Consider the scene. . . .
The prophet Ezekiel was shown: “The glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; and the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:3, 4).[Emphasis supplied.]
What is this mark? It is not the mark of the beast but rather something quite different—in essence, it’s exactly the opposite. The Spirit of Prophecy identifies those who receive this distinction as earnest believers who do not indulge in sin but rather reprove it: “Who are standing in the counsel of God at this time? Is it those who virtually excuse wrongs among the professed people of God and who murmur in their hearts, if not openly, against those who would reprove sin? Is it those who take their stand against them and sympathize with those who commit wrong? No, indeed!.
… Mark this point with care: Those who receive the pure mark of truth, wrought in them by the power of the Holy Ghost, represented by a mark by the man in linen, are those ‘that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done’ in the church. Their love for purity and the honor and glory of God is such, and they have so clear a view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that they are represented as being in agony, even sighing and crying.”1
Sighing and crying over what and where?
It is tragic to realize that these abominations are referred to as being done “in the church”—in “the midst of Jerusalem,” “the people of God.”
To understand this, first of all, we must realize the broad scope of the word “church.” According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, in the year 2010 there were 2.18 billion people around the globe professing Christianity—nearly a third of the world’s population.2 That is quite
a larger number than we may have imagined. Realistically, however, Jesus explains: “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). So then, what distinguishes the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the tinsel?
“The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin in its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God’s professed people.”3
In an article in The Review and Her- ald, May 21, 1895, the same introduc- tory passage in Ezekiel 9 is associated with the following explanation: “How can fathers and mothers rep- resent Christ’s character in the home life when they are content to reach a cheap, low standard? The seal of the living God will be placed upon those only who bear a likeness to Christ in character.”4
So, it’s time to wake up!Ezekiel was shown a “man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side” (Ezekiel 9:3). This occurs at the time when the third an- gel’s message is closing. The messenger of the Lord reveals the timeframe:
“The power of God had rested upon His people; they had accomplished their work and were prepared for the trying hour before them. They had received the latter rain, or refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and the living testimony had been revived. The last great warning had sounded everywhere, and it had stirred up and enraged the inhabitants of the earth who would not receive the message.
“I saw angels hurrying to and fro in heaven. An angel with a writer’s inkhorn by his side returned from the earth and reported to Jesus that his work was done, and the saints were numbered and sealed. Then I saw Jesus, who had been ministering before the ark containing the ten command- ments, throw down the censer. He raised His hands, and with a loud voice said, ‘It is done.’ ”5
Flashback: In view of this solemn reality so soon to come, what should be characterizing our proclamation of the third angel’s message?
“We are in danger of giving the third angel’s message in so indefinite a man- ner that it does not impress the people. So many other interests are brought in that the very message which should be proclaimed with power becomes tame and voiceless. . . .
“The Lord bids us: ‘Show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins’ (Isaiah 58:1). The trumpet is to give a certain sound. When you have a congregation before you for only two weeks, do not defer the presentation of the Sabbath ques- tion until everything else is presented, supposing that you thus pave the way for it. Lift up the standard—the com- mandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Make this the important theme. .. .
“Let nothing lessen the force of the truth for this time. The present truth is to be our burden. The third angel’s message must do its work of separat- ing from the churches a people who will take their stand on the platform of eternal truth.
“Our message is a life-and-death message, and we must let it appear as it is, the great power of God. We are to present it in all its telling force.”6
What will result? “At the com- mencement of the time of trouble, we were filled with the Holy Ghost as we went forth and proclaimed the Sabbath more fully. This enraged the churches and nominal Adventists, as they could not refute the Sabbath truth. And at this time God’s chosen all saw clearly that we had the truth, and they came out and endured the persecution with us.”7
So, it’s time to wake up!
“As the disrespect for God’s law becomes more manifest, the line of demarcation between its observers and the world becomes more distinct. Love for the divine precepts increases with one class according as contempt for them increases with another class. . . .
“Those who walk in the light will see signs of the approaching peril;
but they are not to sit in quiet, un- concerned expectancy of the ruin, comforting themselves with the belief that God will shelter His people in the day of visitation. Far from it. They should realize that it is their duty to labor diligently to save others, looking with strong faith to God for help. ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’ (James 5:16).
“The leaven of godliness has not entirely lost its power. At the time when the danger and depression of the church are greatest, the little company who are standing in the light will be sighing and crying for the abomina- tions that are done in the land. But more especially will their prayers arise in behalf of the church because its members are doing after the man- ner of the world. . . .
“The class who do not feel grieved over their own spiritual declension, nor mourn over the sins of others, will be left without the seal of God. . . .
“The abominations for which the faithful ones were sighing and crying were all that could be discerned by finite eyes, but by far the worst sins, those which provoked the jealousy of the pure and holy God, were unre- vealed. The great Searcher of hearts knoweth every sin committed in secret by the workers of iniquity. . . .
“What are you doing, brethren, in the great work of preparation? Those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mold and preparing for the mark of the beast. Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God and purifying their souls by obeying the truth—these are receiving the heavenly mold and preparing for the seal of God in their foreheads. When the decree goes forth and the stamp is im-pressed, their character will remain pure and spotless for eternity.
“Now is the time to prepare. The seal of God will never be placed upon the forehead of an impure man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of the ambitious, world-loving man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of men or women of false tongues or deceitful hearts. All who receive the seal must be without spot before God—candidates for heaven.”8
Again—what are the “abominations”?
“The people of God are sighing and crying for the abominations done in the land. With tears they warn the wicked of their danger in trampling upon the divine law, and with unutter- able sorrow they humble themselves before the Lord on account of their own transgressions. The wicked mock their sorrow, ridicule their solemn appeals, and sneer at what they term their weakness. But the anguish and humiliation of God’s people is unmistakable evidence that they are regaining the strength and nobility of character lost in consequence of sin. It is because they are drawing nearer to Christ, and their eyes are fixed upon His perfect purity, that they so clearly discern the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Their contrition and self-abasement are infinitely more acceptable in the sight of God than is the self-sufficient, haughty spirit of those who see no cause to lament, who scorn the humility of Christ, and who claim perfection while transgressing God’s holy law. Meekness and lowliness of heart are the conditions for strength and victory. The crown of glory awaits those who bow at the foot of the cross. Blessed are these mourners, for they shall be comforted.”9
So here are two opposite companies: The wicked who indulge in sin (defined in 1 John 3:4 as transgression of God’s law). These are casual about sin and ridicule those who seek to reprove it.
Those who receive the seal of God— the pure mark of God’s approval—who hate the violation of God’s law. These are purifying their souls in obedience to the truth, but keep in mind: They are not self-righteous or proud!
“Sighing and crying”—in gossipy resentment and bitterness (the coun- terfeit), or in the exercise of Christ- like love (the genuine)?
Some seem to think that since they can sharply point out so many defects in their brethren and sisters that they themselves must surely be the elite “sighing and crying” ones. But can they always honestly declare that each of these brethren and sisters is actually guilty of violating the Ten Command- ments? To be thoroughly rooted and grounded in truth we also need to realize an inspired balance:
Jesus taught a parable “unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9, emphasis added). Many of us are familiar with this statement as the introductory verse of the parable of the Pharisee and the publican.
If living in the 21st century, might not that Pharisee have viewed himself as “sighing and crying” over the wickedness of the publican? We must take heed to this warning for ourselves, for there is indeed a big difference between standing for principle by looking to Christ in contrast to despising others by looking down on them. Isaiah 65:5 shows clearly how much God detests a “holier-than-thou” attitude.
Unfortunately, “there are some who imagine that it is their duty to be church tinkers. It is agreeable to their natural feelings to be seeking spot and stain in others; they watch diligently for something to reprove, and they become narrower and narrower in their ideas.”10
On the opposite hand, to be Christ- like, “we should love and respect one another, notwithstanding the faults and imperfections that we cannot help seeing. Humility and self-distrust should be cultivated, and a patient tenderness with the faults of others. This will kill out all narrowing selfish- ness and make us large-hearted and generous.”11
Some may feel: “What about when God reveals additional light to me? Doesn’t that somehow place me on a higher ‘level’ than others?”
“We must believe that others are just as honest before God as we are. . . .
“Consider Christ’s pity for man. He knows just how they were born. He knows just how they were surrounded in childhood. You don’t know what temptations came with their birth. You don’t know the conditions of their par- ents. Put away all judgment. Judgment belongs to the Son of God. He is the One who is to judge the world.”12
Actually, by nature we are so prone to self-righteousness even when perform- ing good works that Jesus has seen the necessity to warn us: “When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:3, 4, emphasis added).
Bitterness is a corrosive acid!
Scripture is clear that we are to “fol- low peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (He- brews 12:14, 15).
Some of the deepest practical advice in the writings of Ellen G. White is found in the final chapters of the book The Ministry of Healing, including a chapter entitled, “In Contact With Oth- ers,’” on pages 483-496. Following are two excerpts:
“Every association of life calls for the exercise of self-control, forbearance, and sympathy. We differ so widely in disposition, habits, education, that
our ways of looking at things vary. We judge differently. Our understanding of truth, our ideas in regard to the conduct of life, are not in all respects the same. There are no two whose experience is alike in every particular. The trials of one are not the trials of another. The duties that one finds light are to another most difficult and perplexing.
“So frail, so ignorant, so liable to misconception is human nature, that each should be careful in the estimate he places upon another.”13
“We cannot afford to let our spirits chafe over any real or supposed wrong done to ourselves. Self is the enemy we most need to fear.”14
Remember the disciple Peter who walked on water. He was able to do the impossible while he kept his eyes on Christ. But when he looked back at his colleagues, he sank. Even if our breth- ren and sisters have hurt or disappoint- ed us, we must ever keep in mind the clear commands: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt
in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:17, 18).
“He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abid- ing in him” (1 John 3:14, 15).
“Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:9)!
How, then, is end-time faith to be revealed as fruitful?
“Good works are indispensable as the fruit of faith and are the sure evidence that we have passed from death unto life, because we love our believing brethren. This is not to say that our brethren are to step exactly in our footprints. True faith in God will lead us to understand that each is a worker. God works upon human minds, and all who love God will love their brethren. They will be zealous of good works.
“True faith consists in doing just what God has enjoined, not manu- facturing things He has not enjoined. Justice, truth, and mercy, are the fruits of faith. We need to walk in the light of God’s law: then good works will be the fruit of our faith, the proceeds of a heart renewed every day.”15
“God designs that everything pos- sible shall be done to enable us to stand heart to heart, mind to mind, shoulder to shoulder. This lack of love and confidence in one another weak- ens our faith in God. We need to pray as we never have prayed before for the baptism of the Holy Spirit: for, if there was ever a time when we needed this baptism, it is now.
“There is nothing the Lord has more frequently told us He would bestow upon us, and nothing by which His name would be more glorified in bestowing, than the Holy Spirit. When we partake of this Spirit, men and women will be born again. There will be a firm pressing together.”16
“When we reflect Christ’s image, we shall love one another as He has loved us. We shall not love as we love our neighbor, but as Christ loved us. It is an advance to love as Christ loved. This is the perfection of Chris- tian character. . . .
“We may be active, we may do much work, but unless we love as Christ loved, our candlestick will be removed out of its place. . . .
“We have little enough of Christ’s character. We need it all through our ranks, We must reveal that love which dwelt in Jesus. Then we shall keep the commandment [that we love one another], which not one in a hundred of those who claim to believe the truth for this time are keeping.”17
The final message before probation closes
“The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given tthe world, is a revelation of His char- acter of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.
“The light of the Sun of Righ- teousness is to shine forth in good works—in words of truth and deeds of holiness. . . .
“All around us are heard the wails of a world’s sorrow. On every hand are the needy and distressed. It is ours to aid in relieving and softening life’s hardships and misery.
“Practical work will have far more effect than mere sermonizing. We are to give food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and shelter to the homeless. And we are called to do more than this. The wants of the soul, only the love of Christ can satisfy. If Christ is abiding in us, our hearts will be full of divine sym- pathy. The sealed fountains of earnest, Christlike love will be unsealed.”18
Thus the sighing and crying tears will be on matters pertaining to a clear violation of the Ten Com- mandments. These tears will be pure hearted—not polluted through pride but moist through the humble dew of the water of life supplied by the bal- anced attitude of Christ Himself. May this be our experience! Amen.
1 Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 267. [Emphasis sup- plied.]
2 www.pewforum.org/Topics/Religious-Affilia- tion/Christian/
3 Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 266.
4 The Review and Herald, May 21, 1895. [Emphasis supplied.]
5 Early Writings, pp. 279, 280. [Emphasis supplied.]
6 Testimonies, vol. 6, pp. 60, 61. [Emphasis supplied.]
7 Life Sketches, pp. 101, 102.
8 Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 209–216. [Emphasis added.]
9 Ibid., pp. 474, 475 [Emphasis supplied.] 10Historical Sketches, pp. 212, 213.
11Steps to Christ, p. 121. [Emphasis supplied.] 12 The Upward Look, p. 332.
13 The Ministry of Healing, p. 483.
14 Ibid., p. 485.
15 Bible Training School, June 1, 1915. [Emphasis supplied.]
16 Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, p. 388. [Emphasis supplied.]
17 Ibid., p. 389. [Emphasis supplied.]
18 Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 415–417. [Emphasis supplied.]