by Ellen G. White
What should we be doing during the last moments of respite?
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And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.—Revelation 7:1
What Does “Hold” Mean?
I saw four angels who had a work to do on the earth, and were on their way to accomplish it. Jesus was clothed with priestly garments. He gazed in pity on the remnant, then raised His hands, and with a voice of deep pity cried, “My blood, Father, My blood, My blood, My blood!” Then I saw an exceeding bright light come from God, who sat upon the great white throne, and was shed all about Jesus. Then I saw an angel with a commission from Jesus, swiftly flying to the four angels who had a work to do on the earth, and waving something up and down in his hand, and crying with a loud voice, “Hold! Hold! Hold! Hold! until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads.”
I asked my accompanying angel the meaning of what I heard, and what the four angels were about to do. He said to me that it was God that restrained the powers, and that He gave His angels charge over things on the earth; that the four angels had power from God to hold the four winds, and that they were about to let them go; but while their hands were loosening, and the four winds were about to blow, the merciful eye of Jesus gazed on the remnant that were not sealed, and He raised His hands to the Father and pleaded with Him that He had spilled His blood for them. Then another angel was commissioned to fly swiftly to the four angels and bid them hold, until the servants of God were sealed with the seal of the living God in their foreheads. (Early Writings, p. 38)
What Happens When the Winds Are Released?
Natural Disasters. We are amid the perils of the last days, and trying times are before us. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, that those things that cannot be shaken may remain. Drought, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, casualties by sea and land, will multiply. Life will be unsafe anywhere, only as the life is hid with Christ in God. Now, while the angels are holding the four winds, is our opportunity to seek the Lord most earnestly. (Manuscript Releases, 20:285)
Immorality, Violence, and Persecution. We feel depressed, greatly depressed, as we see the world and its wickedness. The professed Christian world is enveloped in the darkness that covers the earth. We sigh and cry for the abominations that are done in the land. Why is it that all this wickedness does not break forth in decided violence against righteousness and truth? It is because the four angels are holding the four winds, that they shall not blow upon the earth. But human passions are reaching a high pass, and the Spirit of the Lord is being withdrawn from the earth. (In Heavenly Places, p. 96)
National Disputes Escalate. Old controversies which have apparently been hushed for a long time will be revived, and new controversies will spring up; new and old will commingle, and this will take place right early. The angels are holding the four winds, that they shall not blow, until the specified work of warning is given to the world; but the storm is gathering, the clouds are loading, ready to burst upon the world, and to many it will be as a thief in the night. (Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 1b, p. 38)
Terrible Destruction Flattens Great Structures. The time is right upon us when there will be sorrow in the world that no human balm can heal. Even before the last great destruction comes upon the world, the flattering monuments of man’s greatness will be crumbled in the dust. God’s retributive judgments will fall on those who in the face of great light have continued in sin. Costly buildings, supposed to be fireproof, are erected. But as Sodom perished in the flames of God’s vengeance, so will these proud structures become ashes. (Maranatha, p. 175)
Religious Rights Denied. The time is fast approaching when we shall be made to feel the hand of oppression, because we demand our religious rights. Shall we then dishonor God by keeping silent, when his holy commandments are being trampled under foot? (Review and Herald, December 11, 1888)
Our Duty While Angels Hold the Winds?
Work to Preserve Freedom. We as a people have not accomplished the work which God has committed to us. We are not ready for the issue to which the enforcement of the Sunday law will bring us. It is our duty, as we see the signs of approaching peril, to arouse to action. Let none sit in calm expectation of the evil, comforting themselves with the belief that this work must go on because prophecy has foretold it, and that the Lord will shelter His people. We are not doing the will of God if we sit in quietude, doing nothing to preserve liberty of conscience. . . . Let there be most earnest prayer, and then let us work in harmony with our prayers. . . . Man’s necessity is God’s opportunity. It may be that a respite may yet be granted for God’s people to awake and let their light shine. (Testimonies for the Church, 5:713)
Awaken From Lethargy and Get Ready. But the churches are not awake. New life must enter into the churches. The last work of warning and mercy for a fallen world is being done. . . .
Now is the time to work, just now. There is not a moment to lose. All national, denominational, and sectarian distinctions between rank and rank, between caste and caste, are lost. The message is to be proclaimed in the highways and byways and hedges. Every human agent is merging his character under one of two heads—the Prince of Life and the prince of darkness. (Manuscript Releases, 15:222, 223)
What is the condition of those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus? If in families there are those who are refusing obedience to the Lord in keeping His Sabbath, then the seal cannot be placed upon them. . . . As the sealed of God we are Christ’s purchased possession, and no one shall pluck us out of His hands. (Ibid., p. 225)
Don’t Focus on the Trivial. The Lord has shown me the danger of letting our minds be filled with worldly thoughts and cares. I saw that some minds are led away from present truth and a love of the Holy Bible by reading other exciting books; others are filled with perplexity and care for what they shall eat, drink, and wear. Some are looking too far off for the coming of the Lord. Time has continued a few years longer than they expected; therefore they think it may continue a few years more, and in this way their minds are being led from present truth, out after the world. In these things I saw great danger; for if the mind is filled with other things, present truth is shut out, and there is no place in our foreheads for the seal of the living God. (Early Writings, p. 58)
Study the Bible as Never Before. If God has ever spoken by me, the time will come when you will be brought before councils, and every position of truth which you hold will be severely criticized. The time that so many are now allowing to go to waste should be devoted to the charge that God has given us of preparing for the approaching crisis. . . .
Study your Bible as you have never studied it before. Unless you arise to a higher, holier state in your religious life, you will not be ready for the appearing of our Lord. As great light has been given, God expects corresponding zeal, faithfulness, and devotion on the part of His people. There must be more spirituality, a deeper consecration to God, and a zeal in His work that has never yet been reached. Much time should be spent in prayer, that our garments of character may be washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. (Testimonies for the Church, 5:716, 717)
Overcome Through Dependence on God. We must hang our whole weight on the world’s Redeemer; He must be our dependence for strength. Without this, all our efforts will be unavailing. . . . We must connect more closely with God; and all our plans and arrangements must be in harmony with His plans, or they will not prove effectual.
The Holy Spirit is grieved and driven away by the self-sufficiency and rude traits of character which are cherished. These unhallowed elements must be burned out by the Spirit of God. (Review and Herald, December 15, 1885)
It is our work to know our special failings and sins, which cause darkness and spiritual feebleness, and quenched our first love. Is it worldliness? Is it selfishness? Is it the love of self-esteem? Is it striving to be first? Is it the sin of sensuality that is intensely active? Is it the sin of the Nicolaitans, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness? Is it the misuse and abuse of great light and opportunities and privileges, making boasted claims to wisdom and religious knowledge, while the life and character are inconsistent and immoral? Whatever it is that has been petted and cultivated until it has become strong and overmastering, make determined efforts to overcome, else you will be lost. It is these cherished sins, abhorrent to God, that make enfeebled moral courage, and leave you to choose to walk apart from God, while you retain a miserable, heartless, outward form. (Ibid., June 7, 1887)
We should daily obtain a deep and living experience in the work of perfecting Christian character. We should daily receive the holy oil, that we may impart to others. All may be light bearers to the world if they will. We are to sink self out of sight in Jesus. We are to receive the word of the Lord in counsel and instruction, and gladly communicate it. There is now need of much prayer. Christ commands, “Pray without ceasing;” that is, keep the mind uplifted to God, the source of all power and efficiency. . . . Those who do not cultivate the spirit and habit of prayer cannot expect to receive the golden oil of goodness, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, love. (Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 511, 512)
What are you doing . . . in the great work of preparation? Those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mold and preparing for the mark of the beast. Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God and purifying their souls by obeying the truth—these are receiving the heavenly mold and preparing for the seal of God in their foreheads. . . .
Every individual soul, if he would receive the seal of the living God, must hear the Word of the Lord, and do it with exactitude. There must be no such thing as haphazard religion if men would have a place in the family of God.
Now is the time, while the four angels are holding the four winds, to make our calling and election sure. (The Faith I Live By, p. 288)
Help in Temptation. When temptations and trials rush in upon us, let us go to God and agonize with Him in prayer. He will not turn us away empty, but will give us grace and strength to overcome, and to break the power of the enemy. Oh, that all could see these things in their true light and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus! Then would Israel move forward, strong in God, and in the power of His might. (Early Writings, p. 46)
Results Seen Even at Home. We need to offer praise and thanksgiving to God, not only in the congregation, but in the home life. Let the voices of His heritage be heard recounting the works of the Lord. Speak of His goodness, tell of His power. . . .
However black the clouds that roll upon the world at the present time, there is light beyond. Ignorance, superstition, darkness, unbelief strong and masterful, will meet us at every step we advance. But our faith must soar above all and see the bow of promise encircling the throne. We must reflect the light with pen and voice, praising God before the world. (In Heavenly Places, p. 96)
Work Earnestly Now. Everything in this world is in an unsettled state. The nations are angry, and preparations for war are being made. But though there is among the nations an increasing unrest, though they are mustering their forces, they are as if held back from action by an unseen power. The angels are holding the four winds until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads. . . .
A moment of respite has been graciously given us of God. Every power lent us of Heaven is now to be used in working for those perishing in ignorance. There must be no delay. The truth must be proclaimed in the dark places of the earth. Obstacles must be met and surmounted. A great work is to be done, and to those who know the truth for this time, this work has been entrusted. (Review and Herald, November 17, 1910)
The Lord is soon to come. The angels are holding the four winds, in order that God’s people may do their long-neglected work. We are not half awake to what might be done in our world. . . .
House-to-house work is one very successful way of reaching souls. But it is not the only way that God has provided for the advancement of his work. Decided proclamations of truth are to be made. But in regard to this work, I am instructed to say to our people, Be guarded. In bearing the message, make no personal thrusts at other churches. Speak the truth in tones and words of love. Let Christ be exalted. Keep to the affirmative of truth. Never leave the straight path God has marked out, for the purpose of giving some one a thrust. That thrust may do much harm, and no good. It may quench conviction in many minds. Let the truth tell the story of the inconsistency of error. . . .
The best way to expose the fallacy of error is to present truth. This is the greatest rebuke that can be given to error. Dispel the cloud of darkness resting on minds by reflecting the bright light of the Sun of righteousness. (Ibid., October 7, 1902)
We all need to be wide awake, that, as the way opens, we may advance the work in the large cities. We are far behind in following the light given us to enter the cities and erect memorials for God. Step by step we are to lead souls into the full light of truth. (Reflecting Christ, p. 241)
The message must go, notwithstanding the hard times. We must make special efforts in this direction now, while the angels are holding the four winds. Soon the time to labor will be past. Who does not want to have a part in this closing work? All can do something. Those who cannot give themselves can give of their means, and all can pray that the Lord will not only raise up laborers, but that the treasury, now empty, may be supplied with the necessary funds to extend the work. . . . The truth must go to all nations, tongues, and people, and that speedily. (Review and Herald, November 3, 1885)
What to Do With Material Possessions?
Live Sacrificially; Spend Your Money to Save Souls. The Lord is soon to come. We must work while the day lasts; for the night is coming, in which no man can work. Oh, many, many have lost the spirit of self-denial and sacrifice. They have been burying their money in temporal possessions. . . .
The Lord calls for every talent of means and ability to be put to use. When the reproach of indolence and slothfulness shall have been wiped away from the church, the Spirit of the Lord will be graciously manifested; divine power will combine with human effort, the church will see the providential interpositions of the Lord God of hosts, the light of truth will be diffused, the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. As in the apostles’ time, many souls will turn unto the Lord. The earth will be lightened with the glory of the angel from heaven. . . .
Work, oh, work, keeping eternity in view. Bear in mind that every power must be sanctified. In yourselves you are powerless to do anything good. Christ declares, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” Becoming partakers of the divine nature, you can do all things. Through Christ you can have power with God and with men. (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1132-1134)
Don’t Store Away Provisions. The Lord has shown me repeatedly that it is contrary to the Bible to make any provision for our temporal wants in the time of trouble. I saw that if the saints had food laid up by them or in the field in the time of trouble, when sword, famine, and pestilence are in the land, it would be taken from them by violent hands and strangers would reap their fields. Then will be the time for us to trust wholly in God, and He will sustain us. I saw that our bread and water will be sure at that time, and that we shall not lack or suffer hunger; for God is able to spread a table for us in the wilderness. If necessary He would send ravens to feed us, as He did to feed Elijah, or rain manna from heaven, as He did for the Israelites. (Early Writings, p. 56)
Give God Control of Property. Houses and lands will be of no use to the saints in the time of trouble, for they will then have to flee before infuriated mobs, and at that time their possessions cannot be disposed of to advance the cause of present truth. I was shown that it is the will of God that the saints should cut loose from every encumbrance before the time of trouble comes, and make a covenant with God through sacrifice. If they have their property on the altar and earnestly inquire of God for duty, He will teach them when to dispose of these things. Then they will be free in the time of trouble and have no clogs to weigh them down.
I saw that if any held on to their property and did not inquire of the Lord as to their duty, He would not make duty known, and they would be permitted to keep their property, and in the time of trouble it would come up before them like a mountain to crush them, and they would try to dispose of it, but would not be able. I heard some mourn like this: “The cause was languishing, God’s people were starving for the truth, and we made no effort to supply the lack; now our property is useless. Oh, that we had let it go, and laid up treasure in heaven!” I saw that a sacrifice did not increase, but it decreased and was consumed. I also saw that God had not required all of His people to dispose of their property at the same time; but if they desired to be taught, He would teach them, in a time of need, when to sell and how much to sell. Some have been required to dispose of their property in times past to sustain the Advent cause, while others have been permitted to keep theirs until a time of need. Then, as the cause needs it, their duty is to sell. (Ibid., pp. 56, 57)
Don’t Rush the Winds!
It is very strange that some of our brethren should feel that it is their duty to bring about a condition of things that would bind up the means that God would have set free. God has not laid upon them the responsibility of coming in conflict with the authorities and powers of the world in this matter. The withstraining hand of God has not yet been withdrawn from the earth. Let the leaders in the work bide their time, hide in Christ, and move and work with great wisdom. Let them be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves. I have repeatedly been shown that we might receive far more favors than we do in many ways if we would approach men in wisdom, acquaint them with our work, and give them an opportunity of doing those things which it is our privilege to induce them to do for the advancement of the work of God. (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 203)