October 6, 2011

No Fear

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes got scared when I heard about persecution in the end-times. Seventh-day Adventists pay close attention to the prophecies of Scripture, including those that point to a period of great persecution just previous to the second coming of Jesus, and the inspired understanding of Ellen White has amplified our understanding of what to expect as we near these momentous events.
But as a child, I would start imagining, in gruesome detail, the spreading of the Sunday law, no longer being able to buy or sell, receiving blame for the plagues, leaving everything behind and fleeing to uninhabited places because of the wrath of unknown people—or even that of acquainted ones—and a decree that would make it lawful for anyone to kill the followers of truth.
As I worried about these things, I became afraid like the greatest of cowards. Worse still, I sometimes wished that Jesus would not come in my generation so I would not have to face the time of trouble. I have noticed that teenagers and young people are still quite frightened by this topic.
However, there is no reason for us to be preoccupied, literally busying ourselves in advance, with negative thoughts. Why don’t we look, instead, at five fabulous reasons why quiet trust in God is so superior to fear ahead of time.
Timely Assistance
When we compare our little inch of faith against the miles of difficulty that await us, we clearly see an unfair match. But God’s promise is to help us when we need it (see 1 Cor. 10:13). As Ellen White comments: “The disciples were not endowed with the courage and fortitude of the martyrs until such grace was needed.”1 Referring to our own time she notes: “We are not to have the courage and fortitude of martyrs of old until brought into the position they were in. . . . Should there be a return of persecution there would be grace given to arouse every energy of the soul to show a true heroism.”2 If we are willing, and obedient (Isa. 1:19), God will prepare us for just what we need to face.
Spirit Outpouring
2011 1528 page24The promise of the Spirit’s special anointing is a second reason we should not fear final events. Zechariah’s promise of “rain in the time of the latter rain” (10:1, KJV) refers to “a special bestowal of spiritual grace . . . promised to prepare the church for the coming of the Son of man.”3 At the beginning of the Christian Era, God gave the “early rain” of the Holy Spirit to germinate the gospel seed. But the gift of the Spirit at the time of the harvest will exceed the wonders of that first Christian century. And it will be that same “latter rain which revives and strengthens [God’s people] to pass through the time of trouble.”4 Filled with the Holy Spirit, we shall be able to face now dreaded agonies. No pain will undo our spiritual revival, for our faithful God “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But . . . he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Not psychological conditioning, but the Holy Spirit’s perfecting of our love for Christ will enable us to face the final crisis. Through His anointing we will develop a love for the Savior akin to His own love from which nothing in life or death can separate us, the love that bears and endures all things (see Rom. 8:38, 39; 1 Cor. 13:7). We shall experience for ourselves the truth that “those who love their Redeemer will rejoice at every opportunity of sharing with Him humiliation and reproach. The love they bear their Lord makes suffering for His sake sweet.”5
Miraculous Deliverance
A frantic escape is not the same as a planned adventure. We will be surprised by situations that will be out of our control. But in human impossibility lies God’s opportunity to perform miracles. Knowing that miracles will happen when needed gives us assurance. During a time of suffering as never seen on earth, we can expect to witness astounding miracles that will deliver us from the trials we face. At those times “the Comforter [will] reveal Himself, not in any specified, precise way that man may mark out, but in the order of God—in unexpected times and ways that will honor His own name.”6
Whatever circumstances we are subjected to, God has a thousand ways of providing for us.7 He has magnificent moments in store. These include the constant provision of bread and water even when springs of water turn into blood (Rev. 16:4) and the sun scorches the earth (Rev. 16:8) because of the plagues. He can make water flow from a rock (Num. 20:11), send the best bread directly from heaven (Ex. 16:4), or use birds to feed us (1 Kings 17:6). His provisions will be as sure as Jesus’ return. For this reason, “it is contrary to the Bible to make any provision for our temporal wants in the time of trouble. . . . Then will be the time for us to trust wholly in God, and He will sustain us. I saw that our bread and water will be sure at that time, and that we shall not lack or suffer hunger; for God is able to spread a table for us in the wilderness.”8
Angel Intervention
With the permanent withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from the earth, Satan and his angels will then completely control the wicked, intensifying persecution against the saved. However, as throughout human existence, heavenly angels will be commissioned to shield God’s children at the time of turmoil. Our protection and care at this time will be equivalent to the perils that Satan’s hatred presents: “Angels will come to [God’s children] in lonely cells, bringing light and peace from heaven. The prison will be as a palace; . . . and the gloomy walls will be lighted up with heavenly light as when Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises at midnight in the Philippian dungeon.”9
Human and demon persecutors will be unable to break through the wall of sentinels surrounding God’s children. God’s saints, if captured, will have their lives preserved by celestial beings. Many of these mighty guardians will take human form to fight for us, defending us with such valor that our enemies’ weapons will be “as powerless as a straw.”10 Upon occasion Satan himself will not dare to get close, for he knows the guardians of the saved are more powerful than all of his army.11 It is surely not difficult to envision scenes of God’s angels encamped around those who fear God, to deliver them from all danger (see Ps. 34:7).
Divine Discretion
For some who fear the end-time persecution, their most terrifying thought is the possibility of being alone! And it is certainly disheartening to imagine hiding from our persecutors’ wrath in the darkness of desolate places, and going through so much dismay, with no one near to share a word of encouragement.
However, even when the time comes that we are scattered into uninhabited places, no longer able to gather in congregations, or even in houses, Ellen White reminds us that we may still look forward to Christian company: “As the decree issued . . . 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.”12 Here is beautiful assurance of the continuing companionship of true friends.
Nevertheless, not all of God’s faithful end-time children will be asked to endure the time of trouble. Providentially, before the evil days come, He will allow death to overtake those whom he knows to be too physically or emotionally weak to endure, and will bring them back to life in the resurrection of the saved.
For this very reason, “it is not always safe to ask for unconditional healing. . . . He [God] knows whether or not those for whom petitions are offered would be able to endure the trial and test that would come upon them if they lived. He knows the end from the beginning. Many will be laid away to sleep before the fiery ordeal of the time of trouble shall come upon our world.”13 Many little children will be part of this very precious providence.14 Truly, even in contemplation of trial, we can be grateful for a wonderful God!
Those who do meet the final test do so because they are qualified to face it and survive it. God makes no mistakes. Wonderful assurance is given that once all human destinies have been defined, none of those who have sided with Him will die, whether from illness, or from accident while escaping, or from murder, whether they are in prisons, or in caves, or elsewhere. God wants to grant to those overcomers the satisfaction of being saved without experiencing death. He offers this as both a prize, and a demonstration of His care; suffering will indeed be their lot: “But while persecuted and distressed, . . . [enduring] privation and [suffering] for want of food they will not be left to perish.”15 Besides being a reward, the saints’ preservation is also a commentary on the significance of martyrdom and human hardness of heart at the end of time: “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.”16
Having before us such great and precious promises, of timely assistance, of the Spirit’s outpouring, of angel assistance, of miraculous deliverance, and of God’s careful discretion, we know now that we need have no fear of persecution if we will live in the fear of God that is the touchstone of wisdom (see Prov. 9:10). And the only preoccupation we need is that of working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, so that God may work in us the willing and doing of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13) to give us the kingdom He is just now preparing for us all (Luke 12:32).
Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 354.
Ellen G. White, Our High Calling, p. 125.
Ellen G. White, God’s Amazing Grace, p. 220.
Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, p. 201.
Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 30.
E. G. White, Last Day Events, p. 204.
See E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 330.
Ellen G. White, Early Writings, p. 56.
Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 627.
10 Ibid., p. 631.
11 Ibid., p. 618.
12 Ibid., p. 626.
13 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health, p. 375.
14 See Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2, p. 259.
15 E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 629.
16 Ibid., p. 634.

Lelis Souza de Silva is a pastor at Viamao Seventh-day Adventist Church, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. This article was published October 13, 2011.