Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Sanctuary
Lesson 9: "The Pre-Advent Judgment"

I thought the prayer before bedtime, "Lord, forgive all my sins," took care of my record in heaven. Doesn't God say, "I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins" (Isa. 43:25)?
Now comes the problem of understanding what Peter says in Acts 3:19: "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." Peter says that "sins may be blotted out" at "the times of refreshing." Are we not finished with sin at the time they are confessed? Why are they still hanging around by the time of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the future "latter rain"?
God is true to His word. He has "cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). Then why have an investigative judgment? Because just as in the ancient earthly tabernacle type the penitent sinner went away from the sanctuary actually forgiven, his sin was recorded therein awaiting its final disposition on the annual Day of Atonement.
Clearly, there has to be a judgment before Jesus returns; then it is that the sins of God's people, forgiven all along in the past, will be finally "blotted out." Peter writes: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).
The heavenly record books are an accurate picture of our lives. Everything that we have ever said, done or thought; both known and unknown, is accurately recorded in the mind. And so now in the judgment our life-history coincides with its legacy. Our final biographical sentence is written with a "period." Do you really want your sins "deleted"?
Let a lesson from your computer illustrate the point. As you go along there are documents that you remove from sight by putting them in the "trash can." But the record is still there just in case later on you decide to go back to your old ways and retrieve it.
So when you confess your sins, they are indeed forgiven; but sinful humans can sometimes go back to their old ways like the dog that Peter says returns to his vomit (2 Peter 2:22). And the Lord doesn't want to take anybody to heaven who secretly is sorry that he ever repented and he really wants to go back to the devil.
So there finally comes a time when the accumulated "trash" needs to be emptied. But wait a minute! A little message pops up, "Do you really want to delete everything?"
As we near the coming of Christ, there has to be a final investigation: "Are you reallysure you want your sins forever forgiven? Are you really sure you don't want to go back to your old selfish, lustful, worldly ways, ever?" Well, I hope you're ready to click yes on that. You click on "Yes." Now all the "trash" is gone forever, irrevocably.
The good news of the 1888 message is that our Advocate, Jesus is standing up for us in the investigative judgment opposing the prosecuting attorney. Zechariah saw this portrayed in vision. Representing the sinful people was "Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD" who is our defense attorney, "and Satan [the prosecutor] standing at his right hand to resist him" (Zech. 3:1). The result of the judgment was Joshua's "filthy garments" were removed and he was clothed "with change of raiment" (vs. 3).
To change the metaphor, in 1888, the Bride's Husband proposed marriage by giving the remnant Seventh-day Adventist Church the "wedding garments."
Jesus taught the pre-advent judgment through a parable. The king invited guests from all walks of life to a wedding. "When the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless" (Matt. 22:10-13). He was cast out.
Here the "king" inspects the "guests" as to whether they are wearing the "wedding garment" which he has given to each one. In this case a "friend" has neglected to put on the garment and is left "speechless." Here is presented the concept of a judgment before the wedding.
1888 is the invitation to the wedding. Speaking of the 1888 message, Ellen White emphasizes some wonderfully good news: "We are in the day of atonement, and we are to work in harmony with Christ's work of cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of the people. Let no man who desires to be found with the wedding garment on, resist our Lord in his office work" (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 21, 1890).
The One who will accomplish that amazing task is the High Priest of the heavenly sanctuary. His business is being a Saviour from sin. It is His job to cleanse the sanctuary, not ours; but it is our job to cooperate with Him, to let Him do it, to stop hindering Him "in His office work."
The 1888 message is the clearest understanding of justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. When the hearts of God's people on earth are cleansed then shall the sanctuary in heaven be cleansed. Justification is not exclusively expunging the record of sin in heaven. Our "high priest make[s] an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord" (Lev. 16:30).
That precisely is the purpose of the investigative judgment--not to condemn God's people, but to cleanse them so they can meet Jesus in person when He returns.
There is sin, conscious and unconscious, that must be discovered, repented of, "overcome" (Rev. 3:21), so that those who follow the great High Priest in His closing work of Atonement may not be consumed by the brightness of Jesus' coming. That's going to be a serious moment!
The High Priest doesn't want to condemn you; He wants to vindicate you--that's the only judgment He wants to make in your case.
Don't stop Him, don't hinder His on-going work!
--Paul E. Penno

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SST #9 | "The Pre-Advent Judgment" | Paul Penno

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Christ, Our Priest"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Sanctuary
Lesson 8: "Christ, Our Priest"

Many people wonder, What is Christ, our High Priest, doing now in the heavenly sanctuary? Is He on vacation, or absorbed in work in some other corner of His great universe? Is He serious that "the tabernacle of God is [to be] with men" (Rev. 21:3)? The 1888 message idea of the cleansing of the sanctuary relieves minds of this perplexity.
The initial, rock-bottom, foundational idea that permeates "1888" simply put, is something that never crossed the minds of Luther, Calvin, or the Wesleys, or any Sunday-keeping Evangelicals of the 1888 era, or it seems, has yet to penetrate the consciousness of ourSunday-keeping brethren and sisters of today. Maybe we haven't told it in a way that grips their interest. It's the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, the ministry of our great High Priest in the second or Most Holy Apartment. The context of "1888" is the cosmic Day of Atonement. We've been living in it since 1844. Time at last to understand justification by faith!
Ellen G. White wrote: "The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ's work in behalf of men [justification by faith]. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith" (Evangelism, p. 222, 221).
She continued, "The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, showing that God's hand had directed the great advent movement, and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of His people" (ibid., p. 222).
From 1844 on, Christ's main work was no longer to prepare believing people to die and go in the grave to await the first resurrection (a preparation wonderful enough if you have to die!). But now in this great Day of Atonement our High Priest must prepare a people to be ready for translation without tasting death.
But how is justification by faith more fully grasped in these last days, than it was by Luther and Calvin in the 16th century? Didn't they proclaim it clearly? Yes, they did--for their day. But they lived before"the time of the end" when "knowledge shall be increased" (Dan. 12:4). Their work, which the Lord gave them, was to prepare a people to die and come up in the first resurrection (see Luke 20:35; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17), and they were faithful to the light they saw.
Now, in this "time of the end," we are living in the great cosmic, antitypical "Day of Atonement." God is preparing a people to be "accounted worthy ... to stand before the Son of man," to be translated at His second coming (Luke 21:36). And there is no power in heaven or earth that can accomplish that objective except "the gospel of Christ." It alone "is the power of God unto salvation" (Rom.1:16). It's what Peter says is "the present truth" (2 Peter 1:12). That clearer understanding of "the everlasting gospel" (Rev. 14:6) will teach God's people to sing "a new song" that "no man" can "learn but the 144,000, which [are] redeemed from the earth," in whose "mouth [is] found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God" (vss. 3-5). There is not a progression of truth involved, but there is a progression in the comprehension of truth. "Knowledge shall be increased."
A change in character is involved. The legally imputed righteousness of Christ becomes His practically imparted righteousness, when the Bride of Christ "has made herself ready" for the long-delayed "marriage of the Lamb." For the first time in the long ages of the great controversy, she is "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the [imparted] righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:7, 8; Greek). Now the Bride is more concerned for His honor and glory than even for her own salvation; that's biblical justification by faith. She overcomes "even as [He] also overcame" (3:21); self at last is crucified with Him. That will be the fruitage of Christ's work as the world's great High Priest in His closing work in the Most Holy Apartment of His heavenly sanctuary (see Heb. 4:14-16; 7:259:23-28; 10:18-25; 11:39, 40; 13:20, 21).
But the 1888 idea of the cleansing of the sanctuary is not that God's people do the work. The High Priest does it; His people cease resisting Him "in His office work" (to borrow Ellen White's expression). They let Him do it. Never does the Bible say that the ancient Israelites had to cleanse the sanctuary on their annual days of atonement. Their high priest always did it!
But some ask why Jesus as our High Priest has to "make intercession" for us before the Father (Heb. 7:25). The word "intercession" implies that somebody is not happy and has to be interceded with on our behalf. Christ "is at the right hand of God," Paul says, "who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34). John adds his insight when he compares Christ to "an advocate with the Father," the word "advocate" being parakletos in the Greek (1 John 2:1). Vine says the word "was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defense, who pleads another's cause."
In other words, Jesus is a defense lawyer pleading a case "with the Father," John says. It seems that the Father is the Judge and that we are on trial before Him, and that we would lose our case if it weren't for Jesus being there in our behalf. This is 100 percent true; we would indeed lose out if it were not for our divine Lawyer working on our side.
The Father, as well as the Son, hate sin. But in accordance with the agreement between them Both, Christ became the representative Adam for the human race and paid the penalty as the sinner's Substitute and Surety, having tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). Thus God's wrath against sin was experienced by Christ on His cross. He suffered the curse of God which was the condemnation of the second death. His shed blood qualifies Him as mankind's Advocate with the Father. It makes it possible for the Father to shower his blessings of life equally on both the just and the unjust.
But who is He "pleading," "interceding" with? Who needs to be "persuaded" to accept us? Does it make sense to say it's the Father? Wasn't it He who took the initiative to "so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son" for us? How could He be against us, needing Jesus to "intercede" for us? Does the Father have a club behind His back, about to let us have it, and then Jesus steps up and says, "Look, Father, at the wounds in My hands, etc. Please be nice to these people!"? No, that doesn't make sense. The Father loves us just as much as the Son loves us! Then who is Jesus interceding with?
Is He interceding with the devil? Will he or his angels ever be persuaded to be nice to us? Hardly! Then who has to be persuaded to "accept" us, to stop condemning us? The good angels? No, they are "all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for" us, not against us (Heb. 1:14).
Then who is left who needs to be "persuaded," interceded with to "accept" us, except we ourselves? We are the ones who need to hold our heads high, to join Paul in being "persuaded" that nothing will ever "separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:38, 39).
Prominent in the 1888 message is the idea of ceasing to resist our Lord. Not until after the 1888 Conference did Ellen White state it clearly: "The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus ... in repentance for his sins" (Steps to Christ, p. 27). Therein is the essence of this cleansing of the sanctuary!
The great Day of Atonement ministry is the most important activity going on today in the heavenly universe. Keep in tune with it.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

Note to Reader: Robert J. Wieland has written a story for youth entitled, "What Is Jesus Doing Now?" Request it and we will send you a PDF, or you may find it at: http://www.1888mpm.org/files/WhatIsJesusDoingNow.pdf
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Monday, November 11, 2013

SST #7 | "Christ, Our Sacrifice" | Pastor Paul Penno

"Christ, Our Sacrifice"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Sanctuary
Lesson 7: "Christ, Our Sacrifice"
Ask any group of Christians, "Why did Jesus die on His cross?" and they will tell you, "He died as our Substitute." And that's absolutely true. But what does it mean? How does that truth make any difference in the way we live? What's the difference between the Evangelical understanding of Christ's substitution and the heart-moving 1888 message dynamic?
During the Civil War a person could pay $300 for a substitute to go to war on his behalf and fight and even die, while the other was free to go home to his family and make a living. He was grateful that he wasn't wasted in that awful war because of his substitute, so that he could resume life as usual. But his selfishness remained intact.
This is the popular idea of Christ's substitution. But it's a childish understanding, especially in view of our sanctuary truth. Living as we are in the cosmic Day of Atonement, it's time to grow up.
Our lesson repeatedly refers to Christ's sacrifice as vicarious. This word is never used in the Scriptures and only once in the Spirit of Prophecy. If you want a vicarious experience with a world-class mountaineer, go on YouTube and view Sir Edmund Hillary's first-ascent of Mt. Everest. You will have a virtual experience, but it's not actual. If you want an actual experience of climbing, ask a mountaineer to guide you to a summit and share the moment with him.
What is the idea of substitution which uproots our selfishness? It's the biblical teaching of Christ identifying Himself in our fallen humanity. He came not as if He were us, but as us. When we see the true Christ, then we are moved to share His experience of the crucified life. Christ's atoning sacrifice is a shared substitution.
"The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, ... and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:5, 6). Peter says that His identity with our sins was deep, not superficial, for "His own self bare our sins in His own body" (1 Peter 2:24).
Vicarious substitution is an exchanged "experience" which actually does not become experience, because it requires separating Christ from us by forcing Him to take only the sinless nature of Adam before the fall and keeping Him "afar off" in vicarious isolation. An actual substitution is a shared experience which is identity "with Christ," which sees Him as "Immanuel, God with us," fully sharing our common fallen humanity "yet without sin" so that He can truly "succor [aid] them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:18).
The popular Evangelical "vicarious" concept denies the believer a sense of shared participation with Christ. The Bible goes far deeper: Christ's sacrifice is also a shared substitution. In His first lesson on the cross Jesus told us, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him ... take up his cross, and follow Me. ... Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matt. 16:24, 25).
There are about a billion Muslims who are turned off by what many of them regard as an obstacle against their becoming Christians: the Crusades of the 11th to 13th centuries demonstrate openly for all time that "Christianity" is a cruel and unjust religion (they say); and the doctrine that one man's righteousness can substitute morally for another man's unrighteousness. In fact, their theologians connect the Crusades to that doctrine of vicarious moral substitution. It's unjust, and unfair, they say.
We know first: the Crusades were not true, biblical Christianity. Second, could the doctrine of a vicarious substitution be explained to Muslims more clearly? Does the Bible also teach the truth of a shared substitution?
Paul understood this idea of shared substitution: "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). "[We] were baptized into Jesus Christ, .. baptized into His death, ... buried with Him by baptism into death, ... planted together [with Him] in the likeness of His death, ... our old man [the love of self] crucified with Him, ... dead with Christ." If all this is true, then "we shall also live with Him" (Rom. 6:3-8). But only if.
One is the kindergarten, flower-girl-at-the-wedding idea of substitution--very, very true; but the other is the bride "growing up unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13), prepared to stand with Him side by side in the "marriage of the Lamb." It's a time for divine-human intimacy never before realized by the body of His church.
If "our" Crusaders had understood this, world history would have been different! Praying for the Muslims is good, but not good enough: we must tell them the gospel clearly, truthfully.
The destiny of this planet hangs on the outcome of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. The victory of Christ over Satan in Gethsemane and on His cross exposed Satan's true character to the unfallen universe so that "the great dragon ... was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him," says John. "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation. ... and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ" (Rev. 12:9, 10). In other words, so far as heaven is concerned, Christ has won the great war.
But as to the inhabitants of this planet, "the great controversy" goes on until "our brethren" can be described: "they overcame him [the dragon] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony" (Rev. 12:10, 11).
This is not an "insurance policy" kind of relationship with the Lamb--you pay your premium ("I accept Christ!"), and now He "covers" for you in a "vicarious substitution" way, as the insurance company "covers" your loss if your house burns down. You don't trouble your head--they "cover" for you.
Revelation pictures "our brethren" in a far more intimate relationship with the Lamb than the popular egocentric concern, "I'm okay, I'm covered, I'm saved! I'll sit back, relax, and 'occupy until [He] comes.'"
The sanctuary service which illustrates this "great controversy" tells us that now is the cosmic Day of Atonement--time for total experiential one-ness with Christ "through faith." His people become "partakers of the divine nature," they experience "I am crucified with Christ," they "comprehend" the grand dimensions of His love (agape), they "overcome even as [Christ] overcame," they "grow up into Him" "unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." It's as a bride intimately "at one-ment" with her husband. They sense the heart-burden that Jesus carries. This is more than "vicarious substitution." It's realizing a "shared substitution," an intimate one-ness with the Lamb through faith. Do you see this as Good News?
--Paul E. Penno

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"The Day of Atonement"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Sanctuary
Lesson 6: "The Day of Atonement"
Our lesson provides interesting information on the rituals of the Old Testament Day of Atonement. But at the very end of the lesson, in Friday's "Discussion Questions," the statement is made: "Many Seventh-day Adventists were taught about the Day of Atonement in a way that has left them without assurance of salvation. Such a view comes from a false understanding of the purpose of the Day of Atonement" (question 3, p. 52). Perhaps this is where the 1888 message can shed some light.
Hebrews chapters nine and ten make clear that there are two phases of our great High Priest's heavenly ministry: (a) the antitypical ministry in the first apartment of the sanctuary (ta hagia in the Greek) where He began to minister at His ascension, and (b) His closing ministry in the second apartment, the Most Holy (hagia hagion, Greek) on the antitypical Day of Atonement. Christ's ministry in the first apartment was to prepare His people to die--a wonderful work indeed; but His ministry in the second apartment is intended to prepare a people to meet the final tests of the mark of the beast, the seal of God, the final time of trouble, and translation at the second coming of Christ.
This means that His people must live on earth during the cataclysmic last days when they will meet head-on the last temptations of Satan, but will "overcome even as [Christ] overcame." They will honor Him, and share with Him His throne. They will demonstrate His righteousness (Rev. 3:21).
But Revelation also discloses that Christ's last great struggle is with the blindness and lukewarmness of His own people who can't seem to grasp the seriousness of the time in which they live (3:15-19). Urgent as never before, He says, "Watch therefore" (Matt. 24:42).
"1844" identified God's work in this unique Day of Atonement. A holy angel gave to Daniel this prophecy: "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (8:14). It was 2300 literal years which ended in 1844 when Christ as great High Priest began that final Day of Atonement ministry. While this momentous development was happening in heaven, on earth three angels began their worldwide work of preaching to humanity (Rev. 14:6-12).
But the honest truth remains: the world at large still waits to hear the message proclaimed so powerfully that it grips the attention of "every nation, kindred, tongue, and people." These first three angels "fly in the midst of heaven," signifying a less than greatly powerful ministry. But they're not the end. "Another angel," a fourth, must "come down from heaven, having great power" so "the earth [can be] lightened with his glory" (Rev. 18:1-4).
"1888" figures with "1844" in this prophetic scenario. It marked the "beginning" of that great fourth angel's message, just as William Miller's prophetic preaching in 1831 marked the beginning of that "first angel's message." It's a startling step in prophetic interpretation. Heaven intended "1888" to mark the beginning of the final "loud cry" just as Pentecost marked the beginning of the apostles' ministry. It is sobering to consider that the 1888 message was to prepare a people for translation at the actual coming of Christ, rather than for death.
The "cleansing" is His great Day of Atonement, His final work of preparing a people to be ready when Jesus comes the second time. It is to be nothing short of "self" being "crucified with Christ" (Gal.2:20), and "the world" being "crucified" to them (6:14). A tremendous work!
But how can we have a secure "assurance of salvation"? It's a cruel deception to lull sincere people to sleep with the thought that no special spiritual preparation is necessary! "Just say your prayers as usual, pay your tithe, try to be good, and you're OK. There's no difference in being ready to die and being ready for that final time of trouble." But there is a difference and it is spelled out clearly in Day of Atonement living. These are the last days when Jesus' words make great good sense: "When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. ... Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time ... that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth" (Luke 21:31-35). The difference in spiritual preparation? Not a super-works trip, but a more developed faith--the key ingredient in experiential "justification by faith."
Thus justification by faith is lifted out of a mere legal declaration, and becomes a reconciliation with God, an experience of "at-one-ment." It is now the time for a "final atonement," as Jesus ministers as High Priest on this Day of Atonement. If you don't resist the Holy Spirit, He will impart to you "the mind of Christ," the greatest joy you can have--to be totally "at-one" with Him.
Ellen White saw the truth, the 1888 message of justification by faith was intended by the Lord to prepare that generation for translation at the coming of Christ. When the sinner hears the Good News and his heart responds and he believes, then he experiences justification by faith, which is the subjective gospel. This is what Ellen White was referring to when she described the 1888 message as being justification by faith which makes the believer "obedient to all the commandments of God" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-93).
The message of justification by faith that the Lord "sent" His people in 1888 was intended to create in the hearts of God's people and in His corporate church, that yearning for "at-one-ment" with Him. It was to be like a bride who gladly chooses to "forsake all others" to be with Him. It was to be the end of worldliness in the church, and of all modern idolatry--not imposed by fear but by a mature response to the love of the Bridegroom.
In all of Hebrews' lofty theological acumen is one great 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).
Finally, Hebrews leaves us with the assurance that all the power of the Father who brought Jesus from the dead is directed now to the unprecedented work of preparing a people, to "make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight" (13:21). Good News!
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
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