Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lesson 13: "The Second Coming of Jesus"

                               Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 13: "The Second Coming of Jesus"
Our denominational name, Seventh-day Adventist, proclaims our mission. Thus the prophetic destiny of Adventists will be successful at the second advent of Christ. Our mission is to invite the multitudes of the nations to the wedding by means of the clearest "everlasting gospel" of all. If this be the case, then our message and purpose is to prepare a Bride ready to reciprocate her Husband's love for her at His coming. There never was a bride who feared her husband. The bride welcomes the coming of her husband. [1]
If, as a denominated, distinct people from the churches of the earth, we give up our sanctuary truth,--the kernel, and not the husk,--we have no way to be prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom. It is possible to lose the sanctuary truth while still using the terms causing us to think that we believe it.
It's time to face up to our fears about Christ's return. In our final lesson of this quarter, "The Second Coming of Christ," it is clear what our fears are. It involves the very "kernel" of Adventist "present truth," the sanctuary.
How is it possible that as our Lesson proclaims, "our passion for Christ's return is stronger than ever"; and yet further on we read, "the Second Coming is never farther away than a moment after our death"? [2] What was implicitly taught in the lesson on "Death and Resurrection" is made explicit in this 13th Sabbath lesson; namely, "His coming is never more than a moment after we die." [3]
There is not a word about "translation" of the living who are prepared to welcome Jesus' coming. The best that we can hope for is death and then resurrection when He comes. Is this the "present truth" of the sanctuary? What motivation lies beneath this focus on the resurrection?
"The first resurrection" is "blessed and holy" (Rev. 20:6). Since 1844, there are many in this special, elite class. What wonderful comfort to know that the death of our beloved is not the end, but a peaceful rest until Jesus' voice awakens them at His return.
But is this "the present truth" of our Day of Atonement? If we lose sight of the unique understanding of Seventh-day Adventists regarding the everlasting gospel,--which is "the cleansing of the sanctuary,"--we become like all the rest of Protestantism in our motivation for the kingdom.
This focus strictly on the resurrection is not much different in motivation than what is taught by the pre-tribulation rapture. The idea is, believers do not go through the final tribulation, but are quietly taken away by the "secret rapture." The underlying motive is a fear of the tribulation and a desire to escape it. The same motivation is in Protestantism's focus on death as the door to heaven.
The emphasis in our Lesson, "our passion for Christ's return," is fatal if we teach that death is the preferred way to Christ's return. Why? Because there is an underlying fear of the crisis ahead--the events surrounding the close of probation--and, primarily, a fear of Christ's second coming.
It's time to ask ourselves the question: Is the second coming of Christ Good News? Or is it Bad News? Is there a hidden alienation that exists between Adventists and their desire to see Jesus return? The resurrection as the way to the second coming exposes this hidden, motivational fear. Will the real Adventist stand up?
Is our understanding of the sanctuary truth a preparation to die; so that we can come up in the first resurrection, and thus escape the tribulation through the "underground route" to the second coming? If so, then we have reverted to a pre-1844 view of righteousness by faith.
For eighteen hundred years, Christ, our High Priest, was ministering a gospel in order to prepare people to die and come up in the resurrection. Because of the kindergarten status of disciples through long ages, Christians believed, more often than not, of fear of hell and hope of reward.
But subsequent to 1844, Christ is no longer in the first apartment of the sanctuary. In His divine capacity as Master Teacher, there is revealed the fuller, more complete understanding of "the everlasting gospel," which has not been comprehended since the days of the Apostles. Day of Atonement faith is no longer motivated by fear, but divine agape. "God is leading out a people. He is cleansing and fitting up a people for translation." [4] The "cleansing and fitting up" is the agape motivation for faith.
There is a widespread idea in our midst, which is an outgrowth of Calvinism, that God has predetermined the time for Christ's second coming as a fixed date. But Jesus taught that the timing of His coming is conditional and dependent upon the faithfulness of God's people. Jesus' parable of the farmer teaches that "the grain ripens" and "immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come" (Mark 4:26-29; cf. Rev. 14:14, 15).
The actual time of Christ's second coming depends on the "harvest" getting ripe, that is, on God's people being ready for His coming. Do we need a special preparation to be ready? The factor that makes the difference is "the latter rain" outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It's not a "works trip," but a "faith trip." This message of "the latter rain" began in 1888. It is the Spirit that ripens the grain, but He cannot if we will not let Him.
If there should be any lingering, hidden sin in the hearts of believers, it would surely be revealed at Christ's coming for "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). Obviously, Jesus loves us too much to come if we're not ready. If He came when we're not ready, we would only be consumed by the brightness of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8).
Furthermore, sin both known and unknown causes fear. Shortly before Christ's return, "the mark of the beast" will be the most fear-inducing test that God's people must pass. God's answer to the mark of the beast is the seal of God. The wonderful truth is that Jesus removes our fear and its root cause which is sin, by an appreciation of His much more abounding grace (the fullness of Divine love and the cross).
The time of trouble turns out to be the "engagement" period with our Husband-to-be. It's as though we are camping in lion-infested territory with Jesus, and the last vestiges of lingering fear are removed from us by our consent.
All the dead must remain prisoners in their graves until the Life-Giver returns, for only the Son of God can resurrect them. Therefore everything depends on a people getting ready for Him to come! The Good News is that the Holy Spirit is working night and day, seven days a week, preparing a people for Christ's soon coming. Are you letting Him work?
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes:[1] Thus our mission and message go hand-in-hand. Many believe getting the most numbers is the fulfillment of our mission. However, the mission is not merely to gather in the largest numbers, but to prepare the "Bride" by means of a Spirit-indited message.
[2] "The Teachings of Jesus," Sabbath afternoon and Wednesday lessons, pp. 149, 153 (Teacher's Edition); pp. 104, 108 (Standard Edition).
[3] Wednesday's lesson, p. 153 (Teacher's); p. 108 (Standard).
[4] Ellen G. White to Friends at Hanover, New Hampshire, Feb. 18, 1863; Letter H-012.
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:
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