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The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White, [1858], at



The Great Apostasy


I was carried forward to the time when the heathen idolators cruelly persecuted the Christians, and killed them.  Blood flowed in torrents.  The noble, the learned, and the common people, were alike slain without mercy.  Wealthy families were reduced to poverty because they would not yield their religion.  Notwithstanding the persecution and sufferings those Christians endured, they would not lower the standard.  They kept their religion pure.  I saw that Satan exulted and triumphed over the sufferings of God's people.  But God looked with great approbation upon his faithful martyrs, and the Christians who lived in that fearful time were greatly beloved of him; for they were willing to suffer for his sake.  Every suffering endured by them increased their reward in heaven.  But although Satan rejoiced because the saints suffered, yet he was not satisfied.  He wanted control of the mind as well as the body.  The sufferings those Christians endured drove them closer to the Lord, and led them to love one another, and caused them to fear more than ever to offend him.  Satan wished to lead them to displease God; then they would lose their strength, fortitude and firmness.  Although thousands were slain, yet others were springing up to supply their place.  Satan saw that he was losing his subjects, and although they suffered persecution and death, yet they were secured to Jesus Christ, to be the subjects of his kingdom, and he laid his plans to more successfully fight against the government of God, and overthrow the church.  He led on those heathen idolators to embrace part of the Christian faith.  They professed to believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, without a change of heart, and proposed to unite with the followers of Jesus.  O the fearful danger of the church!  It was a time of mental anguish.  Some thought that if they should come down and unite with those idolators who had embraced a portion of the Christian faith, it would be the means of their conversion.  Satan was seeking to corrupt the doctrines of the Bible.  At last I saw the standard lowered, and the heathen were uniting with Christians.  They had been worshipers of idols, and although they professed to be Christians, they brought along with them their idolatry.  They changed the objects only of their worship, to images of saints, and even the image of Christ, and Mary the mother of Jesus.  Christians gradually united with them, and the Christian religion was corrupted, and the church lost its purity and power.  Some refused to unite with them and they preserved their purity, and worshiped God alone.  They would not bow down to any image of anything in the heavens above, or in the earth beneath.

Satan exulted over the fall of so many; and then he stirred up the fallen church to force those who would preserve the purity of their religion, to either yield to their ceremonies and image worship, or to put them to death.  The fires of persecution were again kindled against the true church of Jesus Christ, and millions were slain without mercy.

It was presented before me in the following manner: A large company of heathen idolators bore a black banner upon which were figures of the sun, moon and stars.  The company seemed to be very fierce and angry. I was then shown another company bearing a pure white banner, and upon it was written Purity, and Holiness unto the Lord.  Their countenances were marked with firmness and heavenly resignation.  I saw the heathen idolators approach them, and there was a great slaughter.  The Christians melted away before them; and yet the Christian company pressed the more closely together, and held the banner more firmly.  As many fell, others rallied around the banner and filled their places.

I saw the company of idolators consulting together.  They failed to make the Christians yield, and they agreed to another plan.  I saw them lower their banner, and they approached that firm Christian company, and made propositions to them.  At first their propositions were utterly refused.  Then I saw the Christian company consulting together.  Some said that they would lower the banner, accept the propositions, and save their lives, and at last they could gain strength to raise their banner among those heathen idolators.  But some would not yield to this plan, but firmly chose to die holding their banner, rather than lower it.  Then I saw many of that Christian company lower the banner, and unite with the heathen; while the firm and steadfast seized the banner, and bore it high again. I saw individuals continually leaving the company of those bearing the pure banner, and joining the idolators, and they united together under the black banner, to persecute those bearing the white banner, and many were slain; yet the white banner was held high, and individuals were raised up to rally around it.

The Jews who first started the rage of the heathen against Jesus, were not to escape.  In the judgment hall the infuriated Jews cried, as Pilate hesitated to condemn Jesus, His blood be on us and on our children.  The race of the Jews experienced the fulfillment of this terrible curse which they called down upon their own heads.  Heathen and those called Christians were alike their foes.  Those professed Christians, in their zeal for the cross of Christ, because the Jews had crucified Jesus, thought that the more suffering they could bring upon them, the better could they please God; and many of those unbelieving Jews were killed, while others were driven from place to place, and were punished in almost every manner.

The blood of Christ, and of the disciples, whom they had put to death, was upon them, and in terrible judgments were they visited.  The curse of God followed them, and they were a by-word and a derision to the heathen and to Christians.  They were shunned, degraded and detested, as though the brand of Cain was upon them.  Yet I saw that God marvelously preserved this people, and had scattered them over the world, that they might be looked upon as especially visited by a curse from God.  I saw that God had forsaken the Jews as a nation; yet there was a portion of them who would be enabled to tear the veil from their hearts.  Some will yet see that prophecy has been fulfilled concerning them, and they will receive Jesus as the Saviour of the world, and see the great sin of their nation in rejecting Jesus, and crucifying him.  Individuals among the Jews will be converted; but as a nation they are forever forsaken of God.


Next: Chapter 18. Mystery of Iniquity