“The Time Of Trouble.”

30 Oct

“At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which
standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time
of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to
that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered,
every one that shall be found written in the book.”1053
When the third angel’s message closes, mercy no longer pleads
for the guilty inhabitants of the earth. The people of God have accomplished
their work. They have received “the latter rain,” “the
refreshing from the presence of the Lord,” and they are prepared
for the trying hour before them. Angels are hastening to and fro
in heaven. An angel returning from the earth announces that his
work is done; the final test has been brought upon the world,
and all who have proved themselves loyal to the divine precepts
have received “the seal of the living God.” Then Jesus ceases His
intercession in the sanctuary above. He lifts His hands, and with
a loud voice says, “It is done;” and all the angelic host lay off
their crowns as He makes the solemn announcement: “He that is
unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be
filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and
he that is holy, let him be holy still.”1054 Every case has been
decided for life or death. Christ has made the atonement for His
people, and blotted out their sins. The number of His subjects [614]
is made up; “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of
the kingdom under the whole heaven,” is about to be given to
the heirs of salvation, and Jesus is to reign as King of kings, and
Lord of lords.
When He leaves the sanctuary, darkness covers the inhabitants
of the earth. In that fearful time the righteous must live in the sight
of a holy God without an intercessor. The restraint which has
been upon the wicked is removed, and Satan has entire control
of the finally impenitent. God’s long-suffering has ended. The
world has rejected His mercy, despised His love, and trampled
upon His law. The wicked have passed the boundary of their
probation; the Spirit of God, persistently resisted, has been at last
withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection
from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the
earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to
hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements
of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in
ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old.
A single angel destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians,
and filled the land with mourning. When David offended against
God by numbering the people, one angel caused that terrible
destruction by which his sin was punished. The same destructive
power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be
exercised by evil angels when He permits. There are forces
now ready, and only waiting the divine permission, to spread
desolation everywhere.
Those who honor the law of God have been accused of bringing judgments upon the world, and they will be regarded as
the cause of the fearful convulsions of nature and the strife and
bloodshed among men that are filling the earth with woe. The
power attending the last warning has enraged the wicked; their
[615] anger is kindled against all who have received the message, and
Satan will excite to still greater intensity the spirit of hatred and
persecution.
When God’s presence was finally withdrawn from the Jewish
nation, priests and people knew it not. Though under the control
of Satan, and swayed by the most horrible and malignant
passions, they still regarded themselves as the chosen of God.
The ministration in the temple continued; sacrifices were offered
upon its polluted altars, and daily the divine blessing was invoked
upon a people guilty of the blood of God’s dear Son, and seeking
to slay His ministers and apostles. So when the irrevocable
decision of the sanctuary has been pronounced, and the destiny
of the world has been forever fixed, the inhabitants of the earth
will know it not. 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.
As the Sabbath has become the special point of controversy
throughout Christendom, and religious and secular authorities
have combined to enforce the observance of the Sunday, the
persistent refusal of a small minority to yield to the popular
demand, will make them objects of universal execration. It will
be urged that the few who stand in opposition to an institution of
the church and a law of the state, ought not to be tolerated; that
it is better for them to suffer than for whole nations to be thrown
into confusion and lawlessness. The same argument eighteen
hundred years ago was brought against Christ by the “rulers of
the people.” “It is expedient for us,” said the wily Caiaphas, “that
one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation
ish not.”1055 This argument will appear conclusive; and a decree
will finally be issued against those who hallow the Sabbath of
the fourth commandment, denouncing them as deserving of the
severest punishment, and giving the people liberty, after a certain
time, to put them to death. Romanism in the Old World, and [616]
apostate Protestantism in the New, will pursue a similar course
toward those who honor all the divine precepts.
The people of God will then be plunged into those scenes of
affliction and distress described by the prophet as the time of
Jacob’s trouble. “Thus saith the Lord: We have heard a voice of
trembling, of fear, and not of peace…. All faces are turned into
paleness. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it
is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of
it.”1056
Jacob’s night of anguish, when he wrestled in prayer for deliverance
from the hand of Esau,1057 represents the experience
of God’s people in the time of trouble. Because of the deception
practised to secure his father’s blessing, intended for Esau, Jacob
had fled for his life, alarmed by his brother’s deadly threats.
After remaining for many years an exile, he had set out, at God’s
command, to return with his wives and children, his flocks and
herds, to his native country. On reaching the borders of the
land, he was filled with terror by the tidings of Esau’s approach
at the head of a band of warriors, doubtless bent upon revenge.
Jacob’s company, unarmed and defenseless, seemed about to fall
helpless victims of violence and slaughter. And to the burden of
anxiety and fear was added the crushing weight of self-reproach;
for it was his own sin that had brought this danger. His only hope
was in the mercy of God; his only defense must be prayer. Yet
he leaves nothing undone on his own part to atone for the wrong
to his brother, and to avert the threatened danger. So should
the followers of Christ, as they approach the time of trouble,
make every exertion to place themselves in a proper light before
the people, to disarm prejudice, and to avert the danger which
threatens liberty of conscience.
Having sent his family away, that they may not witness his
distress, Jacob remains alone to intercede with God. He confesses
[617] his sin, and gratefully acknowledges the mercy of God toward
him, while with deep humiliation he pleads the covenant made
with his fathers, and the promises to himself in the night vision
at Bethel and in the land of his exile. The crisis in his life has
come; everything is at stake. In the darkness and solitude he
continues praying and humbling himself before God. Suddenly
a hand is laid upon his shoulder. He thinks that an enemy is
seeking his life, and with all the energy of despair he wrestles
with his assailant. As the day begins to break, the stranger puts
forth his superhuman power: at his touch the strong man seems
paralyzed, and he falls, a helpless, weeping suppliant, upon the
neck of his mysterious antagonist. Jacob knows now that it is
the Angel of the Covenant with whom he has been in conflict.
Though disabled, and suffering the keenest pain, he does not
relinquish his purpose. Long has he endured perplexity, remorse,
and trouble for his sin; now he must have the assurance that
it is pardoned. The divine visitant seems about to depart; but
Jacob clings to Him, pleading for a blessing. The Angel urges,
“Let Me go; for the day breaketh;” but the patriarch exclaims, “I
will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.” What confidence,
what firmness and perseverance, are here displayed! Had this
been a boastful, presumptuous claim, Jacob would have been
instantly destroyed; but his was the assurance of one who confesses
his weakness and unworthiness, yet trusts the mercy of a
covenant-keeping God.
“He had power over the Angel, and prevailed.”1058 Through
humiliation, repentance, and self-surrender, this sinful, erring
mortal prevailed with the Majesty of heaven. He had fastened
his trembling grasp upon the promises of God, and the heart
of Infinite Love could not turn away the sinner’s plea. As an
evidence of his triumph, and an encouragement to others to
imitate his example, his name was changed from one which was
a reminder of his sin, to one that commemorated his victory. And
the fact that Jacob had prevailed with God was an assurance that
he would prevail with men. He no longer feared to encounter [618]
his brother’s anger; for the Lord was his defense.
Satan had accused Jacob before the angels of God, claiming
the right to destroy him because of his sin; he had moved upon
Esau to march against him; and during the patriarch’s long night
of wrestling, Satan endeavored to force upon him a sense of his
guilt, in order to discourage him, and break his hold upon God.
Jacob was driven almost to despair; but he knew that without
help from heaven he must perish. He had sincerely repented of
his great sin, and he appealed to the mercy of God. He would not
be turned from his purpose, but held fast the Angel, and urged
his petition with earnest, agonizing cries, until he prevailed.
As Satan influenced Esau to march against Jacob, so he will
stir up the wicked to destroy God’s people in the time of trouble.
And as he accused Jacob, he will urge his accusations against
the people of God. He numbers the world as his subjects; but the
little company who keep the commandments of God are resisting
his supremacy. If he could blot them from the earth, his triumph
would be complete. He sees that holy angels are guarding them,
and he infers that their sins have been pardoned; but he does not
know that their cases have been decided in the sanctuary above.
He has an accurate knowledge of the sins which he has tempted
them to commit, and he presents these before God in the most
exaggerated light, representing this people to be just as deserving
as himself of exclusion from the favor of God. He declares that
the Lord cannot in justice forgive their sins, and yet destroy him
and his angels. He claims them as his prey, and demands that
they be given into his hands to destroy.
As Satan accuses the people of God on account of their sins,
the Lord permits him to try them to the uttermost. Their confidence
in God, their faith and firmness, will be severely tested.
[619] As they review the past, their hopes sink; for in their whole
lives they can see little good. They are fully conscious of their
weakness and unworthiness. Satan endeavors to terrify them with
the thought that their cases are hopeless, that the stain of their
defilement will never be washed away. He hopes so to destroy
their faith that they will yield to his temptations, and turn from
their allegiance to God.
Though God’s people will be surrounded by enemies who are
bent upon their destruction, yet the anguish which they suffer
is not a dread of persecution for the truth’s sake; they fear that
every sin has not been repented of, and that through some fault in
themselves they will fail to realize the fulfilment of the Saviour’s
promise, “I will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which
shall come upon all the world.”1059 If they could have the assurance
of pardon, they would not shrink from torture or death;
but should they prove unworthy, and lose their lives because of
their own defects of character, then God’s holy name would be
reproached.
On every hand they hear the plottings of treason, and see the
active working of rebellion; and there is aroused within them
an intense desire, an earnest yearning of soul, that this great
apostasy may be terminated, and the wickedness of the wicked
may come to an end. But while they plead with God to stay
the work of rebellion, it is with a keen sense of self-reproach
that they themselves have no more power to resist and urge
back the mighty tide of evil. They feel that had they always
employed all their ability in the service of Christ, going forward
from strength to strength, Satan’s forces would have less power
to prevail against them.
They afflict their souls before God, pointing to their past repentance
of their many sins, and pleading the Saviour’s promise,
“Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with
Me; and he shall make peace with Me.”1060 Their faith does not
fail because their prayers are not immediately answered. Though [620]
suffering the keenest anxiety, terror, and distress, they do not
cease their intercessions. They lay hold of the strength of God as
Jacob laid hold of the Angel; and the language of their souls is,
“I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.”
Had not Jacob previously repented of his sin in obtaining the
birthright by fraud, God would not have heard his prayer and
mercifully preserved his life. So, in the time of trouble, if the
people of God had unconfessed sins to appear before them while
tortured with fear and anguish, they would be overwhelmed; despair
would cut off their faith, and they could not have confidence
to plead with God for deliverance. But while they have a deep
sense of their unworthiness, they have no concealed wrongs to
reveal. Their sins have gone beforehand to judgment, and have
been blotted out; and they cannot bring them to remembrance.
Satan leads many to believe that God will overlook their unfaithfulness
in the minor affairs of life; but the Lord shows in His
dealings with Jacob that He will in no wise sanction or tolerate
evil. All who endeavor to excuse or conceal their sins, and
permit them to remain upon the books of heaven, unconfessed
and unforgiven, will be overcome by Satan. The more exalted
their profession, and the more honorable the position which they
hold, the more grievous is their course in the sight of God, and
the more sure the triumph of their great adversary. Those who
delay a preparation for the day of God cannot obtain it in the
time of trouble, or at any subsequent time. The case of all such
is hopeless.
Those professed Christians who come up to that last fearful
conflict unprepared, will, in their despair, confess their sins in
words of burning anguish, while the wicked exult over their
distress. These confessions are of the same character as was that
of Esau or of Judas. Those who make them, lament the result of
transgression, but not its guilt. They feel no true contrition, no
[621] abhorrence of evil. They acknowledge their sin, through fear of
punishment; but, like Pharaoh of old, they would return to their
defiance of Heaven, should the judgments be removed.
Jacob’s history is also an assurance that God will not cast off
those who have been deceived, and tempted, and betrayed into
sin, but who have returned unto Him with true repentance. While
Satan seeks to destroy this class, God will send His angels to
comfort and protect them in the time of peril. The assaults of
Satan are fierce and determined, his delusions are terrible; but
the Lord’s eye is upon His people, and His ear listens to their
cries. Their affliction is great, the flames of the furnace seem
about to consume them; but the Refiner will bring them forth
as gold tried in the fire. God’s love for His children during the
period of their severest trial, is as strong and tender as in the
days of their sunniest prosperity; but it is needful for them to be
placed in the furnace of fire; their earthliness must be consumed,
that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.
The season of distress and anguish before us will require a
faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger,—a faith that
will not faint, though severely tried. The period of probation is
granted to all to prepare for that time. Jacob prevailed because
he was persevering and determined. His victory is an evidence
of the power of importunate prayer. All who will lay hold of
God’s promises, as he did, and be as earnest and persevering as
he was, will succeed as he succeeded. Those who are unwilling
to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly
for His blessing, will not obtain it. Wrestling with God—how
few know what it is! How few have ever had their souls drawn
out after God with intensity of desire until every power is on the
stretch. When waves of despair which no language can express
sweep over the suppliant, how few cling with unyielding faith to
the promises of God. [622]
Those who exercise but little faith now, are in the greatest
danger of falling under the power of satanic delusions and the
decree to compel the conscience. And even if they endure the
test, they will be plunged into deeper distress and anguish in the
time of trouble, because they have never made it a habit to trust
in God. The lessons of faith which they have neglected, they will
be forced to learn under a terrible pressure of discouragement.
We should now acquaint ourselves with God by proving His
promises. Angels record every prayer that is earnest and sincere.
We should rather dispense with selfish gratifications than neglect
communion with God. The deepest poverty, the greatest self-denial,
with His approval, is better than riches, honors, ease, and
friendship without it. We must take time to pray. If we allow our
minds to be absorbed by worldly interests, the Lord may give
us time by removing from us our idols of gold, of houses, or of
fertile lands.
The young would not be seduced into sin if they would refuse
to enter any path save that upon which they could ask God’s
blessing. If the messengers who bear the last solemn warning
to the world would pray for the blessing of God, not in a cold,
listless, lazy manner, but fervently and in faith, as did Jacob,
they would find many places where they could say, “I have seen
God face to face, and my life is preserved.”1061 They would be
accounted of heaven as princes, having power to prevail with
God and with men.
The “time of trouble such as never was,” is soon to open
upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now
possess, and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often
the case that trouble is greater in anticipation that in reality; but
this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation
cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial,
every soul must stand for himself before God. “Though Noah,
Daniel, and Job” were in the land, “as I live, saith the Lord God,
[623] they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver
their own souls by their righteousness.”1062
Now, while our great High Priest is making the atonement for
us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ. Not even by a
thought could our Saviour be brought to yield to the power of
temptation. Satan finds in human hearts some point where he
can gain a foothold; some sinful desire is cherished, by means
of which his temptations assert their power. But Christ declared
of Himself, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing
in Me.”1063 Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that
would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father’s
commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could
use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must
be found who shall stand in the time of trouble.
It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith
in the atoning blood of Christ. Our precious Saviour invites us to
join ourselves to Him, to unite our weakness to His strength, our
ignorance to His wisdom, our unworthiness to His merits. God’s
providence is the school in which we are to learn the meekness
and lowliness of Jesus. The Lord is ever setting before us, not
the way we would choose, which seems easier and pleasanter to
us, but the true aims of life. It rests with us to co-operate with the
agencies which Heaven employs in the work of conforming our
characters to the divine model. None can neglect or defer this
work but at the most fearful peril to their souls
The apostle John in vision heard a loud voice in heaven exclaiming,
“Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for
the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he
knoweth that he hath but a short time.”1064 Fearful are the scenes
which call forth this exclamation from the heavenly voice. The
wrath of Satan increases as his time grows short, and his work
of deceit and destruction will reach its culmination in the time of
trouble. [624]
Fearful sights of a supernatural character will soon be revealed
in the heavens, in token of the power of miracle-working demons.
The spirits of devils will go forth to the kings of the earth and
to the whole world, to fasten them in deception, and urge them
on to unite with Satan in his last struggle against the government
of heaven. By these agencies, rulers and subjects will be alike
deceived. Persons will arise pretending to be Christ Himself,
and claiming the title and worship which belong to the world’s
Redeemer. They will perform wonderful miracles of healing,
and will profess to have revelations from heaven contradicting
the testimony of the Scriptures.
As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan
himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to
look to the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes.
Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come.
In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among
men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the
description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation.1065
The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that
mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out
upon the air, “Christ has come! Christ has come!” The people
prostrate themselves in adoration before him, while he lifts up his
hands, and pronounces a blessing upon them, as Christ blessed
His disciples when He was upon the earth. His voice is soft and
subdued, yet full of melody. In gentle, compassionate tones he
presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths which the
Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in
his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the
Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which
he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping
holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to
listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the
strong, almost overmastering delusion. Like the Samaritans who
[625] were deceived by Simon Magus, the multitudes, from the least
to the greatest, give heed to these sorceries, saying, This is “the
great power of God.”1066
But the people of God will not be misled. The teachings of
this false christ are not in accordance with the Scriptures. His
blessing is pronounced upon the worshipers of the beast and his
image, the very class upon whom the Bible declares that God’s
unmingled wrath shall be poured out.
And, furthermore, Satan is not permitted to counterfeit the
manner of Christ’s advent. The Saviour has warned His people
against deception upon this point, and has clearly foretold the
manner of His second coming. “There shall arise false christs,
and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders;
insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very
elect…. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the
desert; go not forth: behold, He is in the secret chambers; believe
it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth
even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man
be.”1067 This coming, there is no possibility of counterfeiting. It
will be universally known—witnessed by the whole world.
Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures,
and who have received the love of the truth, will be shielded
from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive. By the
Bible testimony these will detect the deceiver in his disguise. To
all, the testing time will come. By the sifting of temptation, the
genuine Christian will be revealed. Are the people of God now
so firmly established upon His word that they would not yield
to the evidence of their senses? Would they, in such a crisis,
cling to the Bible, and the Bible only? Satan will, if possible,
prevent them from obtaining a preparation to stand in that day.
He will so arrange affairs as to hedge up their way, entangle them
with earthly treasures, cause them to carry a heavy, wearisome
burden, that their hearts may be overcharged with the cares of [626]
this life, and the day of trial may come upon them as a thief.
As the decree issued by the various rulers of Christendom
against commandment-keepers shall withdraw the protection of
government, and abandon them to those who desire their destruction,
the people of God will flee from the cities and villages and
associate together in companies, dwelling in the most desolate
and solitary places. Many will find refuge in the strongholds
of the mountains. Like the Christians of the Piedmont valleys,
they will make the high places of the earth their sanctuaries, and
will thank God for the “munitions of rocks.”1068 But many of all
nations, and of all classes, high and low, rich and poor, black
and white, will be cast into the most unjust and cruel bondage.
The beloved of God pass weary days, bound in chains, shut in
by prison bars, sentenced to be slain, some apparently left to die
of starvation in dark and loathsome dungeons. No human ear is
open to hear their moans; no human hand is ready to lend them
help.
Will the Lord forget His people in this trying hour? Did
He forget faithful Noah when judgments were visited upon the
antediluvian world? Did He forget Lot when the fire came down
from heaven to consume the cities of the plain? Did He forget
Joseph surrounded by idolaters in Egypt? Did He forget Elijah
when the oath of Jezebel threatened him with the fate of the
prophets of Baal? Did He forget Jeremiah in the dark and dismal
pit of his prison-house? Did He forget the three worthies in the
fiery furnace? or Daniel in the den of lions?
“Zion said, Jehovah hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath
forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she
should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they
may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee
upon the palms of My hands.”1069 The Lord of hosts has said,
[627] “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of His eye.”1070
Though enemies may thrust them into prison, yet dungeon
walls cannot cut off the communication between their souls and
Christ. One who sees their every weakness, who is acquainted
with every trial, is above all earthly powers; and angels will come
to them in lonely cells, bringing light and peace from heaven.
The prison will be as a palace; for the rich in faith dwell there,
and the gloomy walls will be lighted up with heavenly light, as
when Paul and Silas prayed and sung praises at midnight in the
Philippian dungeon.
God’s judgments will be visited upon those who are seeking
to oppress and destroy His people. His long forbearance with the
wicked emboldens men in transgression, but their punishment is
none the less certain and terrible because it is long delayed. “The
Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, He shall be wroth as in
the valley of Gibeon, that He may do His work, His strange work;
and bring to pass His act, His strange act.”1071 To our merciful
God the act of punishment is a strange act. “As I live, saith the
Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”1072
The Lord is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant
in goodness and truth, … forgiving iniquity and transgression
and sin.” Yet He will “by no means clear the guilty.” “The Lord
is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit
the wicked.”1073 By terrible things in righteousness He will vindicate
the authority of His downtrodden law. The severity of
the retribution awaiting the transgressor may be judged by the
Lord’s reluctance to execute justice. The nation with which He
bears long, and which He will not smite until it has filled up the
measure of its iniquity in God’s account, will finally drink the
cup of wrath unmixed with mercy.
When Christ ceases His intercession in the sanctuary, the
unmingled wrath threatened against those who worship the beast
and his image and receive his mark,1074 will be poured out.
The plagues upon Egypt when God was about to deliver Israel,
were similar in character to those more terrible and extensive [628]
judgments which are to fall upon the world just before the final
deliverance of God’s people. Says the revelator, in describing
those terrific scourges: “There fell a noisome and grievous sore
upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them
which worshiped his image.” The sea “became as the blood of
a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.” And “the
rivers and fountains of waters … became blood.” Terrible as
these inflictions are, God’s justice stands fully vindicated. The
angel of God declares: “Thou are righteous, O Lord, … because
Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and
prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are
worthy.”1075 By condemning the people of God to death, they
have as truly incurred the guilt of their blood as if it had been
shed by their hands. In like manner Christ declared the Jews of
His time guilty of all the blood of holy men which had been shed
since the days of Abel; for they possessed the same spirit, and
were seeking to do the same work, with these murderers of the
prophets.
In the plague that follows, power is given to the sun “to scorch
men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat.”1076 The
prophets thus describe the condition of the earth at this fearful
time: “The land mourneth; … because the harvest of the field
is perished.” “All the trees of the field are withered: because
joy is withered away from the sons of men.” “The seed is rotten
under their clods, the garners are laid desolate.” “How do the
beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they
have no pasture…. The rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire
hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” “The songs of the
temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God: there
shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them
forth with silence.”1077
These plagues are not universal, or the inhabitants of the earth
[629] would bewholly cut off. Yet theywill be the most awful scourges
that have ever been known to mortals. All the judgments upon
men, prior to the close of probation, have been mingled with
mercy. The pleading blood of Christ has shielded the sinner from
receiving the full measure of his guilt; but in the final judgment,
wrath is poured out unmixed with mercy.
In that day, multitudes will desire the shelter of God’s mercy
which they have so long despised. “Behold, the days come, saith
the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine
of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the
Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north
even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the
Lord, and shall not find it.”1078
The people of God will not be free from suffering; but while
persecuted and distressed, while they endure privation, and suffer
for want of food, they will not be left to perish. That God
who cared for Elijah, will not pass by one of His self-sacrificing
children. He who numbers the hairs of their head, will care for
them; and in time of famine they shall be satisfied. While the
wicked are dying from hunger and pestilence, angels will shield
the righteous, and supply their wants. To him that “walketh righteously”
is the promise, “Bread shall be given him; his waters
shall be sure.” “When the poor and needy seek water, and there
is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear
them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”1079
“Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit
be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields
shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and
there shall be no herd in the stalls:” yet shall they that fear Him
“rejoice in the Lord,” and joy in the God of their salvation.1080
“The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right
hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve [630]
thy soul.” “He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler,
and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His
feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be
thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by
night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence
that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at
noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at
thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine
eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because
thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most
High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall
any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”1081
Yet to human sight it will appear that the people of God must
soon seal their testimony with their blood, as did the martyrs
before them. They themselves begin to fear that the Lord has left
them to fall by the hand of their enemies. It is a time of fearful
agony. Day and night they cry unto God for deliverance. The
wicked exult, and the jeering cry is heard, “Where now is your
faith? Why does not God deliver you out of our hands if you are
indeed His people?” But the waiting ones remember Jesus dying
upon Calvary’s cross, and the chief priests and rulers shouting in
mockery, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be
the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and
we will believe Him.”1082 Like Jacob, all are wrestling with God.
Their countenances express their internal struggle. Paleness sits
upon every face. Yet they cease not their earnest intercession.
Could men see with heavenly vision, they would behold companies
of angels that excel in strength stationed about those who
have kept the word of Christ’s patience. With sympathizing
tenderness, angels have witnessed their distress, and have heard
their prayers. They are waiting the word of their Commander
to snatch them from their peril. But they must wait yet a little
[631] longer. The people of God must drink of the cup, and be
baptized with the baptism. The very delay, so painful to them,
is the best answer to their petitions. As they endeavor to wait
trustingly for the Lord to work, they are led to exercise faith,
hope, and patience, which have been too little exercised during
their religious experience. Yet for the elect’s sake, the time of
trouble will be shortened. “Shall not God avenge His own elect,
which cry day and night unto Him?… I tell you that He will
avenge them speedily.”1083 The end will come more quickly than
men expect. The wheat will be gathered and bound in sheaves
for the garner of God; the tares will be bound as fagots for the
fires of destruction.
The heavenly sentinels, faithful to their trust, continue their
watch. Though a general decree has fixed the time when commandment-keepers may be put to death, their enemies will in
some cases anticipate the decree, and before the time specified,
will endeavor to take their lives. But none can pass the mighty
guardians stationed about every faithful soul. Some are assailed
in their flight from the cities and villages; but the swords raised
against them break and fall as powerless as a straw. Others are
defended by angels in the form of men of war.
In all ages, God has wrought through holy angels for the
succor and deliverance of His people. Celestial beings have
taken an active part in the affairs of men. They have appeared
clothed in garments that shone as the lightning; they have come
as men, in the garb of wayfarers. Angels have appeared in human
form to men of God. They have rested, as if weary, under the
oaks at noon. They have accepted the hospitalities of human
homes. They have acted as guides to benighted travelers. They
have, with their own hands, kindled the fires of the altar. They
have opened prison doors, and set free the servants of the Lord.
Clothed with the panoply of heaven, they came to roll away the
stone from the Saviour’s tomb.
In the form of men, angels are often in the assemblies of the
righteous, and they visit the assemblies of the wicked, as they [632]
went to Sodom, to make a record of their deeds, to determine
whether they have passed the boundary of God’s forbearance.
The Lord delights in mercy; and for the sake of a few who really
serve Him, He restrains calamities, and prolongs the tranquillity
of multitudes. Little do sinners against God realize that they are
indebted for their own lives to the faithful few whom they delight
to ridicule and oppress.
Though the rulers of this world know it not, yet often in their
councils angels have been spokesmen. Human eyes have looked
upon them; human ears have listened to their appeals; human
lips have opposed their suggestions and ridiculed their counsels;
human hands have met them with insult and abuse. In the council
hall and the court of justice, these heavenly messengers have
shown an intimate acquaintance with human history; they have
proved themselves better able to plead the cause of the oppressed
than were their ablest and most eloquent defenders. They have
defeated purposes and arrested evils that would have greatly
retarded the work of God, and would have caused great suffering
to His people. In the hour of peril and distress, “the angel of the
Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth
them.”1084
With earnest longing, God’s people await the tokens of their
coming King. As the watchmen are accosted, “What of the
night?” the answer is given unfalteringly, “ ‘The morning cometh,
and also the night.’1085 Light is gleaming upon the clouds above
the mountain tops. Soon there will be a revealing of His glory.
The Sun of Righteousness is about to shine forth. The morning
and the night are both at hand,—the opening of endless day to
the righteous, the settling down of eternal night to the wicked.”
As the wrestling ones urge their petitions before God, the
veil separating them from the unseen seems almost withdrawn.
The heavens glow with the dawning of eternal day, and like the
[633] melody of angel songs, the words fall upon the ear, “Stand fast
to your allegiance. Help is coming.” Christ, the almighty victor,
holds out to His weary soldiers a crown of immortal glory; and
His voice comes from the gates ajar: “Lo, I am with you. Be
not afraid. I am acquainted with all your sorrows; I have borne
your griefs. You are not warring against untried enemies. I have
fought the battle in your behalf, and in My name you are more
than conquerors.”
The precious Saviour will send help just when we need it. The
way to heaven is consecrated by His footprints. Every thorn that
wounds our feet has wounded His. Every cross that we are called
to bear, He has borne before us. The Lord permits conflicts, to
prepare the soul for peace. The time of trouble is a fearful ordeal
for God’s people; but it is the time for every true believer to look
up, and by faith he may see the bow of promise encircling him.
“The redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing
unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they
shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall
flee away. I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou,
that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son
of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy
Maker; … and hast feared continually every day because of the
fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where
is the fury of the oppressor? The captive exile hasteneth that he
may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his
bread should fail. But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the
sea, whose waves roared: the Lord of hosts is His name. And I
have put My words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the
shadow of Mine hand.”1086
“Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but
not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord Jehovah, and thy God that
pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of
thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of My
fury; thou shalt no more drink it again: but I will put it into the [634]
hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow
down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the
ground, and as the street, to them that went over.”1087
The eye of God, looking down the ages, was fixed upon the
crisis which His people are to meet, when earthly powers shall
be arrayed against them. Like the captive exile, they will be in
fear of death by starvation or by violence. But the Holy One
who divided the Red Sea before Israel, will manifest His mighty
power and turn their captivity. “They shall be Mine, saith the
Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and
I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth
him.”1088 If the blood of Christ’s faithful witnesses were shed at
this time, it would not, like the blood of the martyrs, be as seed
sown to yield a harvest for God. Their fidelity would not be a
testimony to convince others of the truth; for the obdurate heart
has beaten back the waves of mercy until they return no more.
If the righteous were now left to fall a prey to their enemies, it
would be a triumph for the prince of darkness. Says the psalmist,
“In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the
secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me.”1089 Christ has spoken:
“Come, My people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy
doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment,
until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh
out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their
iniquity.”1090 Glorious will be the deliverance of those who have
patiently waited for His coming, and whose names are written in
the book of life.

Taken from THE GREAT CONTROVERSY BY ELLEN G WHITE

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