This powerful sermon address explains the importance of Divine vision, Divine interpretation, and Divine faith as an inseparable trio that lead to Christ and eternal life, something that the Seventh-day Adventist church as a body is in desperate need of today.
TEXT OF ADDRESS BY V.T. HOUTEFF,
MINISTER OF D. SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS
SABBATH, JANUARY 24, 1948
MT. CARMEL CHAPEL
The text of our subject for this afternoon is found in Proverbs 29:18.
Prov. 29:18 — “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
At the outset of our study let us ascertain to what extent this scripture has been fulfilled. In the days of Moses, you remember, the Egyptians had no vision, but the Hebrews did have a vision and a prophet to interpret the vision. With this gift among them when they came against the Red Sea the Hebrews were preserved, but the Egyptians perished. “The wise man,” you see, was not guessing when he said “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Suppose, though, the people should have a vision, but no interpreter for the vision. What then? Let us see: You recall that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a night vision but had no interpreter, no, not one among all his wise men in the kingdom. Consequently as they were unable to interpret his vision (Dan. Chapter 2), it was decreed that they should be put to death, and they would have perished if Daniel, God’s man, had not been in the land to interpret the king’s vision.
Pharaoh, too, had a vision but no interpreter. And if Joseph had not been in the land of Egypt to interpret the king’s vision, the Egyptians and the whole ancient world would have perished during the seven years of famine. What the Bible says, is one hundred percent true, you see.
Now let me ask you a simple question. If the people with out a vision and without a interpreter perish, how are they then to get the vision and the interpreter? Saint Peter gives the clue:
2 Pet. 1:19, 20 — “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.”
Here we are told that prophecy, a vision, is the acid test by which to judge purported Bible Truth; that is, if the thing is not in prophecy, if there is no vision of it found in the writings of the prophets, then, there is no truth in it. Yes, the visions of the prophets are to be our visions if we must be preserved. Prophecy, though, he contends is of no more private interpretation than were Nebuchadnezzar’s and Pharaoh’s visions, that the wise men of any people are not able to interpret the concealed prophecies of God. Why?–
2 Pet. 1:21 — “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
This is exactly why prophecy cannot be privately interpreted, not without the Spirit Who dictated the prophecies to holy men of old. So, then, the prophecies are not interpreted by the will of men, but by the Spirit of Truth, “the Spirit of Prophecy,” the same Spirit that dictated the prophecies. This, you see, is not my idea. It is the plain language of the Bible. But perhaps there is still doubt in your minds, and if so we would do well to give the Bible another test.
Let us, therefore, again consider the kings of Babylon and of Egypt. Both kings gave to their wise men the opportunity to interpret some of the things which we now find in the Bible. The kings of those ancient lands gave their wise men not only the opportunity baited with rich reward for interpreting the visions, but even threatened to slay them if they failed to do so. This was especially true in Babylon. Their wise men failed and even openly and wisely admitted that to reveal the secret things of God was not their business.
Are not these tests strong enough to convince any of you that the secret things of God, such as the concealed prophecies, are not disclosed by finite men, — no, not by the Devil either, that when God wants a thing to be a secret, it remains concealed until He Himself reveals it? Then, when it is revealed all are to know that God Himself is at work. Are not therefore the wise men of the day making fools of themselves by airing their private interpretations of the unrevealed Scriptures?
If it is hard enough for the average-mind to admit that he is wrong, then pray tell me how easily will our wise men, who think themselves to stand without a peer, to admit their mistakes? For this is exactly what they must do to their audiences if they themselves are ever to accept the prophecies when unfolded by the Holy Spirit Himself. And if they do not give up their private interpretations and take the interpretations of the Spirit, will they not sin against the Holy Ghost?
The wise men of Chaldea and Egypt were not allowed to advance their private ideas as to what the kings’ visions might mean, so at last it was an easy matter for them to say, “We do not know.” But it was not at all easy for the priests, scribes, and Pharisees in Christ’s day to recant what they had taught the people, and neither will it be easy for the private interpreters of today, even though they know that such an honest and trying confession would make them great heroes.
Today private interpretations have harmed and confused the world more than at any other time. Look at the shattered sectarian world of today. It has split Christendom into hundreds of sects, chips of all sizes, one disagreeing with the other. Who can say that their diverse private interpretations of the Scriptures are inspired, dependable, or profitable for anything but to cause Christians to quarrel and bicker among themselves over theories and doctrines? Are these presumptuous interpreters of the Scriptures bringing Christians to one accord, fitting them for a second Pentecost? or are they dividing and unfitting them? Are they not making fools of themselves in the eyes of the non-Christian world? It is plain to see that they are not even as wise as the wise men of Joseph’s day or of Daniel’s day. It sounds hard, I know, but it would be worse to leave them sleeping without doing something to awaken them. No one can watch a blind man walking into an opened bridge without doing something to prevent him from walking headlong into the river. If they do not open their eyes now, then who can say that they are not the people who hardly stand a chance?
Their theoretical interpretations of the Scriptures are brewing discord within every denomination, and at the same time their adherents pray and talk of having received, or of expecting to receive the gift of the Spirit! They pray, not to have the gift of inspired interpretation, not to have their private interpretation corrected, or to know the Truth more fully, but they pray to receive the gift of working miracles! Yes, that is what they are all after. What presumption! and what an insult to Intelligence!
Miracles for what purpose? — For no other than to confuse an even greater multitude with their private interpretations. They may fool men but I tell you they can never fool God, and they had better try it no longer.
Now, suppose that we have a vision and also an interpreter, but do not have faith. Then what? — If such be our case, then I believe that in such an unhappy state of mind we would be better off if we had neither vision nor interpreter, because if we had both a vision and an interpreter, but no faith we would be held responsible for rejecting both, and thus doubly sin against the Holy Ghost. Then we would find ourselves in an even more unenviable position than were the Jews.
There is no forgiveness for sinning against the Holy Ghost, against Inspiration, because once rejected there is nothing else by which a sinner can be brought to Christ. Consequently there is no more hope for such a one, for there is nothing more that Heaven can do to awaken him to his poverty, and hence no more remedy, no forgiveness of sin.
But one may say, “I do have faith in the Bible, in the Word of God.” We may have even more faith in the Bible than had the Jews, but if such one-sided faith was a detriment to the Jews, then what would it be to others? No, the Jews were not condemned for lack of faith in the Bible, but for having no faith in the messengers of God, no faith in the prophets and their interpretations of the Scriptures. Moreover, faith in the Bible without faith in the Interpreter Who dictated the Bible is as good as to admit that bread is indeed the staff of life, but to refuse to take a bite of it! Let us see what the Bible itself has to say concerning such unfortunates:
2 Chron. 36:14-17 — “Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which He had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: He gave them all into his hand.”
The transgressors herein mentioned, you see, were not left to the slaughter simply because they were great sinners; God had compassion on them while sinning, and sent messengers to correct and to enlighten them. But after they rejected His messages, and slew His Spirit-filled messengers, they sinned against the Holy Ghost, then there was nothing more that He could do but to let their enemies destroy them.
Let us consider another example, this one in Jesus’ time. The Jews in His time had even greater faith in the Scriptures than any before them. With the Scriptures they accused, tried, and crucified the Lord. The thing in which they had no faith was Jesus’ interpretations of the Scriptures. As a result, some years later their city was destroyed, and every one that was found in it burned as rats, only because they failed to heed Jesus’ instructions:
Luke 21:20-22 — “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”
Without vision, you see, the people perish. And also without an interpreter and without faith they likewise perish. And this is why “the Spirit of Prophecy” is an absolute necessity to the people of God in all generations.
Laodiceanism today, you know, is in a worse situation than any people at any other time, for by protesting that there is no need of prophets, no need of more truth, they have already rejected them, yes, actually killed them. If they expect no more truth and if Jesus Christ Himself should come with more truth would they not crucify Him also? I know that I am not making a rash statement, not exaggerating either, and I also know that the Bible will sustain me in what I am saying, else I would not say it.
We have now already seen that the Scriptures are not of private interpretation, and that Christendom as a whole has no inspired, Divinely-appointed interpreter, does not even claim to have one, and that the people are as confused as were the foolish Babel tower-buildings when their language was replaced with diversified languages.
Now, then, if it is Truth that makes anyone free, and if It comes only through Inspiration, and if Christendom fails to recognize this and thus give God no chance to save it, then what is to be its fate, and also the fate of the Church itself? You know the answer.
The root of this blundering, though, springs from the heart of the church that professes to be the light of the world, for she feels rich and increased with goods, in need of neither Truth nor prophets in spite of the fact that the Lord Himself tells her that she is wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, about to be spued out, and in need of everything (Rev. 3:14-18.)
To overlook this charge and still to say we have need of nothing is to insult the Lord, and to charge God with having forsaken the earth, the Church, and the people, and leaving them all to do the best they can in their confusion and carnal security, expecting to lift themselves out of their deception by the straps of their boots!
There is but one thing that her people have been taught to look for, and that is to look out for false prophets, and as the people do not realize that there can be no false where there is no true, can you not see their inconsistency? And what terrible self-deception for a people to think themselves right when they are all wrong! — Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, pg. 253. I say terrible, and I mean terrible, because if they keep on imagining that they are rich and increased with goods, in need of nothing, while they are destitute of everything, they will certainly be “spued out.”
If they do awake to their poverty, it will be the greatest miracle since the beginning of the world. I say it will be the greatest, because they feel no need of God’s help through Inspiration, expect none, are prejudiced, suspicious, and fearful of everyone that disagrees with their preconceived idea. They are therefore even harder to reach with the saving Truth for today than were the Jews of yesterday.
Will the Church forever remain in her self-deception, or will she awake to her great need? We shall have these questions answered if we turn to the Revelation:
“And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ…for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.” Rev. 12:16, 17; 19:10.
Here is the Bible’s own answer, which says that there is to be a people who will have the Testimony of Jesus Christ at the time the earth swallows up the flood, the hypocrites. And since this incident is yet future, it shows that there is to be a prophet in the Church, for the Bible’s own interpretation of “the Testimony of Jesus Christ,” is “the Spirit of Prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). The first part of chapter 19 you will note explains that the Spirit of Prophecy is brought to them by a man, a “fellow servant,” and that those who receive him feel like worshiping him, but he directs them to worship God, not a man.
The remnant that are left, the saints who were not swallowed by the Dragon’s flood as the earth opened her mouth, you note have the “testimony of Jesus Christ,” the living Spirit of Prophecy active in their midst. The Church therefore will not sleep forever, the true people of God will awake to their poverty, they will profit at this rousing call, but the Dragon’s flood will fill the bowels of the earth.
Let now no one deceive himself by thinking that the Bible Itself is the active Spirit of Prophecy. Let us be God’s real people, logical thinkers, not bait hunters. The Bible, you know, without the human channel, is as inactive as though It were but ink and paper. Moreover, the Spirit, too, apart from man, is also inactive:
He, too, works through the human agent. Hence, without an inspired interpreter the concealed prophecies and the Spirit that unfolds them are inactive. Moreover, how could it be said of one particular group having the Spirit of Prophecy, when all the sects in Christendom have the Bible?
The remnant, who have the Spirit of Prophecy among them are directed to keep the commandments of God, while the rest of the world, through the influence of the Dragon, persecute them. In this light, you again see that a remnant will escape from the present self-deception that has befuddled the whole Christian world.
Finally, what could be the Dragon’s flood that proceeds out of his mouth if not Dragon-prompted interpreters of the Scriptures through whom he expects to cause the Church to be carried away?
Truly the self-appointed prophets in Israel of today are more in number than were the prophets in Elijah’s day. Here is a fact which only deaf and blind persons would try to deny. No, I am not taking pleasure in unveiling this Truth, I do it only because I must. God wants His people to have the Truth, and so I have no alternative but to tell it.
This flood against which the everliving Church is struggling to make her way, is, we are told, to be swallowed by the earth. It is to be done away with as were the self-appointed prophets in Moses’ day: namely, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, “princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown.” Num. 16:2. These and all their followers and sympathizers perished: “The earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.” Num. 16:32.
Here we have the type, and the example, too, pointing out that what was done in Moses’ day with the men who tried to promote themselves to the office of the Spirit of Prophecy, will be done with the men who aspire to the same office in our day. They are the people who hardly stand a chance.
Thus it is that any who are called to teach what the Spirit of Prophecy unfolds to them, should not aspire to private uninspired interpretation of the Scriptures. If they do, they and all who follow them will have their reward unless they repent.
Gal. 3:1-3; 4:16 — “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the Truth…? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
Let me again point out to you the people who are in the greatest danger of failing to serve the Lord as the Spirit directs. This we can again see from the examples of the past. I can go back as far as Cain and Abel. Cain was the first-born of Adam, and according to Bible rule, the first-born was to be the leader, the priest. From his experience we know that he, the leader, the minister in the family, was the first one in history to worship according to his own private interpretation of religion. And for Abel’s failing to follow Cain’s way of worship, Abel was put to death at Cain’s own hands.
Next, I would take you to Abraham’s time. You know that Ishmael was Abraham’s first-born, and Isaac his second. Ishmael, the first-born, being of the flesh persecuted Isaac, him who was born after the Spirit.
Then, coming to Isaac’s twins, Esau and Jacob: Esau was the mighty man of the day, and the first-born in the home; his was the birthright to lead out in the service of God. But he, too, was more interested in hunting than in the work of the Spirit. So little value he placed on the Spirit’s work that he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. In spite of this, he still expected the promised blessings from his father, but Providence intervened! When he discovered his loss, he, of course, as Cain of old, sought to kill his brother.
In Moses’ time we find the same spirit working through the first-born, for all those who were twenty years or over when they left Egypt, perished in the wilderness, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua.
From these examples in the days of our types, we see that those who are first, and those who are mighty, whose birthright in the church grants them the privilege to lead the people, are in the greatest danger of erring or losing their souls. But with such a clear picture before them through these Bible examples, we hope that they will turn against the old Dragon and come out from his clutches. If they do come out, they will indeed be regarded as valiant men of God as were the three Hebrews after coming out of the fiery furnace and as Daniel after coming out of the lions’ den.
“Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” Isa. 2:22. Inspired Truth, Brother, Sister, is the only thing that counts, and only when you yourself investigate and personally decide to take your stand for it though the whole world rejects it and takes issue with you. Let us therefore no longer drift with the tide as a pebble with the waves of the sea. We must be men and women of stamina and stability if we are to follow God and His Truth.
We have now clearly seen that those who took such a stand as Truth here presents, were God’s heroes of the past, and such must be His heroes of today, even though they be persecuted, laughed at, and cast out as were those who have gone before them.
Victory over every failure can be gained by Divine vision, Divine interpretation, Divine faith. These three, you see, are inseparable, and only these three lead to Christ and eternal life. This is indeed, the righteousness of Christ, not tarnished with the tinsel of men.
Of course, you will have to face the opposition, but so did the Lord Himself. Are you greater than He? There is, how ever, one thing that the enemies of Truth cannot do, and that is, they cannot win an argument against the Truth, let alone give anything as good. Their only aim is to take away your pearl of great price. And your aim therefore should be to keep it though you may have to lose everything else if you intend to avoid the people that hardly stand a chance and to win in the race with the Just. Divine vision, Spirit-filled interpreter, and unfailing faith, is what we all need to have, lest we all perish.” — Timely Greetings, Vol. 2, No. 24, pp. 14-27