Story of Hope


Chapter 11 - The Apostasy

When Jesus revealed to His disciples the fate of Jerusalem and the scenes of His second advent, He also foretold the experience of His people from the time when He would be taken from them to His return in power and glory for their deliverance. From the Mount of Olives, the Savior saw the storms about to fall on the church the apostles would establish, and, looking deeper into the future, His eye saw the fierce, destructive tempests that were to beat upon His followers in the coming ages of darkness and persecution. In a few brief statements, dreadfully significant, He foretold the troubles that the rulers of this world would inflict on the church of God. The followers of Christ must walk the same path of humiliation, condemnation, and suffering that their Master walked. The hatred that burst forth against the world’s Redeemer would be displayed against all who would believe on His name. SH 89.1

The history of the early church testified to the accuracy of the Savior s words. The powers of earth and hell arrayed themselves against Christ in the person of His followers. Paganism foresaw that if the gospel were to triumph, her temples and altars would be swept away. Therefore she marshalled her forces to destroy Christianity. The fires of persecution were kindled. Christians were stripped of their possessions and driven from their homes. They “endured a great struggle with sufferings.” They “had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.” Hebrews 10:32, 11:36. Great numbers sealed their testimony with their blood. Noble and slave, rich and poor, educated and ignorant, were alike killed without mercy. SH 89.2

Satan’s efforts to destroy the church of Christ by violence were in vain. The great controversy in which the disciples of Jesus yielded up their lives did not end when these faithful standard-bearers fell at their post. By defeat they conquered. Gods workmen were killed, but His work went steadily forward. The gospel continued to spread, and the number of its adherents continued to increase. It penetrated into regions that were inaccessible, even to the armies of Rome. Said a Christian, appealing to the heathen rulers who were pressing forward with the persecution: You may “kill us, torture us, condemn us. ... Your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. . . . Nor does your cruelty . . . help you.” It became a stronger invitation to bring others to belief in Christ. “The more often we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.” SH 89.3

Thousands were imprisoned and killed, but others sprang up to fill their places. And those who were martyred for their faith were secured to Christ, and He accounted them as conquerors. They had fought the good fight, and they were to receive the crown of glory when Christ would come. The sufferings they endured brought Christians nearer to one another and to their Redeemer. Their living example and dying testimony were a constant witness for the truth; and, where least expected, the subjects of Satan were leaving his service and enlisting under the banner of Christ. SH 90.1

The Compromise With Paganism—Satan therefore laid his plans to battle more successfully against the government of God, by planting his banner in the Christian church. If the followers of Christ could be deceived and led to displease God, then their strength, endurance, and firmness would fail, and they would be easy prey for Satan. SH 90.2

The great adversary now tried to gain by deception what he had failed to secure by force. Persecution ended, and in its place he substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idol-worshipers were led to receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected other essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God and to believe in His death and resurrection, but they had no conviction of sin and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart. With some concessions on their part, they proposed that Christians also should make concessions, so that all might unite on the platform of belief in Christ. SH 90.3

Now the church was in fearful danger. Prison, torture, fire, and sword were blessings in comparison with this. Some of the Christians stood firm, declaring that they could make no compromise. Others reasoned that if they yielded or modified some features of their faith and united with those who had accepted a part of Christianity, it might be the means of their full conversion. That was a time of deep anguish to the faithful followers of Christ. Under a cover of pretended Christianity, Satan was subtly maneuvering himself into the church, to corrupt their faith and turn their minds from the word of truth. SH 91.1

At last the larger portion of Christians lowered their standard and formed a union between Christianity and paganism. Although the worshipers of idols professed to be converted, and they united with the church, they still clung to their idolatry, only changing the objects of their worship to images of Jesus, and even of Mary and the saints. The foul leaven of idolatry, introduced this way into the church, continued its destructive work. Unsound doctrines, superstitious rites, and idolatrous ceremonies were incorporated into the church’s faith and worship. As the followers of Christ united with idolaters, the Christian religion became corrupted and the church lost her purity and power. There were some, however, who were not misled by these delusions. They still maintained their faithfulness to the Author of truth and worshiped God alone. SH 91.2

There have always been two classes among those who profess to be followers of Christ. While the people in one class study the Savior’s life and earnestly seek to correct their defects and to conform to the Pattern, those in the other class shun the plain, practical truths that expose their errors. Even in her best times the church was not composed entirely of the true, pure, and sincere. Our Savior taught that those who willfully indulge in sin are not to be received into the church. Yet He connected with Himself men with faulty characters, and He granted them the benefits of His teachings and example, to give them an opportunity to see and correct their errors. SH 91.3

But there is no union between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness, and there can be no union between their followers. When Christians consented to unite with those who were only half converted from paganism, they started down a path that led farther and farther from the truth. Satan rejoiced that he had succeeded in deceiving so many of the followers of Christ. He then brought his power to bear on them even more, inspiring them to persecute those who remained true to God. None could understand so well how to oppose the true Christian faith as could those who had once been its defenders. These apostate Christians, uniting with their half-pagan companions, directed their warfare against the most essential features of the doctrines of Christ. SH 92.1

Those who wanted to be faithful found that it required a desperate struggle to stand firm against the deceptions and abominations that were disguised in priestly garments and introduced into the church. The Bible was no longer accepted as the standard of faith. The doctrine of religious freedom was termed heresy, and its upholders were hated and condemned. SH 92.2

Necessary Separation—After a long and severe conflict the faithful few decided to sever all connection with the apostate church if she still refused to free herself from falsehood and idolatry. They saw that separation was absolutely necessary if they were going to obey the Word of God. They dared not tolerate errors fatal to their own souls and set an example that would imperil the faith of their children and children’s children. To secure peace and unity, they were ready to make any concession consistent with being true to God, but they felt that even peace would be too expensive if it meant sacrificing principle. If unity could come only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war. Well would it be for the church and the world if the principles that actuated those steadfast believers were revived in the hearts of God’s professed people. SH 92.3

The apostle Paul declares that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12. Why is it, then, that to a great degree persecution seems to be asleep? The only reason is that the church has conformed to the world’s standard, and therefore it awakens no opposition. The religion current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the Word of God are regarded with such indifference, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will revive and the fires of persecution will be rekindled. SH 93.1