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Early Writings

by Ellen G. White

The Great Apostasy

Millions of Christians sacrificed their lives for their faith, and many more millions compromised their faith in order to escape death.
Millions of Christians sacrificed their lives for
their faith, and many more millions compromised
their faith in order to escape death.

Illustration © Review and Herald Publ. Assoc.

I was carried forward to the time when heathen idolaters cruelly persecuted and killed the Christians. 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 which these Christians endured, they would not lower the standard. They kept their religion pure. I saw that Satan exulted and triumphed over their sufferings. But God looked upon His faithful martyrs with great approbation. The Christians who lived in that fearful time were greatly beloved of Him, because they were willing to suffer for His sake. Every suffering endured by them increased their reward in heaven. {EW 210.1}

Although Satan rejoiced because of the sufferings of the saints, yet he was not satisfied. He wanted control of the mind as well as the body. The sufferings that they endured only drove them closer to the Lord, leading them to love one another, and causing 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 places. Satan saw that he was losing his subjects; for although they suffered persecution and death, yet they were secured to Jesus Christ, to be the subjects of His kingdom. Satan therefore laid his plans to fight more successfully against the government of God and overthrow the church. He led the heathen idolaters to embrace a part of the Christian faith. They professed to believe in the crucifixion [211] and resurrection of Christ, and proposed to unite with the followers of Jesus, without a change of heart. Oh, 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 idolaters who had embraced a portion of the Christian faith, it would be the means of their full conversion. Satan was seeking to corrupt the doctrines of the Bible. {EW 210.2}

I saw that at last the standard was lowered, and that the heathen were uniting with the Christians. Although these worshipers of idols professed to be converted, they brought their idolatry with them into the church, only changing the objects of their worship to images of saints, and even of Christ and of Mary His mother. As the followers of Christ gradually united with them, the Christian religion became corrupted and the church lost its purity and power. Some refused to unite with them; such preserved their purity and worshiped God alone. They would not bow down to an image of anything in the heavens above or in the earth beneath. {EW 211.1}

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 either to yield to their ceremonies and image worship or be put to death. The fires of persecution were again kindled against the true church of Christ, and millions were slain without mercy. {EW 211.2}

It was presented before me in the following manner: A large company of heathen idolaters bore a black banner, upon which were figures of the sun, moon, and stars. This company seemed to be very fierce and angry. I was then shown another company bearing a pure white banner, upon which was written, "Purity and holiness unto the Lord." Their countenances were marked with firmness and heavenly [212] resignation. I saw the heathen idolaters 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. {EW 211.3}

I saw the company of idolaters consulting together. Failing to make the Christians yield, they agreed to another plan. I saw them lower their banner and then approach that firm Christian company and make 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 the heathen. A few, however, would not yield to this plan, but firmly chose to die holding their banner rather than to lower it. Then I saw many lower the banner and unite with the heathen; but the firm and steadfast would again seize it and bear it on high. I saw that persons were continually leaving the company of those who bore the pure banner, and were uniting with the idolaters under the black banner, to persecute those bearing the white banner. Many were slain, yet the white banner was held high, and believers were raised up to rally around it. {EW 212.1}

The Jews who first aroused the rage of the heathen against Jesus were not to escape unpunished. In the judgment hall, as Pilate hesitated to condemn Jesus, the infuriated Jews cried, "His blood be on us, and on our children." The fulfillment of this terrible curse which they called down upon their own heads, the Jewish nation has experienced. The heathen and those called Christians alike have been their foes. Those professed Christians, in their zeal for Christ, [213] whom the Jews crucified, thought that the more suffering they could bring upon them, the better would God be pleased. Many of the unbelieving Jews were therefore killed, while others were driven from place to place and were punished in almost every manner. {EW 212.2}

The blood of Christ and of the disciples, whom they had put to death, was upon them, and they were visited with terrible judgments. The curse of God followed them, and they were a byword and a derision to the heathen and to so-called Christians. They were degraded, shunned, and detested, as if the brand of Cain were upon them. Yet I saw that God had marvelously preserved this people and scattered them over the world that they might be looked upon as specially visited by the curse of God. I saw that God had forsaken the Jews as a nation; but that individuals among them will yet be converted and be enabled to tear the veil from their hearts and see that the prophecy concerning them has been fulfilled; they will receive Jesus as the Saviour of the world and see the great sin of their nation in rejecting and crucifying Him. {EW 213.1}