Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lesson 9: "Our Mission"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 

The Teachings of Jesus

Lesson 9: "Our Mission"

Consider the theme of our lesson, "Our Mission." What is our mission as Seventh-day Adventists? Has Jesus given us a unique mission to the world? Or are we merely a "me-too" reflection of other churches' mission to the world? Is our mission the same as the Baptists or Nazarenes or some other Evangelical group? A cursory review of the lesson would leave us with that impression.

Is our mission to baptize the most folks possible? What good does it do if those folks are not prepared for the great test of the mark of the beast and in the end fail? What good does it do if the folks we baptize become just more Laodicean lukewarm members? What kind of discipleship is that?

We as a world church are in fact writing a "book" about "discipleship." The last chapter is about a "discipleship" so mature, so complete that it prepares the "disciples" around the world to be ready for the close of human probation, prepares them to stand during the pouring out of the seven last plagues, prepares them to face the final test of the close of probation. That will be ultimate "discipleship."

We are either hastening the finishing of the gospel commission, or we are continuing our history of 125 years in postponing the glorious "marriage of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:7, 8). In 1888, 125 years ago, the Lord Jesus wanted to propose to the corporate "woman" whom He loves, "Let's get married!" All heaven had been waiting to rejoice because "the marriage of the Lamb is come, for His wife has made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7). But no, not yet.

Why do we need to go back in history to 1888 and devote time to what happened there? Is it not sufficient that we simply face the future?

Two complimentary dates in Adventist history demand special attention: 1844 and 1888. The first marks the prophetic beginning of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, the Day of Atonement, and the beginning of the sounding of the seventh angel's trumpet (Dan. 8:14; Rev. 11:15-19).

The ministry of the great High Priest in the first apartment (the first phase of His sanctuary atoning ministry pre-1844) prepares believers for death. And that is a marvelous work. The ministry in the second apartment (or phase) is specifically to prepare a corporate body of God's people for translation without seeing death.

The second date, 1888, marks the beginning of the long-awaited outpouring of the latter rain and the loud cry. If the special message which the three angels of Revelation 14 proclaim is "the everlasting gospel" in the setting of the Day of Atonement, then it is obvious that the gospel cannot be clearly understood except in the context of the cleansing of the sanctuary.

If His people will faithfully proclaim that sealing message, the Lord has promised that He will restrain the exploding evil in the world until giving the message is completed. But if the church does not faithfully proclaim the message that alone can prepare a people for the return of Christ, He cannot hold in check those near-exploding global forces of evil.

God has instructed "four angels" to "hold" the "four winds" of human passion "till we have sealed the servants of our God" (Rev. 7:1-4; Ellen G. White, Early Writings, pp. 36-38). The loosing of the "four winds" will be the complete breakdown of social order, decency, morality, fidelity, including economic and political security.

Merely to proclaim a message that prepares people for death is no longer good enough. The time must come when there is a message that prepares a people for His second coming. History and inspiration are clear that the latter rain and loud cry were "in a large measure resisted and rejected." [1]

The Lord has not delayed His return; we have delayed it. There is no problem facing the worldwide church as serious as our relationship to the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead. The Lord's inspired messenger said of the 1888 experience: "I know that at that time the Spirit of God was insulted." [2]

Again, "All the universe of heaven witnessed the disgraceful treatment of Jesus Christ, represented by the Holy Spirit. Had Christ been before them they would have treated him in a manner similar to that in which the Jews treated Christ." [3] But what difference does this make to us in 2014? Does this terrible sin of 1888 have any appreciable effect on us now?

Yes, this sin does have a serious effect on our relationship to the Holy Spirit today. It has delayed the preparation of God's people for the coming of the Lord for 125 years. By nature we are not better than they. By nature we are not better than our fathers who insulted the Holy Spirit and showed enmity against Christ through His delegated messengers.

Until full understanding and full repentance bring full healing and reconciliation, the spiritual alienation will continue. The hard hearts and mindset of our forefathers are passed on to us "through the influence of mind on mind." [4] The Bible declares that this was also the experience of the ancient Jews: "... ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye" (Acts 7:51).

Practically without exception, Seventh-day Adventists recognize our need of the Holy Spirit. The latter rain prepares the grain for the harvest; large numerical increases to the church do not necessarily indicate the reception of the latter rain.

The Lord sent "the beginning" of the latter rain in a "most precious message" delivered at the General Conference Session in Minneapolis in 1888. The essence of this message was the call of Christ to the leadership of the Laodicean church to "repent." It was His plan that the General and local Conference leadership personnel not stand "aloof" or hostile to the message, but heartily receive it. Recognizing and joyfully accepting truth, the entire church leadership would have responded to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and our publishing houses and the Review and Herald would have joined unitedly and harmoniously in the glad work. The laity were ready and would have cooperated. Thus the gospel commission could have been completed in that generation. It wasn't.

What did not happen then must happen in the future. And the "scenario" will happen because the Lord Jesus has not died in vain. He will yet see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied (Isa. 53:11). He has many honest-hearted people in the Seventh-day Adventist Church who will be loyal to Him and to His truth, even unto death. Corporate and denominational repentance is the work embodied in the antitypical Day of Atonement. Satan is determined to oppose it unto the bitter end. Let us make sure that we do not stand on the enemy's side, either by active support or by default.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:[1] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, pp, 234, 235.
[2] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1043.
[3] Ibid., p. 1478.
[4] Ellen G. White, Our High Calling, p. 109.

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Raul Diaz