Monday, June 24, 2013

"Lest We Forget (Malachi)"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets

Lesson 13: "Lest We Forget (Malachi)"


Some people think that the "straight testimony"--the 1888 message--of "the faithful and true witness" to the "angel of the church of the Laodiceans" [1] is too negative for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and should be toned down or eliminated because it's too critical of the leadership and laity (Rev. 3:14). It is believed that the message calls for repentance when none is needed, for the church is proclaiming the evangelistic message of righteousness by faith.

Every one of the minor prophets has a message for the Laodicean church addressing its apathy and lukewarmness. [2] Malachi is no exception. [3] The state of the church is so serious because of a compromised leadership that God spares no pains as He places a "burden of the word ... to Israel" upon Malachi (Mal. 1:1).

After Israel's return from Babylon the Lord sent them leaders and prophets who motivated the people to restore the temple and worship services. The Lord gave them security and prosperity. They were cured of idol worship. They promised God right and left to obey His laws. They even had the biggest reform movement under the leadership of Nehemiah that had been seen since the days of King Josiah. [4] And, yet, they failed God's purpose for them to share the glorious good news of salvation to the world and selfishly turned inward.

Malachi taught that the lessons of the past should not be not forgotten, and that they must believe the covenant made by Jehovah with the house of Israel. [5] Only by heartfelt repentance could the blessing of God be realized. "The covenant of 'life and peace' God had made with the sons of Levi--the covenant which, if kept, would have brought untold blessing--the Lord now offered to renew with those who once had been spiritual leaders. ..." [6]

Clearly Israel had not grasped their problem, and more specifically God's new covenant gift of a new heart and a life of righteousness by faith in Him. This was a sad repeat of their history ever since the pattern was set at Mt. Sinai when their forefathers pledge themselves to do everything just right (Ex. 19:8). The consequence was that throughout their history Israel's rollercoaster ride was up and down. When they fell into disaster there would follow reformations based on their old covenant promises. Their reforms never lasted and the cycle repeated itself from one generation to the next. Now four hundred years before Christ's first advent they were no more prepared to receive their Messiah than they were after Mt. Sinai. [7]

God raises six disputes with the people in which they reply to Him in a very surly, self-satisfied manner. I have loved you," but they don't see it. "Wherein hast thou loved us?" (Mal. 1:2). We have yet even to begin comprehending "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height" of "the love of Christ" (Eph. 3:18, 19). This is the great dynamic of the "most precious" sanctuary truth. So we have a moral fall of having "left thy first love" (Rev. 2:4).

In the Lord's second dispute He says, "where is mine honor?" (Mal. 1:6). The problem is the priests, the spiritual leaders, who "despise my name." And they respond vacuously, "Wherein have we despised thy name?" They are offering diseased and defective animals for sacrifice. That which was to represent the pure, sinless, Lamb of God, was polluted by their cheap, lame substitutes in order to save money. It's like there were plenty of crosses in their churches proclaiming their profession of Christianity, but little comprehension of the meaning of the cross.

God's purpose for His people is that they might appreciate what it cost the dear Son of God to die for them on the cruel cross. Such an understanding of the cross leads to a deepening repentance so that they might uplift the cross and thus the character of God's love before the world. [8] God declares, "from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same My name shall be great among the Gentiles" "for My name shall be great among the heathen" (Mal. 1:11, cf. Rev. 18:1-2). This is God's destiny for His people.

God declares the solution to the sin problem is to be found in the cleansing of the sanctuary truth: "Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to Histemple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts" (Mal. 3:1). Here the sanctuary truth and God's everlasting covenant are combined. The Messenger of the Covenant is the Lord Jesus Himself who comes "suddenly to His temple." Equally important is He comes to our soul temple via the Holy Spirit.

In 1844 the people were not expecting their High Priest to enter into the Most Holy of the Heavenly sanctuary. "This coming is foretold ... by the prophet Malachi." "The coming of the Lord to his temple was sudden, unexpected, to his people. They were not looking for him there. They expected him to come to earth." "Christ had come, not to the earth, as they expected, but, as foreshadowed in the type, to the most holy place of the temple of God in Heaven." [9]

God will send His "messenger" "Elijah the prophet" to prepare the way for the coming of "the Messenger of the covenant" into the sanctuary for the investigative judgment. "I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me" (Mal. 3:1). "I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Mal. 4:5).

In anticipation of the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference, Ellen White published her Great Controversy the same year in which she wrote: "Light was to be given, directing their minds to the temple of God in Heaven; and as they should by faith follow their High Priest in his ministration there, new duties would be revealed. Another message of warning and instruction was to be given to the church." [10] Here she refers to the Elijah message. This is the promised latter rain of the Holy Spirit bringing "the straight testimony" sent by Jesus from the sanctuary. "The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth. For it is the work of every one to whom the message of warning has come, to lift up Jesus." [11]

How can you recognize "Elijah" when "he" comes? Knowing Jesus as we do, it must be a most precious message. Elijah's message will be one of reconciliation (Mal. 4:6). "Elijah's" message "turns" hearts, changes hearts, heals alienation in hearts, melts hard hearts. That's possible when people kneel together at the cross.

Elijah's message prepares the hearts of all God's people for the time when God's Holy Spirit will be withdrawn from the earth--the seven last plagues poured out (Rev. 16). "Elijah's message" will direct our attention to Christ as our High Priest "sending" a special final message of heart-union with Him.

--Paul E. Penno


[1] "The message given us by A. T. Jones, and E. J. Waggoner is the message of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes to believe the truth and yet does not reflect to others the God-given rays" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1052).
[2] Our Sabbath School quarterly, "Lessons from the Minor Prophets" makes no connection of the prophets to the Laodicean message. In 1983 Leo R. Van Dolson wrote: "There can be no question at all about the significance of this book [Malachi] to the Laodicean remnant church. Those terms, Laodicean and remnant, sound like a contradiction ... but that is the situation we face in the last-day church" (Boost Your Prophets, 1983, p. 153).
[3] Notice how eerily parallel are some of the themes which Ellen White outlines regarding the Laodicea church immediately following the 1888 Conference, with the themes of the book of Malachi: The great controversy, the temptation of leadership by Satan to corrupt, unfaithfulness in returning to God His own tithes and offerings, the necessity for repentance (Ellen G. White, "Our Duties and Obligations," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Dec. 18, 1888, pp. 794-795).
[4] "Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, of Ezra, and of Nehemiah they repeatedly covenanted to keep all the commandments and ordinances of Jehovah. The seasons of prosperity that followed gave ample evidence of God's willingness to accept and forgive, and yet with fatal shortsightedness they turned again and again from their glorious destiny and selfishly appropriated to themselves that which would have brought healing and spiritual life. ..." (Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, 1917, p. 705).
[5] "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history" (Ellen G. White,Life's Sketches, p. 196).
[6] Ibid.
[7] "Satan had succeeded in preparing the hearts of the people to reject the Saviour when He should appear. Their own pride of heart, and their false conceptions of His character and mission, would prevent them from honestly weighing the evidences of His Messiahship" (Ibid., pp. 709-710).
[8] "The last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 415).
[9] The Great Controversy, p. 424.
[10] The Great Controversy (1888), pp. 242-425.
[11] Selected Messages, vol. 1 (Nov. 22, 1892), p. 363. "The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety. ... This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91).
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