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The Visions of Mrs. E.G. White

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    OBJECTION 14. — FLEEING OUT OF THE VILLAGES

    The view presented in the visions, of the saints fleeing out of the cities and villages in the time of trouble. Experience and Views, p.17, is contrary to Luke 17:34, 35, which speaks of two men being in one bed, two women grinding at the mill, and one being taken and the other left. In what respect the vision is contrary to Luke 17:34, 35, this crude and half-stated objection does not inform us. We are left to infer that in the objector’s view two are to be in bed, two women grinding at the mill, two in the field, etc., at the moment when Christ appears and sends his angels to gather his saints; one is to be righteous, and so is to be “taken” up to meet the Lord, and the other is to be wicked, and left to perish; in other words, the righteous and wicked are to be mingled together promiscuously over the earth and separated at the coming of Christ; whereas the visions show that the righteous separate themselves from the wicked before that time, and gather together in companies waiting for the Lord. The objection is founded simply upon the objector’s view of the passage referred to, in the correctness of which, we have not the slightest confidence in a single particular. Hence we cannot well answer the objection, short as it is, without giving an exposition of the scripture involved therein. And as an explanation of this important passage may be of interest, aside from the use the objector would make of it against the visions, the reader will pardon us for dwelling upon it quite at length.VEGW 57.2

    The verses in question, Luke 17:34-36, read as follows: “I tell you, in that night, there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left.”VEGW 58.1

    Two classes of persons are here brought to view, probably the righteous and the wicked, between which there is, at some time, a separation to take place. We wish to ascertain, if possible, when this time is, or at what period this portion of Scripture has its application. To do this we must look at the context, to which we invite the attention of the reader, commencing with verse 26: “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from Heaven, and destroyed them all. 30. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 31. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field let him likewise not return back. 32. Remember Lot’s wife. 33. Whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”VEGW 58.2

    Following these verses, come the ones first introduced. The proposition we first undertake to prove in reference to this scripture, is, that it does not apply to the precise moment when the glorious light of the coming Saviour flashes like lightning from the east to the west, nor to any particular hour, nor to any day of twenty-four hours, but to a period of time more or less indefinite. But does it not say, “In the day,” when the Son of man is revealed,” and “in that day,” and even “in that night?” True; and some argue from this, apparently incapable of looking at the subject from more than one point of view, that the particular day of twenty-four hours in which Christ appears must be all that is referred to in the passage. But if we shall show that these expressions are sometimes used to denote an indefinite period, and that the context positively requires that they should be so used here, it will be sufficient to establish our proposition, with all reasonable and candid minds. And this can easily be done.VEGW 59.1

    l. The definition of these words will allow us to give them such an application. Greenfield, under the word day hemera says that by metonymy the word is used both in the singular and plural to denote “time,” as measured by days, as in the phrase, in our days; life, that is, time of life, age, years.” Under the word night, nux, he says, “Tropically, a time which is unsuitable, unreasonable, inopportune for doing anything. By metonymy, a time of mental darkness, ignorance, and vice.”VEGW 60.1

    2. The word is frequently so used in the New Testament. Luke 6:22, 23: “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy.” Not in a day, merely of twenty-four hours, but in a time, a season, when such should be their experience. Luke 10:12: “But I say unto you, that is shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.” Verse 14 shows that this is the day of Judgment; and no one can suppose that by this a day of merely twenty-four hours is meant, but a period of time in which the Judgment sits, and the punishment is determined and executed upon the unrepentant and guilty. John 8:56: “your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was glad.” Not simply a literal day in Christ’s history, but doubtless the whole period of his ministry upon earth. Romans 13:12: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” Here, certainly, something more than a period of twenty-four hours is meant. 1 Thessalonians 5:2: “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” But we all know that the day of the Lord is more than a literal day in duration; and that it commences with the judgments that fall upon the earth a short period before the appearing of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven. See Isaiah 13:6-18; 63:1-6; Zephaniah 1:14-18; 2 Peter 3:10, 12; Revelation 15:1; 16:1-21; etc. Again we read, “Behold now is the day of salvation;” 2 Corinthians 6:1; referring to the whole gospel dispensation; the “day” when God took Israel by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, Hebrews 8:9, covering all the time consumed in fully delivering them from the house of bondage; the “day of temptation,” Hebrews 3:8, 9, 17, in which God was grieved with them forty years; etc. That the word night is used in a similar sense is shown by Romans 13:12, already quoted, and by John 9:4; “The night cometh when no man can work.”VEGW 60.2

    These instances might be multiplied to almost any required extent. And although neither these, nor the definitions above given, would, of themselves, prove positively that the word day has an indefinite meaning in the passage under consideration, they show that it may be so used, and that such must be its meaning here, if there is anything in the context to require it.VEGW 61.1

    We are now ready to look still further at verses 26-30, and show that a space of time, more or less indefinite, and not the precise moment at which the Lord appears, is referred to therein throughout.VEGW 61.2

    Verse 24 declares, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” Here the plural, days, is used, showing that a period of some considerable length is intended. And so far as time is concerned, this is the key-note to the whole passage. The mind is set right in the very start. And the expression, “the day when the Son of man is revealed,” of verse 30, and “that day,” of verse 31, and “that night,” of verse 34, evidently mean the same as “the days of the Son of man,” of verse 26; for all the expressions refer to the very same time. The parallel passage in Matthew 24:37-41, reads, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be,” etc. Now there can be no just comparison between the days of Noah, and the act of coming again on the part of the Son of man. Hence, this is not what is intended. But there can be a comparison between the days of Noah, the days that preceded the flood, and the days that immediately precede the coming of the Son of man; and this consideration is sufficient to show that this is what is meant. And in this time there shall be a separation, or line of distinction drawn, between the righteous and the wicked; for two shall “be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left;” and “two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken and the other left.”VEGW 62.1

    The reference to the days of Noah covers a period of time during which they were eating, drinking, marrying, scoffing at Noah, and giving themselves up to revelry and riot. To be a parallel case, a period of time must also be referred to in the last days, sufficient for these traits of evil to be developed and glaringly practiced among mankind.VEGW 62.2

    Verse 31 says, “in that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away.” This language is adapted to the customs of the country in which it was spoken, where the roofs of the houses are flat and so near together that a person can step without difficulty from the roof of one house to another, and so, in case of danger, could even escape from the city without coming down at all into the street. It must simply mean that in the time here spoken of, no one should give himself any concern to save his earthly goods and possessions. But let us apply it, as some would have us do, to the moment when the Lord appears, and we ask, where then would be the necessity of such an exhortation as this? Who at that time will be looking to his wealth and riches? No one; for before this time the cankered gold of the miser will be cast into the streets, Ezekiel 7:19, and the great ones of the earth, knowing from the convulsions of nature, even before the Lord makes his appearance, that the great day of his wrath is come, Revelation 6:15, 16, drop all their earthly possessions, flee to the mountains, and lift up a frantic prayer to the rocks and mountains, to bury them from the wrath of the Lamb, and form the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, the revelation of whose awful presence they momentarily expect. It is not, therefore, consistent to apply the language of verse 31 to the literal day of twenty-four hours, in which the Lord appears. It must cover a longer period of time, and have its application previous to that event.VEGW 63.1

    Verse 23 reads, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” The attempt to apply this language to the very day of the Lord’s appearing, will present in a still stronger light the absurdity of that view. For we ask, How will a man at the moment of the Lord’s coming, as a result of seeking to save his life, lose it? And how will he, at that point of time, by losing it, save it? How? The folly of such a supposition is very apparent. As to what is meant by saving and losing life, there can be no difference of opinion. Seeking to save life and so losing it, is a course against which we are elsewhere counseled by the Saviour. See Matthew 10:39. It is to sacrifice the principles of truth and righteousness for the purpose of avoiding loss, persecution, or perhaps, death itself in this life, and so losing eternal life. While by losing our life for the sake of Christ, that is, throwing our whole selves into his service, and standing firm though we should suffer death here, we shall have eternal life in the end. Such language, therefore, cannot apply to any other time then that in which character may be developed, and eternal life be gained or lost. But this period of probation ceases for quite a space of time before the Lord appears. See Revelation 22:11, 12: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous let him be righteous still; and he that is holy let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly.” And thus we are still more firmly held to the same conclusion, that is, that the language under consideration must apply to a space of time more or less indefinite, previous to the coming of the Son of man.VEGW 63.2

    We have now shown that the terms “day” and “night,” may be used to denote a period of greater or less length, and that the context positively requires that they should be so used in Luke 17:30, 31, and 34. We might therefore at this point submit our proposition as proved; but there are some other considerations we wish to introduce.VEGW 64.1

    The Lord then proceeds to state the different issues that will befall those who seek to save their lives from motives of selfish interest, and those who are willing to lose them for the sake of Christ: one shall be taken, and the other left.VEGW 65.1

    It is important to determine what is signified by these expressions. Why, says one, this applies at the coming of the Lord, and one, the righteous, shall be taken; taken up to meet the Lord in the air, and delivered from this world and all its evils; while the other, the wicked, is left; left to be destroyed in the great conflagration. This view looks very plausible at first sight, but it is exceedingly shaken when we come to look at the definition of the words. The word, taken, has rather the sense of being taken as a captive, apprehended, seized; while the word, left, instead of signifying, left to perish, has the sense of being permitted to go away, delivered or rescued from danger. The second definition given by Liddell and Scott, to the first word, paralambano, is, “To take in pledge, to take by force or treachery, seize, get possession of.” The other word, aphiemi, is defined under the second head, by the same authors, as follows: “To let go, loose, set free.” In accordance with these definitions, some translations read, “One shall be seized, and the other escape.” The Cottage Bible comments thus: “one shall be taken, that is, as a captive.” Here is a separation between the righteous and the wicked. The one is seized, and doomed to destruction, the other escapes. And the disciples ask, “Where, Lord?” where shall this seizure and destruction take place? And he answers, “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” The parallel passage in Matthew 24:28, reads, “For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” And here a word is used, which never has any other meaning but that of a corpse or lifeless body. Now those who apply all this to the literal day of the Lord’s appearing, are obliged to take the body, or carcass, as a representative of Christ, and the eagles as representatives of the saints which are caught up to meet him in the air. But can this be? What! represent the Lord of glory, as he comes in majesty and triumph with all the glory of the Father, by a dead body, a loathsome carcass? and the saints who are caught up to meet him, as eagles, which go to rend and devour their prey? The idea is repulsive and revolting to the last degree.VEGW 65.2

    But what may be fitly represented by the dead body? Answer, The wicked, who, as unworthy of life, are given over to destruction. And what by the eagles? Answer, The judgments of God, that come down upon them, to slay and devour them. Job, speaking of the eagle, says, “Where the slain are, there is she.” Job 39:30. So wherever the wicked are, the plagues of God will find them out, and come down upon them like eagles upon their prey. Describing the scenes of this time, the Psalmist says: “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee. There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” Psalm 91:7, 10. Thus the righteous escape, while the wicked by their side are seized and perish.VEGW 66.1

    From this time on, we understand there is no association between the righteous and the wicked. Certainly we cannot suppose that the saints will come up to the very moment of the advent, unconcernedly carrying on their work, either in their houses or in their fields, side by side with their deadliest enemies! No; the manifest judgments of God separate the one from the other, and then we can “turn and discern between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not.” It is at this time, when Christ has ceased his intercessions, mercy pleads no more, and the plagues are falling upon the wicked, that the declaration found in Experience and Views, p.17, will be fulfilled: “In the time of trouble, we all fled from the cities and villages, but were pursued by the wicked, who entered the houses of the saints with the sword to kill us, but it broke and fell powerless as a straw,” etc. This is just before the final victory of the saints, when they “cry day and night unto God for deliverance.” Luke 18:7. This agrees perfectly with the testimony we have been considering, from Matthew and Luke.VEGW 67.1

    With the view here presented, there is consistency and harmony throughout; with any other, there is not. People may endeavor to show that the testimony of Luke 17:26-37, refers to the very hour of the Lord’s appearing, and that the righteous and wicked are up to that moment associated together in all the occupations of life, for the sake of proving the foregoing declaration from Experience and Views to be incorrect; but they can only do it by stubbornly shutting their eyes to all the claims of the context, and ringing an insignificant round of changes on the word, “day.” But it must be very apparent to all that that is but a superficial and incompetent examination of this question, which does not inquire whether the word, day, may not mean a period of indefinite duration; whether the context does not require that it be so used here; whether the expressions about being “taken” and “left,” do not denote an event of such a nature that it cannot transpire at the moment of the Lord’s appearing; and whether the carcass and the eagles can apply to Christ and his saints. Taking these questions into account, as we have done in the foregoing remarks, we find that the language of Luke covers a considerable period of time, and that according to his testimony, a separation between the righteous and the wicked certainly does take place before the Lord appears. Whatever discrepancy, therefore, the objector finds between this portion of scripture and the statement from Experience and Views quoted above, is only what he himself creates by his own erroneous view of the passage.VEGW 67.2

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