Back from the Wilderness
WWII ended in 1945, but not for Hiroo Onoda until 29 years later. See, he took a mountain in the Philippines for the Japanese and held his ground, disbelieving leaflets dropped there declaring the war was over. He would not abandon his post of duty until his commanding officer, a bookseller in Japan, ordered him to stand down. He returned to Japan afterwards to a hero’s welcome, he was back from the wilderness.
Revelation reveals a woman that was sent into the wilderness for safety. But the woman (church) would come back from the wilderness. We briefly looked at the woman earlier in Revelation 12:1 – the woman represented God’s pure, untainted church. But she had to flee into the wilderness to escape persecution from the devil for 1260 prophetic days (1260 literal years). We discussed this in a previous post and learned that the church was persecuted from A.D. 538 (rise of the little horn) and ended in A.D. 1798 when Napoleon sent his general Berthier into the Vatican and took the pope captive, wounding the papacy as discussed in Revelation 13. During that time pursuit of knowledge in the Bible was stifled, the Bible-believers were persecuted by the Vatican for holding beliefs contrary to the church’s teaching. Truth was mingled with error until erroneous beliefs came about regarding death, hell, the second coming, baptism, and so on.
During this gruesome time there were still people who followed the Bible but stayed in hiding. You remember St. Patrick, of whom we honor St. Patrick’s day? He was a Sabbath-keeper. The Waldenses lived in hideouts in the mountains where they continued to make copies of the Bible. These and others were in the wilderness during this time of terror. But God did not want to keep His church in the wilderness forever. By the end of Revelation 12 we see that the devil wages war with the woman, and continues to battle the remnant of her descendants. Revelation 12:17 reveals that the remnant are the ones who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.
What is a remnant? A remnant resembles the original, it is the remains from something. If you were to take some cloth, and rip out a small corner, the ripped out part would be the remnant of the larger cloth. You would know which cloth the remnant belonged by looking at the pattern, material, etc. A remnant is cut from the same cloth.
Here we see a remnant of God’s true church. Who are they? The Bible tells us they keep the commandments of God. God’s commandments are still relevant, even in the end of time. They were not done away with at the cross, they are not invalid now. God’s end time people, cut from the cloth of God’s true church, will keep the commandments of God.
But there is another characteristic of the remnant: they have the testimony of Jesus. What is the testimony of Jesus? Revelation 19:10 says that the testimony of Jesus = spirit of prophecy. That is another way of saying God’s end time church would have the gift of prophecy. How would you know a church has the gift of prophecy? So many out there are of the Jeane Dixon’s or Nostradamus’s variety, making bold predictions. How do you filter out the wrong prophets from the right ones? How do you know who is authentic and who is a phony? 1 Corinthians 12:28 reveals that the gift of prophecy is indeed given out, so it would be a stretch to say we have had all the prophets that we have ever needed. Prophets were used in the Bible to herald an upcoming great event, and guide the nation to be ready for it. Jesus is coming soon so we would expect that the gift of prophecy would still be relevant today.
Here is how to determine if a prophet is the real deal:
1. The prophet is accurate – Anyone can make predictions about anything. Is that person right? Well according to Jeremiah 28:9 a prophet’s predictions must come true.
2. The prophet speaks in harmony with the Bible – Deuteronomy 13:1-3, 1 John 4:2, Isaiah 8:20 reveals that prophets must uplift Jesus and speak according to the word.
How does God use the gift of prophecy among the remnant today? God used Noah to warn the world a flood was coming. He used Elijah to warn God’s people to repent. He used John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus’ first coming. Who is He using today?
Right before the Civil War, there was a religious awakening in America excited about Jesus’ return. A man by the name of William Miller generated much interest when studying Daniel 8:14 and concluded that Jesus would come to Earth and take His people to heaven. This was his understanding of the cleansing of the sanctuary in the text. However, we know the history: Jesus did not come. Miller accurately determined the time frame, but he missed the location of the cleansing. We discussed that in this post. However, his studies generated further interest and a small group of people continued to study the Bible to see where they went wrong. During the time of intense study God called a young, seventeen year old woman named Ellen Harmon and shared with her things that would eventually happen. Her writings have saved many lives and were considered very progressive for her time. She wrote about health, despite never having an education past third grade. She wrote in her book, The Ministry of Healing, that tobacco is a slow but malignant poison. This seems like basic knowledge today, but this was written at a time when doctors prescribed tobacco to sick people! Clive McKay, a former professor at Cornell University, said that no matter what your religion, you could benefit from the health writings of Ellen White, and that every modern specialist in nutrition should be impressed with the leadership and contributions of her writing. In addition, her writings point to Jesus. Steps to Christ is a very popular short read that explains God’s love to us so beautifully. She considered her writings as a “lesser light leading to the greater light.”
Now you might be wondering, “Does this mean that only people in a certain church will be saved?” Remember what we said in our previous lecture, that God is calling His people out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4). God’s people are everywhere, but God is calling them into His truth. He is calling them to himself. We want you to find a community of believers that hold God’s Word near and dear to their hearts. When you discover and study the truth for yourselves, it will be hard to continue worshiping in a church that does not teach the truth. You will be convicted to follow the Lamb, wherever He goes because that is what the 144,000 do!
History is littered with people who advanced knowledge of the truth, but did not keep going. The Waldenses believed in the Bible, and worked fervently to copy and share it. Then came John Wycliffe, the morning star of the Reformation. John Huss in Bohemia challenged the Vatican and its establishment positions, further advancing truth. Then Luther came along with justification by faith, not works – effectively ripping out the foundation for penances. This was a great revival, but Luther’s followers drew a box around his teachings and stopped there. Then came John Calvin, who built on top of Luther, but again his followers set up a fence around Calvin’s teachings. Then the Anabaptists came along with the truth of baptism by immersion, but again a fence was set up around this set of beliefs. John Wesley came along with teaching of a new birth in Jesus and William Miller with the idea of a Second Coming. All of these religious pillars in history contributed to an expansion of the truth in increments, yet they stopped looking for more. They set up camp around their beliefs.
We do not want to do that. We want to keep studying the Bible. We want to keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. We want to vet true/false prophets against the Bible so as not to be deceived. We want to continue studying the Bible based on the truth that we already know. We want to be a part of the remnant. We want to be cut from the same cloth as Jesus’ true church. We realize the devil will be against us, but we know that Jesus will win in the end.
Do you want to be a part of the remnant?