Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Babylon and Present Truth

by Pamela Kennedy

In a conversation with friends recently, the subject of “present truth” came up. I couldn’t help wondering just what that means in today’s religious environment. Is it an ideal that has always existed and is only now coming to the fore, or is it something more tangible, a set of doctrines perhaps, a day even, or a “mark” in the forehead or the hand? Certainly it isn’t the sacrificial system enjoined upon Adam and his descendants, or the circumcision imposed on Abraham, both of which Paul declared obsolete at the cross. So what exactly is it that Bible-believing Christians are to regard as preeminently sacred these days? What is the “everlasting gospel” that is to lighten the earth with God’s “glory” or character of love?

Is it the importance of the fourth commandment? Is it the identity of the 666 beast? Is it that Sunday-keepers, as children of the Great Whore, are doomed to hell? Or is it that “Babylon has fallen” and God’s people are instructed to come out of her? If the latter, what exactly is the Babylon that God’s people are to come out of, and how is this “good news,” let alone “everlasting?”

Nearly twenty years ago, I had the unique privilege of hearing what a young lay preacher named Jim Arrabito had to say on the subject of Babylon. Travelling the world to document the origin and progression of Satan’s counterfeit system of worship, he photographed extensively the relics and artwork of religious and civic edifices, monuments, and museums, tracing their influence on Christianity through their common symbols. In so doing, he showed beyond question, confirming his data with excerpts from their own writings, how secret societies and religious bodies, both pagan and Christian, have kept sun-worship alive and intact within the structures and rituals of their various organizations.

From Ham and his immediate progeny to the present, the father of lies has used this complex system of symbols for the dual purpose of (1) overriding the confusion of language at the tower of Babel and (2) keeping his malevolent purposes hidden through inner circles of initiation. Babylon, therefore, derived from “bab,” “el” and “on,” or “gate of the sun-god,” has always been the worship of Satan, a system of attitude and belief which God’s people are instructed to “come out of.” But even so, do we know what “come out of” means? Is our warfare over pagan iconography with its traditions and ritualistic behavior, or is it a far more pervasive war of the will? Is “present truth,” as Adventists understand it, a set of doctrines that fly in the face of sun-worship, or is it a Person in whose “image” God’s people are called to be conformed?

It seems clear that, however important doctrines and commandments may appear, the question of how to comply is more important still. If Christian righteousness requires a standard exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees, who kept the letter of the law with scrupulous attention to detail, then surely we must seek a better method of keeping it or be as hopelessly lost as they. It is here that the heart of the Adventist message rests. How are God’s people to keep His law, or any of the requirements exercised upon His children, unless God keeps it for us and through us, just as He kept it for and through Christ when He walked the earth as our example?

The “gospel,” everlasting or otherwise, as I have come to understand it, is not merely that Jesus lived my life and paid my debt, but that He was raised in the same “newness of life” that I must appropriate if I am to be “conformed to His image.”

It is a “newness of life” that the gospel encourages, wonderful news that the remnant may confidently shout from the rooftops, the news that Christ desires to dwell in us in order that we might perfectly reflect His character of selfless love (see Matt 5:48; Col 1:27). It is only as Christ indwells us, as God indwelt Him, that we can ever possess the standard of holiness that heaven requires. And it is by this exceeding great and precious promise that Christ will actually come in and fill us with Himself so that we become partakers of the divine nature (see 2 Pet 1:4). Notice the following statements:

  • “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20).[1]
  • “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal 2:20).
  • “This mystery among the Gentiles . . . is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).
  • “That they also may be one in Us” (John 17:21).
  • I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23).
  • “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor 3:16).
  • “Hold fast the form of sound words . . . in faith and love . . . by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (2 Tim 1:13-14).
  • “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).
  • “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
  • “For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever” (2 John 1:2).

Such statements can hardly be misunderstood. And from these statements it seems clear that the “truth . . . which dwelleth in us . . . for ever” is the “everlasting gospel,” the exhilarating news of God’s life-changing power to become like Him in thought, word, and deed. As the great I AM has always existed in the present, so has His character. And as God’s people willingly pick up their cross and die to self, so they, like Christ, may be filled with His love to the fullest extent (see Col 2:9). This is the only standard that can live without a mediator when probation closes, and it is the unequivocal and blatant difference between the character of Babylon and the character of God.

“Present truth,” therefore, is neither a list of rules nor a standard of worship for, in a world of religious factions, whose word can be trusted? Even the angels in heaven had difficulty with that decision as earth’s history abundantly demonstrates. “Present truth,” as I see it, is a universal principle, God’s self-sacrificing love as it was lived out in the person of His Son and as He desires to live it out in those who choose to be like Him. As Christ’s Spirit indwells us, so may we reflect His goodness, mercy, and faith. It is, after all, the faith of Jesus, Christ’s own faith, that is the distinguishing feature of God’s end-time people, which faith will not only enable them, but compel them to keep His commandments perfectly (see Rev 14:12).

Denominationalism can debate ideas till Doom’s Day, and belief systems can fight amongst themselves till Christ’s return proves them all wrong, for Christianity is the epitome of 1 Corinthians 13, which states categorically that without love even the most accurate of facts is a lie. It is only those who fully reflect the selfless love of God, “Christ and Him crucified,” that will be found fit to occupy his throne (see Matt 19:28; Rev 3:21), fit to be adopted into the Godhead (see Rom 8:15; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:15) and fit to be ambassadors to the universe (see 2 Cor 5:20-21). It is only this beautiful spirit of sacrificial love that can grasp the meaning of the song of Moses and the Lamb (see Rev 15:3). And it is only this love that is able to witness first-hand what God is really like.

Any attitude that fails to reflect the love of God has always been Babylon, the “gate of the sun-god,” the very entrance to Satan himself. Any sharp word, any disdainful thought, any lack of faith, any lack of love testifies to Satan’s control over the life. Conversely, any forgiveness under hurt, any love in the face of cruelty, any kindness in an act of hatred, or gentleness in response to anger, has always been “present truth.” It is Christ’s indwelling presence that is our only hope of character change. When He moves in, Truth goes from fact to reality, love becomes an unconscious breath, righteousness an accomplished fact, and the gospel a compelling allure—ever present, ever thrilling, everlasting.

[1] All scriptures are taken from the King James Version.

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