gradually these leaders begin to accept as truth the false theories daily preached from men of higher education. Then these men, after receiving their degrees, return to our churches and instead of protecting our members from false beliefs they pollute the truth.
Consider the following found in Testimonies to Ministers p. 409, 410, “Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan.” In order not to be led astray, we must individually become earnest students of the Word and watch and pray. Reading Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 214, “Everyone must now search the Bible for himself upon his knees before God, with the humble, teachable heart of a child, if he would know what the Lord requires of him. However high any minister may have stood in the favor of God, if he neglects to follow the light given him of God, if he refuses to be taught as a little child, he will go into darkness and satanic delusions and will lead others in the same path.” “Many a star that we have admired for its brilliancy will then go out in darkness.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 81.
But we must not despair for when the ministers are unfaithful God has promised that He, Himself, will watch His flock. Listen to this quote, “We have been inclined to think that where there are no faithful ministers there can be no true Christians, but this is not the case. God has promised that where the shepherds are not true He will take charge of the flock Himself. God has never made the flock wholly dependent upon human instrumentalities.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 79. What a promise! Praise the Lord.
So brother, sister, this is no time to abandon the ship. Soon, very soon, our Captain will take control when the Sunday law is passed and enforced. This will become the final test to the people of God. Probation will close. The majority, the tares, will leave us and join with Babylon. But God will never forsake the remnant, the wheat, for the Holy Spirit will be poured out in the latter rain making possible the Loud Cry. And what a day this is going to be! You may be astonished how quickly things will happen. “When the loud cry of the third angel shall be heard…God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands.” Testimonies to Ministers p. 300. I like that.
This should give us courage. When our Captain takes command by seizing the reins we are told in Jeremiah 23:1-4, “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! Saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.”
Ellen White speaks plainly about what is to happen. “The days are fast approaching when there will be great perplexity and confusion. Satan, clothed in angel robes, will deceive, if possible, the very elect. There will be gods many and lords many. Every wind of doctrine will be blowing. Those who have rendered supreme homage to “science falsely so called” will not be the leaders then. Those who have trusted to intellect, genius, or talent will not then stand at the head of rank and file. They did not keep pace with the light. Those who have proved themselves unfaithful will not then be entrusted with the flock. In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. [And why is this?] They are self-sufficient, independent of God, and He cannot use them. The Lord has faithful servants, who in the shaking, testing time will be disclosed to view.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 80, 81.
The finishing of God’s work will be contrary to all human planning. Testimonies to Ministers p. 300, “Let me tell you 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. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. 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.” Praise God!
The Loud Cry is going to be successful. “There is to be, at this period, a series of events which will reveal that God is Master of the situation. The truth will be proclaimed in clear, unmistakable language. Those who preach the truth will strive to demonstrate the truth by a well-ordered life and godly conversation. And as they do this, they will become powerful in advocating the truth, and in giving it the sure application that God has given it.” Paulson Collection p. 73.
And listen to this quote, “God will move upon men in humble positions to declare the message of present truth. Many such will be seen hastening hither and thither, constrained by the Spirit of God to give the light to those in darkness. The truth is as a fire in their bones, filling them with a burning desire to enlighten those who sit in darkness. Many, even among the uneducated, will proclaim the word of the Lord. Children will be impelled by the Holy Spirit to go forth to declare the message of heaven. The Spirit will be poured out upon those who yield to His promptings. Casting off men’s binding rules and cautious movements, they will join the army of the Lord.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 7, p. 26, 27. Oh friend, Zion’s ship is going to reach heaven’s harbor!
“Beware of those that arise with a great burden to denounce the church. The chosen ones who are standing and breasting the storm of opposition from the world, and are uplifting the downtrodden commandments of God to exalt them as holy and honorable, are indeed the light of the world. How dare mortal man pass his judgment on them, and call the church a harlot, Babylon, a den of thieves, a cage of every unclean and hateful bird, the habitation of devils, making the nations drunk with the wine of her fornication, confederating with the kings and great men of the earth, waxing rich through the abundance of her delicacies, and proclaiming that her sins have reached unto heaven and God hath remembered her iniquities? Is this the message that we have to bear to Seventh-day Adventists? I tell you, no! God has given no man any such message.” This Day With God p. 172.
Is this counsel too straight? – Not at all. For the church has been entrusted with most precious, last-day truths which are to be given to the world. So, cry aloud, spare not. Watch and pray. “God calls for men of decided fidelity. He has no use in an emergency for two-sided men. He wants men who will lay their hand upon a wrong work and say, ‘This is not according to the will of God.’” Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 153.
While we are not to call the church Babylon or to treat her as such we are to cry aloud, spare not against the dreadful sins and deceptions of almost every kind that are in the church. If we do not we will not be guiltless. We are to do our utmost to maintain the purity of our church militant. But until the judgment of the living convenes and God’s hand separates the wheat from the tares there will be in the church those who have chosen to become a cage of every unclean and hateful bird as well as those who have chosen to be sanctified through the truth.
We must heed Paul’s counsel, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which we have learned; and avoid them.” Romans 16:17. And so brethren and sisters, don’t leave the ship! The ship is His people, those that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Let us pray, Dear Father, we believe that the end is right upon us; that the time has come for Satan to force the world into his camp with the Sunday law. As probation closes for Thy faithful people we plead that Thy divine power will seize the reins and to appoint leadership who will be led by the Holy Spirit in the Latter Rain to quickly lead the remnant to give the Loud Cry. This we ask in the precious name of our Savior, Amen.