Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Fear of Martyrdom

The Seventh-day Adventist Church teachs that the seventh day of the week is an obligatory day of rest and worship for the Christian. 
SDA Fundamental Belief No. 20:
The fourth commandment of God’s unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. ... The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people.
They also believe the writings of their 19th-century prophetess Ellen White "speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church." Fundamental Belief No. 18 

Prophetess White had an end-time, prophetic vision that she believed came from an angel of God. This apocalyptic message is part of the beliefs of the SDA church and today you will hear Adventists warn that one day soon, the seventh day of the week, the Jewish Sabbath, will be the final and ultimate test of loyalty to God. 

Her accompanying angel showed her specifically that the Catholic Church and Apostate Protestants will someday soon unite in their quest to force everyone on the planet to keep Sunday as the Sabbath day. Which basically means to Adventists, that everyone will be required by law to go to church on Sunday. 
      "Fearful is the issue to which the world is to be brought. The powers of earth [Roman Catholicism and Apostate Protestantism] uniting to war against the commandments of God will decree that "all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond" (Revelation 13:16), shall conform to the customs of the church by the observance of the false
sabbath. All who refuse compliance will be visited with civil penalties, and it will finally be declared that they are deserving of death. On the other hand, the law of God enjoining the Creator's rest day demands obedience and threatens wrath against all who transgress its precepts. With the issue thus clearly brought before him, whoever shall trample upon God's law to obey a human enactment receives the mark of the beast; he accepts the sign of allegiance to the power which he chooses to obey instead of God." 
Those who do not keep the Seventh-day Sabbath--or more clearly for those who are not SDA--she is saying God told her those who go to church on Sunday receive the mark of the Beast and are damned!
    "The obligation of the fourth commandment has never been set before them [non-SDAs] in its true light. ...The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty, for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. While the observance of the false sabbath in compliance with the law of the state, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God's law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator. While one class, by accepting the sign of submission to earthly powers, receive the mark of the beast, the other choosing the token of allegiance to divine authority, receive the seal of God. Great Controversy, Ellen White, page 605-607
Coming from an SDA family,  from the time I was a child, I was being prepared to face the ultimate test--the Sabbath test. In our churches and in our church schools, we were prepped for the last day test with Sabbath School classes, Bible classes, retreats, seminars, etc. We were even read novels written by Adventists that dramatized these last-day events in elementary school. 

Those who face martyrdom to keep the correct Sabbath day--the seventh-day--will survive the test and be received into heaven. Those who fall from pressure of persecution and are faithless will "pinch the incense" by going to church on Sunday, renouncing God's holy Sabbath day, receive the mark of the beast and will not enter eternal bliss. 

Most of my life, I absolutely believed this with a sincere heart. I pledged to God at night that I would do my best to keep the sabbath even if it meant death. There were times, not often, but times in my childhood that I would have panic attacks imagining Catholics standing next to policemen, dragging me from the dark, dank jail cell I had been in for months, my hand sheltering my eyes from the bright lights and my body shivering with cold. Unmoved with pity for this frail, hungry ten-year-old who was trying so hard to follow Jesus, they would draw their guns, point them at me and tell me I was going to church on Sunday or I would die. When I refused they would torture me. That was terrifying, but then, the most horrifying
thought was that if I stood up for the sabbath and refused to worship on Sunday, that they would bring my little brothers and sisters out in front of me and tell me that they were going to torture them with the most horrible tortures known to humans--they would begin chopping off fingers, hands, etc until I relented and went to church on Sunday. 

I thought that if I saved my brothers and sisters, I would betray Christ and lose heaven!! Oh, how I prayed so many times that God would give me the strength to endure such a nightmare. 

This fear of not being able to stand for Christ when that test came, followed me even after I left Adventism. When I was a Protestant, I feared failing the test of martyrdom over Christ when Muslims or mass murders put a gun to my head and asked me if I was a Christian. I continued such dread when I became Catholic. 

Oh God! I have prayed so often I can't guess the thousands of times--Oh God, don't let me fall at that moment of martyrdom if it ever comes!

Though I let go of the idea that I would have to die for the Sabbath, I continued to believe that if tested with martyrdom, pinching the incense to Caesar's genius and not being martyred for God when my
life depended upon it was the worst sin. My fate for hell would be sealed. It was the unpardonable sin. That was it.

However, that is not a historical or biblical belief. 
Nowhere in scripture does it say that the unpardonable sin is betrayal of Christ. 

Please Adventists and Protestants and Catholics, if for some reason you have been tormented by your fear of failing at the moment of the test of martyrdom, look at St. Peter. 

St. Peter, the head of the church, who was given the keys of the kingdom failed Christ and betrayed Him three times!

Consider this carefully. Peter did not have a gun to his head. No, after Peter declared to his best friend  and Lord, “even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” Peter betrays him three times to the commoners--two servant girls and another nobody! He wasn't on trial, there was no mob about to hang him. He was scared of course that he would also be sent to trial as Christ was. But as of yet, Christ had not been convicted and sentenced. Peter betrayed Christ three times and he was made the head of the church. 

Don't fear failing martyrdom. It is not the unpardonable sin--that is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. In fact Jesus, from his own mouth, told his followers that "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven." Matthew 12: 32.  
So failing the martyrdom test is not unforgivable. Be at peace! 

I am counting on my readers to know that I am not advocating an indifferent, lackadaisical attitude about a martyrdom situation. Of course not. I just want those of you who have been traumatized by this fear your whole life to look at this in a new way. 

God wants to give you the courage to give up your life for Him out of love not fear.  

Often, fear is the beginning of our journey with Christ and that is good!
  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Ps. 111:10, Prov. 9:10
  • [T]he LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Ps. 147: 11
  • [L]ove the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. I Peter 2: 17
Then as we grow in Christ any ungodly fear is cast out--driven out--and it is replaced with a holy respect and awe of God based in the foundation of perfect love. 
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4: 18
Replace those old nightmares of that martyrdom moment. Think of them this way, if when someone gives you the ultimatum of death or Christianity, know that if you fail God, you can be forgiven. It is a sin, like other sins such as adultery or stealing. It is a sin of self-preservation and weakness, that even the Apostles and bishops and great men of God have failed. It is bad, but it is forgivable. 

Think at that moment of what God wants. He wants you to give up your life for love of Him, not of fear of hell. It is said that many martyrs died with smiles of joy on their faces. These saints may have been frightened, but not about hell. They freely gave their lives for Him out of love. The Holy Spirit was there, the angels and the Host of Heaven were there and it was a moment where love transcended the fear of eternal punishment. 

Trust God. If you fail, you have an advocate with the Father. It's not over. Repent and maybe like Peter, when you face the trial again, you will stand firmly and die with great love for your Lord and Savior. 

God bless you! 


Anonymous said...

Orissa Persecution

Christian persecution by ISIS&Islamic Rep of Iran

Christians Are Persecuted, Martyred, and Killed Worldwide

SMH said...

Hi Teresa. I have been wanting to comment on your blog for some time now. I am a Catholic woman who has been married almost 5 years to an Adventist man, an ex-Catholic. My story is long and I won't go into it, except to say that it has been and is very challenging. But I am not complaining, as I have done a great deal of study on both faiths; read your book and several apologetic books, read some of the Early Fathers, watched and listened to lectures from the Great Courses and YouTube about Early Christianity, and also have studied and taught about nature (I have degrees in Earth Science and Geology), which I think is also a “document” about God’s plan. I have even gone to the Adventist church with my husband almost every Sunday, except this past year, and I do follow the Sabbath with him and there have been some good things that I have witnessed and received from the experiences. However, as much as I have witnessed some of the positive aspects of Adventism and have benefited from some of the positive attributes that have come from following a 7th day Sabbath, I have really come to have a very deep faith - know and believe with all my heart, soul, & very being - that the RCC is the true church of Christ. I want to thank you for being here, for I’m happy there is something I can go to in facing the challenges I have with my husband. It helps me not feel alone and that I have a fellow sister in Christ who understands what I am going through. I love my husband. He is a good man with a very deep faith that I admire and love. It is one big reason that I fell in love with him. I have read things on the Adventist site about their having a respect for freedom for all religions. Yet, I definitely do not see it reflected by any actions by my husband. I have seen instead many of the things you have written about. Especially fear. I have seen several copies of “The Great Controversy”, which I have read through parts that seem to not show any kind of respect for the Catholic Church or our approach to worshiping and loving God and Christ. For me, I viewed it mainly as a book of fear of Catholicism. Anyway, if you don’t mind, I will continue to comment on your blog about my own witness to the Adventist/Catholic controversy. Please feel free to correct me on any misunderstandings of Adventists beliefs. I am a true servant of God. God Bless.

Teresa Beem said...

I am here for you sweetie! We are sisters in Christ and I share your pain and your joys! I would be an honor to have you post. Thank you so much!

SMH said...

Thanks, Teresa! It's good to know there is someone who really understands. I will be back periodically.