“And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revg. 14:8).
From the earliest days of our history the preaching of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 has defined the Seventh-day Adventist mission. We know those messages by heart. The first angel announces the judgment; the second, the fall of Babylon; the third, the dire consequences of receiving the mark of the beast.
I believe our pastors and evangelists, for the most part, are faithfully preaching these messages. But sometimes I think I’m hearing a somewhat muted trumpet when it comes to that of the second angel, the fall of Babylon. It is true that every time a sermon, book, or magazine article presents anyaspect of the Adventist message, it calls attention, at least in an indirect way, to the errors of Babylon.
“This message (the second angel) was understood by Adventists to be an announcement of the moral fall of the churches in consequence of their rejection of the first message” (Story of Redemption, 364). Their moral fall began because they rejected the announcement that the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8:14 had ended, and the investigative judgment had begun, on October 22, 1844. The spurning of the first angel’s message led to the rejection of the second. They just did not see themselves as Babylon, as confused and spiritually empty.
And I think the second angel’s trumpet is being muted and a full, clear call to come out of Babylon held back for the following reasons:
1. We hold back because we see ourselves as Protestant, and to make all other Protestant churches a part of Babylon seems to put us in that basket as well.
We tend to apply the “Babylon is fallen” label more to the papacy than to apostate Protestantism. But the identity and role of Protestants in the end time is made clear by the inspired pen: “The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of Spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience” (The Great Controversy, p. 588). Notice that Protestants take a leading role is the formation of this union.
The truth is, we are the only Protestants left who still protest the errors of Rome. In our mission to the world, we need to make that clear. And it must also be clear that the Protestant churches’ alignment with Rome means that “Protestant” no longer fits us. We are God’s remnant. “Satan will excite the indignation of apostate Christendom against the humble remnant who conscientiously refuse to accept false customs and traditions” (Signs of the Times, Nov. 8, 1899).
2. We hold back because we are afraid of weakening our influence with other denominations.
We certainly ought to love all people sincerely and unselfishly as Christ has commanded. But the second angel’s message is designed to keep us from becoming more ecumenical than we should be. While Babylon continues its free fall into the abyss of error, I fear many Seventh-day Adventists have the idea that the distance between them and us is actually shrinking.
We are setting aside much of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy counsel and bringing in (or going to) non-Adventists to teach us how to worship, how to do soul-winning, how to rear our children, how to save our marriages, how to make our churches grow, etc. We need to trust God and highly prize the abundant counsel He has given, rather than going to the gods of Ekron for the healing of Adventism.
3. We hold back because we don’t want to be viewed as judgmental.
We live in a climate of openness and acceptance—not just acceptance of individuals but acceptance of wholly contradictory viewpoints. Our inclusiveness may be making us more pluralistic than we realize. We have heard the gospel of tolerance for so long that we may have come to really believe there is more than one way to heaven.
“Men of faith and prayer will be constrained to go forth with holy zeal, declaring the words God gives them. The sins of Babylon will be laid open. Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. In amazement they hear the testimony that Babylon is the church, fallen because of her errors and sins” (The Great Controversy, pp. 606, 607, italics supplied).
The foregoing counsel is designed to make us faithful in the fulfillment of our task; it is not a license for church bashing. We must heed the following admonition as well: “God has jewels in all the churches, and it is not for us to make sweeping denunciations of the professed religious world” (Last Day Events, p. 197).
But at least the warning should be given with great clarity to our own people. Certainly they should be warned away from following Babylon over the precipice—from letting her culture, rather than the Bible, dictate our values; from sitting by quietly while the liberalizing element takes charge; from letting the insidious poison of compromise erode away the purity of our faith. The churches which are becoming Babylon and which will one day receive the terrible outpouring of God’s wrath are becoming that way largely because of the silence of good people. And that is the danger for us.
4. We hold back because we are afraid of the cult label.
We want to be seen as a “regular” church—to minimize our differences and maximize any similarities. Cults typically follow some human leader; Adventists follow the Bible. That can certainly make us appear odd to the rank and file out there. We must never forget that we are the “called out.”
5. We are afraid to give correction and reproof to others when doing so might call attention to our own shortcomings.
We fear to say what we are commissioned to say about Babylon because of what it may also say about us. If we are pandering to those who want entertainment in the place of reverent worship, if we show hostility toward those pastors who preach the straight testimony of the Word, if our rate of divorce, drug use, and teenage pregnancy are little different from other denominations, or even the secular world, we are ourselves taking sips from the cup which the harlot of Revelation 17 holds to our lips.
Even though the second angel’s message was first preached (and rejected) in the summer of 1844, yet in the end of time, a final opportunity will be given, “and the people of God still in Babylon will be called upon to separate from her communion. This message is the last that will ever be given to the world; and it will accomplish its work” (The Great Controversy, p. 390).
Right now we have three groups, the faithful, the uninformed, and the rejecters, all existing side by side. As we near the end of the period of Laodicea, however, everyone will hear the message and receive the invitation to separate from Babylon. Revelation 18:1 says “The whole world is illuminated with his glory.” That light will cause the unenlightened group to disappear. Only the receivers and the rejecters remain.
We are even now experiencing the fulfillment of that prophecy. We are receiving into our churches a great harvest of souls from these other churches, as well as from the non-Christian world. Thousands are flocking to Adventist churches in other places and that will happen here North America, too, when we are ready. “Thousands in the eleventh hour will see and acknowledge the truth. . . . These conversions to truth will be made with a rapidity that will surprise the church, and God's name alone will be glorified” (Selected Messages, bk. 2, p.16). Praise God!
Here are some questions to ponder. What would you say are the specific sins of Babylon which should be most forcefully warned against? How can the second angel’s message be given with clarity and yet with tact? Of all the forces that eventually made the churches of the Reformation guilty of the sins of Babylon, which do you think is operating most effectively to do the same within Adventism?
Prophecy is being fulfilled. Let’s make sure we are anchored to the Rock!
Lee Roy Holmes, retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor, College Place.