ear Mr. R,
Thank you for your question, and for what appears to be an honest seeking-after the truth.
You wrote: “How can we interpret EGW’s statement that the [SDA] church appears to fall, but that it does not? Wouldn’t that give us confidence that the church will overcome/turn back/repent of it’s wrong deeds? I am sincerely seeking for truth.Thank you.”
The quotation you have come across is a very well known one to the members of the CSDA Church, and in fact we consider it a very precious promise to the faithful followers of Christ. That some have used it in the past to support a now apostate organization is rather distressing, but not unexpected. Mrs. White wrote once saying, “There are some, who upon accepting erroneous theories, strive to establish them by collecting from my writings statements of truth, which they use, separated from their proper connection and perverted by association with error.” [Letter 136, April 27, 1906]
One of these errors is the idea that any given Church-organization can never fall out of favor with Yahweh no matter what the spiritual state of that organization becomes. Did not even the kingdom of Israel fall when it rejected the Son of the Most High? Although many precious promises and assurances were given it, (Jer 3:22, Joel 2:26) it did in fact crumble when it turned away from its Lord. The faithful individuals were preserved, because they left when they realized that the sacred veil was torn. (Luke 23:45, Acts 2:36-42) Similarly, so fell the Apostolic Church, and Protestantism. Each time they departed from the faith because they 1) rejected the testimony of Christ to continue to grow into a full knowledge of truth, and then 2) they allied themselves with the secular governments in order to enforce and protect their atrophied doctrines.
From the pen of Mrs. White herself we read, “In the rejecting of Jerusalem it was because great privileges were abused, which brought the denunciation upon all who lightly regarded the great opportunities and precious light that were entrusted to their keeping. Privileges do not commend us to God, but they commend God to us. No people are saved because they have great light and special advantages, for these high and heavenly favors only increase their responsibility.“The more and increased light God has given makes the receiver more responsible. It does not place the receiver in any safer position unless the privileges are wisely improved, prized, and used to advance God’s glory. Christ said, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” [Matt. 11:21]. ”When Jerusalem was divorced from God it was because of her sins. She fell from an exalted height that Tyre and Sidon had never reached. And when an angel falls he becomes a fiend. The depth of our ruin is measured by the exalted light to which God has raised us in His great goodness and unspeakable mercy. Oh, what privileges are granted to us as a people! And if God spared not His people that He loved, because they refused to walk in the light, how can He spare the people whom He has blessed with the light of heaven in having opened to them the most exalted truth ever entrusted to mortal man to give to the world?” [Manuscript releases 12, pp. 319,320]
Please note primarly that Jerusalem fell “because of her sins,” and secondarily that He will no more “spare the people whom He has blessed with the light of heaven,” (that would be Adventists) if they have “refused to walk in the light.”
In several places the messenger of Yah declares that, “We must as a people arouse and cleanse the camp of Israel. Licentiousness, unlawful intimacy, and unholy practices are coming in among us in a large degree; and ministers who are handling sacred things are guilty of sin in this respect. They are coveting their neighbors’ wives, and the seventh commandment is broken. We are in danger of becoming a sister to fallen Babylon, of allowing our churches to become corrupted, and filled with every foul spirit, a cage for every unclean and hateful bird; and will we be clear unless we make decided movements to cure the existing evil?” [Manuscript Releases 21, page 380]
Clearly, we are in the same position as was Jerusalem in the time of Christ. Just as clearly, our position with the Almighty depends, not on our works or how exalted the role we were once given to play, but on our faith, and our willingness to have Him actually lead us as a people. An absence of this vital faith leads to the very sins that caused Jerusalem to be rejected, and the General Conference led Advent movement to suffer this great loss as well. Although it is a fully accurate statement that the true Church will never fall, and according to Christ Himself, “I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” (Mat 16:18b) nevertheless those who are in charge of that Church, and the organization of people to which was committed the Gospel vine, can and will be changed if they fall into incurable forms of apostasy.It has been told to us, “Therefore Yahweh will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” (Isa 9:14-16) “Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.” (Jer 3:3) The Pharisees, who displayed the same reckless self-confidence sadly possessed by many in modern Adventism, replied to a parable of the Messiah: “They say unto Him, ‘He will miserably destroy those wicked men [who rejected the master’s son], and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.’ Yahshua saith unto them, ‘Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.’” (Mat 21:41-43)
Now what about that quote you mentioned? Does Mrs. White contradict her other statements, or does she give unqualified assurance to the Seventh Day Adventist organization that it will never fall regardless of their treatment of the light they had been privileged to behold? Not at all. We must be sure that we are not misapplying her testimonies, and the surest way to do that is to read what comes both before and after any given statement. People have gotten into trouble doing that with the Bible, for example with Romans 7, completely ignoring the warning given by Peter about the Scriptures of our “beloved brother Paul.” (2Peter 3:15,16) Certainly her works are not immune to the same malpractice.
Here is the immediate context of her writing on the subject of the Church’s apparent “fall,” and it will immediately become obvious what she is talking about:
“We are to be ready and waiting for the orders of God. Nations will be stirred to their very center. Support will be withdrawn from those who proclaim God’s only standard of righteousness, the only sure test of character. And all who will not bow to the decree of the national councils and obey the national laws to exalt the Sabbath instituted by the man of sin, to the disregard of God’s holy day, will feel, not the oppressive power of popery alone, but of the Protestant world, the image of the beast.“Satan will work his miracles to deceive; he will set up his power as supreme. The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place. None but those who have been overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony will be found with the loyal and true, without spot or stain of sin, without guile in their mouths. We must be divested of our self-righteousness and arrayed in the righteousness of Christ. “The remnant that purify their souls by obeying the truth gather strength from the trying process, exhibiting the beauty of holiness amid the surrounding apostasy. All these, He says, “I have graven ... upon the palms of my hands” (Isa. 49:16). They are held in everlasting, imperishable remembrance. We want faith now, living faith. We want to have a living testimony that shall cut to the heart of the sinner. There is too much sermonizing and too little ministering. We want the holy unction. We need the spirit and fervor of the truth. Many of the ministers are half paralyzed by their own defects of character. They need the converting power of God.” [Selected Messages Book 2, page 380]
What a difference the paragraph before and after it make! What at first appeared to be a virtual license for organizational apostasy is instead shown to be a precious promise of preservation in the time of trouble, followed by an earnest appeal for a revival of spirit while the time is yet ours to choose. It should be blatantly obvious that Mrs. White’s statement is referring to the Church in the time of trouble. She states clearly that this appearance of failure takes place when “nations are stirred,” and when “all who will not bow to the decree of the national councils and obey the national laws... will feel, not the oppressive power of popery alone, but of the Protestant world, the image of the beast,” and when “[Satan] will set up his power as supreme.”At that time, during the persecution, the Church will appear to fall – not into apostasy, as institutionalized Adventism would have us believe – but by the persecution of a hateful and offended world. This is a promise for “those who have been overcoming by the blood of the Lamb,” and for no one else. When we are about to be stamped out by the designs of demon and fallen man, then is the day of our salvation. Before that point, every nominal follower within the true Church of those last days will be overcome by fear of persecution and death, and will leave us; but as you can plainly see, this has nothing to do with an institution that has wholesale (through its leaders) rejected the Gospel of Christ. The Church’s apparent fall is due to the time of trouble, and nothing else. The Scriptures declare that if a Church (symbolically a “woman”) first leaves Her Husband, and then marries another – there is no remedy, and there is no return to the first husband. (Deu 24:1-4) And again it is written, “neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.” (Lev 18:23) The word “confusion” there is the Hebrew term “tebel,” a derivative of “Babel/Babylon.” The SDA Corporation (tm) has verily gone to lay down with the second beast of Revelation (the US Government) and it is confusion. There is never a cure named in the Bible for a fallen Babylon – we are told to “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev 18:4b)
As a result of this divine message, we are often accused of calling the SDA Church “Babylon,” which Mrs. White said it would never be. As we have read from her writings, however, a church that joins itself to the world is composed of persons who have “unchurched themselves,” [Manuscript Releases Volume Twelve, page 388] whether they know it or not, and that organization is therefore no longer a Church. At the same time, those who are called out the Master refers to as “my people,” and they as individuals are not cast off, if they will consent to flee from the destruction to come. (Rom 11:1,2)Similarly, the corporate entity that was once the SDA Church is now the SDA Corporation(tm), and no Church at all, for “In this crisis, where is the church to be found? Are its members meeting the claims of God? Are they fulfilling His commission, and representing His character to the world? Are they urging upon the attention of their fellow men the last merciful message of warning?” [Christ’s Object Lessons, page 302]
I submit to you that the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church, small and soon-to-be-persecuted as it is, is the only organization on earth with Christ at its head, the only people giving a testimony of complete victory over sin, and the only body of believers preaching the Gospel that our Master commissioned us to bear at the cost of His own precious blood. It is “the only object on earth on which Christ bestows His supreme regard. He is constantly watching it with solicitude, and is strengthening it by His Holy Spirit.” [Manuscript Releases Volume One, page 154]
May Yah bless you richly as you draw near to His Kingdom,David.
Email signature: “It is the testimony of all history that just in proportion as any popular and extensive ecclesiastical organization loses the spirit and power of God, it clamors for the support of the civil arm and finally religion becomes a part of the state.” Uriah Smith (1897)