Through the apostles, God gave the Jewish people a last opportunity to repent. But they turned away from every entreaty. In the arrest, the trial, and the imprisonment of His witnesses, God manifested Himself. He gave them words to speak, and a tongue and voice with which to vindicate the truth and acknowledge Him as the Son of God. They were men of whom the world was not worthy, yet their judges pronounced on them the death sentence. They were not allowed to live and serve their God. By killing them, the Jews crucified afresh the Son of God.
So it will be again. But it is over the seventh-day Sabbath that the battle will be fought. The authorities of this world will rise up in their pride and power to make laws to restrict religious liberty. They will assume a right that is God's alone, and, like Nebuchadnezzar, will think that they can force the conscience, which only God can control. Even now they are making a beginning, and this they will carry forward till they reach a boundary over which they cannot step. Then God will interpose in behalf of His loyal, commandment-keeping people.
Christ told His disciples that they would be delivered up to councils; but He told them, also, that they were not to be anxious as to how they should vindicate the truth; for He would give them a mouth and wisdom that all their adversaries could not gainsay nor resist. These words were fulfilled at the trial of Stephen, and at the trial of Paul, who made Felix tremble as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come.
Whenever persecution takes place, the spectators make decisions either for or against Christ. Because of persecution, many will be offended. The principles of the truth cut directly across their practice, and they will stumble and fall, apostatising from the faith they once advocated. Many who have professed to love the truth will then show that they have no vital union with the True Vine. They will be cut away, as branches that bear no fruit, and will be bound up with unbelievers, scoffers, and mockers.
Those who apostatise in time of trial will bear false witness and betray their brethren, to secure their own safety. They will tell where their brethren are concealed, putting the wolves on their track. Christ has warned us of this, that we may not be surprised at the cruel, unnatural course pursued by friends and relatives. "Little children, it is the last time:" John writes, "and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." 1 John 2:18-19.
"And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many." Matthew 24:11. False Christs did arise, deceiving the people, and leading great numbers into the desert. Magicians and sorcerers, claiming miraculous power, drew the people after them into the mountain solitudes. But this prophecy was also spoken for the last days. Companies inspired by Satan will be formed to deceive and delude. This will be a sign of the Second Advent.
"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day." Verses 12-20. Forty years afterward, at the siege of Jerusalem, the Christians obeyed this warning; and not a Christian perished in the destruction of the city.
"Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day." Christ made the Sabbath, and He never abolished it. The Sabbath was not rendered null and void by the crucifixion, as many claim. Christ's death on the cross is an unanswerable argument in favour of the changeless character of every precept of God's holy law.
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:" Christ said; "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." Matthew 5:17. As the Head of the human family, He lived every precept, every jot, every tittle, of the law. He lived in humanity the life that He requires His followers to live, and therefore there is no excuse for anyone to fail of reaching the standard of perfection.
Christ emphasises His words: "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Verse 18. So long as the heavens and the earth remain, so long will the Sabbath of the fourth commandment hold its claim on the human family.
The Sabbath was given to the world as the memorial of Creation. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy," God says. "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Exodus 20:8-11.
God gave explicit directions concerning His Sabbath: "Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep," He declared; "for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. . . . Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed." Exodus 31:13-17.
But human lawmakers speak, saying: "Verily, the first day of the week shall ye keep, because it is the world's sabbath. The churches keep this day holy, and those under our supervision shall keep it also, because it is so ordained on our statute-books. We have chosen Sunday as the sabbath, and men must keep it."
But this day so universally exalted is a spurious sabbath, a common working day. It is accepted in the place of the day that the Lord has blessed and sanctified; but the sure result of this course may be seen in the punishment which fell upon Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron. As priests of God, these men had been commanded to offer always the fire of God's own kindling, which was kept burning before God day and night. This was ever to be strictly observed. But Nadab and Abihu drank wine too freely; and because of this their minds were not keen, but confused, and they were unable to distinguish between the sacred and the common. They took their censers, "and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD." Leviticus 10:1-2.
God has given full directions regarding His law, so that none need be left in darkness, unless they choose darkness rather than light. But the apostasy of the Jewish nation represents the apostasy that will be made by the world in the last days. Just as the Jews chose darkness in regard to the message that Christ came to the world to bring, so men today are choosing darkness. Sanctified and blessed by God, the Sabbath was designed to be the great memorial of Creation, and a blessing to mankind. But men are trampling it underfoot. It is the test of today, as Christ was the test when He was in our world in human form. It will ever stand unmoved, a rock of offence to the Christian world, as was Christ to the Jewish nation. As the rejection of Christ decided the eternal destiny of the Jews, so the rejection of God's holy memorial will decide the fate of many professing Christians.
Men may ignore the Sabbath, they may trample it under their feet; but they cannot make it less binding upon them. No one has any excuse for accepting the rubbish that has been piled upon the Sabbath of the Lord. No one has any excuse for accepting a human sabbath, created by him whom God designates as the "man of sin," who shall think to change times and laws. He thinks to, but he does not do it; although he may think thus to show his supremacy over God, he cannot change God's law; this is God's prerogative only. God is over all kings and rulers. He is God, and besides Him there is none else. (Emphasis in original).
The statutes of the Lord are to be reverenced and obeyed. God is Supreme Authority; and when His law is set aside as a matter of no consequence, the transgressor must surely bear the results of his own sin, though God bears long with him.
Review and Herald, December 20, 1898.