Incredible Apostasy: Will it Ever Stop?
By Elder Lawrence Nelson
In recent weeks I find myself with a heart-rending perplexity. For my soul sighs and cries daily as I see abominations developing within God’s church. No one of high authority seems to have the spiritual courage to stem the rising tide. I ask, “Is everyone at our world headquarters asleep, or are they so afraid because of Jesuit pressure they dare not say a word? Is there not at least one godly leader who knows what is taking place? In the light of inspiration can’t someone visualize what the end results will be in promoting that which God condemns?”
Throughout the world a number of ministries are arising and exposing these apostasies. Surely there must be at least one of high authority who sees and knows what is taking place – one who will arise with power from on high and call for a return to the counsel of God as found in the Spirit of Prophecy, and start a reformation. But we hear nary a word of such. Why? In searching for an answer I was led to the following quotation that describes to a “t” what is taking place in our church today, and it also answers the question: Will there soon be a change for the better? Will this incredible apostasy stop?
Listen, the answer is found in Selected Messages , Book 1, p. 204, 205. “The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.”
Did you catch the answer? – Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of this new movement. How revealing! In other words, nothing will stop this apostasy until the vast majority of Seventh-day Adventists become so involved in apostasy that they finally depart from God’s remnant church and return to Babylon. Now I realize you are startled, and you ask, How and when did all this begin? We had better know the facts or else we may also be captured by this satanic movement.
But before we proceed, let us pray for guidance. Dear Loving Father, we plead that Thou wilt commission Thy Holy Spirit to be in charge of this presentation, giving divine guidance that we may discern truth from error. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
From the beginning of God’s end-time remnant church Satan has constantly attempted to destroy it by introducing false doctrines, knowing that if they were accepted, such would lead to apostasy. Permit me to give you a brief summary of such activity from past years starting with the very beginning in 1844. God’s small group of remnant were immediately faced with the fanatical teaching of magnetism which taught that once you were sanctified you would never sin again. Praise God, knowing that such false doctrines would enter His church He gave His people a prophet to guide and expose such error.
Listen to her words, “Let not God be dishonored by the declaration from human lips, ‘I am sinless; I am holy.’ Sanctified lips will never give utterance to such presumptuous words.” Acts of the Apostles p. 561, 562. And she further warned, “The experience of the past (speaking of fanaticism after 1844) will be repeated. … Most seducing influences will be exerted; minds will be hypnotized.” Testimonies for the Church , Volume 8, p. 293.
So long as the growing church followed the counsel of its prophet every false movement that arose quickly came to an end. For example, in 1851 Joseph Bates (of all people you would suspect) predicted that the second Advent would occur that year. This was but the beginning of many false predictions based on supposed prophetic prophesies. But the servant of the Lord instructed the following, found in Spiritual Gifts , Volume 1, p. 138 – 148; 158, that prophetic periods reached to 1844. “Prophetic time closed in 1844. I was shown prophetic periods ended in 1844.”
Then in 1887 D. M. Canright began to preach “new theology” which the Lord’s servant immediately exposed. And sorry to say, some of his same false doctrines can be found in Desmond Ford’s preaching today. Such was the devil’s continuous attempt to cause disbelief in the Testimonies.
This was followed in 1908 by W. W. Prescott who boldly attempted to change the words found in the Great Controversy book. But Ellen White would not permit this. She wrote, “Such was rejected.” That was taken from her letter “Elmshaven” p. 307.
Now this brings us to the year 1915 when L. R. Conrad tried to change Ellen White’s writings as published in the German language. But the church leadership, now without a prophet, began to fumble by not following her written counsel which caused the beginning of the Advent Reform Movement.
By 1929, without a living prophet, the Shepherd’s Rod Movement found little trouble, under the leadership of Victor Houteff, to secure a following with his false doctrines that the 144,000 were not found in heaven but would be located in Palestine.
Then came 1931, the year in which accreditation of our educational institutions took place. Again, leadership failed to exercise faith in the Spirit of Prophecy. This action opened the door to educating our college and university professors to obtain doctorate degrees in the schools of Babylon, where for the next twenty-five years many of our teachers succumbed to the false doctrines they were forced to study. Thus they gradually brought a change into our denomination as to our teachings.
Now with this short background the evangelical conference took place next in the mid-fifties. It was the decisions made during these meetings that started our church on the road to apostasy. A history of how such conferences developed are as follows:
On November 28, 1949 Pastor E. E. Unruh, president of the East Pennsylvania Conference, heard a sermon on the radio on Righteousness by Faith based on the book of Romans by a Dr. Barnhouse, radio preacher and minister of the Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; founder and editor of Eternity magazine . He wrote a letter to Dr. Barnhouse and commended him on his sermon. Dr. Barnhouse was astonished that an Adventist clergyman would commend him for preaching Righteousness by Faith since, in his opinion, it was a well-known fact that Seventh-day Adventists believed in Righteousness by Works.
This precipitated meetings beginning in 1954 between Dr. Barnhouse and Dr. Walter Martin, a consulting editor of the Eternity staff. Dr. Walter Martin was to search out thoroughly the human and historical resources of the Seventh-day Adventists. This developed into a fourteen-member committee and resulted in the book Questions on Doctrines being published in 1957 and it contained serious aberrations of Adventist truth. During these discussions the seeds were sown which are now producing the harvest of apostasy.
The General Conference leaders discovered that the Evangelicals were planning to publish a book containing the names of religious bodies which they declared to be non-Christian or a cult and this list contained the name of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Evangelical reasoning was as follows:
Since our church taught that Christ was now in heaven’s sanctuary making a final atonement, therefore we didn’t believe in the atonement made by Christ at the cross. So they considered Seventh-day Adventists to be nothing more than a cult.
These Babylonian Evangelicals held that Jesus made the final atonement on the cross and nothing more was needed, and if we did not agree with their belief and change our beliefs then they would print the book proclaiming that we were not Christians. And would you believe it, instead of holding to the divine inspiration that states, “Christ is now making an atonement,” these General Conference men compromised and determined to change our sanctuary doctrine so we could be considered by Babylon as “Christians.”
Soon new books were printed stating that we believe salvation was completed at the cross, denying that there was an atonement now taking place in heaven’s sanctuary. This is why you seldom, if ever, hear anything about a heavenly sanctuary from our pulpits today. Some even now preach there is no heavenly sanctuary, but God foreknew that this would take place and what would be the results. Inspiration proclaimed, “The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. … The Sabbath of course would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of this new movement.” Selected Messages , Book 1, p. 204.
So much for the details. Let us now examine what the General Conference leadership actually changed. But first of all, we must secure a foundation in God’s Holy Word so let us read Romans 4:25. “[Christ] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” This amazing scripture of one text reveals that the atonement provided by Christ was of a dual nature which made possible how God could destroy our sins and yet save the sinner. This verse reveals that the atonement at the cross provided the ransom price for sins, for scripture also states, “Christ was delivered (that is He died) for our offenses (that’s our sins) and was raised again for our justification.” This is exactly what the Old Testament sanctuary taught –
1. That the lamb was sacrificed on the alter for an atonement and
2. Its blood provided for the atonement which took place within the sanctuary for cleansing and justification of the sinner.
Thus the Bible doctrine of a dual atonement became a pillar of our faith established by God’s Holy Word and verified by the Spirit of Prophecy. This Bible doctrine is never to be altered and it stands today untouched by all the intellectualism of Babylon. Yet, our church leadership dared to disregard God’s truth. Consider once more Romans 4:25, “[Christ] was delivered for our offences (that is, He died for our sins) and was raised again for our justification.” Nothing could be stated more clearly. This is why God’s end-time prophet declares that Jesus must perform a work of atonement for the repentant sinner in addition to the atonement made at the cross in order to obtain full salvation. We read in Great Controversy p. 489, “The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death, He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven.”
Never forget, both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy were co-authored by the Holy Spirit. They are always in complete agreement. When we talk of Christ’s death on the cross, and what He is now doing for us as our High Priest in heaven’s sanctuary, we acknowledge that both of these events have to do with Christ’s atoning work for us. In the Spirit of Prophecy the word “atonement” is used in five different expressions as follows:
1. “He made an atonement”
2. “A full atonement”
3. “A perfect atonement”
4. “A complete atonement”
5. “He is making an atonement”
Now let us examine these expressions so you will have a clear understanding of these two atonements. The first, “He made an atonement.” We find this in Signs of the Times , December 17, 1902. “On the cross of Christ the Savior made an atonement for the fallen race.” Now this statement is given in the past tense meaning that the sacrifice was completed. The price agreed upon was honored. The debt was paid in full for the sins of the whole world and it never needed to be repeated. For we read in Hebrews 9:28, “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” This expression, “made an atonement” has to do strictly with that which was done on the cross.
Now let’s consider #2 – “a full atonement.” This statement is found in the book Lift Him Up p. 345, “Christ made a full atonement. He gave His life a ransom.” In a similar quotation she writes of Christ when He arose from the grave. “Christ made a full atonement.” Youth Instructor May 2, 1901. You can see from these two quotations that Christ paid the debt we owed. It was a full atonement – a full payment. He died in our place, making a full atonement on the cross.
Now the third statement – “a perfect atonement” – is found in the book Lift Him Up p. 319. “When He offered Himself on the cross, a perfect atonement was made for the sins of the people.” Now compare this with the following in Manuscript Releases, Volume 5, p. 114 in 1899. “In the council of heaven the cross was ordained as the means of atonement.” So when Ellen White uses the term “a perfect atonement” we may include a perfect sacrifice. Now we should praise God for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and with Paul glory in the cross! What an atonement, what a price for our ransom!
The fourth statement – “a complete atonement” – is found in the book The Faith I Live By p. 91. “God has accepted the offering of His Son as a complete atonement for the sins of the world.” The same expression is used in Review and Herald September 24, 1901, “[Christ] planted the cross between heaven and earth, and when the Father beheld the sacrifice of His Son, He bowed before it in recognition of its perfection. ‘It is enough,’ He said. ‘The atonement is completed.’” These words refer specifically to Christ’s atonement on the cross for she wrote in Signs of the Times July 31, 1901, “As [Christ] hung on the cross, He could say, ‘It is finished.’ The demands of justice were satisfied. The way to the throne of grace was opened to every sinner.”
All these quotes refer to Christ’s atonement on the cross. But those words, “open the way to the throne of God for every sinner,” reveals that the atonement of the cross was the beginning of His atoning work for sinners and that He went to heaven to complete the work He had begun at the cross. In heaven’s sanctuary He now pleads His blood before the Father providing forgiveness and cleansing and a blotting out of sin from the sinner’s records.
Now this brings us to the fifth expression – “making an atonement.” Immediately you notice that this is written in the present tense. It could not mean the sacrifice of the cross which took place nearly two thousand years ago. Making an atonement means that an atonement is now in the process – at the present time. This quotation is found in Great Controversy p. 623, “Now, while our great High Priest is making the atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ.”
Now, from these five quotations you can clearly see that the Spirit of Prophecy teaches a dual atonement. The one taking place at the cross, a payment for the sins of the world, and the other, an atonement now taking place in the heavenly sanctuary for the repentant in cleansing and blotting out of sin. This is emphasized in another quotation found in Review and Herald May 6, 1884. “Christ has been manifest in the flesh; his blood has been poured out, the perfect sacrifice that is our atonement for the sins of the world; and now as our Mediator stands before the mercy-seat making an atonement for his people.”
All these quotations are in agreement with one another and summarized in the Great Controversy p. 489. “The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven.” The atonement now taking place in heaven has to do with the results of the investigative judgment which began in 1844 for all those who professed to believe in the atonement made at the cross. If found worthy of the atonement of the cross they were provided with forgiveness and cleansing that is involved with the blotting out of their sins from the books of heaven. Thus justified, they are clothed with Christ’s righteousness.
How important that God’s remnant understand the sanctuary message. “The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith.” Evangelism p. 221. We should daily keep in mind that “we are in the great day of atonement and the sacred work of Christ for the people of God that is going on at the present time in the heavenly sanctuary should be our constant study.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 520. It is now, in this investigative judgment, that our characters are involved.
In Testimonies to Ministers p. 439 it reveals, “God’s claim is placed in one scale and man’s character in the other and by the balance of the heavenly sanctuary every man’s doom is fixed for eternity.” What a solemn thought. We are involved with the scales of heaven – not man’s good deeds vs. bad deeds but it is the ten commandments vs. our character.
Consider this: “Each one in the day of investigative judgment will stand in character as he really is; he will render an individual account to God. Every word uttered, every departure from integrity, every action that sullies the soul, will be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary. Memory will be true and vivid in condemnation of the guilty one, who in that day is found wanting. The mind will recall all the thoughts and acts of the past; the whole life will come in review like the scenes in a panorama. Thus every one will be condemned or acquitted out of his own mouth, and the righteousness of God will be vindicated.” Review and Herald November 4, 1884.
In Bible Commentary, Volume 7A, p. 464 we are further enlightened. “The atonement of Christ (that’s in heaven) is not a mere skillful way of having our sins pardoned; it is the divine remedy for the cure of transgression and the restoration of spiritual health. It is the heaven-ordained means by which the righteousness of Christ may be not only upon us, but in our hearts and characters.” Surely we are living in the time spoken of in Revelation 19:7, “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” This is no time for celebration; this is a time for a call to prepare for the final atonement in which Christ our High Priest will impute His righteousness to us and impart sanctification, in placing His robe of righteousness upon us.
I beg you, ponder the following found in Messages to Young People, p. 35: “The righteousness by which we are justified is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven.” But today, instead of our desperate need for a call from leadership for a revival of holy living in preparation for heaven’s final atonement, we are daily faced with an ever-increasing incredible apostasy – the result of General Conference leaders who dared to tamper with the sanctuary truth, removing the pillar of God’s truth in order to please the Philistine’s of Babylon; that we might become buddies and teach their half-truth doctrines. It is accepting the cross but negating the sanctuary doctrine.
The results are tragic. Today we hear mostly of love as revealed in Christ’s atonement at the cross, that salvation was completed on Calvary, that nothing more is needed to be saved. Thus the sanctuary message is well-nigh forgotten. The liberals among us continue to teach a complete, unconditional salvation at the cross, which reveals their unbelief in the Testimonies and does away with the sanctuary doctrine. Such apostasy is clearly revealed in their writings. “When, therefore, one hears an Adventist say or read in Adventist literature – even in the writings of Ellen G. White – that Christ is making an atonement now, it should be understood that we mean simply that Christ is now making application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made on the cross.” Questions on Doctrine p. 354, 355.How clever these explanations of those trained in the theology of Babylon’s institutions.
I continue to quote the New Theology, “Jesus appeared in the presence of God for us but it was not with the hope of obtaining something for us at that time or some future time. No, He had already obtained it for us on the cross.” Question on Doctrines p. 381.
And our Ministerial Department of the General Conference teaches this false doctrine. “The sacrificial act on the cross is a complete and final atonement for man’s sin.” Ministry Magazine February, 1957. In the light of what the Spirit of Prophecy stated, these three quotations sound unbelievable but they are the present-day teachings of a church in apostasy, contrary to divine inspiration.
“There is to be no change in the general features of our work. It is to stand as clear and distinct as prophecy has made it. We are to enter into no confederacy with the world supposing by so doing we could accomplish more. … No line of truth that has made the Seventh-day Adventist people what they are is to be weakened. We have the old landmarks of truth, experience, and duty, and we are to stand firmly in defense of our principles, in full view of the world.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6, p. 17.
Again, “Spurious scientific theories are coming in as a thief in the night stealing away the landmarks and undermining the pillars of our faith. … You know that Satan will come in to deceive if possible the very elect.” Medical Ministry p. 87. And boldly she declares, “The professed people of God have compromised with the power of darkness.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 222.
I continue, “I am charged to tell our people that some do not realize that the devil has device after device that he carries out in ways that make sinners out of saints. I tell you now, that when I am laid to rest great changes will take place.” Elmshaven February 24, 1915.
And then she wrote just before she died, “One thing it is certain is soon to be realized, — the great apostasy, which is developing and increasing and waxing stronger, will continue to do so until the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout.” Series 7B, p. 56, 57. And then listen to this, “Are we hoping to see the whole church revived? That time will never come.” Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 122. What a sad picture of the results of a church in rebellion.
May I suggest that you read the first chapter of Isaiah to see how God reacts to such incredible apostasy. This chapter gives a comparison between Israel of old and God’s Israel of today. Time will not permit me to read this whole chapter but I shall close by reading verses nine, ten, and twenty-one to twenty-seven. “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. Here the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
“How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy sin: And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.” Praise the Lord.
God will soon arise, when the Sunday law is made mandatory world-wide, and separate the tares from the wheat, presenting to His universe a church without blemish; a very small remnant who have held fast to the pillars of faith, obedient to His commandments and the faith of Jesus. And by His grace, I intend to be one of them. What about you?
Let us pray, Thank Thee, dear Father, for making it possible through the two atonements of Thy son, Jesus, that we may soon live with Thee in the earth made new. In His name we pray, Amen.