PREPARATIONS FOR PERSECUTION
by: Elder Lawrence Nelson
There is absolutely nothing of more importance in the preparation for persecution than to fully know, without a doubt, that you are right with God. Such an experience requires a person to have repented of every known sin and to have accepted Jesus Christ as one's personal Savior, and by the power, which only Christ can give, to daily live victoriously.
There is only one way an individual can be assured of eternal life. A total surrendered life is the only reason to endure persecution. Never be misled, suffering in any amount will never justify a person in God's judgment. It is only a daily, living relationship with Jesus, through a love and obedience experience, that provides the needed strength to meet coming persecutions.
Before we discuss these important preparations let us pray. Dear Father, as the daily storm warnings reveal a coming storm of persecution that will exceed our strongest expectations, we pause to praise Thy name. That we may trust the words of Thy dear Son for He has promised, 'Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.' In this study may Thy divine Spirit help us to discover the special preparations that we must make in order to withstand the united forces of Satan. This we pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.
Turning to the scriptures we read in Ephesians 6:11-18, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against power, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
"Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."
God has given us these great weapons with the assurance that we can defeat Satan. Foremost in the Christian's arsenal is the Holy Spirit, for without the Holy Spirit no one can stand against the power of Satan. When the Christian church began Jesus told her members in Acts 1:8, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." Not only does the Holy Spirit provide courage and power but in John 16:13 Jesus added that He will send us a Comforter and when He comes He will guide you into all truth.
What's more, He will give you the fruits of the Spirit which will make it possible to even love your enemies when they persecute you. With this gift we can also experience in persecutions joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In Acts of the Apostles p. 51 we read, "The Spirit furnishes the strength that sustains striving, wrestling souls in every emergency, amidst the hatred of the world and the realization of their own faults and mistakes. In sorrow and affliction, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone--these are the times when, in answer to the prayer of faith, the Holy Spirit brings comfort to the heart."
O friend, how we should praise God for such a gift. Every Christian who draws such strength from the Holy Spirit will be prepared to live and suffer for God, and remain steadfast to the truth. They will refuse to receive the mark of the beast of the coming world religion even though they know that obedience to God's seventh-day Sabbath will mean persecution, suffering and perhaps death.
In Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6, p. 407, Ellen White states, "The conflict that is right upon us will be the most terrible ever witnessed. But though Satan is represented as being as the strong man armed, his overthrow will be complete, and everyone who unites with him in choosing apostasy rather than loyalty will perish with him."
Jesus has given us counsel that in these last days many will be misled by Satan's deceptions. In Mark 13:22 it tells us, "False christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect." Times are changing. Many of God's people are being misled today. Instead of emphasis on a diligent study of God's word to teach man the way to prepare for the troublous times ahead, all too often, as Ellen White has pointed out, errors are being presented to God's people as if they were Bible truths. How sad. Errors do not prepare anyone for their soon coming trials and persecutions. Errors can only prepare men for perdition.
In Testimonies to Ministers p. 409, 410 Ellen White prophecies that, "Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan." At times it seems that even now we are beginning to see a partial fulfillment of this prophecy. This is why it is so important that each member of God's faithful remnant personally obtain a knowledge of the scriptures so that they will be able to identify, resist and counteract the lies of Satan with an, 'It is written…."
I quote from the Bible Commentaries, Volume 5, p. 1099, "None need be deceived. The law of God is as sacred as His throne, and by it every man who cometh into the world is to be judged. There is no other standard by which to test character. 'If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.'"
Again I quote - this time from Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 58, "If we have not a deep experience in the things of God, if we have not a thorough knowledge of His Word, we shall be beguiled to our ruin by the errors and sophistries of the enemy. False doctrines will sap the foundations of many, because they have not learned to discern truth from error. Our only safeguard against the wiles of Satan is to study the Scriptures diligently, to have an intelligent understanding of the reasons of our faith, and faithfully to perform every known duty. The indulgence of one known sin will cause weakness and darkness, and subject us to fierce temptation." But what a comfort to know that none of us need be deceived.
Satan hates the scriptures. In the past, through his agent, the papacy, Satan attempted to destroy the scriptures by burning the word of God and passing laws to prohibit the reading of the Bible. And this could happen again. Just listen to this quote, "The time will come in which many will be deprived of the written Word." Last Day Events p. 67. Did you know that? But if this word is printed in the memory no one can take it from us.
A classic example of the memorization of scriptures is the experience of US soldiers in Vietnamese prison camps during the war. Their Bibles had been taken from them, but the various soldiers searched their memories from childhood and wrote down portions of the memory verses they had learned in Sunday Schools. These were then shared with other prisoners and soon they possessed a facsimile of comforting scriptures. They did likewise with gospel songs, learned in their childhood, so they could sing together the songs of Zion.
It's so difficult with the freedoms we now enjoy to realize that today in some countries of the world, like Red China, it can mean imprisonment to possess the scriptures. From the underground churches we learn that they hide the folded sheets in their shoes until an opportunity presents itself to share the Good News with others.
Together with Bible study, an important part of our preparation is prayer - including intercessory prayer. This could well be the secret of surviving as victorious Christians. Consider with me the way Ellen White describes prayer. Steps to Christ p. 94, 95, "Prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence."
What a wonder that many of us pray so little. How we should praise God for the counsel found in Steps to Christ p. 96 and 100. "Jesus said to His disciples, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Mark 11:24. Do we take Him at His word? The assurance is broad and unlimited, and He is faithful who has promised. When we do not receive the very things that we have asked for, at the time we ask, we are still to believe that the Lord hears and that He will answer our prayers.
"We are so erring and short-sighted that we sometimes ask for things that would not be a blessing to us, and our heavenly Father in love answers our prayers by giving us that which will be for our highest good--that which we ourselves would desire if with vision divinely enlightened we could see all things as they really are. When our prayers seem not to be answered, we are to cling to the promise; for the time of answering will surely come, and we shall receive the blessing we need most.
"But to claim that prayer will always be answered in the very way and for the particular thing that we desire, is presumption. God is too wise to err, and too good to withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly. Then do not fear to trust Him, even though you do not see the immediate answer to your prayers. Rely upon His sure promise. 'Ask and it shall be given you' … Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. 'The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.' James 5:11.
"His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice.
"There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escapes the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. 'He healeth the broken in heart and bindeth up their wounds.' Psalms 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare; not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son." What words of assurance! Praise God.
I continue, "Jesus said, 'Ye shall ask in My name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you.' 'I have chosen you … that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name He may give it unto you.' John 16:26, 27."
Speaking of intercessory prayer, when open persecutions come to a group that has learned to pray together, such a prayer life can continue even when the believers are scattered, because they can continue to pray for each other. Though Satan may win a temporary victory in scattering the believers, their prayer fellowship can continue even though they may be unjustly imprisoned or exiled. Such a group will find prayer a source of their strength.
When God's early church was threatened by persecution the believers gathered together in prayer. We read of this in the fourth chapter of Acts. Here is the model for us to follow when we are faced with persecution. As you read of their prayers, they recognized God as their almighty power. They also recalled Bible prophecy foretelling such troubles as they faced. And then this; they did not pray for deliverance from persecution but pleaded for a holy boldness to stand firm.
Notice verse 29, "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word." Though it may be peaceful now, I firmly believe that when persecutions come they will burst upon us as an overwhelming surprise. "Everything is preparing for the great day of God. Time will last a little longer until the inhabitants of the earth have filled up the cup of their iniquity, and then the wrath of God, which has so long slumbered, will awake, and this land of light will drink the cup of His unmingled wrath." Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1, p. 363.
The wicked will then blame God's people for bringing upon them the wrath of God. Persecutions will explode on the righteous. Accompanied by prayer, a study of God's word regarding those who were persecuted in Bible times will strengthen our faith. Learn why certain Bible characters reacted in the way they did to oppressive authorities. This will prove as a guide to you when you meet similar circumstances.
You will discover how God directed individuals in different ways. For instance, in 1 Kings 17 Elijah boldly defied the king, yet on another occasion the Lord told him to hide. In Daniel 3:16-18 we read of the three Hebrews refusing to worship an image when commanded to do so by King Nebuchadnezzar. "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
Ellen White warns us that some of us may be brought to just as severe a test as were the three worthies. (Selected Messages, Book 3, p. 420). Having not succeeded to induce the saints to work on the Sabbath and to rest and worship on Sunday, Satan will make a last desperate effort. He will personate Christ's Second Coming. This sounds just like Nebuchadnezzar of old commanded the hosts to worship the golden image, representing himself. Did you know that at that time we will be commanded to worship Satan? "He will come personating Jesus Christ, working mighty miracles; and men will fall down and worship him as Jesus Christ. We shall be commanded to worship this being whom the world will glorify as Christ." Review and Herald, December 18, 1888.
Ellen White describes his deception further in these words, "Satan sees that he is about to lose his case. He cannot sweep in the whole world. He makes one last desperate effort to overcome the faithful by deception. He does this in personating Christ. He clothes himself with the garments of royalty which have been accurately described in the vision of John. He has power to do this. He will appear to his deluded followers, the Christian world who receive not the love of the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness (transgression of the law), as Christ coming the second time. He proclaims himself Christ, and he is believed to be Christ, a beautiful, majestic being clothed with majesty, and with soft voice and pleasant words, with glory unsurpassed by anything their mortal eyes had yet beheld. Then his deceived, deluded followers set up a shout of victory, 'Christ has come the second time! Christ has come! He has lifted up His hands just as He did when He was upon the earth, and blessed us.' The saints look on with amazement. Will they also be deceived? Will they worship Satan?" Last Day Events p. 164.
I repeat, will they worship Satan?- Surely not! As Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego of old, the saints will not bow down. Will they not rather say, "We are not careful to answer you in this matter. Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us out of your hand. But if not, be it know to you, that we will not serve your god." What an encouragement these Old Testament experiences like the fiery furnace will be to the saints at that time.
Turning now to the life of Paul, as you study Paul's life you will discover that sometimes the Holy Spirit commanded him to flee, and at other times to stay and preach; sometimes to ask for a miracle. As you read the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11 you will find that some were delivered while others were tortured and killed. In fact, Paul himself was finally martyred.
And it is clearly revealed to us that in the closing conflict there will be martyrs, many martyrs. I quote, "Prior to the last closing conflict, many will be imprisoned, many will flee for their lives from cities and towns, and many will be martyrs for Christ's sake in standing in defense of the truth." Selected Messages, Book 3, p. 397.
Many of God's servants will be protected as were the three Hebrews in the burning, fiery furnace. Yet God will, nonetheless, permit many others to lose their lives. For, as in earlier ages, the blood of martyrs will serve to water the seed of truth. See Selected Messages, Book 3, p. 420. If martyrdom were to be our lot, through the ordeal God will sustain His own.
Further preparations for this time of persecution can be made by studying the book The Great Controversy. Here I must pause to be very frank. You must read this book, The Great Controversy, this year. Dean and I were reading it again and we are now more that half through and oh, what a blessing to us. This book was written especially for the small remnant who are to face unbelievable persecution just prior to our Lord's return. This book reveals how God's faithful in past ages resisted papal oppressions. And most important your mind will be so fortified with truth that you will know how to meet the coming evil forces when the papal power will again rule the entire world by force just before Jesus comes.
Though faced with persecutions God's servants will not be in hiding when it is time for the Loud Cry to go to the world. Thousands of voices all over the world will give the three angel's messages with a loud voice. At this time God Himself will take charge of the work and the work will proceed contrary to any human planning.
I quote 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."
And from Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 58, 59 I read, "Look constantly to Jesus. Under the showers of the latter rain the inventions of man, the human machinery, will at times be swept away, the boundary of man's authority will be as broken reeds, and the Holy Spirit will speak through the living, human agent, with convincing power. No one then will watch to see if the sentences are well rounded off, if the grammar is faultless. The living water will flow in God's own channels." Ellen White lays down the guidelines. "In choosing men and women for His service, God does not ask whether they possess learning or eloquence or worldly wealth. He asks: 'Do they walk in such humility that I can teach them My way? Can I put My words into their lips? Will they represent Me?'" Colporteur Ministry p. 48.
Under the leadership of Christ, during the Loud Cry, there will be perfect unity. In Early Writings p. 271 Ellen White describes this company as follows: "They were clothed with an armor from their head to their feet. They moved in exact order, like a company of soldiers….I heard those clothed with the armor speak forth the truth with great power. It had effect….I asked what had made this great change. The angel answered, 'It is the latter rain, the refreshing from the presence of the Lord, the loud cry of the third angel.'" At that time the saints will stand openly for the truth and for the consequences.
Now, one more fact. Never trust your preparations for your only security is in Jesus Christ. Prayer, fasting, commitment, memorizing scriptures, knowledge of past heroes of God are all important, but one's personal security must come only from the Lord. Never trust in your own preparations or in your human reasoning power. There is but One example to follow. It is Jesus Christ.
In 1 Peter 2:22, 23 I read, "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." Remember, Christ suffered for His faith. We too must be prepared to do likewise. Peter states in 1 Peter 4:12, 13, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
Beloved, determine now, right now, this very moment, to mentally and spiritually be prepared to choose God's law above any man-made law. Do not expect church leadership to make this decision for you as this will be an individual test. Every man, woman and child will be forced to make such a decision. When the Sunday law is enacted in your country there will be no escape. We will have to break the laws of man in order to keep the law of God.
"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." Matthew 12:11. Yes, there is one physical preparation that all should be making by the grace of God. And what is this physical preparation that we should be making? God has counseled us time and time again to leave the cities, now, in preparation for coming persecutions.
Listen carefully to these quotes: "I could not sleep past two o'clock this morning. During the night I was in council. I was pleading with some families to avail themselves of God's appointed means, and get away from the cities to save their children. Some were loitering, making no determined efforts. The angels of mercy hurried Lot and his wife and daughters by taking hold of their hands. Had Lot hastened as the Lord desired him to, his wife would not have become a pillar of salt. Lot had too much of a lingering spirit. Let us not be like him. The same voice that warned Lot to leave Sodom bids us, 'Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean.' Those who obey this warning will find a refuge. Let every man be wide awake for himself, and try to save his family. Let him gird himself for the work. God will reveal from point to point what to do next." The Advocate, December 1, 1900.
"So long as God gives me power to speak to our people, I shall continue to call upon parents to leave the cities and get homes in the country where they can cultivate the soil and learn from the book of nature the lessons on purity and simplicity. The things of nature are the Lord's silent ministers, given to us to teach us spiritual truths. They speak to us of the love of God and declare the wisdom of the great Master Artist." Manuscript Releases, Volume 20, p. 153.
"The time is not far distant, when, like the early disciples, we shall be forced to seek a refuge in desolate and solitary places. As the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman armies was the signal for flight to the Judean Christians, so the assumption of power on the part of our nation in the decree enforcing the papal sabbath will be a warning to us. It will then be time to leave the large cities, preparatory to leaving the smaller ones for retired homes in secluded places among the mountains." Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 464.
However, let us not wait until such a time of crisis to leave the cities for I quote again. Notice carefully, "Err long there will be such strife and confusion in the cities that those that wish to leave them will not be able. We must be preparing for these issues." Did you get that? "Err long there will be such strife and confusion in the cities that those that wish to leave will not be able." General Conference Bulletin, April 6, 1903. "To parents who are living in the cities the Lord is sending the warning cry, Gather your children unto your houses; gather them away from those that are disregarding the commandments of God, who are teaching and practicing evil. Get out of the cities as fast as possible." Medical Missionary p. 310.
Friend, nothing could be written more clearly. And one more, "If our people regard God's instructions as of value, they will move away from the city, so that they will not be pained by its revolting sights, and that their children will not be corrupted by its vices. (And notice these words…) Those who choose to remain in the cities, surrounded by the houses of unbelievers, must share in the disaster that will come upon them." Manuscript Releases, Volume 17, p. 350.
And now, I will close by reading some important spiritual preparations taken from the book Storm Warnings 333, 334. I am quoting McAlvany here for I like the Bible verses that he uses. Surely it is vital that we heed these scriptures. "'Thy word have I hid in mine heart.' Hide the word in your heart; if it is, no man can take it from you. (Psalm 119:11). And Paul said, 'That I may know him.' May this also be yours. In all the striving to care for yourself and immediate needs let your highest ambition always remain to know Jesus intimately and the power of His resurrection. (Philippians 3:10). Remain in a high spiritual plain instead of a more physical existence. Heed Paul's words, 'Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.' (Galatians 5:16).
"In times of severe testing remember that, 'All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.' (Romans 8:28). And when the love of men grow cold, remember, 'Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8:38,39).
"In times of great deception which always lead to bondage, 'Know the truth' – it alone can set you free. (John 8:32). And when you wonder if the testing or temptation of the time could cause you to lose your faith remember the promise, 'No man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.' (John 10:29) And in every circumstance, Fear God, not man. 'Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.' (Matthew 10:28).
"And in time of testing remember that God knows your limits better than you, for He, 'will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.' (1 Corinthians 10:13). Rejoice and don't be anxious. The words spoken by Paul as he was in prison waiting to be beheaded were, 'Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.' (Philippians 4:4-7).
"And in every situation remember God can be trusted. But do not content yourselves by simply believing in God but rather follow the example of Abraham of whom it is said concerning the promise made to him, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.' (Romans 4:3).
"And finally, when you suffer the loss of all things, even life, nevertheless as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:21,23, 'For all things are yours. The world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are Yours. And ye are Christ's and Christ is God's.' Isaiah 54:10 says, 'For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.'"
Let us pray, O God, as we face the coming storm of persecution, may we remember these special preparations that are so necessary to remain faithful. Help us now to daily prepare that we may be found ready to faithfully stand for Thy truth even though the heavens fall. And we ask this in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.