Friday, June 12, 2015

Lesson 11: The Kingdom of God

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Luke

Lesson 11: The Kingdom of God

"The kingdom of God begins in the heart" (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 506.) This simple statement embodies the fullness of the 1888 message, which is the message given to us by God to change hard hearts from focusing on self into hearts filled with appreciation for what Christ has done on His cross and is doing for us. It's a message to prepare us for translation into His kingdom, not death.

A higher motivation becomes realized in the close of time than has prevailed in the church in past ages--a concern for Christ that He receive His reward and find His "rest" in the final eradication of sin. All egocentric motivation based merely on fear of hell or hope of reward is no longer effective. The higher motivation is symbolized in the climax of Scripture--the Bride of Christ making herself "ready."

Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," wrote: "There has been, from the very first, a throne of grace and a kingdom of grace, of which fallen man becomes subject by conversion. Of this kingdom the Saviour spoke when He said, 'The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; ... For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you' (Luke 17:20-21). This kingdom has been gathering in its subjects during all the ages in which earthly governments have existed; but this work is not to go on for ever." [1]

Someday we will be in God's eternal kingdom of glory, thanks to our Saviour. We'll look back on our earthly pilgrimage, wondering why it took us so long to overcome our worldliness, our selfishness, our sinful addictions, yes, our Laodicean lukewarmness. We will see that pure "river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. 22:1).

What has made us distinctly "Adventist" has been a firm belief in the soon return of Jesus, a life-changing belief in the Most Holy Apartment ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary on this Day of Atonement, and confidence in the prophetic gift of Ellen G. White. God is the true Head of the church, and nothing can stop what He purposes to do. His objective will be accomplished through a special message: "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14).

This message to be preached is a special gift to prepare God's people for translation at the coming of Jesus. It "ripens the grain for the harvest," that is, it woos His people away from their love of the world so they want the kingdom of God to come. It awakens a zeal like those had who waited for Christ in the autumn of 1844. [2] It's not something foggy as emotionalism; it's biblical truth that had never been so clearly understood. Now it is defined as clear truth. It's a shift in Christian experience from Old Covenant to New Covenant thinking. It was the principal issue that impacted the reception of "1888." It demonstrated that there is "light" in the gospel that is greater than the popular churches are able to see.

Ellen White has written, "Amid the confusing cries, 'Lo, here is Christ! Lo, there is Christ!' will be borne a special testimony, a special message of truth appropriate for this time, which message is to be received, believed, and acted upon." [3] As surely as day follows night, such a message will come. Repentance for the 1888-era rejection of such a message [4] will bring a wholehearted acceptance of its renewal.

We have learned to think of the latter rain as "a message of Christ's righteousness," a clearer grasp of practical godliness--all by faith. When the latter rain is welcomed, no longer resisted, God's people have taken the step that concludes the message from the true Witness--they have "overcome even as [He] overcame" (Rev. 3:21). Their faith has matured under the refreshing "showers of the latter rain" received, not rejected. According to Ellen White's testimony, all this should have come well over a century ago, yes, within the lifetime of people living in 1856. When the latter rain is received, it prepares for a grand "harvest" of human souls who will respond to a final "lifting up" of Christ and Him crucified. It will be a revelation of the cross that the world has never seen so clearly. The "most precious message" will penetrate to every honest heart on earth.

Jesus says, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom!" (Luke 12:32). Paul says that He "wants all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3, 4). Why will anyone, then, be lost if it is not His will that they should be? The Bible makes clear that by unbelief man or woman can "frustrate the grace of God."

Esau has become the grand prototype of all the lost who will stand before the Great White Throne. The elder brother of Jacob, the birthright was his; it could not be taken from him. But when Esau was hungry he smelled the stew that Jacob was cooking and made the solemn, oath-bound choice to "despise" his birthright for it. He "sold" it in a moment of self-gratification, and never got it back, "though he sought it carefully with tears" (see Heb. 12:16, 17).

What do we need to do? Recover what we lost is the simple answer. The Lord loves us too much to want to humiliate us; repentance will never do that. We will humble ourselves, yes; but our Savior has never put His arms around us so warmly. To resolve our quandary is easy; just give to the world church the message which "we" "in a great degree" rejected, according to the Lord's messenger. The problem is simple: the world needs that special Good News that God wanted to give them. How can we dare withhold it, century after century? Give it to them!

As suggested by our Saviour, we may pray something like this: "May the hindrances to the coming of Your kingdom be overcome; in other words, let nothing further delay the second coming of Jesus! Teach me how I (unworthy as I am) can 'hasten,' not delay, that day" (2 Peter 3:12).

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland, et al.

[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, "The Coming Kingdom," The Present Truth, Oct. 18, 1894.
[2] Please read this account in The Great Controversy, pp. 372-374.
[3] Review and Herald, Oct. 13, 1904.
[4] See last week's "Sabbath School Today."

Raul Diaz