Friday, May 11, 2018

Lesson 6. The "Change" of the Law

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 6. The "Change" of the Law

On most calendars that are used worldwide, the seventh day is called Saturday. To make it doubly sure, we can check by reading Luke 23:54, which tells of the crucifixion of Jesus: "That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near." Millions observe Good Friday in honor of the death of Jesus; that pinpoints the true Sabbath, for the next day of the week is the regular weekly seventh-day Sabbath.

And again we can pinpoint the true Sabbath day by reading the next verses in Luke: "The women who had come with Him ... observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment" (vss. 55, 56). The next verses tell of His resurrection on Sunday: "Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they ... came to the tomb ... But they found the stone rolled away" (Luke 24:1, 2). Christ had risen!

It is so clear a child sees it immediately: "the Sabbath according to the commandment" comes between Friday and Sunday. ("The Lord's Day" of Revelation 1:10 is the Sabbath, for God calls the Sabbath "My holy day," Isaiah 58:13). His presence is in the Sabbath. To the extent that we love Him, we also love His holy day.

But, there are many sincere people who do not see this truth. Has God changed His holy Sabbath day? We must examine some of the reasons why they are confused.

No, God says, He has not changed His law regarding the Sabbath. "I am the Lord, I do not change" (Mal. 3:6). There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that He made any change in His holy law. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Psalm 19:7). Why should He change anything that is "perfect"? He loves us too much to change such a blessed gift!

Jesus regularly kept the seventh-day Sabbath, for we read in Luke 4:16 that "He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day." Yes, when He said to the Jews, "I have kept My Father's commandments," He told the truth (John 15:10).

All of the apostles followed His example in keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day. For example, the Book of Acts tells of 84 sabbaths that the Apostle Paul kept, but not one Sunday!

"But," someone may ask, "doesn't it tell of one first day of the week that Paul kept?" No, Acts 20:7, 8 tells of one Saturday night farewell meeting that Paul held with the Christians in Troas, because he was planning to walk 16 miles next day (Sunday) to Miletus, and they would never see him again. (No apostle would have walked 16 miles on the holy Sabbath day).

Luke describes that night meeting as being on "the first day of the week" because the Bible says the Sabbath begins at sundown Friday evening and ends at sundown on Saturday evening (Lev. 23:32). Any night meeting on "the first day of the week" would therefore have to be on Saturday night. And Mark 1:32 tells how on one Saturday "at evening, when the sun had set," the Sabbath being over, the people brought many sick people to Jesus to be healed.

That is a delightful way to keep the Sabbath, "from evening to evening," sunset to sunset. If you try to keep it from midnight to midnight, you're asleep and you can't consciously welcome God's holy day! How could you welcome some special visitor who came at midnight while you were asleep?

Why do many observe Sunday, and not the holy Sabbath day that the Lord "blessed and hallowed"? It is simple: someone without the authority of God changed it. He instructed His holy prophet Daniel to predict that this would happen. In chapter 7 the prophet described the rise of four world empires in history (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome), after which there would arise another great power, the "little one [horn] ... speaking pompous words" (vs. 8) that would combine church and state and would "intend to change times and law" (vs. 25). Both Daniel and Revelation state that he would exercise his great power for 1260 years.

Paul described the same power in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 as one "who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."

John's book of Revelation describes the same power: "And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, ... And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb" (13:5-8).

We have to decide then which "power" we will follow--the holy One who created the earth in six days and sanctified His holy Sabbath for us to keep, or the one who has dared to change God's law and direct people to observe Sunday instead.

The Unique Adventist Concept of the Everlasting Gospel

Ellen White was overjoyed when she heard what the two messengers (A.T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner) presented at and after the 1888 Conference. She was glad that the message went beyond what she called "the good old doctrines," for she said it was "fresh light." "Justification by faith" is "fresh" to us and to the Evangelical world for "it is the third angel's message in verity." [1]

"Every fiber of my heart said amen," she said, because here at last was the unique, distinct Seventh-day Adventist concept of the everlasting gospel "which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God." [2] Thus it had to go beyond that of the popular Sunday-keeping churches.

In fact, the Sabbath truth comes to be implicit in a full and complete view of justification by faith because the Sabbath is the "sign" of true faith. [3] Where the Sabbath truth is denied, there has to be either a counterfeit or immature view of justification by faith. [4]

One wonders if Seventh-day Adventist evangelism has given these grand truths a fair trial. Rightly conceived, with no "mixture of poisonous error," justification by faith becomes the message that will raise up people all over the world who will "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." The fruitage will be phenomenal, and believers will prepare for the coming of Christ in their generation. [5]

Just now the Holy Spirit is calling people worldwide to keep holy His Sabbath day; for that's the special day when He meets with them to teach them. And His great fourth commandment assures all who will believe, they will know the joy of Sabbath-keeping rest "in Christ."

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes:
[1] Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
[2] MS 5, 1889; Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[3] See E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 37-45 (Glad Tidings ed., 1999); The Glad Tidings, pp. 140-144 (CFI ed., 2016).
[4] See A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, pp. 243-245, 261, 262, 342-343, 358.
[5] See Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Nov. 22, 29, 1892.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
https://youtu.be/gTwl1VFlRI4

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Friday, May 4, 2018

Lesson 5. Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 5. Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary

 

What is the truth of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary? How shall we present Him "standing toward the sinner"?

There are serious arguments that can be presented in support of the fear motivation to give up sin. Fear is not completely or necessarily negative. A perfectly healthy person with no hang-ups will look both ways before crossing a busy street. It's common sense. Nor can it be denied that throughout the millenniums of years of human history God's inspired servants have often employed fear as their motivation tool for inducing sinners to respond. The Old Testament prophets frequently speak of God destroying nations and people. There is no question that God sent the Flood to destroy sinners, also the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah, and destroyed the Egyptians at the Red Sea crossing.

The question that is of concern in the 1888 message is, What appeal will God use in that final "lighting of the earth with glory"? A "voice" will sound from heaven with unprecedented power, "Come out of [Babylon], My people." Will the motivation be associated with a uniquely clear revelation of the cross, what the Son of God accomplished there, and what it cost Him to save the world? Or will it be the quintessential appeal of fear inspired by the most terrorism-sounding message of all time? "The third angel's message in verity" [1] appears on the surface to be the latter.

In seeking a "balance" between what appear to be contradictory views, we can ask, Does the cleansing of the sanctuary ministry of our High Priest include a clearer concept of the atonement than God's people as a body have perceived in the past? If so, will it result in a more complete reconciliation with God than has ever in the past been experienced by God's people as a body? And again, if so, will it be a clearer revelation of the agape of Christ? It must be true that nothing less can achieve such an unprecedented reconciliation!

Admittedly, this question reopens a contention that has boiled for half a century--was the 1888 message genuinely new light, or was it a mere re-emphasis of 16th century Reformationist and current Evangelical ideas? The 1888 message was far in advance of the Protestant Reformation message. The 1888message idea of justification by faith is one that is parallel to and consistent with that unique truth of Christ our High Priest cleansing His people and the heavenly sanctuary.

Correctly understood the 1888 message presents an appeal to the heart with a motivation imposed by agape. The reason must be that the cleansing of the sanctuary accomplishes a "final atonement," seen as an ultimate heart experience of reconciliation with God.

Wherein is the message "be ye reconciled to God" associated with comprehending the cross? The context of 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15 can help.

"The love [agape] of Christ [is what] constraineth us," that is, motivates us (Peterson in The Message, renders it, "moved me to such extremes"). But in this final day of atonement, it's not just an "extremist" apostle Paul so moved, but a corporate "body" of believers. Never before has this happened to such a "body."

Why this development? The church matures, to think and to appreciate that "love," more deeply. Because of clearer light, more cogent, meaningful concepts, "we" conclude from reasonable evidence--"we thus judge."

"Judge" what? The answer: how "One died for all." The equation probes why He died, and what He accomplished thereby. The cross has to become the focus of "the third angel's message in verity."

What does the resulting motivation accomplish? It accomplishes an unprecedented degree of consecration sensed by "all saints." "Those who live" can no longer "live unto themselves," which is the only solution to the problem of Laodicea's corporate lukewarmness. This would seem to be the motivation that "constrains" that corporate body of believers to "follow the Lamb (the crucified Christ) whithersoever He goeth." It is a new level development in Christian history deemed worthy of special mention in Revelation, where all references to the church are couched in corporate terms.

The context indicates that "be ye reconciled to God" experience depends on a clear comprehension of how "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself," how He took upon Himself "their trespasses." The last rays of light to shine upon this dark world, we are told, will therefore be "a revelation of God's character of love." Here is objective truth, not merely subjective emotion.

So the issue is evangelistic, not complex theology. What message can reconcile the alienated, world-loving, self-centered, "lukewarm" heart to God? Unless a clearer understanding of the gospel becomes involved, the result must inevitably be further lukewarmness of devotion perpetuated generation after generation for centuries more.

The present-day cleansing truth pleads with the sinner "in Christ's stead." That is, as soul-winners we are to enable the sinner to identify with Christ so fully that he experiences a first-hand encounter with Him as vivid as did the Samaritan woman at her well or Nicodemus in his night interview. This is soul-winning and soul-holding evangelism. Nothing else grips bored, world-loving Adventist youth.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnote:
[1] Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890; Selected Messages, book 1, p. 372.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/ABKn5wCXJyg

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm

Friday, April 27, 2018

Lesson 4. Salvation and the End Time

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 4. Salvation and the End Time

 

This week's lesson opens with an interesting concept: "One fascinating but crucial difference between Christianity and non-Christian religions is that while the others emphasize what their founders have taught them, they do not emphasize what their founders have done for them. And that's because whatever their founders may have done for them, it cannot save them. All these leaders can do is try to teach the people how to 'save' themselves" (Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, p. 30).

Most Christians know that Christ was born as a baby on earth, died on a cross, was resurrected, and went back to heaven. Unfortunately, most are confused about why He did all that, if it can apply to them, how they can earn it. Essentially, even though people may know things Christ did, if that's all they understand they still think they need to save themselves.

Understanding the love of God is the key to comprehending that the things that Christ accomplished are unconditional. There is nothing we can do to be good enough to earn it. The message given to our church in 1888 teaches that salvation is based completely on what Christ has done and is full and complete. As the second Adam (see Romans 5), Christ literally saved the world when He died our second death. Many stumble at this concept because they think it means all will be saved. Although God predestined all mankind to be saved when He placed us in Christ at the incarnation, He will not force us to accept His deliverance from death caused by sin.

E. J. Waggoner caught the idea: "All this deliverance is 'according to the will of our God and Father.' The will of God is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). He wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). And He 'accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will' (Eph. 1:11)." [1]

Notice that "'He,' God, will accomplish all things and His will is that all will be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. So many people have trouble believing what these verses say.

"'Do you mean to teach universal salvation?' someone may ask. We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches--that 'the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men' (Titus 2:11, R.V.). God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given to it to him; but the majority spurn it and throw it away. The judgment will reveal the fact that full salvation was given to every man and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession." [2]

A common way people "spurn" the salvation Christ accomplished on His cross is that they refuse to believe that the good news is really that good. People have heard the phrase "righteousness by faith" and think they know what it means, but they look at their lives and worry that they don't meet the standards of a good Christian life. They can't believe there is nothing they have to do, even if it's just to maintain a "relationship" with God. Once we set up any conditions to earn God's favor, we have inserted human effort into the concept of salvation. Christianity has been plagued with people who make rules to assure that church members are in "good standing" with God. Making and keeping rules will never find favor with God, nor will it obligate Him to take you to heaven.

A. T. Jones explained this at the 1895 General Conference Session: "Here is a passage in 'Gospel Workers,' page 319, which I will read. It is concerning Christ. 'There is not a monastic order upon the earth from which He [Christ] would not have been excluded for overstepping the prescribed rules.' Exactly. You cannot bind the life of God by rules, and of all things you cannot bind it by man-made rules. He wants us therefore to be so imbued with the life of Jesus Christ itself, and the life of Christ Himself, that the living life of Jesus Christ and the principles of the truth of God shall shine and work in the life, in order that the life of Christ shall still be manifest in human flesh. That is where God has brought us in Him. And we are brought to this place in Him by being by faith ourselves crucified with Him, and dead with Him, and buried with Him, and made alive with Him, and waked up with Him, and raised up with Him, and seated with Him, in the heavenly existence where he sits at the right hand of God in glory." [3]

Our lesson emphasizes that the key to assurance of salvation must always be based on an appreciation of the love of God, not by looking at our performance. Nothing demonstrates the love of God more than the cross. Ellen White described that true obedience begins with a heart change, not rule-keeping:

"All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us." [4]

Notice that it is through an appreciation of the character of Christ that our wills are refined and sanctified, not making or keeping rules that produce genuine obedience. Then, the refined and sanctified will naturally respond with genuine obedience.

It is the refining and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that perfects our characters and makes genuine obedience possible. Any attempt to earn salvation by rule keeping dishonors God. A response by the human heart must occur to the Holy Spirit's work.

"Of the Spirit Jesus said, 'He shall glorify Me.' The Saviour came to glorify the Father by the demonstration of His love; so the Spirit was to glorify Christ by revealing His grace to the world. The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people." [5]

"Do we have the problem today? Can we represent Christ as safely standing on deck throwing a life preserver out to the drowning sinner? If he grabs the rope, he is taking the initiative in his own salvation, and Paul says that 'frustrates the grace of God'! No, the Bible represents Jesus as out there in the water with the sinking sinner, a Life Guard actually saving him 100 percent. And if the drowning sinner doesn't beat Him off, Jesus will get him safely on deck. Salvation is totally of grace, 'not of works [even 1 percent!] lest any man should boast' (Eph. 2:8, 9).

"And don't be afraid of too much 'more abounding grace.' It's real. There is no true obedience to the law except 'by grace through faith' (see Rom. 5:20; Gal. 5:6)." [6]

--Arlene Hill

Endnotes:
[1] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 13; CFI ed. (2016).
[2] Ibid, pp. 13, 14.
[3] A. T. Jones, 1895 General Conference Bulletin, "The Third Angel's Message--No. 26," p. 494.
[4] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 668.
[5] Ibid., p. 671.
[6] Robert J. Wieland, Dial Daily Bread, 2003.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/57tKse7Zh6E

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm

Friday, April 20, 2018

Lesson 3. Jesus and the Book of Revelation

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 3. Jesus and the Book of Revelation

 

It is unfortunate that many people have been taught to fear the Book of Revelation, thinking that it is a study only for the most advanced Bible students and theologians. To hold such an idea is to overlook the opening line of the Book--"the Revelation of Jesus Christ." The message contained in the last book of the Bible is the "testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:2). It is His own personal account about Himself that He gave to the Apostle John, who in turn wrote what was revealed to him so the whole world may know the marvelous story of Christ's intercession for the human race. All who read it and understand its message receive a blessing. Revelation is meant for us living at the end of our world's history because "the time is at hand" (Rev. 1:3).

In the Book of Revelation, Christ is revealed to us through the imagery of the heavenly sanctuary. In the opening scene He is walking in the first apartment among golden candlesticks, enrobed with the garments of the high priest. In this capacity, Christ sends His message of judgment against the church down through the ages, giving counsel and admonition that was intended to guide and encourage those who heeded the message of the "Faithful and True Witness," who has revealed the end to us from the beginning (chapters 2, 3, 6, 8, and 9).

In chapters 4 and 5, Christ is portrayed as the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8), being presented before the throne of God as the atoning sacrifice for lost humanity (Rev. 5:11-13). His high priestly work on the day of atonement is found in Revelation chapter 14 beginning with the three angels' messages that call the world to forsake the apostasy of spiritual Babylon and worship the Creator by keeping His Commandments through the power of Jesus' own faith. When the truth of Christ and His righteousness is believed with all the heart, the heavenly sanctuary will be cleansed through the work of Christ's Spirit, transforming the lives of all who believe in the power God to destroy sin.

As Christ closes His ministry, the most holy place will be opened in heaven, and there will be "seen in His Temple the ark of His testament" that contains His eternal Law, vindicating the Sabbath of the fourth Commandment (Rev. 11:19). All the world will be without excuse as the mighty fourth angel makes one final plea as Christ closes His most holy apartment ministry, saying, "Babylon is fallen! Come out of her My people and be not partakers of her sins" (Rev. 18:1-4).

But the enraged wicked repent not of "their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts" (Rev. 9:21). Realizing they are eternally lost, they flee from "the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev. 6:16, 17). From beginning to end, the Book of Revelation is about Jesus Christ our Righteousness.

The message sent from heaven to the church through A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner in 1888 is also a revelation of Jesus Christ and His closing intercession for the human race. At the time God gave His "most precious message" to His "delegated messengers" [1], the world was on the brink of the final fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The Stone of Daniel chapter 2 verses 35 and 45 was about to "smash in pieces" the world that was fast filling its cup of iniquity. Michael was prepared to stand up in defense of His faithful remnant (Dan. 12:1). The four angels holding the "winds of strife" anticipated the command to release their restraining hands (Rev. 7:1, 2), that the final events of chapter 16 could rush upon the world drunken with its wickedness.

The anticipated "Sunday law" that would fulfill Revelation 13:11-17 was moving through the United States Congress as the "Blair Bill," authored by Senator Henry W. Blair of New Hampshire. Senator Blair's purpose for the bill was to assert the right of the state to "protect the people" so they could carry out their duty to God. His law was written to assure the preservation of the "Lord's Day" for "the benefit of the people." The intended effect was to "enhance the 'Sabbath' " by instituting a civil law to restrain Sunday activities carried out by people who did not recognize their duty to God, and who thus had a corrupting influence on society.

Yes, in 1888 the "toes" of Daniel's metal man statue were hanging over the edge of eternity. All heaven was on alert for the imminent return of Christ to this earth to rescue His people from the final crisis, and whisk them away to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Heaven's angels were ready to sing the anthem, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7).

There was only one problem: Christ's bride was not ready. She had not that robe of righteousness that is necessary for admission to the marriage supper (see Matt. 22:1-14). Therefore, Christ issued His appeal: "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see" (Rev. 3:18).

The Quarterly points us to 1 Corinthians 10:1-11. These verses are "for our admonition"--they are a warning to us that we not repeat the sins of the ancient Israelites in doubting and rejecting God's leading as He works to purify to Himself a people fit to enter the Promised Land. The message God sent to prepare His church in 1888 was to purify a people and fit them for translation and admission to the marriage supper. "The truth is to elevate, to cleanse, to purify, to sanctify, to fit us for translation, prepare us for the company of holy angels, sinless beings in the kingdom of God." [2] However, that message of truth was disputed, maligned, and rejected.

"The reception given to God's servants in past ages is the same as the reception that those today receive through whom God is sending precious rays of light. The leaders of the people today pursue the same course of action that the Jews pursued. They criticize and ply question after question, and refuse to admit evidence, treating the light sent to them in the very same way that the Jews treated the light Christ brought to them." [3]


"In rejecting the message given at Minneapolis, men committed sin. They have committed far greater sin by retaining for years the same hatred against God's messengers, by rejecting the truth that the Holy Spirit has been urging home. By making light of the message given, they are making light of the word of God. Every appeal rejected, every entreaty unheeded, furthers the work of heart-hardening, and places them in the seat of the scornful." [4]

"I would speak in warning to those who have stood for years resisting light and cherishing the spirit of opposition. How long will you hate and despise the messengers of God's righteousness? God has given them His message. They bear the word of the Lord. ... But there are those who despised the men and the message they bore. They have taunted them with being fanatics, extremists, and enthusiasts. Let me prophesy unto you: Unless you speedily humble your hearts before God, and confess your sins, which are many, you will, when it is too late, see that you have been fighting against God." ... "I have no smooth message to bear to those who have been so long as false guideposts, pointing the wrong way. If you reject Christ's delegated messengers, you reject Christ. Neglect this great salvation, kept before you for years, despise this glorious offer of justification through the blood of Christ, and sanctification through the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, and there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation." [5]

Is there any Good News? Yes!--"His wife hath made herself ready!" (Rev. 19:7) is a promise that the marriage will not forever be delayed. Corporate solidarity between Christ (our divine Husband) and the "wife" (God's remnant church) that leads to the consummation of the marriage, can only develop as a result of true, heart-wrenching corporate repentance.*

Moses speaking for the Lord, prophesied, "If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers ... then will I [God] remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember" (Lev. 26:40, 42). The final fulfillment of the everlasting covenant is contingent upon corporate repentance. When we understand this it will bring forth in our lives a total transformation of our attitude toward salvation, justification, and righteousness by faith. Then Christ's longed-for "at-one-ment"--that corporate solidarity that forever binds our willing hearts to God--will be accomplished. [6]

Finally, the angel can exit the Temple in heaven and cry with a loud voice to Him that is upon the cloud, "Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap: ... for the harvest of the earth is ripe" (Rev. 14:15). The "Faithful and True Witness," no longer our high priest but clothed in kingly garments and mounted on a white horse, will "make war" against all the wicked of the earth, coming down from heaven as the "KING of kings, and LORD of lords" at the head of God's avenging army. "For He hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication," and [He will avenge] "the blood of His servants at her hand" (Rev. 19:11-16, 2).

The Book of Revelation is Christ from beginning to end: Christ counseling, pleading, guiding, calling, warning, judging, and all the while revealing to us His work as our high priest in the heavenly sanctuary as He is bringing this world's history to its conclusion.

Let all God's people shout, Alleluia and Amen!

--Ann Walper

______________________

* Corporate repentance is the recognition that had we been at the foot of the cross with the rejecting Jews, and had we been at Minneapolis in 1888 with the mocking leadership of the church, we would have done exactly the same things as took place there in killing and rejecting our Savior. We are just as sinful and guilty in our hearts, and are in need of a deep, soul-searching repentance. This is the essence of Christ's call to the Laodicean church found in Revelation 3:14-22.

Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] See Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92, 96, and 97.
[2] Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, no. 324, p. 291.
[3] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 911; article read at the 1890 General Conference Session held at Battle Creek.
[4] Ibid., pp. 913, 914.
[5] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 96, 97.
[6] See The Desire of Ages, p. 668.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
https://youtu.be/kQVQGHAYtH0

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Friday, April 13, 2018

Lesson 2. Daniel and the End Time

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 2. Daniel and the End Time

 

Our quarterly provides interesting lesson studies on the first chapters of the book of Daniel, but "hidden" in the Discussion Questions at the very end of this week's study is something that is possibly one of the most misunderstood concepts of the 1888 message--"corporate guilt" as exhibited in Daniel's prayer in chapter 9, and the resultant "corporate repentance."

"Burdened in behalf of Israel, Daniel studied anew the prophecies of Jeremiah. They were very plain--so plain that he understood by these testimonies recorded in books 'the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem' (Dan. 9:2).

With faith founded on the sure word of prophecy, Daniel pleaded with the Lord for the speedy fulfillment of these promises. He pleaded for the honor of God to be preserved. In his petition he identified himself fully with those who had fallen short of the divine purpose, confessing their sins as his own. [1]

"What a prayer was that which came forth from the lips of Daniel! What humbling of soul it reveals! ... Heaven responded to that prayer by sending its messenger to Daniel. In this our day, prayers offered in like manner will prevail with God. 'The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much' [James5:16]. ...

"Have not we as great need to call upon God as had Daniel? I address those who believe that we are living in the very last period of this earth's history. I entreat you to take upon your own souls a burden for our churches, our schools, and our institutions. That God who heard Daniel's prayer will hear ours when we come to Him in contrition. Our necessities are as urgent, our difficulties are as great, and we need to have the same intensity of purpose, and in faith roll our burden upon the great Burden-bearer. There is need for hearts to be as deeply moved in our time as in the time when Daniel prayed. [2]

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The word "corporate" has nothing to do with legal organization, boards, or committees. It is strictly a biblical idea having its source in Paul's brilliant chapter on the church and its members being united with Christ. The church is "the body of Christ," "not one member, but many." "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ."

There is no English word to describe this; hence we use a Latin derivative, corporate, which comes from corpus, "body." It is impossible to appreciate what mature union with Christ or reconciliation with Him means without grasping Paul's idea. "All the members ... being many, are one body" means they bear a corporate relationship to one another. "We [are] all baptized into one body" describes the corporate unity of the church (1 Cor. 12:12-14)

But there is more than unity: "The foot, ... the ear, ... the eye, ... God [hath] set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him." Here is corporate diversity. "The eye cannot say unto the hand, 'I have no need of thee.'" Here is corporate need. No one member can despise another.

God has built something else into the body: "God [composed] the body, having given more abundant honor to that which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body." Here is corporate balance. The purpose? "That the members should have the same care one for another" as the parts of a human body have a corporate concern. If "one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." Here is corporate pain. If "one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it." Here is corporate joy (vss. 15-26).

The idea of the human race being a corporate whole "in Adam" was deeply imbedded in Hebrew thinking (1 Cor. 15:22). Daniel asks forgiveness for the sins of "our fathers," saying, "We [have not] obeyed the voice of the Lord our God," although he himself was obedient (Dan. 9:8-11). Jesus charged the murder of Zacharias on the Jewish leaders of His day, although the act occurred about 800 years earlier (Matt. 23:35; 2 Chron. 24:20). All this illustrates corporate identity and corporate guilt.

This means that the sin that another human has committed, I could commit if Christ had not saved me from it. The righteousness of Christ cannot be a mere adjunct to my own good works, a slight push to get me over the top. Our righteousness is all of Him, or it is nothing.

This was the stumbling block in 1888 and still offends many today. Apart from the grace of a Savior, the sins of the whole world would be mine if I had the "opportunity" to be in the shoes of other people, to be tempted as they in their circumstances.

This idea is impressively stated by Ellen White: "God knows every thought, every purpose, every plan, every motive. The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been opportunity." [3] Do those "computer records" show sins that do not in fact exist deep

Those sins "that would have been committed had there been opportunity," which we have not repented of, represent our unrealized guilt. Other people have committed them and we have been thankful that we have not been pressured sufficiently by temptation to do them ourselves. It follows that corporate repentance is repenting of sins that we would have committed had we had the opportunity. This goes rather deep.

Wesley said of a drunk in the gutter, "There but for the grace of Christ am I." When the church learns to appreciate such contrition, Christ's love will course through its veins and transform it into a truly "caring church," the most effective soul-winning "body" history has ever known (Zech. 8:20-23). [4]

Ellen White discerned truth. The great gospel commission could have been completed before the horrors of World Wars I and II were unleashed on the world. [5] The reason is that the 1888 message was the "beginning" of the latter rain and the loud cry; she says it was "to a large degree" rejected by the leadership of the church. Thus those who fervently believed in the doctrine of the second advent actually delayed it for generations. The sorrow of what "might have been" filled Ellen White's soul with anguish. [6]

If we were to have another 1888 session where the Holy Spirit manifested Himself as the latter rain, would we again insult Him? Unless there is repentance for doing it the first time, the answer has to be yes. We must repeat the mistakes of our brethren of the past so long as we do not welcome a corporate repentance that cleanses us from every similar "purpose" or "motive," however deep.

Is such a repentance possible? Will God ever have a people who have so learned contrition that they feel that all the sins of the human race could be theirs but for the grace of a Savior, and who thus stand before the throne "cleansed"? Will He have a people who recognize their 100 percent need of the imputed righteousness of Christ, who fully realize what they would be without it?

Some sadly say no; ancient Israel failed and so must modern Israel. But the bottom line of Bible prophecy says: "Then the sanctuary shall be cleansed" (Dan.8:14). Zechariah foretells an experience of corporate and denominational repentance, followed by a glorious experience of cleansing (Zech. 12:7-14; 13:1). Such an experience permeating the church is denominational repentance. Christ calls for it in His message to Laodicea. Isn't it time for us to respond?

As part of the human race, we share the corporate guilt of the murder of the Son of God, but are not held accountable or "condemned" unless we refuse the gift of repentance (see John 3:16-19). [7], As Seventh-day Adventists we also share the corporate guilt of our forebears' rejection of the beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry, but we will not be condemned for that sin if we accept the gift of repentance. For a long time, the Lord Jesus has been pleading with us to respond.

Is it time to do so? A world in darkness and the great universe beyond await our decision.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] Prophets and Kings, pp. 554, 555 (emphasis added).
[2] "The Prayer That God Accepts," Review and Herald, Feb. 9, 1897.
[3] SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1085.
[4] See also The Great Controversy, pp. 611, 612.
[5] See also Counsels for the Church, p. 29; General Conference Daily Bulletin, Feb. 28, 1893, pp. 419-421; Evangelism, p. 696.
[6] Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 104-106; Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1904.
[7] See also Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 38.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/Wwpk9nwIPKE

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Friday, April 6, 2018

Lesson 1. The Cosmic Controversy

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Preparation for the End Time
Lesson 1. The Cosmic Controversy

 

There have been no new worlds or planets created in the universe since God finished His work of creation. "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them," says Genesis 2:1. What has kept God busy since then? The answer: a work of reconciling heaven and earth, because "there was war in heaven: Michael and His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels" (Rev. 12:7).

When we study about "the cosmic controversy," we don't find much good news there, but we are also studying about the "The history of the great conflict between good and evil, from the time it first began in heaven to the final overthrow of rebellion and the total eradication of sin" (Ellen G. White, Christ Triumphant, p. 7), and that is good news.

The very first page of the New Testament declares that Jesus came to "save His people from their sins" (not in them; Matt. 1:21). God cannot eradicate sin from His universe until first He eradicates it from human hearts. That is where sin has taken root; the human heart is the last lair where the dragon of sin lurks. Sin's roots go down to our toes. Can sin be overcome, eradicated? The outcome of the great controversy between Christ and Satan depends on the answer.

Some say that sin itself will never be conquered until Christ comes the second time, zaps His saints and gives them holy flesh, removing temptation from them, the implication being that as long as you and I have our "sinful flesh," sin will still win out.

But the Bible is clear: even though we still have sinful flesh or sinful nature, "sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom 6:13, 14). "Grace did much more abound" than "sin abounded" (Rom. 5:20). In other words, the idea is clear: grace is stronger than sin. If that is not true, the great controversy must end in defeat for God.

This grace of God operates through the revelation of the love of God (agape) (2 Cor 5:14, 15). Therefore, "the agape of Christ constraineth us ... henceforth" to live not unto self, but "unto Him" who died for us and rose again. The love of self is the very essence of sin, its quintessential element that filled Lucifer's heart in the beginning and which here at the every end of time forces the "church of the Laodiceans" to be lukewarm in heart.

Christ conquered the problem of sin by His sinless life and His sacrifice on the cross (John 12:31-33). In order for the great controversy to come to an end, He must have a people whose faith demonstrates that such agape will "constrain" them also to overcome "even as [He] overcame" (Rev. 3:21).

The bright picture at the end of the Bible is Heaven's spotlight on a group who stand on "a sea of glass mingled with fire" who have "gotten the victory" over sin, "having the harps of God." That wasn't accomplished by zapping them with sinless flesh, but by giving them grace to "overcome" in sinful flesh.

The great controversy has involved the universe as well as this fallen planet. Revelation 12:12 says that because of the victory won in this reconciliation, "Rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them." Finally, it will be said: "The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation" (The Great Controversy, p. 678).

This blessed harmony will be the result of God's work on His cosmic Day of Atonement, which means simply, His Day of Reconciliation, the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, the ending of alienation.

Is your human heart reconciled to God? Are you alert to realize that your natural human heart "is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7), except through the atonement of Christ? Do you still wrestle with a lingering sense that somehow you must make yourself good before He can be reconciled to you, and before He can really accept you and respect you? Do you have that nagging feeling that He cannot truly be your Friend until you are worthy? While you are sitting in the pigsty, do you wish you had a Father who would forgive and accept the prodigal?

If so, you need to know about the Day of Atonement; as never before in world history the world's attention is directed now to the atoning sacrifice of Christ where "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. ... We ... beseech you ... in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God"! (2 Cor. 5:19, 20). But you can't "be" unless you first believe He is reconciled to you! So, "spend a thoughtful hour each day" contemplating the cross where that reconciliation was accomplished (The Desire of Ages, p. 83).

--Paul E. Penno

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/fUv8egqk71g

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm