Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Harvest and the Harvesters

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 12: The Harvest and the Harvesters
No generation of God's people have ever been translated without seeing death; never before has "the harvest of the earth" been "ripe" for the Savior's sickle (Rev. 14:15). It was the Lord's intention that the 1888 message prepare the "harvest" for translation. Would that not require that the message be more mature and developed than any previous of "harvesters" had ever perceived?
The message that is to prepare the grain for harvest must include "a part of the gospel" which the Reformers did not proclaim. [1] "The gospel" is righteousness by faith, and the third angel's message in verity is the same. [2] The light which the Reformers did not see and proclaim would obviously be "new light" so far as the people of 1888 were concerned.
Ellen White adds the shocking statement, "Paul, as we have seen, did not preach it." Preach what? "A part of the gospel which could be proclaimed only in the last days." [3] That "part of the gospel" is not cold mathematical calculations of the 2300 days. The genius of the 1888 message was its relation of justification by faith to the unique judgment hour truth of the cleansing of the sanctuary. [4] "Paul ... did not preach it." The cleansing of the sanctuary is surely "a part of the everlasting gospel."
What "event" can move that "other angel" of Revelation 14:15 to decide when to give Jesus the signal to "come" the second time? The answer, "The harvest of the earth is ripe." This simplest imaginable divinely inspired illustration explains the delay in the return of Christ!
But this special farm "harvest" depends on the volition of the "grain." An entire "crop" can selfishly refuse to let the Lord's warm sunshine of the gospel and refreshing showers of "the latter rain" perform the ripening process. It's a "harvest" process God cannot force upon the "field of grain."
The Lord Jesus Himself asked rather plaintively, "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). The Lord is all-powerful, He is omnipotent, but He cannot force His people to believe if they love unbelief.
A very serious example of the evil of unbelief is the popular attitude toward the beginning of the "latter rain" and the "loud cry" of Revelation 18:1-4.
Can you imagine the farmers in a drought-stricken land where their crops are withering, being unhappy when the Lord sends them a gentle shower of latter rain moisture? That would be unthinkable, wouldn't it? But our "harvesters" lived out this unimaginable scenario in 1888. We were in danger of losing the third angel's message, the reason for our existence as a people; the Lord did not overwhelm them with lightning, thunder, and gully-washer great rains--just a gentle shower of the Holy Spirit in "latter rain" power.
The Lord gave His Holy Spirit to two young men in a message of justification by faith that was like a gentle rain on thirsty land; Ellen White was overjoyed. She said she had never heard anything so wonderful at any time at any place! She immediately recognized the leading of the Holy Spirit. But she was pained by the rejection the "harvesters" manifested: "The course that [was] pursued at Minneapolis [1888] was cruelty to the Spirit of God." [5] "I know that at that time the Holy Spirit was insulted." [6]
She went on to further state to Elder Olsen: "The time will come when many will be willing to do anything and everything possible in order to have a chance of hearing the call which they rejected at Minneapolis. ... Better opportunities will never come, deeper feelings they will not have." [7]
Jesus said something both wonderful and terrible when He said to His disciples, "Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:23). It was a parallel statement with the one in Matthew, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). As authority figures to other people (that is, parents, teachers, preachers), can we actually open or lock the gates of heaven to people? Jesus says yes! If a pastor/evangelist tells his congregation bad news, he can close the gates of heaven against youth and adults. We may wonder why they drop out of the church family, but that was the reason.
You are a "harvester" in the church; could it be that Jesus has in a sense fulfilled His promise to the disciples and "given" you "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:19), so you can lock or unlock for someone the gate of the New Jerusalem? Someone will listen to you. What can you say? Shall you tell him to wrack his brain and think of every unconfessed sin and make it right ... or else? Or shall you tell him what the angels told the Bethlehem shepherds--"glad tidings for everyone, your Savior is born" (Luke 2:8-11), "the Savior of the world" (John 4:42), which includes you. He has "abolished death," your second death, which He has already died for you (Heb. 2:9). He has adopted you into His Father's family (Eph. 1:5, 6). He has reversed the "condemnation" that came on "all men" in Adam (Rom. 6:15-18). He takes you by the hand and says, "Let's go--to Heaven!" He has promised never to let go (Isa. 41:10, 13). The work He "began" in you when you were baptized long ago He will continue (Phil. 1:6).
In Steps to Christ, Ellen White says that if you do not resist Him as your Savior, He will "draw" you all the way into His New Jerusalem (John 12:32). [8] Believe Him! He loves you and wants you in His kingdom more than you can imagine.
Let us thank God for a new "today" wherein we can apply some healing balm to the wounds we have made, and we can tell someone some precious good news. There is nothing to thank God for more earnestly than that we have another day in which to receive His precious gift of repentance with another opportunity to use those "keys" to the kingdom the right way.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen White says that Luther taught justification by faith "clearly." She also states that he did not proclaim the full gospel as it must yet be proclaimed, for "this message is a part of the gospel which could be proclaimed only in the last days. ... The Reformers did not proclaim it" (The Great Controversy, p. 356).
[2] Evangelism, p. 190.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Cf. Early Writings, p. 254.
[5] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 360.
[6] Ibid., p. 1043.
[7] Ibid., p. 1030.
[8] Steps to Christ, p. 27.
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