FACING THE CRISIS WITH THE ELIJAH MESSAGE
by: Elder Lawrence Nelson
In the early years of the Advent Movement, Elder Loughborough, then one of our younger pioneers, became so depressed with the many difficulties he faced that he decided to leave the gospel ministry and take up his life work as a common carpenter. At home his wife complained because he was often absent due to his church labors. Then there was the ever present problem to keep food on the table, for in those days there was no fixed salary to count on. And to make matters worse the small scattered bands of believers were often unsettled in their belief. But the Lord was watching over His growing church, and its needs. God impressed Ellen White to immediately go to the town of Waukon, Iowa to find Elder Loughborough and bring him back into the Lord's ministry. Elder Loughborough gives a very vivid description of what took place when Ellen White arrived. I quote from Volume 1 of The Early Days by Arthur White p. 348. "Brother Hosea Mead and I were working on a store building in Waukon. A man looking up saw me, and inquired, 'Do you know a carpenter around here by the name of Hosea Mead?'
"I replied, 'Yes, sir, he is up here working with me.'
"Brother Mead said, 'That is Elon Everts' voice.' Then he came and looked down, and Brother Everts said, 'Come down. Brother and Sister White and Brother Hart are out here in the sleigh.'
"As I reached the sleigh, Sister White greeted me with the question, 'What doest thou here, Elijah?'
"Astonished at such a question, I replied, 'I am working with Brother Mead at carpenter work.'
"The second time she repeated, 'What doest thou here, Elijah?'
"Now I was so embarrassed at such a question, and the connecting of my case with Elijah, that I did not know what to say. It was evident that there was something back of all this which I should hear more about.
"The third time she repeated the question, 'What doest thou here, Elijah?'
"I was brought by these bare questions to very seriously consider the case of Elijah, away from the direct work of the Lord, hid in a cave. . . . The change, and a 'go-back' from the labor in which I was then engaged."
But now before we discuss the implications of the words, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" as found in 1 Kings l9: 9, will you join me in prayer?
Our loving Father which art in Heaven. As we explore the Elijah message in this sermon, we plead for Thy Holy Spirit to expand our spiritual vision so that we may clearly understand what God is expecting of each of us in this final crisis so soon to break upon us. We ask this in the name of Thy dear Son, Jesus. Amen.
Now let us open our Bibles to Malachi 4: 5. I read: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." First of all let us determine what is the great and dreadful day of the Lord. In Bible Commentaries Volume 4, p.164 we read, "'The day of the Lord.' This expression occurs at least twenty times in the writings of the various Old Testament prophets. It is always used in reference to a time of divine judgment. Upon a city, or a nation, or eventually upon the inhabitants of the whole world. Conversely the 'Day of the Lord' is the time when historically the probation of a city or a nation closes and ultimately when the destiny of all men is forever fixed. During the day of salvation men and nations are free to exercise their God given power. To choose between right and wrong, but with the arrival of the 'day of the Lord' God's will becomes supreme, being no longer circumscribed by the exercise of the human will. What happens to a city, or to an entire nation, when the day of the Lord comes to it, is similar to that which happened to the whole world at the close of its probation."
In Matthew 24 for instance, Christ's description of the 'day of the Lord' upon the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation is manifestly similar in many respects to what will also be true of the entire world at the time of Christ's coming and of the end of the world. The 'day of the Lord' is never referred to in scripture as a time when men will have a second chance, another opportunity to except salvation. The 'day of the Lord' is always without exception a day of judgment, a day of destruction, a day of darkness.
Now with this basic knowledge before us we can easily see how God in His infinite love, mercy, and grace sent Elijah the Tishbite to His wayward people, who had been so entangled with Baal worship that all but seven thousand had bent their knees in devil worship. But through the message of Elijah, God was able to arouse His people to acknowledge Him as the only true God to be worshipped and obeyed, and to destroy all the prophets of Baal. Again years later when it became time for the first advent of Christ, God sent a second Elijah in the person of John the Baptist to again awaken his slumbering people from the teachings of tradition by false shepherds. It was the purpose of God that the message of John would prepare the people's hearts to accept the Messiah and thus escape the threatened destruction of Jerusalem.
How about today? God is now sending a third and last Elijah with a message - a message that is to be preached throughout the world to prepare a people for the Second Coming of Christ. When Jesus comes the second time he will of necessity destroy the world for its wickedness and for disregarding His everlasting gospel by the enforcement of a universal Sunday law in defiance of God's fourth commandment. But before this time He sends Elijah. And who is this? - The Advent people whom he raised up in 1844 for this very purpose. They are to warn the world of His coming judgment and to invite them to repent.
At Christ's first advent, and I quote, "It was believed also that before the Messiah's advent, Elijah would personally appear. This expectation John met in his denial; but his words had a deeper meaning. Jesus afterward said, referring to John, 'If you are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, which is to come.' Matthew 11:14." Desire of Ages p. 135.
John came in the spirit and the power of Elijah to do such a work as Elijah did. In the second application I quote: "In this age, just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, God calls for men who will prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. Just such a work as that which John did, is to be carried on in these last days. The Lord is giving messages to His people, through the instruments He has chosen, and He would have all heed the admonitions and warnings He sends. The message preceding the public ministry of Christ was, Repent, publicans and sinners; repent, Pharisees and Sadducees; 'for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Our message is not to be one of peace and safety. As a people who believe in Christ's soon appearing, we have a definite message to bear,--'Prepare to meet thy God.'
"Our message must be as direct as was that of John. He rebuked kings for their iniquity. Notwithstanding the peril his life was in, he never allowed truth to languish on his lips. Our work in this age must be as faithfully done…. In this time of well-nigh universal apostasy, God calls upon His messengers to proclaim His law in the spirit and power of Elias. As John the Baptist, in preparing a people for Christ's first advent, called their attention to the Ten Commandments, so we are to give, with no uncertain sound, the message: 'Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come.' With the earnestness that characterized Elijah the prophet and John the Baptist, we are to strive to prepare the way for Christ's second advent." Bible Commentaries, Volume 4, p. 1184.
Then in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p.115 we read: "The messages from heaven are of a character to arouse opposition. The faithful witnesses for Christ and the truth will reprove sin. Their words will be like a hammer to break the flinty heart, like a fire to consume the dross. There is constant need of earnest, decided messages of warning. God will have men who are true to duty. At the right time He sends His faithful messengers to do a work similar to that of Elijah."
We have also been further instructed: "Today, in the spirit and power of Elias and of John the Baptist, messengers of God's appointment are calling the attention of a judgment-bound world to the solemn events soon to take place in connection with the closing hours of probation and the appearance of Christ Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. Soon every man is to be judged for the deeds done in the body. The hour of God's judgment has come, and upon the members of His church on earth rests the solemn responsibility of giving warning to those who are standing as it were on the very brink of eternal ruin. To every human being in the wide world who will give heed must be made plain the principles at stake in the great controversy being waged, principles upon which hang the destinies of all mankind. In these final hours of probation for the sons of men, when the fate of every soul is so soon to be decided forever, the Lord of heaven and earth expects His church to arouse to action as never before." Prophets and Kings, p. 716.
I like the way Ellen White describes the work we are to do in her book Maranatha p.173. "'Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.' Malachi 4:5. To prepare a people to stand in the day of God, a great work of reform was to be accomplished [by the Advent Movement]. God saw that many of His professed people were not building for eternity, and in His mercy He was about to send a message of warning to arouse them from their stupor and lead them to make ready for the coming of the Lord.
"This warning is brought to view in Revelation 14. Here is a threefold message represented as proclaimed by heavenly beings and immediately followed by the coming of the Son of man to reap 'the harvest of the earth.' The angels are represented as flying in the midst of heaven, proclaiming to the world a message of warning, and having a direct bearing upon the people living in the last days of this earth's history." And now hear this - "No one hears the voice of these angels, (why? -) for they a symbol to represent the people of God who are working in harmony with the universe of heaven." What a sublime thought! The Three Angels' Messages are to be combined, giving their three-fold light to the world.
In the Revelation, John says: "I saw another angel, come from heaven, having great power. And the earth was lightened with his glory." This represents the giving of the last and three-fold message of warning to the world. Revelation 18 points to the time when, as the result of the rejecting of the three-fold warning of Revelation 14:6-12, the church will have fully reached the condition foretold by the second angel. And the people of God, still in Babylon, will be called upon to separate from her communion. This message is the last that will ever be given to the world. It will accomplish its work when those who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (as you read in 2 Thessalonians 2:12) shall be left to receive strong delusions and to believe a lie. Then the light of truth will shine upon all those whose hearts are open to receive it and all the children of the Lord who remain in Babylon will heed the call, "Come out of her my people." Revelation 18:4.
Now this brings us back to the personal experience of Elder Loughborough. Because of disappointment and adversity he left the work God had instructed him, to preach the Elijah message, and he took a job as a carpenter. But God sent Ellen White to shake up his senses with the words, "What doest thou here Elijah?"
Beloved, I believe God is calling you and me with these very same words, "What are you doing here Elijah?" We read, "In these words the Lord virtually said to Elijah, 'I sent you to Ahab with a message, and how is it that you have strayed away here? Was it because Jezebel threatened to take off your head for bearing the living testimony which resulted in the death of the priests of Baal? What sent you here?' Elijah heard the threats of Jezebel, but he did not wait to hear what God had to say. He fled for his life, and hid in a cave. But God did not leave him there. No, he called him out of the cave, and bade him stand with God upon the mount, and listen to his word." General Conference Daily Bulletins, March 20, 1891.
We will now leave the discussion of Elder Loughborough, of our early pioneer work, and skip over to more modern times. At the time of Elijah the Tishbite the pagan nations that surrounded Israel had for years bowed down to and worshiped their man-made god, Baal. Today, among other doctrinal errors, the churches that surround modern Israel, the Seventh-day Adventist church, have for many years taught that the gospel consists alone of what Christ did on the cross for man, and that there are no conditions for receiving justification, no conditions for receiving salvation. "Just believe, only believe," they cry.
Now they arrived at this false teaching because they separated the law from what they considered to be the gospel. They felt that this removed their need, in so far as conditions were concerned. But friend, men can create a false god and fall down and worship it, but they cannot change God's truth. Through the influence of these neighboring churches around us, a change has been gradually brought about among the membership of our beloved church. In past years, as more and more of our ministers went to Babylonish universities to get their degrees, they often came back to their churches preaching the same worldly salvation doctrines.
Due to the trickle down effect today, ministers and members, including some of our most prominent theologians, are promoting by teaching, writing and preaching these very false doctrines of Babylon in our churches and at our camp meetings. This is true even though these teachings are directly contrary to God's clearly revealed Word.
If we are to be God's last-day Elijah messengers we must know and understand what the everlasting gospel actually embraces. It's impossible to separate the law and the gospel without distorting them both. Many will agree that the law demands obedience, but they seemed surprised to hear the inspired answer to the question, "Does the gospel require obedience as a condition of salvation?"
Let us turn to the writings of Paul and Peter for the correct answer. I am quoting from the Scripture: "But they have not all obeyed the gospel." Romans 10:16. "Taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thessalonians 1:8. "Judgment must begin at the house of God and what will be the end of those who obey not the gospel of God?" 1 Peter 4:17. How can Scripture state the true facts any plainer than did Paul and Peter.
The truth of obedience is a salvation issue. Paul says that vengeance will be taken on those that obey not the gospel. What does the gospel tell men to obey? John answers this question by telling us exactly who it is that will receive salvation. I'm reading Revelation 22:12: "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter in through the gates into the city." The obvious answer is obedience to God's law. I will now quote from the Spirit of Prophecy: "There are some who think that they will be just as acceptable to God by obeying some other law then the law of God, by meeting some other conditions than those which He has specified in the gospel. …They are under a fatal delusion." Review and Herald, August 27, 1901.
The following short sentences or phrases are not my words. I have taken them from the Spirit of Prophecy. "The gospel demands willing obedience and grateful service to its sacred claims." Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p.71, 87. "The gospel points to the moral code as a rule of life." Mind, Character and Personality p.563. "The gospel makes no compromise with evil. It cannot excuse sin." Desire of Ages p.811. Why? - "Sin is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4. "The gospel demands from every human being an unreserved consecration to God, of both body and soul, with all their energies and capabilities, throughout the entire period of our probation." Review and Herald, April 12, 1987. Therefore we must conclude that the gospel demands our all, all of ourselves, even as long as life shall last. As the man in the parable who found treasure in the field, it will take our all to buy the field. But oh friend, what a treasure we will obtain! Speaking of the Loud Cry of the third angel's message Ellen White writes: "The gospel… is to be preached…in clear lines, showing that obedience is the condition of gaining eternal life." Bible Commentaries, Volume 7 p.972. We are not only to be aware of these truths concerning the gospel, we are, and I quote, to "make plain the requirements of the law and the gospel." Christ Object Lessons p.40. We are to teach obedience to both the law and the gospel in clear lines to the sinners of the world as a condition of salvation.
Now some may wonder about justification. Ellen White warns, "The danger that has been presented to me again and again of entertaining, as a people, false ideas of justification by faith. I have been shown for years that Satan would work in a special manner to confuse the mind on this point." Faith and Works p. 18.
As early as 1893, one of our prominent ministers, A.T. Jones of the 1888 fame, began to preach concerning salvation, and I quote: "There are no conditions." He was repeating this over and over in his sermons. In a letter Ellen White reproved him saying, and I quote: "There are conditions to our receiving justification and sanctification and the righteousness of Christ." Selected Messages, Book 1, p.377.
Throughout her writings, Ellen White refers to these conditions for justification. On p.365 of the same book I just quoted from, I read, "There is no salvation without repentance. No impenitent sinner can believe with his heart unto righteousness." And friend that's some statement of fact. From this inspired passage we learn that we must have faith. But please note and mark it well, that we can not have saving faith until we have repented. In the Review and Herald, September 3, 1901 we read: "The gospel of Christ requires penitence for sin; and sin is the transgression of the law."
Oh, beloved, how encouraging it is to know that in order to repent we go to Jesus just as we are. He will give us the spiritual power and strength to repent. That is taken from Selected Messages, book 1, p.393 where it reveals that "whom He pardons He first makes penitent." How sad it is today, that by human plans and human inventions of the structure, to a great extent the Elijah message calling to repentance has been shut out. At times it seems as if the voice of John the Baptist calling in the wilderness, "Repent ye," has been all but been stilled.
The following two passages are from the Spirit of Prophecy: "The right hand of fellowship is given to the very men who bring in false theories and sentiments. …The light given, calling to repentance, has been shut out by the thick cloud of unbelief and opposition brought in by human plans and human inventions." Review and Herald, November 1,1906. "The Lord desires His servants today to preach the old gospel doctrine, sorrow for sin, repentance and confession. We want old-fashioned sermons." Evangelism p.179. You know friend, I feel like shouting, "Praise the Lord!" This is what we need! We need sermons such as Jesus taught in His very first sermon as recorded in Mark 1: 14-15. "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: Repent ye, and believe the gospel." We seldom hear such old-fashioned sermons today such as Jesus and John the Baptist preached, urging us to repentance, faith, and surrender. Yet such sermons would be far more effective to bring salvation to the world than a multitude of sermons teaching the new views of the gospel such as love and unity. What we need now is the old gospel doctrine and the old-fashioned sermons.
Now we come to a very encouraging part of our sermon. The gospel demands man to obey the law of God, but man has no power in himself to obey and the law has no power to give it to him. However, it fills us with joy and thanksgiving to know that when we come to Christ, who is the gospel, after He gives us the spiritual power to repent, He then gives us the power to obey the law. Then we will declare with David, "Oh how I love thy law."
I quote: "The gospel of Christ is the Good News of grace, or favor, by which men may be released from the condemnation of sin, and enabled to render obedience to the law of God. The gospel points to the moral code as a rule of life. That law, by its demands for undeviating obedience, is continually pointing the sinner to the gospel for pardon and peace." Mind, Character and Personality p.563. Oh what a marvelous provision this is!
Ellen White instructs us that "Jesus came that we might obey as well as receive; but we must believe in him, and receive, in order to obey." Review and Herald, Sept 27, 1892. The plan of salvation is marvelous. By the loving provision of God, the gospel is not just a beautiful doctrine to be listened to and believed, we are also through faith, to experience it. Elsewhere in the Spirit of Prophecy we read that, "Christ was both the law and the gospel." Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 106. The law and the gospel can not properly be separated.
I will read three important messages that we should all remember. We read, "If we would have the spirit and the power of the third angel's message, we must present the law and the gospel together, for they go hand in hand." Review and Herald, Sept 3, 1889. Then we are told, "No man can rightly present the law of God without the gospel, or the gospel without the law. The law is the gospel embodied, and the gospel is the law unfolded. The law is the root; the gospel is the fragrant blossom and fruit which it bears." Christ Object Lessons p.128. "The law and the gospel are so blended that the truth can not be presented as it is in Jesus, without blending these subjects in perfect agreement. The law is the gospel of Christ veiled; the gospel of Jesus is nothing more or less than the law defined, showing its far-reaching principles." Review and Herald, May 27, 1890.
One of my favorite passages from the Spirit of Prophecy concerning this subject is found in the book Our High Calling p.141. It reads: "The law and the gospel go hand in hand. The one is the complement of the other. The law without faith in the gospel of Christ can not save the transgressor of the law. The gospel without the law is inefficient and powerless. The law and the gospel are a perfect whole. …The two blended--the gospel of Christ and the law of God--produce the love and faith unfeigned."
Did you catch the import of that paragraph? We know the law without the gospel cannot save, but what about a gospel that is inefficient and powerless to save? This is the divine description of the gospel when it is presented separated from the law. Such a passage as this should truly awaken us. Is the last-day Elijah gospel to be proclaimed after it has been rendered inefficient and powerless by the preaching that we can sin until Jesus comes? God forbid!
To illustrate another point. How often we hear people refer to those who they fear are preaching the law as legalists. There have been times, even in our past history, when ministers emphasized the law more than the gospel. This was unfortunate. Ellen White recognized this, and she said, "As a people, we have preached the law until we are dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain." But then she adds: "We must preach Christ in the law." Review and Herald, March 11, 1890. However, as we have already pointed out, the tables have turned today as it were. Many are now separating the law out from their gospel, making their gospel as powerless to save as their former emphases on the law.
Now listen to me carefully. Because God said through His prophet that at one time in our history we have preached the law until we were as dry as the hills of Gilboa, this does not give us license to go to the other extreme. Which is more productive for God's church, dry hills so that the precious plants dry out and die in the ground, or should we bring about a flood of love preaching that would uproot and destroy and wash away the plants? Let us remember, and I am quoting, "The enemy has ever labored to disconnect the law from the gospel." Bible Commentaries, Volume 6, p.1073. God on the other hand is working to restore the law of God to its rightful position.
Satan doesn't care which extreme we adapt, just so we don't keep the water in the soil in proper balance so that the plants will flourish. In the following passage we read that, "All error is misleading, even though clothed with garments of heavenly beauty." Review and Herald, January 21, l904.
Throughout the Spirit of Prophecy we are admonished to furiously expose Satan's errors. I quote the following: "It is Satan's studied effort to divert minds from the hope of salvation through faith in Christ and obedience to the law of God. In every age the archenemy adapts his temptations to the prejudices or inclinations of those whom he is seeking to deceive. In apostolic times he led the Jews to exalt the ceremonial law and reject Christ; at the present time he induces many professed Christians, under pretense of honoring Christ, to cast contempt on the moral law and to teach that its precepts may be transgressed with impunity. It is the duty of every servant of God to withstand firmly and decidedly these perverters of the faith and by the word of truth fearlessly to expose their errors." Acts of the Apostles p.387. Therefore, I must speak boldly to declare these facts to you that you may prepare to be ready for the coming crisis.
The day of the Lord is drawing near. We have an ever-greater responsibility than did John the Baptist. As we read earlier, our message must be given in even plainer language than was his. We are to warn the world that the hour of God's judgment is come . At the end of this time of judgment probation will close for all mankind. We are standing on the brink of eternity. We must arouse to action as never before. Sinners must be aroused from their stupor to make ready for the coming of the Lord in judgment and glory.
What a responsibility! Soon we shall feel the wrath of the dragon through the Papal and Protestant persecution. And over what? - The law of God, the seventh day Sabbath, the mark of the beast and the supposed Sunday sabbath. There will be laws prohibiting us to either buy or sell because we refuse to honor a pagan day of worship. We will be threatened with persecution and death. Will we, God's modern Elijahs, run and hide in a cave as did Elijah of old, or will we speak the truth boldly, exposing errors and sins as did John the Baptist as he prepared the way for Christ's first advent?
Oh, friend, the third angel's message closes with this description of God's last church. It is found in Revelation 14:12. "Here is the patience of the saints. Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." If we are to be a part of the 144,000, and be filled with the Holy Spirit of the latter rain, we must answer God's call and be ready to give the Loud Cry in the power of Elijah and of John the Baptist. Will we be ready to answer the call of God when He asks, "What are you doing here Elijah?" Are we fearlessly preaching the true gospel today or are we hiding in a cave, or neglecting to give the message, or allowing some other common employment or other interests to consume our time? Worse yet, are we joining with the priests of Baal in their celebration worship? God forbid! May each of us be found daily preparing to give the Loud Cry, ready to be sealed, ready with the Holy Spirit and thus be prepared to give the Elijah message - God's last call to this doomed world.
Let us pray. Dear Savior. Today's message has awakened us to realize that in Thy divine plan each of us is to give the Elijah message. May we be so Spirit-filled when the test comes that we may be used in whatever way the Spirit directs in giving the Loud Cry. This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.