Friday, July 13, 2018

Waiting for the Wedding-Michael Duncan


Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Acts
Lesson 2. Pentecost

"Pentecost" is a big word to Christian people. It came 50 days after Christ's resurrection. The disciples met together to pray and study for 10 days previous, so that by the time that the Day of Pentecost arrived, they were finally in total harmony and unity, in "one accord" (Acts 2:1).

A great blessing came on that day. The true and genuine "gift of tongues" was manifest so that everyone from all parts of the world who were gathered in Jerusalem heard the glad tidings in his own language so he could clearly understand it. The Holy Spirit was given in a fullness that has never since been equaled.

What was it about the message of Pentecost that had such tremendous power that 3000 were converted, truly converted, in a day? There is one "great truth" that shone clearly on the Day of Pentecost that even the apostle Paul did not preach. Speaking to that great crowd of thousands of people from many nations and languages, Peter boldly declared that they had crucified the Son of God: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). A few days later he told them, "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, ... and killed the Prince of life" (3:14, 15). Nothing in Paul's epistles is quite so strong, so directly confrontational!

The greatest "evangelism" of all time was what happened at Pentecost. It was not emotionalism, and what brought the deep conviction of truth on people's hearts was not the miracle of the apostles' speaking foreign languages--a "sign and wonder" indeed, but not the real thing that did it: the apostles proclaimed what had happened when the Son of God died on His cross.

They didn't "mince words," or say it daintily: "You murdered the Prince of life, the Son of God!" They laid the guilt of the ages upon the souls of those Jews and Gentiles. There was no political making friends and influencing people, no attempt to make the message palatable, to "win" the top leaders by psychology. It was the most direct super-confrontation that has ever been between lowly people and religious society leadership (read it in Acts 2:23, 36; 4:10; 5:30, etc.).

When, at Pentecost, Peter said, "God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36), immediately came the heart-broken cry, "What shall we do?" (vs. 37). Then when Peter and John healed the paralytic, Peter again said, "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, ... and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead" (3:14, 15). You couldn't yawn and sit on the fence when you heard a charge like that! Then Peter and John told the rulers and leaders of the nation, "Ye crucified Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom God raised from the dead" (4:10).

Ordinary people like the apostles could never have galvanized themselves to tell it like they did had it not been for the 10 days of repentance they spent beforehand. They had knelt very low in self-humiliation; what fools they had been! The Holy Spirit had eleven men in whom self had been "crucified with Christ." This made it possible for the Son of God to be exalted in them.

What happened on the day of Pentecost was a repentance deeper than has ever been known. The murder of the Son of God is the greatest sin ever committed; repentance for that sin is the greatest a human heart can ever know.

A repentance like that of Pentecost is what Christ calls for today. It will come, like a lost vein of gold in the earth that must surface again in another place. Our idea of repentance can produce only what we see today--hazy, indistinct devotion; lukewarmness. Like medicine taken in quantity sufficient to produce a concentration in the bloodstream, our repentance must be comprehensive, full-range, in order for the Holy Spirit to do a fully effective work.

This full spectrum of repentance is included in "the everlasting gospel." But its clearest definition has been impossible until now, as history reaches the last of the seven churches. The original word "repentance" means a looking back from the perspective of the end: metanoia, from meta ("after"), and nous ("mind"). Thus, repentance can never be complete until the end of history. Like the great Day of Atonement, its full dimension must be a last-day experience. We have now come to that moment in time.

But what about "1888"? The little group who went through the Great Disappointment of 1844 were deeply beloved of Jesus in a special sense. They refused to give up their faith, confident that the true Holy Spirit was in the Midnight Cry through the Great Disappointment. They were especially dear to His heart (Jesus describes them in His message to "the angel of the church of the Philadelphians," Rev. 3:9, 10).

When new truth came to them (the heavenly sanctuary and the opening of the second apartment), they believed; there was an endearing love for that "little flock" in His eyes. When Rachel Preston brought them the seventh-day Sabbath-truth, they welcomed it; no resisting and fighting it (as "they" did other "most precious" truth forty-plus years later). Then when the first principles of health reform came, again they eagerly accepted. Through the early history of this people, a special heavenly love affair was developing. Not since Pentecost had Jesus found such a group of believers loyal to Him.

The 1888 idea lifted the cross of Christ higher than it had been displayed since Pentecost. Ellen White said, "Great truths that have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost are to shine from God's word in their native purity." [1] The Sabbath and the cross finally came together.

But here the Song of Solomon 5:2-8 comes on stage. [2] The Lover has come "home" to His beloved after a long trip; tired, lonely, hungry, wet from the rain; He longs to be with her intimately. He "knocks" (the Hebrew says banging on the door). The woman whom He loves disdains him, she is too relaxed, gone to bed for the night; why does He bother her now? (The world is too comfy a place as it is, says the church of the Laodiceans.) Finally, she forgets about her own selfish comfort and thinks about Him out in the darkness, hungry and alone; she belatedly gets up and goes to let Him in, but when she opens the door, He is "gone."

We've been looking for Him for well over a hundred years (cf. 6:1). Increasingly, thoughtful people see here the story of "our" disdaining Him in the "most precious" message of the beginning of the latter rain. In rejecting the message, says the Lord's servant, we disdained Christ [3], just as "the woman" did her Lover in Song of Solomon 5:3.

Christ's pathetic appeal in His message to "the angel of the church of the Laodiceans" [4] ("be zealous therefore, and repent," Rev. 3:19) demands attention.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Aug. 17, 1897, emphasis supplied.
[2] There seems no reason to include this book in the Bible unless it speaks of Jesus and His love for the church. Jesus described it as "scripture" in John 7:37, 38 (SS 4:15). Paul quoted it in reference to the church in Ephesians 5:27 (SS 4:7). Scholars have long recognized that Jesus quoted the Septuagint version in Revelation 3:20, "I stand at the door and knock."
[3] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 398, 399.
[4] Ellen White identifies this as the Seventh-day Adventist Church (op. cit.).

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Lesson 1. You Will Be My Witnesses

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Acts
Lesson 1. You Will Be My Witnesses


The "grandest" thing that ever happened in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is introduced to us in the next 13 weeks of Bible study. Wednesday's lesson "Preparing for Pentecost" alludes to it.

"Grandest"? Well, that depends on how you think of the Day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts. Heaven came down and the apostles "were all filled with the Holy Spirit." The great gospel commission to all the world began. That light has shown throughout the long centuries since. It was "the former rain" of the Holy Spirit.

Ellen White said the message "the Lord in His great mercy sent" in 1888 was Pentecost repeated. The message itself was the initial "showers from heaven of the latter rain," "the beginning" of the Loud Cry yet to "lighten the earth with glory," the fulfillment of Revelation 18. [1]

"Another angel" must come down from heaven having "great power."

If you had lived 2000 years ago, you wouldn't want to sleep through the great Day of Pentecost, would you? Our problem now is that "we" did not receive the Latter Rain when God tried to give it to us. We still await its coming.

But the message has been preserved in the archives, and thousands worldwide are discovering why Ellen White was overjoyed to hear it.

The intimate revelation of Jesus in Acts will be the essence of the "most precious message" that Ellen White said will in a phenomenal way "carry the truth to the world as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost." She says it will be "the light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory." [2] That's far greater than all our evangelistic efforts combined—thus far in our denominational history.

That final message that will bring to a glorious close the gospel proclamation to "every nation, kindred, tongue, and people," will transcend the fear-curdling impact that we have always assumed will scare people at last to "come out of Babylon." That great and seemingly impossible "if" of John 12:32, 33 which has for nearly 2000 years limited the best efforts of the church of all ages to truthfully fulfill Christ's commission, will at last be bridged in the repentance of the ages: "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [people] unto Me. This He said, signifying what death he should die."

Thus the message of Revelation 18 will be a "lifting up" of Christ as crucified and dying. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). This is what Ellen White says in direct context with the 1888 message: "The theme that attracts the heart of the sinner is Christ, and Him crucified. ... Present Him thus to the hungering multitudes, and the light of His love [agape] will win men from darkness to light, from transgression to obedience and true holiness." [3]

As the "remnant" church of Revelation 12:17 and 14:12 finally receives the "most precious message" which "the Lord in His great mercy sent" to us in 1888, every Seventh-day Adventist church in the world will be transformed and acquire the reputation of being the place to go to hear Christ uplifted. It will be a new public image that replaces our old reputation of being the church where "we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa," says Ellen White. [4]  Implicit in the next 13 weeks of Sabbath School study is a revelation of that heart-gripping truth.

In the "Disciples' Mission" (Monday) the early Christians did what the modern term calls "evangelize," that is, they told everybody they met about Jesus. That word is often misunderstood today—assumed to mean "get people to join your church, increase the numbers of its membership." No; the word actually means "tell good news." And the people already in church often need to hear and understand what the good news means, just as much as people outside. And people outside most of the time won't be interested in joining the church unless you can tell them what the good news is and why the Lord Jesus ever established a "church."

Jesus explained the "core message" they were to tell. "Thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things" (Luke 24:46-48).

The message will create and establish for every one who believes the seemingly elusive relationship ("fellowship" is a better word) with the Lord that our Sabbath School Quarterly speaks of so often. That relationship is not something that we acquire by our works of Bible study, prayer, and witnessing. Rather, the fellowship is given to us; it comes through beholding the Christ who suffered and rose again.

There is a corporate sense in which the world church "shall look upon [Him] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him" until it can be said truthfully and in finality, "in that day there shall be a fountain opened ... for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. 12:10-13:1).

Such repentance includes the actual "remission of sins," that is, sending them away (Luke 24:47). The New Testament word for forgiveness means a separation from sin, a deliverance from its power. True repentance thus actually makes it impossible for a believer in Christ to continue living in sin. The love of Christ supplies the grand motivation, a change in the life (2 Cor. 5:15).

You find a kind of joy in the experience: "The sadness that is used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation—and there is no regret in that! But sadness that is merely human causes death. See what God did with this sadness of yours: how earnest it has made you. ...  Such indignation, such alarm, such feelings, such devotion" (2 Cor. 7:10, 11, Good News Bible).

Peter manifested genuine repentance. We can identify with him, for he failed miserably, yet he accepted the precious gift of repentance which Judas refused. After basely denying his Lord with cursing, Peter "went out and wept bitterly" (Mark 14:71; Luke 22:62).

Repentance is to never cease with us. Always afterward tears glisten in our eyes as we think of our sin in contrast to the Lord's kindness to us. In addition, tears of contrition are happy tears. The tempest of contrition always brings the rainbow of divine forgiveness. Even medical scientists recognize there is wholesome healing therapy in tears of contrition, for men as well as for women. We ruin our health and shorten our lives when we resist or suppress the tenderness, the melting influence of God's Spirit that tries to soften our hard hearts.

--Paul E. Penno

[1] See The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1336, 1337, and Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92; 1888 Materials, p. 1478; Review and Herald, Nov. 22, 1892.
[2] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book one, pp. 234, 235.
[3] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Nov. 22, 1892.
[4] See for example, Review and Herald, March 11, 1890.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Lesson 13. The Return of Our Lord Jesus

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 13. The Return of Our Lord Jesus

Why have 2000 years of human suffering had to drag by since Christ the Saviour of the world was born? Why the long delay of the second coming?

The popular view taught through most of these 2000 years is that when good people die they go straight to heaven, or at least to purgatory to be purified for heaven--the doctrine of "natural immortality of the soul." But the Bible teaches that those who die, sleep until the resurrection day (John 11:11). And the resurrection depends on the second coming of Christ, for He alone can raise the dead (John 5:25-29; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17). And when Jesus returns, those who are not ready will not be able to endure the glory of His appearing (2 Thess. 1:7-10). And therefore the time of Christ's second coming depends on His people getting ready, for He would not dare to come if they are not ready (Heb. 12:29).

Jesus likens His people getting ready to a farmer's crop growing up and maturing until it is ready for harvest (Mark 4:26-29). The growing up makes it possible for Him to come the second time to "reap" the "harvest" (Rev. 14:14, 15). But the "crop" cannot become mature until "the latter rain" of the Holy Spirit's outpouring comes (Joel 2:23, 24). The "former rain" fell at Pentecost at the beginning of the Christian dispensation; but the latter rain will close that dispensation. Therefore nothing can be more important than for the church to seek the blessing of the latter rain (Zech. 10:1).

And where is the good news? The latter rain is the 1888 message of "much more abounding grace," a clearer view of what the Saviour of the world has done for us, a revelation of His love (agape) that "constrains" every honest-hearted soul to live unto Him and not unto self (2 Cor. 5:14, 15), so that this truth can "lighten the earth with glory" (Rev 18:1-4).

No Fear of His Coming

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. ... If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3).

Obviously, He doesn't want us to be afraid of His returning to our troubled earth. Anyone having no fear about His first coming need not be fearful regarding His second coming. For those who believe, it is easy to see how this is the most welcome, exciting good news. But will it be the same for everyone?

When He went away, two angels assured His disciples, "This same Jesus ... shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10, 11). Who was "this same Jesus"? He was a physical person, for after His resurrection He told His disciples, "Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have" (Luke 24:39). He will come as a real Person in a literal, physical body and will interact with real people. "He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him" (Rev. 1:7).

But "this same Jesus" is not One with a different character. If He was loving and compassionate when He was here, He must be the same when He comes again. But what about those who irrevocably reject Him? His love and compassion must take a different form for them. It would not be love to perpetuate an existence which for them, would only be endless misery.

In a democracy, presidents or prime ministers are elected by the people's wishes. But at the present time, the vast majority of earth's inhabitants either don't know about it, don't believe it, don't care about it, or really don't want Jesus to come back to earth. That being so, then why should He?

Two compelling reasons make His personal return to this world necessary: "A time of trouble" will engulf the world (Dan. 12:1). A new and unhappy development on earth will make His intervention necessary--a final, ominous scene in the last act of the cosmic drama of the ages. Those in rebellion against God will issue a terrible and evil decree causing "as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed, ... and that no one might buy or sell, save one that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Rev. 13:15-17).

In fact, at that fearful time only a few left on earth will not be bent on self-destruction. Christ's second coming will literally be a rescue mission of world proportions. As a nation ousts a tyrannical and cruel usurper and welcomes back its true sovereign, so His loyal subjects will long for, and even plead for, His return. In the end, the only sane and reasonable people left on earth will joyously welcome Christ at His glorious return. The Psalmist represents Him as enthroned upon the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).

He is the world's rightful Ruler. He has been temporarily ousted by an overthrow engineered by an enemy--Satan, who subverted Adam and Eve in his rebellion (Gen. 3). When Christ first appeared as the world's Saviour, Satan deceived His own people into rejecting and crucifying Him. But far more than the Jews were involved, for "the kings of the earth stood up [took their stand], and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ" (Acts 4:26). Therefore the rightful Ruler of earth must return, take His rightful position and restore His peaceful and beneficent authority after the coup has run its course. The Lord speaks by His ancient prophet:

"'Take off the crown; nothing shall remain the same. Exalt the lowly, and abase the exalted. ... It shall be no longer, until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it [the crown] to Him'" (Eze. 21:26-27, New King James Version).

Although He came the first time as a meek and lowly One, He comes the second time as "KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 19:16).

--Paul E. Penno

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Lesson 12. Babylon and Armageddon

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 12. Babylon and Armageddon


To set the stage for the great battle of Armageddon, let's first answer some questions to make sure we understand what the Bible tells us about the timeframe and those involved.

"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued" (Dan. 12:1).

This verse predicts a "time of distress such as never occurred," which occurs after Michael stands up.

"And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him, who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed" (vs. 7).

What is meant by "finish shattering the power of the holy people"?

"Many will be purged, purified and refined; but the wicked will act wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand (vs. 10).

How does God purge, purify and refine His "holy people?" God precipitates a time of trouble "such as never occurred."

Why does He do this? The book of Revelation tells us that its purpose is to "reveal" Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1). He uses human beings to reveal Jesus, but how does He do this?

"In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets" (Rev. 10:7).

What is this mystery and how is it accomplished?

"That is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you the hope of glory" (Col. 1:26, 27).

So, the mystery of God is finished in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel. Who is this angel?

"And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever'" (Rev. 11:15).

We can therefore conclude that God will prepare a people at the very end of time who have accepted His purification process so completely that they reflect Christ perfectly.

Ellen White tells us that "Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foothold; ... But Christ declared of Himself: 'The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.' John 14:30. Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father's commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble. It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith in the atoning blood of Christ. ... None can neglect or defer this work but at the most fearful peril to their souls." [1]

At the prompting of Satan, Christ went through great trials and temptations while on this earth, which intensified at the end of His life as He went to the cross. This persecution of Christ continues in the person of His holy people, and like Christ's life, will intensify at the end of human history. But, God will seal His people so He can demonstrate to the angels and watching universe that He can, through the mystery of the indwelling Holy Spirit, write His law in their hearts and His law therefore can be kept.

This is the essence of the 1888 message. It is not through our own works that we are perfected because God has "shattered" the power of His holy people. It is entirely by faith that they are purified in God's refining fire.

After their faith is sealed, God's final judgments will fall in the form of the bowl "plagues" of Revelation 16. These literal plagues have not yet fallen, because they are declared to be the last plagues. They cannot fall until the world has been warned, and the work of salvation has closed. And that work cannot close as long as there is one human soul somewhere who will yet respond to the Good News of the grace of Christ.

As long as the Holy Spirit has been working in the earth, judgments and disasters have brought many people to think and to repent. But before the last plagues can be poured out, the Holy Spirit will have been driven finally from the earth by the rejection of the wicked. It will then be demonstrated that troubles will not bring to repentance those who have rejected God's goodness, for only "the kindness of God leads you to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).

It is during the pouring out of these plagues that the warnings against worshiping the beast and his image and receiving his mark will be fulfilled, and the rejectors of God's grace will "have no rest day or night" (Rev. 14:10, 11). These plagues will bring the downfall of Babylon in one day (Rev. 18:8).

What would this world be like if it were not for the restraining power of the Holy Spirit? Multitudes do not realize that they owe all their security and happiness under what measure of law and order prevails, to the blessed ministry of God's Spirit in the earth. During the time of the plagues, all will see clearly that when men give themselves up to the control of Satan, they will themselves produce a hell here on earth.

While imagining that they are being blessed with a marvelous outpouring of God's Holy Spirit, these rejectors will in reality be gathered together for the great battle against God Himself. Although the lost have been rebellious against the principles of God's truth, they have not previously dared to try actually to fight against God. They have known such a battle would be hopeless for them. But now these "spirits of demons ... gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty, ... to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon [Armageddon]" (Rev. 16:14, 16).

Israel fought a memorable battle (described in Judges 5:19-21) on the plain of Megiddo in the land of Canaan. God Himself went to battle for His people. The Battle of Armageddon is the Bible way of speaking of the final fruit of an active rejection of grace.

"The work begun in 1844, at the end of the 2300 years, is unique in the universe and brings Christ and the remnant into a new kind of union. There will be a mutual understanding which makes His remnant go with Him into the Most Holy Place. (See Ellen G. White, Early Writings, pp. 55, 251, 255, 261.) ... They will have the faith of Jesus which keeps mortals from sinning. ... This experience awaits the remnant whenever they choose to accept the eyesalve of heavenly insight from the True Witness. And when her blindness is gone and at last she can 'see,' then the Bride will sit down with the King on His throne, as He has promised, for both have overcome by the blood of the Lamb." [2]

--Arlene Hill

[1] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 623.
[2] Donald K. Short, "Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed," 1991, p. 92.

Bible texts are from the New American Standard Bible.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Lesson 10. America and Babylon

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 10. America and Babylon


Before we begin our discussion of "America and Babylon," please note a typographical error in Monday's lesson, second paragraph. The Quarterly states: "This prophetic time period (using the day-year principle) began with the supremacy of the papacy, A.D. 38, and terminated in 1798 ..." You may notice that there appears to be an extra blank space before the 38. The date should read A.D. 538, which is when the political power of the last of the three Arian tribes that were in opposition to the papal position on the nature of Christ, was destroyed in Italy.

The Heruli, who accepted the Arian position controlled the city of Rome until A.D. 475, when the Ostrogoth king, Theodoric, destroyed their power in Italy, and assumed the kingdom. Theodoric was a benevolent and tolerant king who did not persecute persons of divergent religions. Under his rule, peace reigned throughout Italy, except in the city of Rome. There papal intrigue and religious strife continued. Appeal was made to the emperor of the eastern division of the old Roman Empire for political support of the pope's claim to absolute authority over civil and religious affairs.

Emperor Justinian entered the fray, sending a letter of support to the pope at Rome that rendered all honor and authority to the "apostolic chair," and recognized the bishop of Rome as the head of all churches in the empire. In June of 533 the Arian kingdom of the Vandals in North Africa was attacked by Justinian's General Belisarius. Within a year, the Vandals were destroyed, and Belisarius turned his army toward Italy and the Arian Ostrogoths. A large army of the Ostrogothic nation assembled at Rome to defend against the invasion. They withstood the siege for over a year, but finally Rome was lost to Belisarius in March of 538.

The last of the Arian kings was destroyed, and the political and religious power of the bishop of Rome was firmly established through the union of church and state, supported by the army of the empire. The bishop of Rome became the corrector of heretics and the maker of kings. "The system [pagan Rome] which had been conquered [by Christianity] was that in which the State recognizes and makes use of religion only for its political value, and only as the servant of the State. This was paganism ... The system which was established by the perversion of Christianity ... was a system in which the State is made the servant of the church. This was the papacy." [1]

"Christ had set Himself before His disciples as the one possessing all power in heaven and in earth. ... This put Jesus Christ above the State, and put allegiance to Him above allegiance to the State; this denied the supremacy of Rome." [2] "Babylon the Great, mother of harlots and abominations of the earth" (Rev. 17:3-6) came to full power in A.D. 538, riding the beast of the civil government, through which she controlled the consciences of men. In fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, control of civil and religious affairs remained under papal power for 1260 years, until 1798 when a "deadly wound" was inflicted as a result of the French Revolution's rejection of all things concerning the God of heaven--including the seven day weekly cycle established at creation.

From the conversion of Clovis, king of the Franks, in A.D. 508, to the crowning by the pope of Charlemagne as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in A.D. 800, through all the French Catholic kings down to Louis XVI who was beheaded by the French revolutionaries, France had been the papacy's strongest political supporter. But France inflicted the "deadly wound" in 1798 when its General Berthier took Pope Pius VI captive, and the papacy was stripped of both its ecclesiastical and civil power. With the election of a new pope, March 14, 1800, partial ecclesiastical power was reestablished, but only over a restricted territory in Italy.

In an effort to reassert herself as sovereign over all nations and peoples, the papacy began a series of political maneuverings and ecclesiastical proclamations. On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius declared that Mary was herself immaculately conceived by her mother in order to provide a sinless womb through which the Son of God could be born in sinless human flesh, untouched by the infirmities of fallen humanity (contrary to the biblical teaching of Heb. 2:14-18). During the ecumenical council called Vatican I, a declaration of papal infallibility was made on July 18, 1870. The Lateran Treaty between the papacy and the National Fascist Party in Italy controlled by Benito Mussolini, was signed on February 11, 1929. This political treaty created the Vatican State and formed the sovereign territory of the Holy See. But, this was not the healing of the "deadly wound." That wound will not be healed until the papacy once again holds both civil and religious authority, controlling the consciences of men as it did for 1260 years.

In the years leading up to the 1888 General Conference Session in Minneapolis, there was much afoot in the United States that was leading toward union of church and state in this country. In 1861, a denomination in Pennsylvania known as the Covenanters, created a petition that complained that the U.S. Constitution made no reference to Jesus Christ and the law of God. Without considering that this was an intentional exclusion, designed by the founders of this nation to preserve full separation of church and state, this Presbyterian church group tried to draw a connection between the sin of slavery and the "religious deficiency" of the Constitution. They felt that if the name of God and a recognition of Him and His law were inserted somewhere into the Constitution, then we would become more Christ-like, and slavery, drunkenness, and debauchery would disappear from the nation. The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the National Reform Association (NRA) were formed and made this argument a nation-wide movement. They sought to have Congress write an Amendment to the Constitution that would make America a "Christian nation," and "one nation under God."

In the January 13, 1887 issue of the Christian Statesman, the official magazine of the NRA, it was stated: "Our remedy for all these malefic influences, is to have the government simply set up the moral law and recognize God's authority behind it, and lay its hand on any religion that does not conform to it." What "religions" did not conform to the NRA's idea of proper religion? In a speech delivered at the 1873 National Reform convention by Jonathan Edwards, vice president of the Association, he said: "We use the word religion in its proper sense, as meaning a man's personal relation of faith and obedience to God." He went on to name those whom he thought did not have a "proper" relation of faith to God, and his list included the atheists, deists, Jews, and Seventh-day Baptists. "These all are, for the occasion, and as far as our Amendment is concerned, one class. They use the same arguments and the same tactics against us. They must be counted together." [3]

Over 200 Amendment proposals seeking to make America a "Christian nation" were introduced to Congress between 1894 and 1984. The National Reform movement morphed into the Christian right in the late 1970s, and has been a notable force in politics since then. It is associated with several institutions and universities including the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council.

Under the "one nation under God" proposal, the First Amendment guarantee of both freedom of religion and freedom of speech would be annihilated. All persons, whether they wanted to or not, would be compelled to adopt the "religion" sanctioned by the State and prevented from speaking against it. At this point, the "deadly wound" will be healed, and the prophecy will come to fulfillment. The second beast that came up "out of the earth" (an uncivilized area of the world) at the "time of the end" (beginning in 1798 when the "deadly wound" was inflicted upon the papacy) will "speak as a dragon," and then the "image of the beast" will be made and the prophecy will be fulfilled. Then will, "all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her [Babylon] fornication" (Rev. 18:3).

The Scripture tells us, "he exercises all the authority of the first beast [papal Rome] on his behalf and compels the earth and those who live on it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed" (Rev. 13:12Holman Christian Standard Bible [HCSB]). When "Babylon the Great, mother of harlots and abominations of the earth" again "rides the beast" (Rev. 17:3-6), America will become the right arm of the papacy. "By the decree enforcing the institution of the papacy in violation of the law of God, our nation will disconnect herself fully from righteousness. When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near." [4]

But the good news is that when this comes to pass, the third angel's message--the "most precious message" brought by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner in 1888--will have also come to full realization. The proclamation of Christ and His righteousness will be going forth around the world under Latter Rain power, calling all who will listen to "come out of her My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4).

"The Lord God of heaven will not send upon the world His judgments for disobedience and transgression until He has sent His watchmen to give the warning. He will not close up the period of probation until the message shall be more distinctly proclaimed. ... The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel." [5] The proclamation of the 1888 message in all its glory is what will hasten the second coming of Christ. By our delay, "our careless, indifferent attitude" and hesitance regarding this message, we are compromising truth, and placing "the character of God and His throne ... into jeopardy." [6]

Jones asked the congregation in 1893, "Are you living day by day, and hour by hour, in the presence of that terrible fact that it is time for God Himself to work, if His integrity is going to be maintained to all the world? It is a terrible fact; it is a fearful position. It brings us to the point of such consecration as not a soul of us ever dreamed of before; unto the place of such consecration, of such devotion, as will hold ourselves in the presence of God, with that fearful thought that 'It is time for Thee, Lord, to work, for they have made void Thy law.'" [7]

--Ann Walper

[1] A. T. Jones, The Great Empires of Prophecy, p. 372, 1898.
[2] Ibid., p. 350.
[3] See A. T. Jones, The Two Republics, or Rome and the United States of America, pp. 723-725 (emphasis in original), 1891.
[4] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 451.
[5] Ibid., vol. 6, p. 19.
[6] See 1893 General Conference Bulletin, p. 73.
[7] Ibid.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Lesson 9. End-Time Deceptions

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 9. End-Time Deceptions


One of the great "end-time deceptions" brought out in Tuesday's lesson is the immortality of the soul. If Christ did not die on His cross to pay the penalty of the sinner's debt, then we have no atonement to unite us with God, no forgiveness of our sins, and divine agape is obscured.

Agape means ultimate selflessness. It makes all consideration for personal well-being entirely secondary. Agape chooses complete self-emptying, eternal loss, eternal death. Agape describes the character of God. "God is agape (love)" (1 John 4:8).

Could this explain what really happened on the cross? For Christ to redeem a lost world required that He pay the price for sin completely. He must stand before God in the sinner's place, and be a condemned sinner--no longer a beloved Son. He must bear, from His standpoint as the sinner's substitute, the Father's frown for disobedience and wrath against sin. This meant that He must truly die, be deprived of life and consciousness, not just for three days and three nights, but for all eternity. This meant that all hope of a glad resurrection and reunion with His Father in heaven must be abandoned. Any hope of ever again enjoying heaven must be forsaken. To take the sinner's place meant that He must endure the agony of eternal separation from the Father. The penalty for transgression of the holy and just law must involve all this.

Agape is love so great that the Godhead was willing to have all this take place on the cross of Calvary in order to make redemption for lost souls possible. The Father suffered just as much as the Son did in the gut-wrenching agony of Gethsemane and the horror of Calvary.

Did this take place when Christ paid the price for man's redemption when He experienced the equivalent of eternal death, the penalty for sin?

In describing the agonies Christ endured on the cross Ellen White writes: "Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father's acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race." [1]

Christ died the equivalent of the "second death" on the cross of Calvary. It is the death from which there is no resurrection (Rev. 20:6, 9, 14). Ellen White explains the agony of final separation from the Father which Christ endured: "The withdrawal of the divine countenance from the Saviour in this hour of supreme anguish pierced His heart with a sorrow that can never be fully understood by man. So great was this agony that His physical pain was hardly felt." [2]

There are many in the Christian world who do not begin to understand what happened on the cross. To them the atonement involves no more than the physical agonies of the crucifixion. Terrible as these are, they do not begin to equate with the mental and emotional agony which Christ endured. Many believe that Jesus and the penitent thief enjoyed a glad reunion in the realms of glory only minutes after the crucifixion itself.

The basis for this serious error is the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul. This is why, in the matter of the atonement, this doctrine of immortality is the key deception. There is no way the atonement can be fully understood and thus effect a heart-reconciliation of the sinner with God by any who believe in the doctrine of the soul's natural immortality.

A beautiful, heaven-sent antidote for the terrible deceptions which have held captive so many minds in the Christian communion is the 1888 message of Christ our righteousness. With its emphasis upon the vital themes of salvation, the message of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner presents the New Testament gospel in a light not seen since apostolic times. [3]

While neither Ellen White nor Jones and Waggoner ever used the word agape, their whole message is vibrant with the agape theme. To give this message to the peoples of earth, "the message that God commanded to be given to the world," [4] is to present the truths of the Bible in a setting which will appeal to hungering minds everywhere. It is in the light of this message that the deception of the immortal-soul idea, with all its related errors, will be seen for what it is. This will do much to prepare the way for the lightening of the earth with the glory of the fourth angel (Rev. 18:1-3).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 753.
[2] Ibid.
[3] See Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 473.
[4] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-92.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

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