Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 13: "Creation Again"
Two basic ideas about destiny are in conflict in people's minds worldwide: the world as we know it will go on and on ad infinitum, or at least until it is drawn into the sun's orbit and consumed or a huge meteor strikes it and pulverizes it; and the world of sin and pain as we know it will be ended and a new world, a new earth, will be created "wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:12, 13). The first view can be labeled uniformitarianism; and the second, Adventism--a belief that Christ will return and assert His authority as rightful "second Adam" of the human race and destroy the "works of the devil"--the second coming of Christ.
It seems like a fantastic idea but it's like a golden thread throughout both Old and New Testaments of the Bible: proud, sinful, selfish, lustful, wicked human hearts are changed by simply believing what the apostle Peter says are "exceedingly great and precious promises"!
And they're not man's "promises." They are the Lord's. Can it really be true that there is power in something as simple as believing God's promises? God virtually promised Abraham the sky. And the old man is "the father of us all."
For instance, in the Old Testament we read that He picked up this only monotheist He could find in the ancient world, called him into exile to "a land that [He] would show him," promised it to him "for an everlasting possession." Paul got the idea: it was almost infinitely more than that tiny little strip of land known as Canaan; it meant the whole earth! (Rom. 4:13). And no way could the "possession" be "everlasting" for Abraham unless this "exceedingly great and precious promise" included the gift of eternal life. And further, no way could he be "the heir of the world" unless it became the "new earth." And again, no way could he be "the heir" of such a new earth unless he was given the gift of "righteousness," for Peter insists that only "righteousness dwelleth" there (2 Peter 3:13).
So, it all ends up full circle: God's "exceeding great and precious promises" mean the out and out gift of "righteousness by faith." And that was the meaning of those seven promises the Lord made to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, 3, and then later swore to in chapter 15--staking His very existence and His eternal throne on His keeping them.
To a great extent, the story of the animal kingdom is the predation of the strong over the weak; come sundown and darkness there is predation, cruel and bloodthirsty. It's always the strong over the weak, merciless and cruel.
An exception is the giraffe; they are gentle to everybody and are not predators over anybody; their strictly vegetarian diet doubtless has much to do with their gentleness and their "live and let live" philosophy of life; but they are the exceptions.
But there is a change coming: the Lord has promised that He will create "new heavens and a new earth" and "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain." There will come a great change over wolves and lions: "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock" (Isa. 65:25). The Lord's "holy mountain" is the "new heavens and new earth" that He will create (vs. 17). That's a great change to come over the lion--from the inside out!
And there is good news of righteousness by faith in this story of the change in the lion's nature: it will be the Lord Jesus who changes the nature of the lion! If the lion can experience such a tremendous change in nature, why can't we experience a change in our nature now by the much more abounding grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?
People are by nature predators even as cats are, for Romans 8:7 says, "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." We who are by nature at "enmity against God" have all the evil within our nature that is in being predators. We all need to be converted; we all need a new nature; we all need a Savior from ourselves. Our fallen, sinful nature that is "enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7) is to be changed now, today, through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Does it make sense that we, sinful selfish people by nature can be changed, converted, purified, transformed, even "sanctified," by believing those "promises"? Believe it or not, that is Peter's idea: "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, .. exceeding great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3, 4). "Escape" is what we desperately need, for we face the second death without it. The "corruption" of lust surrounds us and would permeate us. Our modern "culture" is steeped in it.
We humans build houses and then wait for people to buy them and move in. God does the opposite: He "builds" human characters of "righteousness" first and then creates "a new heaven and new earth" for them to move in to, and inhabit (2 Peter 3:13).
This "building" for them a new heaven and new earth is for Him a trifling accomplishment. He once "created ... the earth and the things that therein are" in a mere six days (Rev. 10:6; Ex. 20:11). His problem now is not creating a home for His people to live in forever; it's getting them ready to move in, for only "righteousness" can "dwell there." And herein lies the climax of the gospel in creation to which all our quarter's lessons have pointed. God cannot create righteousness in any human heart without that person's full consent; and again, that full consent is not forthcoming so long as "self" is still holding sway in that heart.
The centerpiece of the 1888 message involves a deeper heart-cleansing than we like to realize. Ever since the beginning of the great Day of Atonement there has been a constant effort on God's part to lead His people to a heart-preparation for the return of Jesus. He is in earnest about that, not content for "world without end" to go on and on, generation after generation of saints going in the grave to join multitudes from Abel on. All of these wonderful saints are "guests" at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). Wonderful!
"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). The cross has guaranteed all this for you, as you take this "faith of Jesus" to be yours.
--Paul E. Penno
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