In the first article of this series, Dismissal of Unfaithful Shepherds, it was seen that unfaithful ministers in the remnant church must be converted or purged out before the remnant church receives the promised showers of blessing through the latter rain, or makes decided progress in the movement of the Three Angels’ messages.
God is “against the shepherds” described in Ezekiel 34. According to this passage, He will “cause them to cease from feeding the flock” and subsequently make “round about my hill a blessing; and . . . cause the shower to come down in his season” so that, “there shall be showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:10, 26).
God’s displeasure with those pastors of His flock found to be unfaithful (Ezekiel 34) is also clearly seen in the history and prophetic ministry of Elijah. God’s message of warning to unfaithful shepherds is predicted to recur in the last days through the testimony of the True Witness to the Laodiceans.
In Elijah’s day, Israel stood undecidedly between Baal and Jehovah. Neutrality in the face of evil is treason to God. It was because of this indecision that they were deprived of the heavenly rain. Elijah called Israel to cease their lukewarmness and to decide to follow either Baal or Jehovah, by whose name they were called. “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him,” Elijah said (I Kings 18:21).
The neutrality and hesitating loyalties of Israel were demonstrated by their silence in response to the above appeal by Elijah. It is in the context of this event, that we are instructed:
“If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime, and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God” (3T 281).
Elijah then gave the first opportunity to the priests of Baal to prove their case and reveal the nature of their cause. Elijah humbly prayed, claiming God’s Word in contrast to the gesticulations of the false leaders. Divine fire fell in response to Elijah’s prayer and consumed the sacrifice. The people declared, “The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God!” (I Kings 18:39).
The people thus decided to follow the true God. Yet the curse was not immediately reversed; the rain did not fall. It was not time to pray for rain yet. Something still needed to be done before the blessing of rain could come. The blessing could not fall upon the people while false shepherds were still actively misleading the flock of God. It was time for action.
“That repentant Israel may be protected from the allurements of those who have taught them to worship Baal, Elijah is directed by the Lord to destroy these false teachers” (PK 153). “Elijah said unto them, ‘Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there” (1 Kings 18:40).
What was the result of the removal of the false shepherds in Elijah’s time, as it was in Ezekiel 34? We are told that, “with the slaying of the prophets of Baal, the way was opened for carrying forward a mighty spiritual reformation among the ten tribes of the northern kingdom . . . now the curse of Heaven was to be withdrawn” (PK 155).
God said through the prophet Malachi, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Malachi 4:5a). Before Christ’s first coming, John the Baptist heralded Him, “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” Before Christ’s second coming, Malachi says Elijah will be sent again. Only when unfaithful shepherds are removed from their responsibilities can prayer for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit be effectual and revival be extended.
Elijah is foretold to address the last of the seven churches described in Revelation. The last-day church of Revelation is Laodicea: “the people of the judgment,” or “a people judged.” Like Israel in Elijah’s day, Laodicea is halting, neutral, indecisive—neither cold nor hot (Rev. 3:15). They suffer from the same lukewarmness and indecision that offended God in the days of Elijah. While suffering such a condition, and while some who lead them lack the courage and faithfulness to oppose error and reprove sin, the latter rain cannot fall. Thus the message of warning to the Laodiceans is first delivered to the ministers.
As Ahab blamed Elijah with the words, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” (I Kings 18:17), so rebels today blame those who warn against neutrality in times of wickedness and apostasy, claiming that they trouble the church with messages of God’s Word. Elijah’s response was, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baal” (1 Kings 18:18). The showers of blessing are withheld, not because of those who call for accountability to God’s Word, but according to Ezekiel 34 and 1 Kings 18, because among God’s ministers are found unfaithful shepherds who are sustained by the Lord’s flock while leading them into disobedience.
The, “True Witness,” the “Amen,” the “beginning of the creation of God” has given us a true and searching testimony (Revelation 3:14). Like Israel of old, Laodicea today halts between two opinions. God’s warning is distinctly addressed to those in ministry who remain undecided in the great dilemma facing God’s church. “Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans.” The True Witness says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
“Before the work of God can make any decided progress, the ministers must be converted” (1T 468.1).
“We must have a converted ministry, and then we shall see the light of God and His power aiding all our efforts” (4T 402.1).
“Those who have had privileges and opportunities to become intelligent in regard to the truth, and yet who continue to counterwork the work God would have accomplished, will be purged out” (20MR 320.1).
The Heart of the Problem