Love Under Fire


First Departures From the Gospel

How did the church first move away from the simple gospel message? By making itself like paganism, so that the heathen could accept Christianity more easily. “Toward the end of the second century most of the churches took on a new form.... As the old disciples went to their graves, their children, along with new converts, ... came forward and remodeled the faith.” “A pagan flood flowed into the church, carrying its customs, practices, and idols with it.”6 The Christian religion obtained the favor and support of secular rulers. Thousands accepted the form of Christianity. But many of them “remained basically pagans, especially worshiping their idols in secret.”7 LF 161.1

Has not the same process been repeated in nearly every church that calls itself Protestant? As the founders who had the true spirit of reform pass away, their descendants “remodel the faith.” Blindly refusing to accept any truth beyond what their ancestors saw, the Reformers’ children depart from their example of self-denial and of turning away from the world. LF 161.2

It is sad how far the popular churches have strayed from the Bible standard! Speaking of money, John Wesley said: “Do not waste any part of so precious a talent ... by needless or expensive clothing or by useless ornaments. Waste no part of it in beautifully decorating your houses, in unneeded or expensive furniture, in costly pictures, painting, gilding.... As long as you are ‘clothed in purple and fine linen,’ and dine ‘sumptuously every day’ [Luke 16:19], no doubt many will applaud your elegance of taste, your generosity and hospitality. But you would do better to be content with the honor that comes from God.”8 LF 161.3

Rulers, politicians, lawyers, doctors, merchants, join the church as a way to advance their worldly interests. The religious organizations, reenforced by the wealth of these baptized worldlings, make an even higher bid for popularity. They build splendid, extravagant churches. They pay a high salary for a talented minister to entertain the people. His sermons must be smooth and pleasing for fashionable ears. And so they conceal fashionable sins under a show of godliness. LF 161.4

A writer in the New York Independent speaks this way about Methodism as it is: “The line of separation between the godly and the irreligious fades out into a kind of shadow, and zealous men on both sides are working to erase all difference between their varieties of action and enjoyment.” LF 161.5

In this tide of pleasure-seeking, self-sacrifice for Christ's sake is almost entirely lost. “If funds are needed now, ... nobody must be asked to give. Oh, no! Have a fair, a show, a mock trial, an old-time supper, or something to eat—anything to amuse the people.” LF 161.6

Robert Atkins draws a picture of spiritual decline in England: “Apostasy, apostasy, apostasy, is engraved on the very front of every church; and if they only knew it, and if they felt it, there might be hope. But, no! They cry, ‘We are rich, and increased in goods, and stand in need of nothing.’”9 LF 161.7

Babylon's great sin is that she “made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” This cup represents false teachings that she has accepted as the result of her friendship with the world. In return, she exerts a corrupting influence on the world by teaching doctrines opposed to the plain statements of the Bible. LF 162.1

If the world were not so drunk with the wine of Babylon, large numbers of people would be convicted and converted by the plain truths of the Word of God. But religious faith appears so confused and contradictory that people do not know what to believe. The sin of the world's lack of repentance lies at the door of the church. LF 162.2

The second angel's message did not reach its complete fulfillment in 1844. The churches then experienced a moral fall by refusing the light of the advent message, but that fall was not complete. As they have continued to reject the special truths for this time, they have fallen lower and lower. Not yet, however, can it be said that “Babylon is fallen, ... because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Protestant churches are included in the second angel's solemn denunciation. But the work of apostasy has not yet reached its height. LF 162.3

Before the coming of the Lord, Satan will work “with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception”; and they that “did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” will be left to receive “strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11). Not until the church fully unites with the world will the fall of Babylon be complete. The change is progressive, and the ultimate fulfillment of Revelation 14:8 is still future. LF 162.4

In spite of the spiritual darkness in the churches that comprise Babylon, the great majority of Christ's true followers are still in those churches. Many have never seen the special truths for this time. Many are longing for clearer light. They look for the image of Christ in their churches, but they don’t find it. LF 162.5

Revelation 18 points to the time when God will call His people who are still in Babylon to separate from her fellowship. This message, the last that the world will ever hear, will accomplish its work. The light of truth will shine on all who have hearts that are open to receive it, and all the children of the Lord in Babylon will obey the call, “Come out of her, my people” (Revelation 18:4). LF 162.6