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Real Hope


Real Hope
The promise of Christ’s second coming to complete the great work of redemption is the main theme of the Sacred Scriptures. Since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, the children of faith have waited for the coming of the Promised One to bring them to the lost Paradise again.

Enoch, the seventh generation from those who lived in Eden, who walked with God for three centuries, declared, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all” (Jude 14, 15). In the night of his suffering Job exclaimed, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; . . . in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27). The poets and prophets of the Bible have written about the coming of Christ in words glowing with fire. “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad . . . before the Lord. For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth" (Psalm 96:11-13).

Isaiah said: “It will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation’” (Isaiah 25:9).

The Savior comforted His disciples with the assurance that He would come again: “In My Father’s house are many mansions. . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go . . . , I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:2, 3). “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations shall be gathered before Him” (Matthew 25:31, 32).

Angels repeated to the disciples the promise of His return: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). And Paul testified: “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). John, the prophet of Patmos, said: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7).

Then the agelong rule of evil will be broken: “The kingdoms of this world” will become “the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15). “The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:11).

The the peaceful kingdom of the Messiah will be established: "The Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort her all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord" (Isaiah 51:3).

In all ages the coming of the Lord has been the hope of His true followers. In their suffering and persecution, the “appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” was the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). Paul pointed to the resurrection that will happen at the Savior’s advent, when the dead in Christ will rise and be caught up together with the living to meet the Lord in the air. “And thus,” he said, “we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, 18).

On Patmos John, the beloved disciple, heard the promise, “Surely I am coming quickly,” and his response is the prayer of the church, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

From the dungeon, the stake, the scaffold, where faithful believers and martyrs witnessed for the truth, comes down through the centuries the expression of their faith and hope. Being “assured of His personal resurrection, and consequently of their own resurrection at His coming, for this cause,” says one of these Christians, “they despised death, and were found to be above it.”1 The Waldenses cherished the same faith. Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Ridley, and Baxter2 looked in faith for the Lord’s coming. This was the hope of the church in the apostles’ time, of the “church in the wilderness,” and of the Reformers.

Prophecy not only foretells the manner and purpose of Christ’s second coming, but tells us how we may know when that day is near. “There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars” (Luke 21:25). “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:24-26). This is how John the revelator describes the first of the signs that come before the second advent: “There was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood” (Revelation 6:12).

The Savior predicted the low spiritual condition of believers that would exist just before His second advent. Christ’s counsel to those living at this time is: “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34). “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (verse 36).

THE CALL TO PREPARE

With that great day approaching, the Word of God calls His people to turn to Him with repentance: “The day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand” (Joel 2:1). “Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children. . . . Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar” (verses 15-17). “‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (verses 12, 13).

To prepare a people to stand in the day of God, there was a great work of reform to be done. In His mercy God was about to send a message to awaken those who claimed to be His people and lead them to get ready for the coming of the Lord. We find this warning in Revelation 14. Here is a threepart message represented as proclaimed by heavenly beings and followed immediately by the Son of man’s coming to reap “the harvest of the earth” (Revelation 14:15). The prophet saw an angel “flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water’” (verses 6, 7).

This message is a part of “the everlasting gospel.” God has entrusted the work of preaching to us. Holy angels direct, but the servants of Christ on earth actually proclaim the gospel.3

DANGER OF RESISTING THE GOSPEL CALL

The destruction of Jerusalem is a solemn warning to everyone who is resisting the pleadings of God’s mercy. The Savior’s prophecy of judgments on Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment. In the fate of that chosen city we can see the doom of a world that has rejected God’s mercy and trampled on His law. Dark are the records of human misery that the earth has witnessed. Terrible have been the results of rejecting Heaven’s authority. But a scene still darker is presented in the revelations of the future. When the restraining Spirit of God will be completely withdrawn, no longer holding back the outburst of human passion and satanic anger, the world will see the results of Satan’s rule like it has never seen them before.

In that day, as when Jerusalem was destroyed, God’s people will be delivered. Christ will come the second time to gather His faithful ones to Himself. “Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30, 31). People should be careful not to neglect the words of Christ. As He warned His disciples of Jerusalem’s destruction so that they could escape, so He has warned the world of the day of final destruction. All who choose may flee from the wrath to come. “There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations” (Luke 21:25; see also Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-26; Revelation 6:12-17). “Watch therefore” are Christ’s words of counsel (Mark 13:35). Those who obey the warning will not be left in darkness.

The world is no more ready to believe the message for this time than the Jews were to receive the Savior’s warning about Jerusalem. No matter when it comes, the day of God will come as a surprise to the ungodly. When life is going on in its usual way, when people are absorbed in pleasure, in business, in money-making, when religious leaders are praising the world’s progress, and people are lulled in a false security—then, as the midnight thief slips into the unguarded home, so shall sudden destruction come upon the careless and ungodly, “and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-5).

SATAN TRIES TO KEEP PEOPLE IN HIS POWER

Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the immortality of the soul lays the foundation of spiritualism, Sunday sacredness creates ties of sympathy with Rome.

Through spiritualism Satan appears to be someone who blesses humanity, healing diseases and presenting a new system of religious faith, but at the same time he leads many people to ruin. Alcohol use overcomes reason; sensual indulgence, conflict, and bloodshed follow. War stirs up the worst passions of the heart and sweeps its victims into eternity, covered in vice and blood. It is Satan’s goal to prod the nations to war, because in this way he can divert people from preparing for the judgment and eternity.

Satan has studied the secrets of nature, and he uses all his power to control the elements as far as God allows. It is God who shields His creatures from the destroyer. But the Christian world has shown contempt for His law, and the Lord will do what He said He would—remove His protecting care from those who rebel against His law and who force others to do the same. Satan has control of everyone whom God does not especially guard. He will favor and prosper some in order to advance his own plans, and he will bring trouble on others and lead them to believe that God is the one who is mistreating them.

While appearing to be a great physician who can heal all their illnesses, Satan will bring disease and disaster until crowded cities are reduced to ruin. In accidents by sea and land, in great fires, in fierce tornadoes and hailstorms, in gales, floods, hurricanes, tidal waves, and earthquakes, in a thousand forms, Satan is exerting his power. He sweeps away the ripening harvest, and famine and misery follow. He gives the air a deadly taint, and thousands die.

And then the great deceiver will persuade people to blame all their troubles on those whose obedience to God’s commandments is a constant rebuke to those who break God’s law. They will say that these people are offending God by violating Sunday, and that this sin has brought disasters that will not stop until Sunday observance is strictly enforced. They will claim that those who destroy reverence for Sunday are preventing their restoration to God’s favor and material prosperity. They will repeat the accusation urged long ago against the servant of God: “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is it you, you troubler of Israel?’” (1 Kings 18:17, NRSV).

Those who honor the Bible Sabbath will be blamed as enemies of law and order, breaking down the moral restraints of society, causing lawlessness and corruption, and calling down the judgments of God on the earth. They will be accused of undermining the government. Ministers who deny that people need to keep God’s law will preach about the duty of obeying the civil authorities. In legislative halls and courts of justice, commandment keepers will be condemned.

Leaders of church and state will unite to persuade or force everyone to honor Sunday. Even in free America rulers and legislators will give in to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance. Liberty of conscience, which has cost so great a sacrifice, will no longer be respected. In the soon-coming conflict we will see the prophet’s words fulfilled: “The dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).

Servants of God, their faces shining with holy devotion, will hurry from place to place to tell the message from heaven. Miracles will take place, the sick will be healed. Satan also works with deceptive miracles, even bringing down fire from heaven (Revelation 13:13). These things will move the inhabitants of the earth to choose sides. The message will succeed not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. The arguments have been presented, publications have exerted their influence, yet Satan has kept many from fully understanding the truth. Now they see the truth in its clearness. Family relationships and church connections are powerless to stop the honest children of God now. Regardless of the forces combined against the truth, a large number take their stand on the Lord’s side.

People will think that those who honor the law of God are the cause of the fearful conflict and bloodshed that fill the People will put a false slant on their words and the worst construction on their motives.

Leaders of church and state will unite to persuade or force everyone to honor Sunday. Even in free America rulers and legislators will give in to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance. Liberty of conscience, which has cost so great a sacrifice, will no longer be respected. In the soon-coming conflict we will see the prophet’s words fulfilled: “The dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).

Servants of God, their faces shining with holy devotion, will hurry from place to place to tell the message from heaven. Miracles will take place, the sick will be healed. Satan also works with deceptive miracles, even bringing down fire from heaven (Revelation 13:13). These things will move the inhabitants of the earth to choose sides.

The message will succeed not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. The arguments have been presented, publications have exerted their influence, yet Satan has kept many from fully understanding the truth. Now they see the truth in its clearness. Family relationships and church connections are powerless to stop the honest children of God now. Regardless of the forces combined against the truth, a large number take their stand on the Lord’s side.

People will think that those who honor the law of God are the cause of the fearful conflict and bloodshed that fill the earth with misery. The power that accompanies the last warning has enraged the wicked, and Satan will stir up the spirit of hatred and persecution against all who have received the message.

A FAITH THAT ENDURES

The time of distress and anguish ahead of us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger, a faith that will not crumble even though it is tested severely. Jacob’s victory is an evidence of the power of persistent prayer. All who will lay hold of God’s promises, as Jacob did, will succeed as he succeeded. Wrestling with God—how few know what it is! When waves of despair sweep over the needy, praying ones, how few cling with faith to the promises of God.

Fearful sights of a supernatural kind will soon appear in the heavens, in support of the power of miracle-working demons. Spirits of demons will go out to the “kings of the earth” and to the whole world, to urge them to unite with Satan in his last struggle against the government of heaven. People will come forward, pretending to be Christ Himself. They will perform miracles of healing and profess to have revelations from heaven that contradict the Scriptures.

THE CROWNING ACT

As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will appear as if he were Christ. The church has long looked for the Savior’s coming as the fulfillment of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. Satan will show himself as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God in the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:13-15).

The glory that surrounds him is greater than anything that mortal eyes have yet seen. The shout of triumph rings out, “Christ has come!” The people bow down before him. He lifts up his hands and blesses them. His voice is soft, yet full of melody. In compassionate tones he presents some of the same heavenly truths the Savior spoke. He heals diseases, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday. He declares that those who keep holy the seventh day are showing contempt for him. This is the strong, almost overpowering delusion. Vast numbers believe his sorceries, saying, This is “the great power of God” (Acts 8:10).

GOD’S PEOPLE NOT MISLED

But the people of God will not be misled. The teachings of this false christ are not in harmony with the Scriptures. He pronounces his blessing on the worshipers of the beast and his image, the very class on whom the Bible says that God will pour out His undiluted wrath.

Furthermore, God does not permit Satan to counterfeit the manner of Christ’s coming. The Savior warned His people against being deceived on this point. “False christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. . . . Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:24-27; see also Matthew 25:31; Revelation 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). This coming is impossible to counterfeit. The whole world will witness it.

Only those who have studied the Scriptures diligently and have received the love of the truth will be shielded from the powerful deception that takes the world captive. By the Bible testimony, they will detect the deceiver in his disguise. Are the people of God now so firmly established on His Word that they would not give in to the evidence of their senses? In such a crisis, would they cling to the Bible, and the Bible only?

........................... 1 See Daniel T. Taylor, The Reign of Christ on Earth: Or, The Voice of the Church in All Ages, p. 33.
2 In the complete book, The Great Controversy, readers will find the story of the Waldenses and of these and other Protestant Reformers.
3 For a more detailed account of this message and of those who began to proclaim it, see The Great Controversy, chapters 17 and 18, and subsequent chapters that develop the issues further.


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