Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Revelation, and the God Revealed in It"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 2: "Revelation, and the God Revealed in It"
Our Pioneers Believed that the Bible Was Inspired by God --
There is no question that the Bible was inspired by God, and a story of the beginnings of our beloved Seventh-day Adventist Church confirms that our pioneers believed it too.
Foremost among the early pioneers of prophetic study was a little group who were united in a common hatred of slavery in the United States of America. They risked their lives in publishing their abhorrence of that devilish traffic in the souls of men and women and children; these students of the prophecies were in at-one-ment with Jesus Himself for He too has always hated the slavery cruelty of man to man. They actively opposed the terrible injustice of the Fugitive Slave Law and helped runaway slaves to freedom at the risk of their own lives.
Several of these noble men were led by the Holy Spirit to pursue a study of all the prophecies of two inspired books, Daniel and Revelation. They may not have had every tiny detail perfectly understood, but they were united in the same basic convictions; people far and wide became convinced that the Spirit of God was leading; it wasn't emotional miracles based on shallow understanding--these were solid, reasonable dissertations on Daniel and Revelation that appealed to and convinced highly intelligent, honorable, reasonable men and women.
At the first church council in Acts 15, the elders spoke of those faithful servants of God "who have risked their lives in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs. 26, GNB). Such were those pioneers of the early 1800s who not only championed the fresh message of Daniel and Revelation, but also the dangerous public defense of the slaves in the South. Many listened to these godly men, among whom were J. N. Lougborough, Joseph Bates, J. N. Andrews, and there was Uriah Smith with his monumental Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, a 600-page book that has become a treasure to many worldwide, and has stood the test of time. It's written in Victorian English, but it is solid truth. This is not to say it's perfection--no book is, aside from the Bible; we need common sense and God gives it.
The little group developed until they became a leading movement of 19th century Christian reformation that also led the world in health reform, building the finest health institution of the day in Battle Creek, Michigan, to which came kings across the Atlantic.
The point of this little soliloquy: the understanding those pioneers gained of Bible prophecy was taught of God; none was of the "private interpretation" that the apostle decries in 2 Peter 1:19-21. These pioneers were led by a loving fellowship in Christ to lay aside their private views and recognize together the leading of the Lord. The Holy Spirit led the community, and His leading has stood the test of these centuries of time.
A Little Understood Truth of the Godhead --
Millions of Muslims are prejudiced against Christianity because they think Christians believe in three gods because of the commonly understood doctrine of the "Trinity." The Bible is clear: "The LORD our God is one LORD" (Deut. 6:4). When you pray, you pray to one God, not three gods. But the Bible is also clear that God is the Father, God is the Son, and God is the Holy Spirit, and the three are One. Jesus taught us to pray to "our Father which art in heaven," in Jesus' name; and He promised He would send the Holy Spirit to abide with us forever (Matt. 7:9; John 14:16-18).
The Godhead is a truth beyond human ability to understand, although sincere Christian people have been baffled by the "mystery" for hundreds of years. Has Christ always been the "Son of God," or did He become so only at His birth in Bethlehem. A prominent Evangelical pastor, John McArthur, maintains that the Sonship began at Christ's incarnation. But the Bible is clear--the Son of God has always been the Son of God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (that's the correct translation of John 1:1).
A little understood truth may help us to understand how to proclaim the Godhead to Muslims and Jews: "God isagape" (1 John 4:8). Note the present tense; God has always from eternity been "agape." And agape must have an object to love, even from eternity; therefore the Son had to be there to be loved even from eternity. The literal translation of Colossians 1:13 says that the Father "has translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His agape."
But we are not to try to understand the word "Son" in the light of our human father/son relationships, but vice versa. For God to have a Son does not mean that the Father is "older" than the Son; it means that they are of the same essence. And if God is agape, then the Son is agape; and that is why He voluntarily made Himself subordinate to the Father although they are equal in nature. One cannot understand John 3:16 except that Christ has been the Son of God from all eternity; and thus the love of the Father is revealed in its grandeur: He sacrificed His only Son, even to the second death, for us--yes, for you. Great, grand, mind-boggling truths that we cannot fathom, but we can choose to "believe."
The 1888 Message "Dynamic" --
Tucked away in Thursday's lesson is the statement that "He is not distant, detached, or removed, as some ancient Greek concepts of God taught, or as even some Christian theologians try to depict Him." One of the gospel truths that makes the 1888 message unique is: "In seeking us, Christ came all the way to where we are, taking upon Himself 'the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.' Thus He is a Savior 'nigh at hand, not afar off'" [1]
In meetings shortly after the 1888 General Conference Session in Minneapolis, Ellen White was deeply impressed by that "nearness" when she wrote: "The Lord came very near, and convicted souls of their great need of His grace and love. We [Ellen White, and A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, the two 1888 "messengers"] felt the necessity of presenting Christ as a Saviour who was not afar off, but nigh at hand. … There were many, even among the ministers, who saw the truth as it is in Jesus in a light in which they had never before viewed it." [2]
Hebrews 13:5 assures us: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Happy is your child if he/she can grasp that assurance while he is young! All of Hebrews' lofty theological acumen is in that one promise!
The ministry of Christ in His Most Holy Apartment in the heavenly sanctuary reveals Him as being close to us; as a true High Priest in ancient Israel who was always "for the people," always concerned for them, always revealing to them his nearness and his love, so Christ in His second apartment in the heavenly sanctuary, the Most Holy Apartment, is ministering His presence and His blessing to us as one who is described in Proverbs 18:24--He is "closer than a brother."
He took on Himself the fallen, sinful nature of our father Adam so that He might reach us where we are; therefore He was "in all points tempted like as we are [tempted], yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
This is a revelation of Christ that millions don't as yet perceive: to be tempted is not sin: before temptation can be sin you must yield to it, give in to it, let the temptation become the sinful act. Christ has conquered sin, has trampled on it, defeated it, condemned sin in our fallen sinful flesh. "Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made likeunto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God" (Heb. 2:17).
Sing Hallelujah, rejoice forever more!
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
[1] Robert J. Wieland, Ten Great Gospel Truths that Make the 1888 Message Unique, p. 16.
[2] Review and Herald, March 5, 1889; a report on "special meetings" that began January 11, 1889, at South Lancaster, Massachusetts.
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