The great test

What if cleaning your shoes on Sabbath morning was the great test by which your eternal destiny was decided? I’m not saying that it will be. But, what if it was?

In the closing scenes of Earth’s history, keeping God’s holy Sabbath day will become a test of loyalty to God, and it will be the great test by which all men and women that are still alive on Earth will be judged. This is something that we are well-aware of as Seventh-day Adventists. However, I would like to explore a little on what it that might actually look like in its manifestation.

To begin with, let us take a look at how we arrive at this position. The proceedings of God’s judgment are shown to us in the book of Revelation. Firstly, those who have died in Christ are judged by the works that they have done. The judgment books are opened and, point by point, their deeds are brought to view and it is shown to all witnesses of the judgment why their names have been retained in the book of life. 

At some point, the judgment of the dead ceases and the judgment of the living starts. Those who are living are judged very differently to the way the dead have been judged. The judgment of the living is described for us in Revelation 7. The angel in Revelation 7:3 announces the start of their judgment saying, “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” (King James Version).

Revelation 14 tells us that those who receive the seal of God are the righteous of God—they are “without fault before the throne of God” (Revelation 14:5). They are without fault because they have participated in the services of the heavenly sanctuary. God has to taken their sins from them and has to cleansed their lives (Leviticus 16:30) and now they stand without fault before His throne. 

Furthermore, these righteous ones of God have passed the test in the great hour of trial (Revelation 3:10) and this is why they have received the seal of God in their foreheads (Revelation 3:12). It is by this test that all those who are living are judged. The test is a simple one. There is one question: Will you keep God’s commandments? It is a practical test though, not theory. And they do not need to be tested on all of the commandments, they only need to prove faithful in the keeping of one (James 2:10). 

Ellen White tells us that “The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty, for it is the point of truth especially controverted” (Great Controversy 605). Those who prove faithful to the keeping of the Sabbath in the great test are loyal to the whole law of God and they receive the seal of God in their foreheads. Those who do not prove faithful to the keeping of the Sabbath are guilty of the whole law and receive the mark of the beast. 

We have often pictured this test as taking place in the form of a persecution. Rightly so. In the last days there will be civil laws in place requiring us to keep the false Sabbath holy and requiring us to break the Sabbath of God with the threat of death for non-compliance. We think about this persecution and we say to ourselves, “I have to make sure that I choose God’s Sabbath day one day when I am threatened with death to do otherwise” and this sums up our preparation for that awful day. But, are we kidding ourselves?

It has been said that it is easier to die for God than it is to live for Him. There are countless instructions in the Bible and in Spirit of Prophecy on how we should keep God’s Sabbath day holy. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD” (Isaiah 58:13, 14).

Jesus said in Matthew 24:37-39, “As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” He further goes on to say that it might happen silently and imperceptibly: “Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matthew 24:41). 

As Seventh-day Adventists we may be keeping the Sabbath in form only. That is, we don’t visit our place of employment on the Sabbath and we go to church, yet by God’s standards we still pollute His holy day by the subjects of our conversation, and by the little tasks we doing on the Sabbath day that displease Him. “God is dishonored by any unnecessary work done on His holy day” (Ellen White, Selected Messages Book 3, 258).

My fear is this: The great test of the Sabbath might come upon us, not by persecution, but while performing a seemingly insignificant act of desecrating the Sabbath day. We might find ourselves cleaning our shoes on Sabbath morning, mending a garment, or chatting about business over lunch on Sabbath afternoon and that might be our test of loyalty. Not possible? All the misery that we see in our world today is the result of two people eating a fruit. And without even knowing it, by a similar seemingly insignificant act, our case will have been decided.

Jesus commands us “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42). God inites us to take pleasure in His Sabbath day and he promises us, “I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:14). “We should jealously guard the edges of the Sabbath. Remember that every moment is consecrated, holy time” (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church vol. 6, 356).

Shanley Lutchman is a mechanical engineer from South Africa. He works as a consultant and entrepreneur in the energy sector. He has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering with specialization in renewable energy technology. Shanley was baptized at the age of 12 and is a faithful member of his local church in Pretoria, South Africa.