by Doug Plata
Imagine the following scenario.
You grow up in the SDA Church, but are not all that committed. At the urging of a friend you attend a revival meeting. That meeting is a turning point for you. You are confronted with how God is offering you happiness in your daily life. You hear testimonies from people who have given their lives to God and have experienced remarkable miracles in their lives. You decide to give your life to Christ anew.
From that point on you live a new life. You find yourself interested in spiritual things like never before. You become active not only in your local church, but in community efforts to bring the gospel to others.
And then the Holy Spirit appears to be poured out in Latter Rain power. You rejoice in seeing literal miracles with your own eyes. Like the prophet Joel predicted, people receive visions and dreams. You pray and experience a miraculous healing in your own body. You even participate in bringing miracles of healing to others, as well as the casting out of demons. But more amazing are numerous people you see giving their lives to Christ and having similar experiences. As you ponder the coming time of trouble you think back on your recent religious experience and are comforted that you are secure in Christ.
And then it is that the last trump sounds. The skies open up and light bursts through. As an ardent Christian you look into Christ’s face and proclaim, “Lord, Lord!” And He responds to you, “Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”
How could this possibly happen? It would seem impossible. And yet Christ Himself predicts in Matthew 7:22,23:
“Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”
It is very sobering to realize that these people are so thoroughly deceived. They are professed Christians, because they say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord.” They are even looking forward in expectation to Christ’s return. What’s more their personal experience would indicate that they have received the power to prophesy and work the miracles we expect with the coming Latter Rain (Joel 2:28). It is clear that they have received power to perform miracles. But the source has not been the Latter Rain from God, but a false version given by Satan. Because the false is so close to the true, it is easy to understand how many, even from God’s remnant, will end up on the wrong side.
Fire From Heaven
Revelation 13 is a chapter about two beasts. The first arises out of the sea, and has the characteristics of the little horn in Daniel 7 and 8. The careful student of Scripture and history will find that this power clearly matches the Roman papacy.
But starting in verse 11, Revelation 13 reveals a second beast. It rises to power at about the time the papacy received its deadly wound with the imprisonment of Pope Pius VI by the French general Berthier in 1798. This beast continues to exist till the end of time. Revelation 13:11 shows that it is a lamb-like beast with two horns. One only has to read three verses earlier to understand that the lamb being referred to is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (verse 8), namely Christ. So this clearly is a nation influenced by Christian principles. Since it controls “all, both small and great” (verse 16), it must be considered the sole superpower.
So, what nation came into existence in the late 1700s, exists at the end of time, is primarily composed of professed Christians, and is the only superpower? Only one nation fills the bill: the United States of America.
Bible prophecy tells us that revivals in the form of miracles will take place in the United States (Rev. 13:14). And the passage refers to one miracle in particular: bringing fire down from heaven in the sight of men (verse 13). And it is clear that the purpose is to deceive. Again we are reminded that Satan’s goal is to deceive, if possible, the very elect (Matt. 24:24). These miracles will thus be done in such a way as to make it difficult for Bible-believing Christians to see which is the true and which is the false outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
But what is this “fire from heaven”? If this were literal fire that some atheistic, anti-Christ leader of a one-world United Nations were to bring down, just how deceptive would that be to a Bible believing Christian familiar with Revelation 13? Certainly such believers would recognize this as the same power that will bring on economic controls and the mark of the beast. But when we compare Scripture with Scripture, it helps us understand the nature of this fire and why it is so deceptive.
Think carefully. Where else do we find fire from heaven in Scripture? There are a number of cases. Several involve sacrifice. Others involve utter destruction. Let’s focus on the obvious example-when God brought fire down at the time Elijah faced the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The issue at stake was, who is the true God? In bringing down fire from heaven it was made clear that Elijah’s God was the true God.
So we can deduce that the fire from heaven in Revelation 13 will involve the same issue. But again, literal fire from heaven at the end of time would make any reasonable Christian suspicious.
But there is another time when fire came down from heaven. In Acts chapter 2 we find that the disciples were gathered together when they received the outpouring of the Early Rain. The symbol of this was “cloven tongues of fire” that landed upon their heads (Acts 2:3-4). This was the physical demonstration which showed they had been given the Holy Spirit.
Since we know that miracles are associated with the fire in Revelation 13, that it appears to be coming from God in heaven, and their purpose is to deceive, then it is reasonable to believe that we are looking forward to a false Latter Rain. And as our initial scenario shows, this would be incredibly deceptive.
This false revival will be especially challenging for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which expects the Latter Rain to be associated with great power, miracles, and mass conversions. The false revival will apparently give all these things. How easy it would be for us to be deceived! Especially will it be dangerous for the young adults in our church who look for a religious experience that feels real and is energizing. And how much more tempting for our church leaders to look at the revivals among our young people as evidence of God’s working.
In this setting a theology could easily connect the life-giving power of Christ’s resurrection with the receiving of life-transforming power through the false revival. So Christ’s resurrection, with Sunday worship as its supposed symbol, would become very meaningful. To deny this theology of renewal, with its trappings of love and joy in Christ, would appear to go contrary to all that is being accomplished by this false revival. To resist this movement will be considered treason to both church and state.
Just as the Lord leaves the ninety and nine sheep in the fold and goes to look for the one missing, Satan likewise leaves his ninety and nine who are securely trapped in sin, to hunt down the one who is following Christ. These are the objects of his special attention. It is his concerted effort to, if possible, deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24).
Ellen White has given us many warnings about false revivals. The 27th chapter in The Great Controversy is titled, “Modern Revivals.” It starts by giving a description of a true revival, with its characteristics of repentance, reformation, and a willingness to sacrifice for Christ. Then the characteristics of a false revival are described. They appeal to the imaginations and emotions. They provide a sensation by presenting something startling and new. The results would appear to be good. Large numbers of people join the church. But these people are not truly converted, and their religious experience is not maintained unless it is constantly stimulated by services of a sensational character.
Then on p. 464 we are told that before God’s judgments at the end of time there will be “a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” But she goes on to say:
“The enemy of souls desires to hinder this work, and before the time for such a movement shall come, he will endeavor to prevent it by introducing a counterfeit.”
A parallel prediction is found in 2SM 36-38, in which we are told of a false revival in Indiana during Ellen White’s day, and how similar events will occur just before Jesus comes:
“The things you have described as taking place in Indiana, the Lord has shown me would take place just before the close of probation. Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The sense of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit.”
Does this sound like any worship service you might have attended lately? The entire section makes for fascinating reading.
Satan in the Place of God
Unsatisfied with the position God gave him, Satan sought to elevate himself to the place of God, not in character, but in position (Isa. 14: 12-14). His modus operandi is to appear as though he himself is God (2Thess. 2:4). He delights in transforming himself into “an angel of light” (11 Cor. 11:14). But let us read the next verse also:
“Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works” (verse 15).
This means that in spiritual matters, things aren’t always what they appear to be. Every one we listen to, even ministers, need to have their words tested by what God says (Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11).
In Ellen White’s book Early Writings, we are shown a most unusual scene. Describing the events in 1844 and thereafter, Ellen White was shown Christ moving His work from the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary to the Most Holy, with God’s people following afterward. But there were still a group who stayed behind in the Holy Place. What happened next, described on p. 56 of Early Writings, is dramatic:
“I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, ‘Father, give us Thy Spirit.’ Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, and peace. Satan’s object was to keep them deceived and to draw back and deceive God’s children.”
Any honest thinker would understand this vision to be symbolic. Satan has been thrown out of heaven, so there is no way he could be ministering in the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary. But it is clear that the door of opportunity to accept the sanctuary message was missed by the popular churches in 1844. Failing to move forward at the appointed time with the sanctification necessary to move into the Most Holy Place, they would become vulnerable to Satan’s spirit of revival. This spirit would deny the need for daily submission to God’s Holy Spirit-the criterion necessary to finally receive the Latter Rain.
Preparation for the Latter Rain
Since the false Latter Rain will be so deceptive, we need to take special care to avoid falling victim to it. How is this done?
Lottery players seek instant riches instead of working and saving for their wealth. Patients often press their doctors for a medication when what they actually need is a change in lifestyle. So it is with the preparation for the Latter Rain. Many do not understand the preparation needed now by a lifetime work. They hope to experience the great end-time revival while neglecting this daily work. But Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16: 10).
Preparation for the Latter Rain comes in making conscientious decisions regarding life’s little things. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives when we submit to His work on our conscience. This happens when we speak to and about other people, when we respond to circumstances, and when we stand up against injustice. It happens by making right choices in regards to diet, exercise, relationships, entertainment, and the literature we choose to read (Phil. 4:8). It’s not the big and profound issues in life, but the many small decisions we make, which prepare us to receive the true Latter Rain.
So how does it go with our personal lives? Are we daily responding to God’s Spirit? Or do we fail to act on those matters which we know need changing? This is the fundamental issue facing us today. It is the issue that will determine our ability to choose the true revival over the false.
Doug Plata, 33, is a family practice and preventive medicine physician living in Colton, California.