The Trumpet Herald is a commentary on certain current events in the light of inspired prophecy.
Hands Across the Gulf
The last week of June 1998 saw a dramatic reversal of the Protestant Reformation as Lutherans and Catholics agreed on a "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification." The July 6, 1998 issue of Time magazine reported this agreement with a cartoon of Martin Luther and Pope John Paul II, with hands outstretched toward each other (see David Van Biema, "A Half-Millennium Rift," Time, July 6., 1998, p. 80).
This Joint Declaration reads: "Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith,, in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works" (Ibid.). Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus describes the declaration as "momentous," a major step toward healing "the root cause of a division that has shaped all of world history" (Ibid.).
If people could turn over in their graves, the inside of Martin Luther's coffin would be awfully shiny just now!
What this new agreement fails to comprehend is that Catholics have always believed in salvation by grace alone. Sadly, they believe this grace to be mediated by the Church through man-made ordinances like penance, confession to priests, and the sale of indulgences. The Bible presents none of these man-made conditions for receiving God's grace and forgiveness, only confession and the forsaking of sin (Prov. 28:13; Isa. 55:7).
No human being can declare another to be a forgiven recipient of God's grace, since only God knows the heart. Only He can know if sin has truly been confessed and forsaken. Scripture is clear that "there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (II Tim. 2:5). No record of anyone confessing sin and receiving pardon from another human being can he found anywhere in God's Word. Nor can any record be found of spiritual guilt being eradicated through anything so absurd as the purchase of an indulgence.
We see clearly that the Papacy has not altered its basic claim of authority to forgive sins and dispense God's grace. Little wonder that inspiration, predicting the future union of Protestantism with Catholicism, declares;
"This union will not, however, be affected by a change in Catholicism, for Rome never changes. She claims infallibility. It is Protestantism that will change" (Review and Herald, June 1, 1886).
The picture in Time of Luther's and the Pope's hands outstretched toward each other calls to mind the following inspired prediction:
"When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power; ... then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan, and that the end is near" (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 451).
Changing Times and Laws
On July 7, Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter calling for great commitment to Sunday observance, citing increasing secularism and worldliness as reasons for greater faithfulness in this regard.
In his letter the Pope indicates that the day of worship was "moved" to become what he termed "the weekly Easter."
In a news release on July 8 from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Biblical Research Institute scholar Angel Rodriguez challenged the Pope's claim as lacking Scriptural support. "It is intriguing that though the document begins with the Biblical account of creation and quotes Genesis extensively, even the text that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, that the call is for Sunday worship," said Rodriguez. "We wish to remain true to Biblical authority and remember the seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest and worship."
The little-horn power, used in Daniel 7 to represent the Papacy, is described in language that remains sadly accurate to this day:
"And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws" (Dan. 7:25).
As in the days of the apostles, God's true people must declare:
"We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
The spring of 1998 witnessed a new effort by Religious Right figures to promote, as they see it, greater awareness of the Ten Commandments. according to a news release in the June 1998 issue of Church & State.
A Capitol Hill press conference, called by the Revs. Paul and Rob Schenk on April 30, unveiled what they called the "Ten Commandments Project," described as an "effort to reintroduce the timeless words of Sinai to the American public" (Ibid., p. 16). This group is demanding that the Ten Commandments be posted in the chambers of Congress, the White House, and in state and local government buildings also.
Sadly, the Church & State article reports that the Schenks' zeal for promoting the Ten Commandments is belied by their conspicuous failure to abide by the Ten Commandments in their own lives. Paul Schenk served time in prison for "making a false declaration under oath," in an effort to evade prosecution for having blocked an abortion clinic in Buffalo, New York (Ibid.). The Schenk brothers were caught on videotape switching neckties and glasses in order to confuse witnesses who might testify against them in court (Ibid.). Paul Schenk now works for Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice (Ibid., pp. 16-17).
Perhaps the Schenk brothers need to remember the ninth commandment, which declares,
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" (Ex. 20:16).
In addition to our deep concern for church-state separation, we ask, which version of the Ten Commandments do the Schenks recommend be posted in government buildings? The Roman Catholic version, which leaves out the second commandment and abbreviates the fourth? If they permit the Bible to speak for itself, won't this offend the many Catholics currently active in the Religious Righ?
Neither moral legislation, the posting of the Ten Commandments in government facilities, not even crusading for their posting (as the Schenks' lifestyle indicates) will produce true obedience to this embodiment of God's will. Only when these commandments are posted in human hearts will they be truly obeyed (Deut. 30:14; Psalm 119:11; Jer. 31:31-34; Rom. 2:13-15; 10:6-8; II Cor. 3:2-3; Heb. 8:8-10).
What officials declared to be the worst wildfires to hit Florida in forty years raged into early July, devouring property and driving people from their homes. While no lives were lost, the disaster is likely to affect the state's economy for a long time to come. The apparent helplessness of firefighters against the whims and forces of nature offers little hope that future tragedies of this kind can be forestalled or even minimized.
The modern prophet's words again come to mind:
"The Lord will arise to shake terribly the earth. We shall see troubles on all sides. ... Fires will break out unexpectedly, and no human effort will be able to quench them. The palaces of earth will be swept away in the fury of the flames. ... Oh, let us seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near" (Messages to Young People, pp. 89-90).