Last Day Tokens, Chapter Nine
An erroneous supposition corrected
The Sweet and Bitter Book
Like the Disappointed Disciples
The Philadelphia Church
Parable of the Talents
PREVIOUS to the close of the prophetic periods in 1844, the believers in the Second Advent labored under the erroneous supposition that the earth was the sanctuary to be cleansed at the end of the twenty-three hundred days. The glorious truth on the subject of the sanctuary, as now understood, was not recognized until after the expiration of the great prophetic period. Then came the Lord’s time for the revealing of that marvelous light.
A devoted brother, of Port Byron, N. Y. (Hiram Edson), who had earnestly labored in the first and second messages, began to receive light on the sanctuary question the day after the close of the prophetic time. While praying, it came to him as distinctly as though spoken with an audible voice, “The sanctuary to be cleansed at the end of the twenty-three hundred days is in heaven.” He at once began the investigation of the subject by searching his Bible, opening at Hebrews and reading chapters eight and nine. Although he had often read these scriptures before, he was now greatly astonished at discovering how clearly they proved a sanctuary in heaven, of which the earthly tabernacle is a “figure,” a “shadow,” a “pattern,” and its service an example of Christ’s mediatorial work in the heavens.
As this disappointed people were again to take up the work of teaching “peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings,” it was of the highest importance that the subject of the true sanctuary, and the nature of its cleansing, be understood. The sanctuary question connects the time message of 1844 with the third angel’s message of Revelation 14. The burden of that message is “the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,” which is really the third call to the supper of Luke 14. This call goes “into the highways and hedges,” compelling the people, not by physical force, but by the clearness of truth and the power of the Holy Spirit, “to come in.”
THE SWEET AND BITTER BOOK
Another feature of the time proclamation of Revelation 10 should not be passed unnoticed. As John sees the angel standing upon the sea and upon the earth, saying that time shall be no longer, he says:- “And the voice which I heard from heaven spoke unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which stands upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.”
As the angel here proclaiming the time, represents those who go forth to give the time message, so John, receiving and eating the book, represents those receiving the message. The message contained in the book is time. When the time therefrom proclaimed expired, the book was fully eaten. While eating, it was “sweet as honey” to the eater, but as soon as eaten it became “bitter.” The contrast here presented clearly sets forth a scene of bitter disappointment. The very thing that had heretofore been such sweet spiritual food, now, as soon as consumed, becomes, O, so “bitter”!
Let us consider for a few moments the situation of that people who, with joyous hearts and rejoicing lips, came up to the tenth day of the seventh Jewish month - Oct. 22, 1844. Thousands met in various places of worship, expecting ere the setting of that day’s sun to be in immortal glory. The day passed, and October 23 found them, O, so sad! The cup of sweetness in anticipated immortal joys is dashed to their feet.
The following quotations are from those who were participants in the scene, and give expression to their hearts while longing and praying for light concerning the bitter disappointment.
“The disappointment at the passing of the time was a bitter one. True believers had given up all for Christ, and had shared His presence as never before. They had, as they supposed, given their last warning to the world, and had separated themselves, more or less, from the unbelieving, scoffing, multitude. And, with the divine blessing upon them, they felt more like associating with their soon expected Master and the holy angels than with those from whom they had separated themselves. The love of Jesus filled every soul and beamed from every face, and with inexpressible desires they prayed, ‘Come, Lord Jesus, and come quickly.’ But He did not come. And now, to turn again to the cares, perplexities, and dangers of life, in full view of the jeers and revilings of unbelievers, who now scoffed as never before, was a terrible trial of faith and patience. When Elder Himes visited Portland, Me., a few days after the passing of the time, and stated that the brethren should prepare for another cold winter, my feelings were almost uncontrollable. I left the place of meeting and wept like a child.”
Again from the same book, we give the word of another:-
“The weak and the wicked united in declaring that there could be no more fears or expectations now. The time had passed, the Lord had not come and the world would remain the same for thousands of years. This second great test revealed a mass of worthless drift that had been drawn into the strong current of the advent faith, and been borne along for a time with the true believers and earnest workers.
“We were disappointed, but not disheartened. We resolved to submit patiently to the process of purifying that God deemed needful for us; to refrain from murmuring at the trying ordeal by which the Lord was purging us from the dross and refining us like gold in the furnace. We resolved to wait with patient hope for the Savior to redeem His tried and faithful ones.
“We found everywhere the scoffers which Peter says shall come in the last days, walking after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.’ But those who had looked for the coming of the Lord were not without comfort; they had obtained valuable knowledge in the searching of the Word. The plan of salvation was plainer to their understanding. Every day they discovered new beauties in its sacred pages, and a wonderful harmony running through all, - one scripture explaining another, and no word used in vain.
LIKE THE DISAPPOINTED DISCIPLES
“Our disappointment was not so great as that of the disciples. When the Son of man rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, they expected Him to be crowned King. The people flocked from all the region about and cried, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ And Jesus, when the priests and elders besought Him to still the multitude, declared that if they should hold their peace, even the stones would cry out, for prophecy must be fulfilled. Yet in a few days these very disciples saw their beloved Master, who, they believed, would reign on David’s throne, stretched upon the cruel cross above the mocking, taunting Pharisees. Their high hopes were drowned in bitter disappointment, and the darkness of death closed about them.”
Thus it was seen how the book that was so sweet to the taste of those who were hearing the time proclamation, became bitter, and also how accurately another prophetic symbol of the advent movement was fulfilled.
THE PHILADELPHIA CHURCH
In the third chapter of Revelation is found this testimony to the Philadelphia church: “Behold, I come quickly.” It will be remembered that the Philadelphia church followed the Sardis church, which, as we have already seen, had heard the doctrine of the Lord’s coming, and was admonished to hold fast what they had “heard” and “received;” otherwise His coming would overtake them “as a thief.” The Philadelphia church was composed of those who came out under the second angel’s message as a distinct Adventist body, waiting and watching for the coming of the Master.
The first angel’s message, as first proclaimed, went to the churches; and the leaders in the movement, down to April, 1844, had no thought of forming a new organization, supposing the churches would continue to cooperate with them in heralding the near advent of Christ. In this, however, they were disappointed; but it was in the order of the Lord, for the “gospel of the kingdom” should first go to the churches.
It was also His purpose to have a people separated from the churches, that they might have liberty to search for further light and truth; and so the second angel’s message and the midnight cry developed a company who searched out and presented to the world the great themes of man’s nature, future rewards and punishments, the Sabbath, and other important truths comprehended in the third angel’s message. The Lord’s purpose was to have a people free to search for, accept, and obey the developing truths of His word, untrammeled by man-made creeds.
We again call attention to the parable of the ten virgins, for the purpose of showing that while the wise virgins were learning the nature of the event that was transpiring after the coming of the Bridegroom to the marriage, - going in with Him, by faith, - and the lights of the foolish virgins were going out, another feature is presented, found in these words:-
“Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes.”
Here is brought to view a movement representing a class of persons who went forth to meet the Bridegroom, but failed to go in with Him to the marriage; a class who, not seeing the light as to the true events to take place at the close of the twenty-three hundred days, were setting time for the Lord’s return; for the Master says to them, “You know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes.” The class to whom this text refers professed to know that which they are told they do not know.
This language represents a movement, not after Christ’s second coming, but after the true time proclamation - after the announcement of the coming of the Bridegroom, and the going in with Him to the wedding.
The query arises, What has been done since the close of the twenty-three hundred days? While light has been obtained and has spread concerning the present position of the Bridegroom, a class of people has arisen who are almost yearly setting the time for the Lord to come. Those leading out in this work were persons who were in the advent movement previous to October, 1844, but who did not follow Christ in to the marriage at the close of the midnight cry.
The admonition of the Savior is to “watch.” And this is the attitude of Seventh-day Adventists. They believe all prophetic time closed Oct. 22, 1844, with the closing of the twenty-three hundred days; hence they have had no part in time-setting. Their position is, and ever has been, that of “watching,” - watching fulfilling prophecy, watching the signs of the times, watching the advancement of the third angel’s message, which is to lighten the earth with its glory, and ripen the harvest of the earth.
PARABLE OF THE TALENTS
At this point in our Savior’s discourse, He introduced the parable of the “talents,” in which He points out the duties and dangers of those who have the light concerning Christ’s present position - judging the righteous dead, soon to pass to the judgment of the righteous living. After the parable of the talents is the literal second coming, and the final separation of the righteous and wicked, as shown in the following scriptures:-
“When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
In that time when the Master has gone in to the marriage, when the cleansing of the sanctuary (the investigative judgment) is going on, when the Lord’s people are “watching” and waiting, not knowing the day or hour of His coming, - in that day, and to that people, does the parable of the talents apply; and by it we of this time are instructed. With this thought in mind, we will read the parable:-
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and dug in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
“After a long time the lord of those servants comes, and reckoned with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou delivered unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou delivered unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
“Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou has not sown, and gathering where thou has not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou has that is your. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: thou ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath [improved upon that entrusted to him] shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not [rightly used that entrusted to him] shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
While it has ever been the duty of the Lord’s people to be diligent in using their entrusted abilities in extending the cause of God, it is more emphatically so with those who are waiting for the immediate return of the Master. The Lord has said to His people, in that time when He is to “come quickly:” “The Spirit and the bride say, Come And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
One essential lesson to be learned from the parable of the talents is that when the Lord and Master is about to come, all who have a knowledge of the event should be doing all in their power to extend the light respecting His coming, and should be making the needful preparation to meet Him in peace. It behooves all who have named the name of Christ, and especially those who are making a wise use of the talents entrusted to them, to be admonished by the Savior’s caution to “take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.”
In our Savior’s approval of those placed on the right hand in that day, we may understand the nature of the work which should now more especially engage the attention of His professed people. He says: “I was an hungered, and you gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was stranger, and you took Me in: naked, and you clothed Me: I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came unto Me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me.”
We are in the very time when this parable has its special application. Poverty, affliction, suffering, and distress abound on every side. And this condition of things is not to diminish, but, rather, to increase. Happy will it be for all who improve their talents in ministering to the needy in this time. Such, and such only, will receive at last the plaudit of the Master: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”