Sabbath School

The Coming Conflict

How can we fortify ourselves | Reflections on The Great Controversy chapters 37-38

Michael F. Younker
The Coming Conflict
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As we move deeper into the time of the end (Daniel 8:19, 11:40; Revelation 12-13), it seems the magnitude of the many perplexities the world faces only grows. More recently, the terms misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation appear hurled about by all groups at each other—no significant groups in society seem immune from receiving or accusing others of using ‘information’ attached to such prefixes.

The Seed of Distrust

More than any other seed, it is ‘distrust’ that the Adversary most desires to sow, and sow so broadly and widely that no field of information or cultural group is safely secured from its influence. This is, in part, why the peoples of the nations are angry (Revelation 11:18). There is an important lesson here for us. The anger of the nations is not just because of the malcontent of proud, ambitious leaders whose influence may seem beyond our reach, but because the average person right next to us no longer knows what is true in the world, however confident a person may appear to be about their beliefs! We can venture to assert this claim with some confidence, merely because it seems so many people around the world disagree with each other! And yet, attempting to persuade someone of one’s own point of view about various emotionally-charged secular or religious matters will often fall prey to the old truism: a person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.

Upholding the Bible

So where can we turn, and what methods can we embrace to help people at a time when we’re not even sure if we can trust ourselves and our ‘media-created’ presuppositions? How can we progress from arguing for what we claim to be true to persuading through demonstration that we are living the Truth? It is no accident that in The Great Controversy, after Ellen White outlined for her readers the impending conflict to come, she then provides the only solution we need to concern ourselves with before the final warning: the Holy Scriptures.

The following is shared within a particular context today—for as our world’s complexities increase, the more inviting will be the temptation of the world for us as professing believers to enter into such complexities ourselves. Yet, without being fully grounded in what the Bible declares is present truth, such efforts will prove futile in attaining any good purpose. While Ellen White shares many times that the complete fulfilment of many eschatological prophecies is not yet, of one she shares, “that time has fully come.”[i] In 2 Timothy 4:3 Paul wrote: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” We have fully arrived at this era of history, when greater multitudes than ever before neither know of nor want Bible truth because it does not comport with their own desires. Yet this is no moment to surrender our witness and the power it can still have to the relative few that are indeed waiting with open hearts receptive to the Holy Spirit!

The Bible alone is the supreme authority and safeguard for God’s people against the influence of false media sources, misguided teachers skeptical of the Bible, and the deceptive power of evil spirits that permeate our cultural atmospheres today. Satan employs every possible strategy to prevent people from gaining knowledge of the Bible, for its plain teachings expose his deceptions with startling clarity. Whenever there is a revival of God’s Word among people, Satan is aroused to intense opposition, putting forth his utmost efforts for a struggle against God’s Word and those who follow Him.

A Clear Safeguard

We are also surprisingly warned that in the deceptions to unfold before us, at times, the counterfeit will so closely resemble the truth that it will be impossible to distinguish between them except by the Holy Scriptures. This testifies most clearly that self cannot be trusted! Many self-confident believers in Christendom should take heed, ourselves included. So often, by the training of the world, we assume the discernment of good and evil should be easy—akin to their popularized analogies of seeing a “red lightsaber” or a “flaming all-seeing eye” perched atop a dark tower, or the obvious foibles of a particular political leader somewhere around the world whom we do not fancy.

But our attention should not be directed thus in our efforts to grasp what God truly wants us and those around us to know at this time of great perplexity and deceptive polarization. What stands out in both the biblical presentation of final events, as well as the description in The Great Controversy, is that the people of the world will be looking for worldly solutions they think are rooted in their own created and carefully curated religious traditions or sound scientific reasoning. People want the solutions to their problems to be wrought out through their own efforts and cleverness. They often actually enjoy a good rebellion or revolution precisely because they feel such activities empower them. But the spirit that accompanies such activities is seldom in the order of what God truly wants for us, particularly at this juncture in history. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 16:25).

Now is not the time for humanity to seek self-empowerment through building up great institutions or plans to transform this world. That time has passed; this can no longer realistically be done. Rather, the journey we all should be seeking is one deeper into God’s Word, which will transform us into His likeness. And a warning accompanies such an endeavor, for all those who truly seek to obey all of God’s commandments will face opposition and derision. They can stand firm only in God. To endure the coming trial, they must understand God’s will as revealed in His word. They can honor Him, Ellen White admonishes us, only as they have a right understanding of His character, government and purposes, and act accordingly. Only those who have fortified their minds with biblical truth will stand through the last great conflict.

Authority is an abiding question facing the world today—what kinds of authorities should we create or submit to? Nationalism, globalism, religious traditions, scientists and academicians, all are competing for supremacy. Our Adversary presents us many apparent choices from which to pick. But how many of these authorities, disparate and contradictory though their respective ideas may be about many secular or religious matters that attract our interest, point us to the only true source of authority, the Word of God? It is the irony of our age that as polarizations and divisions multiply, many attach themselves dearly to some aspect of an issue, which may in fact be correct—the science behind a medical issue, a favored social or economic policy or theory, the wisest adjudication of some political or cultural question—yet in this attachment to what they deem an almost ‘gnostic’ insight that may indeed be correct, they fail to see the need to question other more important matters that will soon face the world. They fail to see the need to prune that which they may also believe but is not correct from their lives, perhaps precisely because of the importance they esteem their insights on lesser matters to be! They fail to ask the question, Am I majoring in minors?

This is why it is important to cogitate most deeply on that which the Bible emphasizes are the key issues for our time. Our efforts, for ourselves and others, should be of a nature which truly enriches and prepares us for the real crisis to come.

If we neglect the opportunity to receive light and truth, we effectively reject it, choosing darkness over light.

Ellen White wisely reminds us that truth and God’s glory are inseparable, so it is impossible with the Bible in our hands to honor God by holding onto erroneous or irrelevant opinions in our efforts to share the binding claims of His Word more vividly. Many claim doctrine does not matter as long as one’s life is right. But life is molded by faith. If we neglect the opportunity to receive light and truth, we effectively reject it, choosing darkness over light. Ignorance is no excuse for error or sin when we have every opportunity to know God’s will. It is the first and highest duty of every rational being to learn truth from the Scriptures and then walk in that light, encouraging others to do the same.

We should diligently study the Bible daily, weighing every thought and comparing Scripture with Scripture, forming our opinions through divine help since we must answer for ourselves before God. While it is true some passages of the Bible may seem obscure, for the humble learner taught in Christ’s school, even difficult passages are full of comfort and instruction. A clearer understanding depends not so much on intellectual power as on singleness of purpose and an earnest desire for righteousness.

In this effort, prayer is essential. The Holy Spirit alone can reveal the importance of truths easy to understand and prevent us from distorting difficult ones. Angels prepare the heart to be charmed by the Bible’s beauty, admonished by its warnings, and strengthened by its promises. In times of peril, they bring to remembrance the very truths needed to meet the enemy’s attacks.

The Adversary’s Methods

But light received and understood but not stored in our memories and shared is no more good than a candle that has run out of wax! Christ’s teachings must first be stored in the mind for the Spirit to revive them in our hour of need. Ellen White’s sage prophetic voice should inspire us, for she shares that God will have a people on the earth who uphold “the Bible and the Bible alone” as the standard of all doctrine and the basis of all reforms. Before accepting any teaching, we must demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord” in support. Satan constantly seeks to divert attention from God to human leaders and worldly authorities and powers. By controlling these sources—political, technological—he can influence the multitudes according to his will.

The freedom of conscience is of utmost importance—anytime and anywhere this is threatened, you can be sure Satan is working his artifices to arouse hostilities and prepare the masses for control. While this is assuredly true in the secular sphere from time to time, the emphasis in Scripture is upon God’s peculiar requirement, the law, and that most innocuous of them, the Sabbath! The ironies abound concerning the uniqueness and preciousness of the Sabbath. Although today many accuse its adherents of legalism to a ritual code long disposed of, the very message of the Sabbath defies this accusation—it is not a special ‘work’ we perform every week, but rather it tells us that all the regular duties enjoined upon us throughout our lives we are free to abstain from for a day! It is a rest from our good and duly required daily works—in employment and even pleasurable pastimes—which worthwhile though they may be, cannot save us.

The Sabbath is, rather, an opportunity to focus especially on not only rest for ourselves, but bringing rest to others through kind acts we ourselves may not otherwise find time for as we live our ever busier and hectic lives in a highspeed society. And yet, we are told, the world’s final wrong turn will come when a false sabbath is elevated above the true, as a work that must be performed! The fog and misrepresentations surrounding the true and the false will come full circle. Sunday will become a legalistic work to be performed for the alleged good of not only ourselves, but society, with coercive means eventually necessary. As we gaze about the world in recent times, and anticipate the future, we can see Satan preparing such an approach to solve societal and global problems.

Although changing the world may be an impossibility beyond our reach, there is an important work for us who hold the Bible in high regard to do. There are individuals everywhere who have hearts that will respond to an invitation to explore the truth, who have not closed their minds to thinking differently than the world. Although many are deceived about their true spiritual condition, they are not beyond reach. Perhaps thus far they have only focused on some specific wrongs they avoid while forgetting the fullness of the truth and good deeds they have neglected. So, hope for this class remains, if they will awaken themselves and redeem the time. When the testing time comes, those nourished by God’s word will be revealed. As persecution revives in various places, many who claimed the Christian faith will reveal themselves as halfhearted and abandon their faith, while others will fully reveal the Christian hearts they have been quietly nurturing and developing.

Our Eternal Destiny

To any student of this world, it is becoming ever clearer that we live in the most solemn period of earth’s history, with eternal destinies about to be decided. Our own well-being and the salvation of others depend on the course we now pursue. Again, as Ellen White admonishes us, we need more than ever the guidance of the Spirit of truth. We must seek a deep and living experience in the things of God, humbling ourselves with fasting, prayer, and meditation on the judgment scenes in preparation for the final movements.

Ellen White warns us that a terrible moral condition will befall this world—and a false morality will be erected to stem the tide of the rising evils. Mystical Babylon will soon fill up the measure of her guilt, and her destruction is imminent. But God still has people in Babylon who must be called out before judgment concludes. Hence, why Scripture and Ellen White emphasize that a movement to enlighten the earth about Babylon’s sins must take place, prior to the completion of the third angel’s message. This constitutes the final warning to earth’s inhabitants concerning the importance of His law of love, and the impending judgement to come. Yet, none will suffer God’s wrath until truth has been brought home clearly to their conscience and been deliberately rejected. All will have sufficient light to decide intelligently. The Sabbath will be the great test, the line separating those who serve God from those who do not—God’s most powerful symbol of our inability to save ourselves, a commandment to rest in what God is doing for us and in us, will serve as the foundation of the final warning. And we are told this message will bear fruit in a final outpouring of His Spirit! Maranatha!

[i] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911) p. 594.

Michael F. Younker

Michael F. Younker works in the office of Archives, Statistics, and Research at the General Conference.