Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Coming of Jesus

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Luke

Lesson 1: The Coming of Jesus

Welcome to a series of thirteen studies in the Gospel of Luke from the dynamic perspective of the 1888 message. Have you ever wondered why Luke surpasses Matthew, Mark, and John in telling the most detailed stories of Jesus' birth? Those three were Jewish writers; Luke was a Gentile. He was writing for us, presenting Jesus in a light especially appealing to us "outsiders." He alone tells of the angel's message to the world, "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:10). Paul says for all the apostles, "We declare unto you glad tidings" (Acts 13:32), and the last message God will send to the world will be "the everlasting Good News" (Rev. 14:6-12).

Since sin came into the world, God has been in the business night and day, with never a holiday, of being a Saviour. That is His relationship to you, as of this moment, even though you may have sinned grievously. He always has a message of hope for you, as long as you have ears to hear it. He says; believe My love, appreciate My sacrifice for you, My gift of justification, receive My gift of forgiveness, My eternal life that I share with you. From where you stand at this moment, there is a path of hope, of good news, for you. Respond to that good news, believe it.

Luke alone tells of the lowliness of Jesus' birth in a cattle-shed--a priceless encouragement to all of us who live in humble places. [1] Luke alone tells of the Baby being wrapped in "swaddling clothes," probably the rags Mary was able to scrounge at the last moment. Luke alone tells us several times that Mary was a quiet, shy, maybe retiring sort of lady who was good at keeping still (Luke 2:19, 51).

Luke must have gone his Gentile way as a "reporter" from outside and interviewed Mary after Christ's resurrection. He tells us of her strange "humiliation" (Luke 1:48). He leaves us wondering what it was, why she felt drawn so closely to the broken-hearted Hannah of 1 Samuel 1. Mary's poem of praise and thanksgiving (after Gabriel's visit) is patterned after Hannah's praise poem (2:1-10). The two had something in common! Only Luke lets us see this priceless gem.

Luke's heart-burden is to reveal Jesus to us as One so close to us that no one else, not even family or spouse can be closer. Almost everything in this world will try to entice you away from Him.

The Old Testament had ended with a promise. We must read the great promise as it is word for word in Malachi 4:5-6:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children,
And the heart of the children to their fathers, ..."

God honored the faith of the honest Jews of Christ's day and sent them "Elijah" in fulfillment of Malachi's promise because they sincerely expected that the coming of their Messiah would be "the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Even the disciples wondered "who" and "where" their "Elijah" was. Jesus told them not to look in their future; he had already come in the person of John the Baptist: "'Verily I say to you, among them that were born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist. ... And if ye will receive it, this is Elias [Elijah], which was for to come'" (Matt. 11:11-14).

But John's day was not "the great and dreadful day of the Lord." That day is now. Therefore we may expect "Elijah" to come as a message in the same way that John's message was the fulfillment of Malachi's promise.

Just as the Jews in the days of John the Baptist were excited about the coming of their long-awaited Messiah, so we today are awaiting the coming of our long-awaited "Elijah" who will minister reconciliation of alienated hearts, and prepare people to meet Jesus when He returns.

John the Baptist's message fulfilled the prophecy for his day. In her day, Ellen White recognized that the 1888 message fulfilled it. She wrote: "Somebody is to come in the spirit and power of Elijah, and when he appears, men may say, 'You are too earnest, you do not interpret the Scriptures in the proper way. Let me tell you how to teach your message.'

"There are many who cannot distinguish between the work of God and that of man. I shall tell the truth as God gives it to me, and I say now, If you continue to find fault, to have a spirit of variance, you will never know the truth. ..." [2]

In our day, will "Elijah" be some charismatic superman or superwoman? The Lord "will raise up from among the common people men and women to do His work, ... an awakening that will surprise many. ... The heavenly messengers will work with those who are called the common people." [3] Single-handedly Elijah had effected a revival and reformation in Israel; and "the Lord God of Elijah" will still help His servants who work apparently single-handedly for revival and reformation today.

The angel said of John, "and many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:16-17). He will specialize in ministries of reconciliation.

This cannot be a fear work, even though the concluding clause says, "lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Mal. 4:6). It gives the superficial impression of the greatest fear-driven movement in history; but it cannot be because fear never works the kind of "reconciliation" that is the subject of the great Day of Atonement. It is "hearts" that are "turned," and only love can do that kind of "turning." And the only love that can work that stupendous miracle is the love of Christ.

Therefore the coming of "Elijah" means the ministry of the experience of self being "crucified with Christ," which in turn must mean the greatest uplifting of "Christ and Him crucified" that has ever been known on earth--and that of course will be the message of that fourth angel of Revelation 18:1-4. Then at last the "wise words for families" in the book of Proverbs will meet their ultimate in fruit-bearing.

Love, not fearful terror, will bring the "third angel's message" home to wounded hearts.

--Paul E. Penno


[1] "It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour's matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary's cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him" (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 480).

[2] Ellen G. White, "How to Meet a Controverted Point of Doctrine," The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, February 18, 1890. Quoted in The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 534.

[3] Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, p. 204.

Raul Diaz