Thursday, March 6, 2014

Discipling the Nations

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 10: Discipling the Nations
What will it take to disciple the nations? John the Revelator "saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power: and theearth was lightened with His glory" (Rev. 18:1). Proclaiming "the everlasting gospel" to "every nation" is a big job! (Rev. 14:6).
Isaiah was overjoyed to write about the time when the earth will be drenched with a special "light" of "the truth of the gospel." He says to God's people, "The Redeemer shall come to Zion [the church] ... Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isa. 60:1-3).
As encouraging as these promises are, the reality is that Seventh-day Adventists have been making disciples for well over a century and a half. There is still the challenge of the unreached masses of Asia, the Third World and now even the Western World. We owe a sincere debt of gratitude for past pioneers and generations who have devoted their lives and treasure to the spread of the Third Angel's Message. They have put in place the worldwide infrastructure for God's final evangelistic campaign.
There is an "efficiency" which no human agent or organization can supply for the finishing of God's work for the nations. Brethren to this day resist the message of the cross and the sanctuary, which the Holy Spirit initiated through His messengers A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. The pen of inspiration drew back the curtain to reveal the source of criticism. "By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." [1] The Spirit-indited truth from Pentecost supplies the "efficiency" so necessary to reach the world.
The same writer recognized God's hand in raising up messengers. "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." [2]
The message God sent in 1888 is the "latter rain." The "latter rain" is parallel to the message of the Pentecostal "former rain." "Great truths that have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost are to shine from God's word in their native purity." [3]
Is there a "great truth" that shone clearly on the Day of Pentecost? Yes, and here is the focus of the 1888 message: Speaking to that great crowd of thousands of people from many nations and languages, Peter boldly declared that they had crucified the Son of God: "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). A few days later he told them, "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, ... and killed the Prince of life" (Acts 3:14, 15). Nothing in Paul's epistles is quite so strong, so directly confrontational! What happened on the day of Pentecost? A repentance deeper than has ever been known. The murder of the Son of God is the greatest sin ever committed; repentance for that sin is the greatest a human heart can ever know.
Do you think it might be possible that Peter's sermon applies to us today? It is a clearer understanding of what Christ accomplished on His cross and a deeper appreciation for what it cost Him. The teaching of the cross at Pentecost will be amplified a thousand-fold when understood in light of the cleansing of the sanctuary truth.
Shall the Seventh-day Adventist Church disregard the authenticated "beginning" of that final message, which was "in a great degree" rejected and "kept away from the world"? [4]
That same writer tells how the first Pentecost relates to the future second one: "A work is to be accomplished in the earth similar to that which took place at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the days of the early disciples, when they preached Jesus and Him crucified. Many will be converted in a day; for the message will go with power. ... The theme that attracts the heart of the sinner is Christ, and Him crucified. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus stands revealed to the world in unparalleled love [agape]. Present Him thus to the hungering multitudes, and the light of His love will win men from darkness to light, from transgression to obedience and true holiness. Beholding Jesus upon the cross of Calvary arouses the conscience to the heinous character of sin as nothing else can do." [5]
It meets exactly the heart-longing of every honest-hearted soul in "Babylon" (and there are many!), so that "the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. Family connections, church relations, are powerless to stay them now. Truth is more precious than all besides. Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number [will] take their stand upon the Lord's side." [6]
A clearer view of what happened on the cross. The phrase "the unparalleled love of Christ" suggests how "the Lamb" will be the central feature of the prophecies. [7] The extent of Christ's sacrifice will be shown in the kind of death He died--the equivalent of the second death, the ultimate one of all lost mankind. The Father "laid on [Christ] the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). The implications are staggering: the "all" is the human race. Therefore, He does not lay that iniquity upon them.
What Christ accomplished on His cross, identified by the 1888 message, is the heart-warming "great truth" of justification by faith. Instead of imputing the "trespasses" of the human race onto themselves, He imputed those onto Christ (2 Cor. 5:19). The reason for this grace is that Christ "tasted death [the second] for everyone" (Heb. 2:9). Scripture cannot be broken: the full debt was paid for every sinner who has ever lived. "Through one Man's righteous act [the cross] the free gift [not an offer] came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (Rom. 5:18).
That "gift" is justification which "came upon all men," like "the grace that encircles the world with an atmosphere as real as the air which circulates around the globe" (Rom. 5:18). [8] The miracle is not magic; the truth penetrates the heart. The sinner grasps the horror of the hell from which he has been delivered. No joy can be deep and lasting which has not been built upon that foundation of joyous contrition. "If one died for all, then all died." You die, so that now you say, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20).
Thus what Christ accomplished was the reversal of the judicial "condemnation" that the first Adam brought on the entire human race. It is a "judicial ... verdict ... of acquittal" on the same human race (Rom. 5:16, NEB).
The message of Pentecost declared forgiveness for the entire human race, particularly for the involvement of "all" in the murder of the Son of God.
Zechariah prophesied "living waters shall go out from Jerusalem," to the nations, whose source, Jeremiah said, was "the Lord, the fountain of living waters" (Zech. 14:8; Jer. 17:13). Ezekiel was shown that this river was "waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over," a river bringing healing to the nations (Eze. 47:1-9). This is the eternal life which flows from the cross of Christ. We may taste of it here and now by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit--the latter rain message.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 234, 235.
[2] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1052 (Ms. 24, 1892).
[3] Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 473.
[4] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 234, 235
[5] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1073, 1074.
[6] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 612.
[7] The sacrificial "Lamb" is the central feature of the Book of Revelation mentioned 25 times.
[8] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 68.
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