Speaking of triumph
When people gather together to speak of experiences involving conflict, they rarely mention defeat. Memorials such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and (after over 2,200 years) the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome—both stand to testify of how humanity relishes the taste of victory. In the case of the Arch of Titus, the memorial remains, yet the empire that built it has vanished away. People like to memorialize their victories and forget their defeats. Consider the Flavian Amphithe- ater—also known as the Coliseum— where the blood of faithful Christian martyrs comes to memory. The vast empire that persecuted the martyrs is no longer, but the heritage of God’s chosen people lives on. “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?”
The triumph of the remnant church
Yes, the Roman army with its banners waving in the sky terrified the world for nearly seven centuries. But the very church which that power tried to extinguish is still here today and will soon be the church victorious. Why was the battle so intense?
Why did imperial Rome and later papal Rome throw Christians to the gladia- tors, feed them to the lions and other wild beasts, and cause them to endure every other means of persecution imaginable? To understand this, let us look at the final victory—a victory that will not leave behind a lifeless monument in memory of a long-forgotten people. It will be a conquest to be tasted by the victors forever. John the Revelator describes: “I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:2, 3). Of what experience is this a record? “In holy vision the prophet saw the ultimate triumph of God’s remnant church.”1 What did the prophet see? The ultimate triumph of the remnant church—the 144,000. With regard to the 144,000, we are told, “None but the hundred and forty- four thousand can learn that song; for it is the song of their experience—an experience such as no other company have ever had.”2
Since their experience is so unique, what are we advised to do? “Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand.”3
Why is the seal placed upon the foreheads of the 144,000 so impor- tant?“Only those who receive the seal of the living God will have the passport through the gates of the Holy City.”4
This is not simply like a tourist or visitor’s visa—this is a permanent visa, as when one is moving to a new coun- try. In the governments on earth, to immigrate to a new country and be ac- cepted as a permanent citizen involves police clearance, medical clearance, mental clearance, credit clearance, tax clearance, and so forth.
For that reason, a person “is not saved until the seal of God is placed upon him.”5
What experience must I have in order to be sealed?
“The angel with the writer’s inkhorn is to place a mark upon the foreheads of all who are separated from sin and sinners, and the destroying angel fol- lows this angel.”6
“And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God” (Revelation 14:5).
“All who receive the seal must be without spot before God—candidates for heaven. Go forward, my brethren and sisters. I can only write briefly upon these points at this time, merely calling your attention to the necessity of preparation. Search the Scriptures for yourselves, that you may under- stand the fearful solemnity of the present hour.”7
We must obtain perfection of character.
“We may talk of the blessings of the Holy Spirit, but unless we prepare our- selves for its reception, of what avail are our works? Are we striving with
all our power to attain to the statue of men and women in Christ? Are we seeking for His fullness, ever pressing toward the mark set before us—the perfection of His character? When the Lord’s people reach this mark, they will be sealed in their foreheads. Filled with the Spirit, they will be complete in Christ, and the recording angel will declare, ‘It is finished.’ ”8
This is first as individuals and then as a people (church). “ ‘When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come’ (Mark 4:29). Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”9
We must be perfected because we will see Jesus as He is. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2, 3).
This was the experience of faithful Enoch, who walked with God. (See Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5.)
Let us keep in mind: “Enoch pleased [God] though living in a degenerate age.”10
“In the midst of a world by its in- iquity doomed to destruction, Enoch lived a life of such close communion with God that he was not permit-
ted to fall under the power of death. The godly character of this prophet represents the state of holiness which must be attained by those who shall be ‘redeemed from the earth’ (Rev- elation 14:3) at the time of Christ’s second advent. Then, as in the world before the Flood, iniquity will prevail. Following the promptings of their corrupt hearts and the teachings of a deceptive philosophy, men will rebel against the authority of Heaven. But like Enoch, God’s people will seek for purity of heart and conformity to His will, until they shall reflect the like- ness of Christ. Like Enoch, they will warn the world of the Lord’s second coming and of the judgments to be visited upon transgression, and by their holy conversation and example they will condemn the sins of the ungodly.”11
This must be our experience if we intend to be translated as part of the 144,000 and be part of that victorious remnant church.
The righteousness of Christ
When we say that we must have Christ’s righteousness as our own, we need to understand what His righ- teousness is all about:
“Ye were not redeemed with corrupt- ible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tra- dition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19, emphasis added).
What must happen to this type of righteousness? “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:21, 22).
The Bible also speaks of “the righ- teousness of saints” (Revelation 19:8).
“The palm branch in [the over- comers’] hands is a symbol of their triumph, the white robe an emblem of the spotless righteousness of Christ which now is theirs.”12 “We can keep the law only through making the righteousness of Christ our own.”13
Christ’s perfect righteousness must become mine.
We have heard how in times past, royalty not only provided wedding guests with an invitation, but it also provided a special garment to be worn at the wedding. This is why Jesus used this as an illustration in Matthew 22.
But it is not enough to have the wed- ding garment. It has to be put on.
“The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ’s day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness.”14
For this reason, Pharisaical righ- teousness is insufficient to enter the kingdom of God. (See Matthew 5:20.)
The 144,000 will be trophies (trium- phal arches) of this experience.
How can we have this experience?
“It came to pass, that, while Apol- los was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with
the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus” (Acts 19:1–4).
Were these souls baptized? Who baptized them? Was John a man of God? Were they baptized into the right church?
After they had the old truth put in a new setting and though it revealed old errors, what happened? “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Verse 5).
Why was rebaptism necessary? “There is still another lesson for us in the experience of those Jewish con- verts. When they received baptism at the hand of John, they were holding serious errors. But with clearer light they gladly accepted Christ as their Redeemer; and with this advance step came a change in their obligations. As they received a purer faith, there was a corresponding change in their life and character. In token of this change, and as an acknowledgment of their faith in Christ, they were rebaptized in the name of Jesus.”15
Why was there a change? Because they received a pure truth.
What is truth? Jesus explains, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
What does that mean? Too many “are not willing to exchange their own righteousness (which is unrighteous- ness) for the righteousness of Christ, which is pure, unadulterated truth.”16
The believers at Ephesus were hold- ing serious errors.
Why is it important to have pure doctrine?
“Well would it be for the church and the world if the principles that actuated those steadfast souls [in the first centuries] were revived in the hearts of God’s professed people. There is an alarming indifference
in regard to the doctrines which are the pillars of the Christian faith. The opinion is gaining ground, that, after all, these are not of vital importance. This degeneracy is strengthening the hands of the agents of Satan, so that false theories and fatal delusions which the faithful in ages past imper- iled their lives to resist and expose, are now regarded with favor by thousands who claim to be followers of Christ.
“The early Christians were indeed a peculiar people. Their blameless deportment and unswerving faith were a continual reproof that disturbed the sinner’s peace. Though few in numbers, without wealth, position, or honorary titles, they were a terror to evildoers wherever their character and doctrines were known. Therefore they were hated by the wicked, even as Abel was hated by the ungodly Cain.”17
The battle was intense in the field of the Coliseum in Rome, because pure truth in the lives of God’s people causes terror to evildoers.
How is this achieved?
“Whatever phase of the subject is presented, uplift Jesus as the center of all hope, ‘the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright and morning Star’ (Revelation 22:16).”18
Doctrine without Christ EQUALS FALSE DOCTRINE.
Christ without pure doctrine (un- adulterated truth) equals falsehood as well.
Why is it important to have and to teach pure truth? “Every unconverted man is fascinated, bewildered, by the bewitching power of the great deceiver. Paul wrote to the Galatians, ‘Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?’ (Galatians 3:1). Every person who cherishes a known error, in faith or practice, is under the power of sorcery and is practicing sorcery upon others. Satan employs him to mislead other souls.”19
This purity of the truth in God’s church will give them power to move the world.
What will it take for us to obtain that same power, so that we can finish the work and go home—to our real home—as we are only strangers and pilgrims here in this old sinful world?
“When those who profess to serve God follow Christ’s example, practicing the principles of the law in their daily life; when every act bears witness that they love God supremely and their neighbor as themselves, then will the church have power to move the world.”20
[For the complete study, see the author’s study guide, The People of the Ark.] R
1 The Acts of the Apostles, p. 590.
2 The Great Controversy, p. 649.
3 The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7 p. 970. 4 Ibid.
5 Ibid., p. 969.
6 Ibid., vol. 4, p. 1161.
7 Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 216.
8 The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1118.
9 Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69.
10 Ibid., p. 332.
11 Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 88, 89.
12 The Great Controversy, p. 665. [Emphasis supplied.]
13 Reflecting Christ, p. 103. [Emphasis supplied.] 14 The Desire of Ages, p. 309.
15 Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 132.
16 The Signs of the Times, September 27, 1899. [Emphasis supplied.]
17 The Great Controversy, p. 46.
18 Testimonies to Ministers, p. 118.
19 The Signs of the Times, May 18, 1882. [Emphasis supplied.]
20 Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 340. [Emphasis supplied.]