By Elder Lawrence Nelson
The greatest hope of the Christian today is centered in the coming final climax when Jesus returns to gather His saints and take them to their eternal home. Jesus has promised, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:3.
Today we are surrounded by scores of signs that Jesus is coming soon, but one of the signs that He foretold we seem to have ignored. It is the one sign that tells us exactly when the Second Coming is to take place. In Matthew 24: 14 Christ states, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” This truth is emphasized by the three angels of Revelation 14:6 in which it is proclaimed that the everlasting gospel is to be preached to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Here I must “level” with you. The fulfillment of a soon-coming Savior is absolutely impossible without divine intervention. At the present rate of progress, to reach “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” with the everlasting gospel, it will take thousands of years to fulfill.
Our church recognizes this problem. In the Adventist Review of December 17, 1987 we are told that “80% of the world’s population today has no knowledge of Christianity. At present the Seventh-day Adventist Church is witnessing by its presence to only 15% of the people of the world. Over 2.4 billion people, living on this planet, have never been reached by any church with the gospel.”
Now let me clarify that. I have traveled across India by train and car. In this densely populated country there are approximately one-half million villages. Of these, 475,000 villages have never received any knowledge of Christianity by any denomination. The alarming truth is we have done so little. “Our penetration into India’s languages is likewise scant. India has sixteen languages, but more than 1600 dialects. The Bible is available in only 74 of these languages and dialects. The Oriental Publishing House publishes Adventist literature in only 21 languages. That means we have no publications in hundreds of the Indian languages and dialects. The language problem is further compounded by an average literacy rate of 36%.” North Pacific Gleaner of November 11, 1989.
What about China? Over one billion people, yet we find this precious promise: “He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.” Romans 9:28. How, just how, can this be accomplished? Will you join me in prayer that God may help us discover the answer to this perplexing situation?
Oh loving Father, we humans were created by Thy hands with an inquisitive mind, unable to foresee the future as Thou seest it. But we read in Thy Word that Thou wilt do nothing without revealing things to Thy prophets. So we ask for heavenly guidance in searching for an answer in the writings of Thy servant, in the Spirit of Prophecy, that we might grasp by faith the answer of how the Three Angels’ Messages can be preached quickly to every nation, and people, and tongue that Jesus may come. This we ask in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.
Before we turn to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy for our answer, I must acknowledge that in a conversation with retired evangelist Reynold Hoffman I learned of his recent research regarding our subject. He graciously granted me permission to share his findings with you in this tape.
Now, as we turn to the Bible, we find a parable of the eleventh-hour workers. In this parable we will note that the kingdom of heaven is compared to a vineyard owner who hires laborers at different times of the day. In fact, five separate groups of men were hired to work in his vineyard. At the end of the day these men were all given the same wages irrespective of how long they had worked. The basic lesson taught is that salvation is by faith. The redeemed will receive eternal life not according to their works, but according to the generosity and the grace of God. (See Christ Object Lessons p. 394 – 404). However, take note that their works were not ignored, for only those who worked were paid. Furthermore, this vineyard owner was in great need to quickly gather in his harvest, for no employer pays a full day’s wage for one hour’s labor. As you listen to the scripture you will realize that these one-hour workers, at the close of the day, were indispensable for the need to quickly finish the task.
Now let us read this parable as found in Matthew 20:1-9. “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
“Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.”
Ellen White, as an agent of the Holy Spirit, gives us an understanding insight as to how God plans to quickly finish the work with the help of these eleventh-hour workers. Scattered through her writings we will find that she makes seven clarifying statements concerning this parable. We will examine each carefully and discover that this parable is actually a prophecy of what is soon to take place. It will change your thinking of what we have been taught, that only the remnant will finish the work. As we study these quotations you will be enlightened and encouraged, but I also must add, be prepared for some very painful information.
Now let us discuss the bad news first. As the coming storm of persecutions burst upon us by the beast and its image from without the church, Ellen White also describes an internal storm which will face the faithful from within the church. I will read from quotations, which when read together, will reveal that apostasy will become so bad within the church that only a small remnant will be left to participate in giving the Loud Cry. But, God is prepared.
“Already the judgments of God are abroad in the land, as seen in storms, in floods, in tempests, in earthquakes, in peril by land and by sea. The great I AM is speaking to those who make void His law. When God’s wrath is poured out upon the earth, who will then be able to stand? Now is the time for God’s people to show themselves true to principle. When the religion of Christ is most held in contempt, when His law is most despised, then should our zeal be the warmest and our courage and firmness the most unflinching. To stand in the defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few—this will be our test. At this time we must gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason…. All who will gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their defections, and loyalty from their treason, will triumph with the third angel’s message.” Sons and Daughters of God p. 201, 202. I feel like saying “Praise the Lord!”
How sad to learn, from this quotation, that few within the church will remain faithful, as the majority will forsake the truth. Those that are left will need courage as they witness such defections. How painful are these thoughts, yet this is but the beginning. “We have far more to fear from within than from without. The hindrances to strength and success are far greater from the church itself than from the world…. But how often have the professed advocates of the truth proved the greatest obstacle to its advancement! The unbelief indulged, the doubts expressed, the darkness cherished, encourages the presence of evil angels, and open the way for the accomplishment of Satan’s devices.” Selected Messages, book 1, p. 122. What a terrible picture of what is to come!
“As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. …They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. 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 take the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. Great Controversy p. 608.
As a result of this let us see what takes place within our church. Men in responsible positions will not only ignore and despise the Sabbath themselves, but from the sacred desk will urge upon people the observance of the first day of the week, pleading tradition and custom, in behalf of this man-made institution. See: Review and Herald, March 18, 1884. Beloved, this sounds unbelievable, but don’t forget it’s true. The tares within the remnant church are not going to change. But listen, “The forms of religion will be continued by a people from whom the Spirit of God has been finally withdrawn; and the satanic zeal with which the prince of evil will inspire them for the accomplishment of his malignant designs, will bear the semblance of zeal for God.” Great Controversy p. 615.
Beloved, take courage! The remaining wheat, though few in number, will be filled with the latter rain and give the Loud Cry, and the results will be amazing. “Servants of God, endowed with power from on high, with their faces lighted up, and shining with holy consecration, went forth to proclaim the message from heaven. Souls that were scattered all through the religious bodies answered to the call, and the precious were hurried out of the doomed churches, as Lot was hurried out of Sodom before her destruction.” Early Writings p. 278, 279.
It is at this time that we will discover that God has a plan by which He will quickly finish the work for the honest souls who have answered the call and have come out of Babylon. They will join the remnant and become the eleventh-hour workers, making it possible to quickly give the everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Then we will see that “the Lord can do more in one hour than we can do in a lifetime, and when He sees that His people are fully consecrated, let me tell you, that a great work will be done in a short time, and the message of truth is to be carried into the dark places of the earth, where it has never been proclaimed.” Manuscript Releases, Volume 5, p. 347.
Now, we are ready to explore the seven quotations describing the eleventh-hour workers. The first quotation will tell us who the eleventh-hour workers are. “The laborers for the Master, were his official servants upon whom he laid the weightiest responsibilities to do his work. …Some were found waiting for work at the eleventh hour, only one hour before the close of the working-day.” Review and Herald, June 28, 1898. So these are going to be His official servants.
In the second quotation we find where these workers are now located. “There are diligent students of the word of prophecy in all parts of the world, who are obtaining light and still greater light from searching the Scriptures. This is true of all nations, of all tribes, and of all peoples. These will come from the grossest error, and will take the place of those who have had opportunities and privileges and have not prized them. These have worked out their own salvation with fear and trembling, lest they should become deficient in doing the ways and will of God, while those who have had great light, through the perversity of their own natural heart, turned away from Christ because they were displeased with his requirements. But God will not be left without witnesses. The one-hour laborers will be brought in at the eleventh hour, and will consecrate their ability and all their entrusted means to advance the work. These will receive the reward for their faithfulness, because they are true to principle, and shun not their duty to declare the whole counsel of God. When those who have had abundance of light throw off the restraint which the word of God imposes, and makes void his law, others will come in to fill their places and take their crown.” Review and Herald, June 5, 1897.
Let us analyze these two paragraphs.
The eleventh-hour people are scattered all over the world. They are native citizens of every country.
They are not Seventh-day Adventists. How do we know this? – Because they are in gross doctrinal error. Adventists are not in doctrinal error. Ellen White specifically defines gross error as those who believe in Sunday sacredness, eternal hell, and the immortality of the soul. (See Great Controversy p. 588). Evidently these people have believed every one of the these false doctrines.
Her use of the expression, “great light and abundance of light,” is confined to the Seventh-day Adventists.
She says that these would be those who would throw off the restraints because they were displeased with God’s requirements.
The eleventh-hour workers will take the place of the early workers who have not been true to principle for they have turned away from Christ. Here we find her most astounding prediction that these Seventh-day Adventists will make void the law of God.
The eleventh-hour people will take the crowns of those who fail to walk in the light. How amazing!
Now we come to the third quotation which tells us where these eleventh-hour workers will come from. “At the eleventh hour the Lord will gather a company out of the world to serve Him. There will be a converted ministry. Those who have had privileges and opportunities to become intelligent in regard to the truth and yet who continue to counterwork the work God would have accomplished, will be purged out, for God accepts the service of no man whose interest is divided. He accepts the whole heart, or none.” Manuscript Releases, Volume 20, p. 320.
As we meditate upon this third quotation we discover that it is not some reform movement that comes up out of the body of Adventism for they are a people who come out of the world. The problem of the early workers was that they lacked conversion. Worse than that, they have counterworked God’s will. Their interests are divided. They will be purged out. The eleventh-hour worker, coming out of the world, will take their place. What painful words are these!
Now the fourth quotation reveals that the eleventh-hour worker will finish the job. “At the eleventh hour the Lord will call into his service many faithful workers. Self-sacrificing men and women will step into the places made vacant by apostasy and death. To young men and women, as well as those who are older, God will give power from above. With converted minds, converted hands, converted feet, and converted tongues, their lips touched with a living coal from the divine altar, they will go forth in the Master’s service, moving steadily onward and upward, carrying the work forward to completion.” Youth’s Instructor, February 13, 1902. Did you notice the word “converted” that was used three times? This is the problem of our church today. Only faithful workers will be called to the work. The eleventh-hour people carry the work to completion.
The fifth quotation describes the speed and the special power bestowed upon the eleventh-hour worker. “I speak not my own words when I say that[God’s Spirit] will pass by those who have had their test and opportunity and have not distinguished the voice of God or appreciated the movings of His Spirit. Then thousands … at the eleventh hour [will] see and acknowledge the truth. …These accessions to the truth will be of such a rapidity which will surprise the church. God’s name alone will be glorified.” Letter 43, 1890.
A previous quote said the early workers within the church were purged. Quotation five says that they were passed by. Why? – Because they failed to understand their day of opportunity. The early workers did not know God’s voice when they heard it. They did not appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit. They did not glorify God. Thousands of people will see and acknowledge the truth at the eleventh hour. The work will be finished so fast that the church will be surprised. “A great work is to be done in a short time.” Review and Herald, December 18, 1888.
Again I quote, “The bright light going among the living creatures [in Ezekiel’s vision], with the swiftness of lightning represents the speed with which this work will finally go forward to completion.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 754. What a promise!
The sixth quotation reveals when these eleventh-hour workers will enter the vineyard and make possible a finished work. “There are many souls to come out of the ranks of the world, out of the churches—even the Catholic Church—whose zeal will far exceed that of those who have stood in rank and file to proclaim the truth heretofore. For this reason the eleventh-hour laborers will receive their penny. These will see the battle coming and will give the trumpet a certain sound. When the crisis is upon us, when the season of calamity shall come, they will come to the front, gird themselves with the whole armor of God, and exalt His law, adhere to the faith of Jesus, and maintain the cause of religious liberty which reformers defended with toil and for which they sacrificed their lives.” Selected Messages, book 3, p. 386, 387.
Now let us take note. These eleventh-hour people come out of the world and out of other churches – even the Catholic Church. They are not an off-shoot movement coming out of Adventism. The people who will finish God’s work are still in the ranks of the world – that is, in other churches. Nothing could be more plainly stated. Consider carefully: Will these eleventh-hour workers observe the Sabbath? – The answer is Yes! Beyond any doubt! How do we know this? – Because they will exalt His law. How could they possibly exalt His law and not keep the Sabbath? How could they have the faith of Jesus and not understand the conditional immortality and other connected and essential truths? They are the eleventh-hour people.
This sixth quotation ties the parable, beyond any doubt, to a future time. We have not yet entered a season of calamity as a church. As yet, there has been no overwhelming religious-liberty crisis. I believe this will take place when the mark of the beast is enforced, for we will be faced with a crisis of persecution and difficulties the like we have never dreamed of. But praise the Lord, God has a plan to finish the work with the eleventh-hour workers.
The seventh, and last quotation reveals the saddest information of all, for it tells us that the early workers within the church will find that their lamps will go out. “Many souls will come from other denominational churches, and at the eleventh hour will obey all the truth, because they have not set themselves in array against heaven’s light, but lived up to all the light they had; while those who have had great light, large privileges and opportunities, and have failed to live in the light, and walk in the light will drop out by the way. Their light will shine less and less until their lamps will go out for the want of the oil of grace in their vessels with their lamps.” Letter 36 A, 1890.
Remember what we read – “As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message… abandoned their position and joined the ranks of the opposition. …They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. …By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matter in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to take the easy, popular side.” Great Controversy p. 608.
These quotations are painful for me to read, but they are not difficult to understand. With slight variation they each tell the same basic story. For want of grace the lamps of the early workers go out. Why? – Because they have opposed heaven’s light. The majority forsake us. That means more than half. Half might be a conservative estimate. She says a “large class,” currently in our pews, will unite with the world and become our bitterest enemies. They will deceive and mislead souls.
Finally, it is clear beyond any misunderstanding, that in the last hour of time there will come a new team of workers into His vineyard. People from other churches will pick up the torch of truth and finish the work. We have always felt that no one else could take our place. Ancient Israel had the same false security – and how wrong they were. Ellen White has made plain that the church will go through, but shaken and sifted. There is no question that truth will triumph. God has expanded this parable in her writings, not to sadden us, but to give us courage for the future. God has His people everywhere. They will come from unexpected places. Thus, unfamiliar names and unfamiliar faces may largely lead the work of God in the eleventh hour.
We may try to avoid the unpleasant nature of these predictions, we might look for a fulfillment sometime in the past, but the internal evidence in these quotations rules out any past fulfillment. These eleventh-hour events are obviously all still future. These are final-hour events – eleventh-hour events to take place just before our Lord returns. “Those who have trusted to intellect, genius, or talent will not then stand at the head of ranks 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. 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. There are precious ones now hidden who have not bowed the knee to Baal. They have not had the light which has been shining in a concentrated blaze upon you. But it may be under a rough and uninviting exterior the pure brightness of a genuine Christian character will be revealed. In the day time we look toward heaven but do not see the stars. They are there, fixed in the firmament, but the eye cannot distinguish them. In the night we behold their genuine luster.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 80, 81.
On examining carefully this comment of Ellen White it is unmistakably clear that education and talent are not the ultimate qualification of the eleventh-hour workers, for few great men will be engaged. What God needs is a total dependence on Him. We are told that the faithful servants are not yet disclosed to view. They do not have our light, but they have a genuine Christian character. When everything turns dark we will see them.
Beloved, let me read you a description of a coming, massive interchange that is to come. “In vision I saw two armies in terrible conflict. One army was led by banners bearing the world’s insignia; the other was led by the blood-stained banner of Prince Emmanuel. Standard after standard was left to trail in the dust as company after company from the Lord’s army joined the foe; and tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy united with the commandment-keeping people of God.” Review and Herald, November 26, 1903. Thank God for such heavenly insight!
“As the trials thicken around us, both separation and unity will be seen in our ranks. …Those who have had great light and precious privileges, but have not improved them, will, under one pretext or another, go out from us.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6, p. 400, 401. So we have been given the nature of this final conflict to come. It is a time of mortal conflict that company after company will leave us. Such an exodus has not yet taken place. We have not yet seen the day when tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy have come in. It is true, that from time to time individual ministers from other faiths have joined us. The picture given here is one of an enormous interchange – not an individual or a few people here and there. The scenes appear to be simultaneous – while the companies leave us whole tribes will come in! It would be rational to believe these tribes are the eleventh-hour laborers.
Soon we may expect a manifestation of the great power of God for I read, “The Lord can do more in one hour than we can do in a lifetime, and when He sees that His people are fully consecrated, let me tell you, that a great work will be done in a short time, and the message of truth is to be carried into the dark places of the earth, where it has never been proclaimed.” Manuscript Release, Volume 5, p. 347.
As you have read these inspired quotations I trust you have felt the divine impression that God is only waiting for an adequate number of fully consecrated people who will cooperate with Him in finishing the work. Will you be ready? I hope so, for God will soon set His hand to His final work. He will call faithful, humble people wherever He can find them. He will finish His work using only consecrated people. This work will be accomplished against incredible resistance. God will do His work quickly and He will do it to the eternal glory of Jesus Christ.
Beloved, it is now time for the faithful remnant to prepare for this coming crisis in total consecration to God and His message. The servant of the Lord has told us in Great Controversy p. 464, “Before the final visitation of God’s judgments upon the earth, there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times. The Spirit and power of God will be poured out upon His children.”
We, as God’s end-time people, have now come to the time for this last great revival and reformation which is to take place among the remaining wheat. This will prepare the faithful few for the great outpouring of the latter rain, which will enable the sealed saints to call out of Babylon the eleventh-hour workers who will then join with us, and together with converted minds, converted hands, converted feet, converted tongues, and lips touched with a burning coal from the divine altar, carry the work forward to completion. Praise God it will happen and Jesus will come for His saints. Will you join me with prayer and preparation for this final revival of primitive godliness not seen since apostolic times; that we, with the eleventh-hour workers, may quickly gather in the harvest that Jesus may come?
Oh Father in heaven, how we long to see the face of Jesus. How we pray to become so like our Savior that we may be worthy to have the latter rain bestowed upon us and have a part, together with the eleventh-hour workers, in giving the Loud Cry to the world that Jesus may come. This we ask in His precious name, Amen.