Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Church Family > Sermon Summaries > 15 Jul 2006, Dr Barry Wright - It Is Always Darkest Before The Dawn

It Is Always Darkest Before The Dawn

15 Jul 2006, Dr Barry Wright

(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)


There is a common saying that has been passed down from ancient times, and from generation to generation, that says 'It is always darkest before the dawn.'

In reality there is very little evidence for this belief, but because we always judge the darkness before dawn by the dawn itself, it is this comparison that makes us realise how dark it was before.

In 1940 the British people were to go through one of the darkest and blackest periods of their long history. This was to take place during the Second World War after the rescue of 339,000 officers and men from the beaches at Dunkirk. Under constant fire, yachts, barges, pleasure steamers, tugs and vessels of all sorts and sizes worked their way back and forth across the English Channel as the soldiers were brought to safety. This was seen to be one of those special times that showed human nature at its most valiant.

However, it was after this episode, in August and September of that same year, that all the might of the German war machine was thrown against the British forces in the air. This was to be called 'The Battle of Britain'.

Winston Churchill was to make the comment that 'never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.' It was the courage, endurance and dogged determination of the young British and allied fighter pilots that eventually saw Britain gain a momentous victory. This was seen by historians to be one of the turning points of the War. The dawn of peace was believed to be just around the corner and when 'V' day eventually came, the relief that was felt by the peoples of war torn Europe would have been difficult to put into mere words.

As those involved in this disastrous conflict were to look back on these years and contrast them with the years that were to lie ahead, the dawn of a new post war era must have looked very good.

Dear friends, ever since the beginning of time this old world has been through many such experiences, but never as great and as momentous as those periods that have been faithfully described in the Scriptures. These events stand out because of the eternal consequences that were to be involved.

I want you to picture with me this morning one of the most dramatic moments that was to take place in that newly created garden paradise that God, in His love, had provided for the inhabitants of this world.

The world's most beautiful woman, created perfect, without blemish, was to face one of the greatest tests of her short existence. Created as a companion for the man, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, this wondrous creature was to come up against one of the mightiest and intelligent of God's creation - An angel who had once held the highest position in heaven, next to Jesus himself - A being whom God had created a little higher than the inhabitants of this new world. 

When Eve made that fatal mistake to listen to the words of this created being above the words of God, and then persuaded Adam to do the same, the world was thrown into instant confusion, as death became an intruder into the creation story. 

Author, Ellen White tells us in Desire of Ages p. 62 that Adam and Eve, in witnessing the first sign of decay in the drooping flower and falling leaf, mourned more deeply than those who now mourn over their dead. This was to be a dark, dark day in the annals of Biblical history (White, 1940: 62).

The following tragic consequences were not only to include shame, suffering and estrangement, but also flight from God, disharmony and deepening disillusionment.

All heaven was filled with sorrow. We are told that the Angels ceased their songs of praise and there was only mourning for the ruin that sin had brought upon the earth.

Was this to be the end?

How was God to deal with this tragic situation?

What looked to be the darkest hour in Earth's short history was soon to be dispelled by one of the most extraordinary revelations to be given by God Himself. God was to make clear that:

His plan for man's salvation was now to involve all heaven in its infinite sacrifice

The angels were to be told it would cost the life of their beloved commander and there could be no other way

The Son of God would have to come in contact with the degradation of this earth and endure shame, sorrow and death.

At the end of Christ's mission he would be placed in the hands of wicked men to suffer insult and torture.

Jesus would wear the weight of the sins of the whole world on his shoulders and to accomplish this plan Christ was to be made a little lower than the angels to prepare for the suffering of death

The Scriptures tell us that this incredible plan had already been laid before the creation of the Earth for we are told in Revelation 13:8 that Christ was to be '…the lamb slain from the foundation of the world' 

What seemed to be, at one brief moment, only despair and discouragement, was now to open up to some of the most wonderful promises involving hope and the prospect of a new life.

As soon as the angels realised that through the death of Jesus, many on earth would be saved and that the one who had the power of death would finally be destroyed, there was inexpressible joy in heaven. As noted in Job 38:7, 'the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.'

It would seem that the concept of a world redeemed was to outweigh the anguish and sacrifice of the Prince of Life.

The first that Adam and Eve knew of this plan was the announcement made in Gen 3:15. It was here that the LORD himself declared 'I will put enmity (hatred) between thee and the woman, and between thy seed (offspring) and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.'

In other words, 'I will put hatred between you and the woman, and between your descendants and her descendants, it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.'

This statement was effectively to be a declaration of war. It was also to declare that the power of this mighty fallen angel would eventually be broken.

What had seemed so dark with despair only moments before was now opened up to the glorious light of a new dawn. Hope was given where it seemed that hope was not to be found. The price was high, but this plan was to reveal, once again, the deep and mysterious love that God has for all His created beings - for you and for me. A love, the Scriptures tell us, that passes all knowledge. This was to be one of the mysteries of God. The plan of redemption

Since the fall there have been many periods of crisis where the world was to be plunged into dark times where the light of God was to be almost extinguished. These were times when Satan had set out to challenge the very power of the God of heaven.

These challenges were seen in the time before the flood, during the exodus of Israel from Egypt and the challenge given to the priests of Baal on the top of Mt. Carmel.

Dear friends, this was spiritual warfare

This morning, however, I would like to focus on what could be considered to be one of the longest and darkest periods of earth's history. A time that was to begin just before the birth of Christ and which was to culminate initially in the rise of the Protestant Reformation and finally end with the French Revolution in 1798. It was then that God's prophetic clock was to toll on time marking the dawn of a new short era of so-called spiritual liberation for this old world.

To understand the background to this particular section of history we need to turn to the Scriptures and to read the words of Jesus as given through the Apostle John in Revelation Chap 12:1-6: 13-17.  Let us read what he had to say

V1  'A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head'

V2  'She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.'

This radiant woman, clothed with the glory of god represented the church, god's faithful people throughout all ages, and it was to be through this chosen vessel that Jesus Christ was to come in the flesh.

We need to recognise that the world, prior to the birth of Jesus had become more and more degraded throughout the long ages of sin, and now, more than ever, was calling out for the coming of the Redeemer. As the time drew near, Satan was to redouble his efforts to extinguish not only man's love for God, but also God's love for man. The world was a mess.

V 3,4 'Then another sign appeared in heaven; an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born

Dear friends, these verses identify the dragon as that old serpent, the devil, Satan, that mighty fallen angel, the deceiver, not only of the angels, but also of the whole world.

The woman now stands in peril of the dragon as he stands poised to attack her when she was about to give birth. The description of the child leaves us in no doubt that this event referred to the birth of the commander of heaven.

Satan had done everything possible in Old Testament times to break the strand of Christ's linage through God's chosen people. While many times this had almost reached breaking point, it had faithfully been protected and preserved by God himself.

The birth of Jesus, dear friends, was to come on time and we find this event recorded in the book of Galatians 4: 4,5 where it says that 'When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son…'

The fullness of time had come and Satan was now to marshal the full extent of his forces.

As history records, the arch deceiver was to use one of the most debased men of his time to carry out his purposes.

'Herod the Great', at that time, was Governor of Judea. He was known for being a ruthless fighter, a cunning negotiator and subtle diplomat. He was a loyal supporter of the Emperor of Rome and an important figure in the life of the Palestinian Jews.

His policies were implemented with force and cruelty and it was to be his overwhelming fear of a Jewish revolt that led him to become paranoid over the protection of his throne. With 10 marriages and 15 children, he was virtually guaranteed that there would be some major struggles over who would be his successor. Herod's murder of his wife, Mariamne 1 and two of his sons led to the well-known statement that 'It is better to be one of Herod's hogs than to be his son' (Lockyer, 1986: 476,477).

It was at this time that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the wise men came asking 'Where is He that is born King of the Jews.' You could imagine how Herod responded to this piece of news. Let's read the story in Matt 2:1-3,7,8,12-18

This was a horrific event. A desperate attempt by the dragon who was poised before the woman 'to devour her child as soon as it was born.'


V5 'She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre. And her child was snatched up to God and His throne'.

Fortunately, the Devil's power was not strong enough to thwart the eternal purpose of God. The Son of God was 'destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron'

In verse 5 the Apostle John takes us from these dramatic events, passing silently over the period of the life and ministry of Jesus, directly to His ascension. This verse was to cover 33 years of history. Jesus is now back in the presence of the Father.

What would be the dragon's next move? Let's read Verses 13-16

V 13 'When the Dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child'.

V 14 'The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach.'

V 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.'

V 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.'

These four verses were now to cover a period of 1260 years finishing in 1798.  A huge sweep of history that, for a number of reasons would be for the most part called by secular historians, as 'the dark ages'.

Being unable to attack the son of God directly, the dragon now turns all his anger on the woman.

Satan's persecution of the church, God's faithful people, was described as a flood of destruction that would increase from century to century. It was estimated that 50 million people died for their faith during this period. The devil was determined to wipe out and destroy to the last man and woman, anyone, who continued the true worship of the God of heaven.

However, during this period until the end of the 1260 years in 1798, at the time of the French Revolution, God was to provide shelter and nourishment in the remote wilderness areas of the earth. These events have been faithfully recorded in the history of nations for all to see and were to fulfil the words described in verse 16.

But the story does not end there

While the Protestant Reformation was, in part, to bring release from the devil's hold over the truth and accessibility of the Scriptures, he was now to intensify his campaign to destroy the people of God. This was particularly the case for the remnant of her seed that were to keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Let's read v 17 'Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.' This was to take the world through a time of trouble such as never been seen before.

Dear friends we are living in that time that the Bible calls 'the time of the end'. This commenced, according to God's prophetic time line, in the year 1798 and it now leads us towards the glorious Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The dragon would concentrate his efforts on the woman's descendants - those who keep the commandments of God.

Approximately 46 years later, in December 1844, the all-powerful God of the universe, who often chooses the 'weak things of the world to shame the strong', (1 Cor 1:27) was about to take a sickly 17 year-old girl by the name of Ellen Harmon into the very courts of heaven.

Like the Apostle Paul she was 'caught up to the third heaven' - to paradise - the dwelling place of God, and it was in this first vision that she says she had seen a better world and it had spoiled her for this one. In coming back to this world everything looked so dreary and dark compared to what she had just been privileged to see.

Dear friends, there is a new day coming and dawn is about to break dispelling the darkness of this earth and what a wonderful day that's going to be.

These thoughts are reinforced in the following song and I would like to share the words with you today.

Listen carefully to what it says.

If you knelt beside the rubble of an aching broken heart
If the things you gave your life to, fell apart
You're not the first to be acquainted with sorrow, grief and pain
The Master promises you sunshine after rain

Hold on my child
Joy comes in the morning
Weeping only lasts for the night
Hold on my child
Joy comes in the morning
The darkest hour that meets dawn is just in sight

To invest your seed of trust in God
In mountains you cannot move
You have risked your life on things you cannot prove
But to give the things you cannot keep for what you cannot lose
Is the way to find the joy God has for you.

Hold on my child
Joy comes in the morning
Weeping only lasts for the night
Hold on my child
Joy comes in the morning
The darkest hour that meets dawn is just in sight.

Samuel Woodrow Tannyhill was born 20th June 1929 in Marion County, the United States of America.

At the age of five his parents separated and he was cast adrift among well-meaning relatives and friends who offered to care for him. Consequently, his early life was not pleasant, happy or carefree as would have been enjoyed by most other boys of his day.

Sam lived in a dozen different homes before he reached his teen-age years. His needs were basically ignored and as a result he was to grow up maladjusted and starved for normal family affection. In some of the homes where Sam lived, he was treated cruelly by those who thought that they were teaching him obedience. Their harsh and unloving methods did nothing but arouse resentment in this desperately lonely boy.

In his early teens he was reunited with his father, who at the time was very ill. At the age of 15, the good and wholesome influence that he was receiving was cut short by his dad's untimely death. Once again he was set adrift.

He had a brilliant mind, but because of his insecurity and frequent moves, he never satisfactorily completed a single grade in school. At year six his formal schooling came to an end. At no time during this period was he given any moral training and he had never had the opportunity of attending church.

His criminal life really began at about age ten or eleven with minor infractions ultimately becoming major ones. It was thought that he would outgrow these anti-social tendencies but his involvement in theft eventually led to a conviction of forgery. He was sentenced to the Missouri State Penitentiary for five and a half years.

Within three weeks of his release, he was again committing crimes and it was in his hometown of Freemont Ohio that he decided to 'pull his last job' before leaving with a girl friend for another state.

His target was to be an all night restaurant called 'The Hut'. On duty at the time was a twenty-nine year old woman by the name of Mrs. Shirley Bradford. Deserted by her husband, she worked nights to support herself and her little daughter.

On entering the diner at 2 o'clock in the morning, armed with a gun, Sam's initial intention was to just to take the money but, on the spur of the moment, decided to take the woman with him so she wouldn't telephone the police. His plan was to release her outside of the town where it would take several hours for her to walk back before an alarm could be raised.

Everything went terribly wrong as the woman recognised him and then informed him that she was a friend of his sister. After attempting to take his pistol, he picked up the car's jack and bludgeoned her with it. Her badly mutilated body was found next to the creek the following day.

The manhunt was now on for Sam Tannyhill.

To cut a long story short Sam Tannyhill was caught and then sentenced on the 1st February 1956 to die in the electric chair of Ohio State Penitentiary. He was to pay the ultimate price.

However before this could take place, Sam's life was to be turned upside down after a visit by two SDA laymen from the Freemont church. They had read the news of his sentence in the local papers and were now requesting the Sheriff for permission to visit with him in his cell. Sam had not been a cooperative prisoner in the county jail since his arrest, so their first request to see him was denied.

After praying that God would change this initial ruling the men were finally given the opportunity to speak with him. Not being trained ministers, they delivered a simple and earnest message emphasising the love of God and His desire to save. In the second visit, one of the men provided a Bible given by his nine year-old son and after enrolling him in the 'Faith for Today Bible Correspondence Course' Sam's life was never to be the same again.

While he sought forgiveness from those he had hurt, nothing he could ever do or say could undo the tragic consequences for Shirley Bradford's family.

Six dates were set for his execution. Five of them passed by but the sixth was to remain firm. Sam's execution was now set for eight O'clock on the night of November 26, 1956

For many people a killer was about to die. As William A. Fagal from 'Faith for Today' was to note 'the man who was to die in the chair was not the same man from a year and a half earlier. Jesus Christ had made such a change in his life that he was completely different. During that period he had been visited by his mother and stepfather and, through the faithful witness of his changed life, had been given the privilege of seeing them accept Jesus and the knowledge of his soon coming.

In Sam's last hours he shared many favourite texts but the one he often quoted was found in 2 Timothy 4:7,8. This is where Paul says 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing'.

At eight O'clock on November 26, William Fagal, with a number of other witnesses, entered the grim death chamber of the Ohio State Penitentiary. Twelve minutes had passed when the silence was to be broken by the soft voice of the tense prison doctor as he removed the stethoscope from the bare chest of the man seated before him. He took an official form from his pocket and hesitantly pronounced, 'Warden Alvis, sufficient current has passed through the body of Tannyhill to cause his death at 8:12 pm.'

Sam Tannyhill's life was to be a powerful example of the transforming grace of Christ.

While the first 26 years were to him a wasted life, his last year, after accepting Jesus as his personal saviour, was one he could have lived over and over again. The dark period of his life was now over and he had entered into the light of a new dawn with Jesus as his friend.

Dear friends, while we have suggested that it is always darkest before the dawn, it is not until we see the dawn itself that we can recognise how dark it was before.

We are living in a time that for many people represents a dark period of earth's history and we look forward to the glorious dawn of a new beginning. A time when we will meet our Saviour face to face and we will forever be with the Lord.

This will indeed be a new day. Since the beginning of creation, the earth has moved slowly towards its date with destiny.

Hold on my child,
Joy comes in the morning
Weeping only lasts for the night
Hold on my child
Joy comes in the morning
The darkest hour that meets dawn is just in sight.



Fagal, W. A.  (1967)  Three Hours to Live. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association

Lockyer, H. Sr. (1986)  Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

White, E. G.   (1940) The Desire of Ages. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association

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