Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sabbath School Lesson 5 | "Exiles as Missionaries" | Pastor Paul Penno

Lesson 5: Exiles as Missionaries

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Biblical Missionaries

Lesson 5: Exiles as Missionaries

In our lesson on the prophetic book of Daniel we focus light on the special message of Christ's righteousness which the Lord sent to us in the 1888 era. We demonstrate that the "most precious message" which "the Lord in His great mercy sent" to us is indeed worthy of the name Ellen G. White gave it--"the third angel's message in verity," ultimate practical godliness.

Since the message was intended by its Divine Author to prepare that generation to meet the final issues of the mark of the beast, the seal of God, and the close of human probation, it is clear that it embraces the entire life of those who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The contribution which the 1888 message makes to our lesson is to see that making Jesus Christ our Lord in missionary service is not only a duty imposed upon us, but it's far more than that--a joy, a commitment that is constrained upon us by the motivation of love (the agape of Christ). In other words, in this special Day of Atonement when the heavenly High Priest is closing His work as High Priest of our souls, Christ as our Lord is also our Friend.

To recognize Jesus as the Lord of our missionary life is to surrender our will, our choices, to Him, and that's what we Laodicean Christians squirm at. Yes, we'll keep Saturday as our rest day, and we'll pay tithe, and we'll dedicate a year or so of our life to be a foreign missionary somewhere, and we'll give offerings; and then, we having done our duty, He won't mind if we spend all we have left of means or time in enjoying our wonderful economic heritage. We've done our duty, haven't we? So, yes, we recognize Jesus as not only our Savior, but as our Lord in missionary service. Can we do better than that?

The 1888 good news is Christ capturing our hearts in our service for others. He is nudging His disciples awake in "Gethsemane." It's the agape of Christ as a kind of love wholly different from what we think of as "love," for it motivates those who believe in Him to a totally selfless life of service to Him as Lord. Neither fear nor hope of reward enters into the picture. It's a measure of devotion to Christ that is parallel to the unique experience of living in the heavenly Day of Atonement, the time of the final cleansing of the sanctuary (Dan. 8:14).

That's not merely a theological quirk that our pioneers had for their day; it is vital truth in living for Christ as Lord in these last days. There are trials that will beset God's people before the close of probation and the pouring out of the seven last plagues; we'd be foolish to dismiss their reality into Adventist oblivion. Ellen White says it will not be possible for anyone to meet those final tests coming on the human race of which Daniel the prophet wrote, apart from this knowledge of Christ as High Priest in His sanctuary ministry in the Most Holy Place. It's in His work there that His Priestly ministry finally coincides totally with His Lordship for those who believe in Him.

It becomes obvious that this is "Christian experience" that is unique. If our attention is fixed now on Christ as our Lord in service, this requires the revelation that the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation define what "the time of the end" means (Dan. 12:4). The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been raised up by God to proclaim to the earth His final message of reconciliation, that is, of atonement. At last at the end of human history, a people is to be prepared who are truly at-one-with God, as close in relationship to Christ as a bride is related to her bridegroom. It's not a new works program; it's a new faith program. Christ's role as Lord is actually welcomed as a bride welcomes her wedding day--not as our famous "Runaway-Bride" of recent notoriety. (The truth is that the church in her role as "Bride" has been on a runaway jaunt for over a century!)

Getting acquainted with Jesus as our Lord in service is a preparation for meeting Him when He returns the second time. It is thus a unique Adventist idea; all through history true Christians have recognized Christ as their Lord, but in this particular time of final Day of Atonement judgment, we are privileged to know Him as our Savior, our heart-cleansing High Priest, our Lord of our obedience, our Friend and our Lover of the ages.

We explore our relationship with Him as subjects of His Lordship in missionary service. This is a fresh spiritual experience appropriate to the crisis of world life today. The servant of the Lord assures us that all Heaven is deeply concerned for the spiritual condition of the church of the Laodiceans today. This contribution of the 1888 message, the unique Adventist idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary of which Daniel wrote, is the grand truth that makes the missionary service of Christ become so totally received that His church will glorify Him as never before. The church will make possible His being crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Forget about getting your own crown; pray to have a part in crowning Him.

Jesus especially singled out Daniel for our attention: "Whoso readeth, let him understand" (Matt. 24:15). That "let" embraces within itself a promise: if you "read" the book, that is, give it honest attention, the "understanding" will for a certainty be given to you. Your goal of course is not only your personal enrichment, but you want to learn how to "let" someone else "understand," for his good.

We often have a restricted idea of how to "give Bible studies." We need printed lessons that tell all the historical details that we aren't diligent enough to remember; educated "scholars" will have prepared the material, and we faithfully pass on to someone second hand this mass of information (that is, of course, until he gets too bored to continue).

Our goal is different: we want to do exactly what Jesus said--"read" and "understand" Daniel so we can ourselves personally lead someone else through the book, verse by verse. You don't want to impress someone with your acquired wealth of historical knowledge (God forbid!); what you want is to grasp the "gospel" Good News that is embedded in Daniel and let it grip someone's heart. Then that heart-thrilling reward comes in chapter 12: even now, before "forever and ever" comes, your happiness will "shine as the brightness of the firmament," and you will "turn [someone] to righteousness" (Daniel 12:3). The Holy Spirit will fill in the gaps and when you "read" with someone else, you will be surprised how He will "bring all things to your remembrance." You'll be conscious of His alerting you (John 14:26; that's a thrill nothing can surpass).

Daniel is a lesson book in corporate repentance. Note how he and his young friends who did not rebel against God (as did the kings and people of Israel) have to suffer innocently for the nation's corporate sin. God is forced to back off and allow Babylon to conquer them (Daniel and his friends get castrated in a foreign land; see Isa. 39:7). But there is no bitterness. Finally Daniel writes a chapter fully explaining corporate repentance (chapter 9).

The same principle is incumbent on the Seventh-day Adventist Church to appreciate: our "fathers' sins" of resisting the Holy Spirit are corporately "our sins" as well (Dan. 9:3-19; compare what Ellen White says about our own "1888" history and its effect on us today).

Daniel is a precious lesson book in Day of Atonement health reform. We can easily forget why God has given us health reform: it came precisely in tandem with our pioneers' incipient understanding of Day of Atonement living. Christ as our great High Priest in 1844 had entered His ministry in the second, "Most Holy," apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. While He is busy there "cleansing" it from the sin of His people, they on earth are permitting Him to "cleanse" it from their hearts. No way can the heavenly "books" have our sins "blotted out" there until first of all they are erased from our hearts down here. Health reform is a vital part of this special ministry--never before accomplished so completely for the corporate body of God's people.

--Paul E. Penno

Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lesson 4: The Jonah Saga

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Biblical Missionaries
Lesson 4: The Jonah Saga

[Or, Out With The Jonah Saga, and in With
The Repentance of the Ages--A Lesson From Jonah]


We welcome Mary Chun back as a writer for Sabbath School Today. Mary has done a great deal of research on her topic, therefore we would like to share her research with you, even though this essay is somewhat longer than usual.


Jonah is an unusual book because of its message and messenger. Unlike other Old Testament books, it exclusively revolves around a Gentile nation. God is concerned for the Gentiles as well as for His covenant people, Israel. We see God's messenger, Jonah, as a reluctant prophet who does not want to proclaim His message for fear that the Assyrians will respond and be spared by the compassionate God of Israel. There are significant points in this book--the storm, the casting of lots, the sailors, the huge fish, the Ninevites, the plant, the worm, and the east wind. Only the prophet Jonah fails to listen to God's call. All these were used to teach Jonah a lesson in compassion and obedience. We see the 1888 message of God's everlasting love expressed over and over in this book. There is God's infinite mercy for all people; and our human reluctance to share His mercy.

Just think that Jonah was a contemporary of Jeroboam II of Israel who ministered after the time of Elisha and just before the time of Amos and Hosea. Israel under Jeroboam II was enjoying a period of resurgence and prosperity. During these years, Assyria was in a period of mild decline. Weak rulers had ascended the throne, but Assyria remained a threat. By the time of Jonah, Assyrian cruelty had become legendary. Graphic accounts of their cruel treatment of captives have been found in ancient Assyrian records, during the 9th and 7th centuries B.C.

God was calling Jonah to go to Nineveh. Let's see where Nineveh is located--northeast from where Jonah was. The city of Nineveh was for many years the capital city of the mighty Assyrian Empire. It was considered a "great city," one of the oldest cities of the ancient Near East. Assyrian kings were cruel and ruthless. This pagan nation had invaded and pillaged the homeland of the Israelites on numerous occasions before Jonah visited Nineveh. The prophet wanted the city destroyed, not saved, because of its wickedness. But the people repented and were spared by a compassionate God, as seen in chapter 3, verse 10. God's love for the pagan world was deeper than His messenger could understand or accept.

God's love for the Gentiles is not only disclosed in the New Testament, it is also in the Old Testament. God commissioned the Hebrew prophet Jonah to proclaim a message of repentance to the Assyrians. Jonah's selfish nationalism blinded his purpose as an instrument of God's plan of salvation. The book of Jonah is one of the clearest demonstrations in the entire Scripture of God's love and mercy for all mankind.

Jonah is part of the collection of the twelve Minor Prophets. All the other books of this collection convey prophecies by genuine, historical prophets. By placing Jonah in this collection, the compiler of the Minor Prophets considered the book of Jonah to be an historical account. So Jonah is considered as a real historical figure, said to be a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel in 2 Kings 14:25, introducing Jonah as the son of Amittai. Yonah (Jonah) is the Hebrew word meaning "Dove, son of My Truth." Doves suggest two things to biblical writers: they are easily scared (Psalm 55:6; Ezek. 7:16; Hosea 11:11) and they mourn (Isa. 38:14; 59:11).

Under Jeroboam, the borders of Israel were expanded "according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher" (2 Kings 14:25). Let's check where Gath Hepher is located; it's 3 miles north of Nazareth in lower Galilee, making Jonah a Galilean and a prophet of the Northern Kingdom. You will see that the miracles in the book of Jonah are not impossible for the God of the Bible. And most of all, Jesus, in Matthew 12:39-41 and Luke 11:29-32, spoke of Jonah as being in a huge fish and preaching in Nineveh as if these were real events. Jesus mentioned that "the men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's proclamation" (Matt. 12:41). Jonah is the only prophet whom Jesus likened to Himself.

There is a significant message through the book of Jonah as indicated in E.J. Waggoner's article, "One Book," The Signs of the Times, November 13, 1893: "Take the account of the prophet Jonah. Many people would feel almost insulted if it were intimated that they were so simple as to believe it. They say that it never really happened; that the great fish never swallowed Jonah, and that it would have been impossible for him to live three days in its belly. But Christ said, 'As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth' (Matt. 12:40). Now if Jonah was never in the whale's belly, and could not have been, then we have the Saviour likening His death and resurrection to an impossibility. Therefore to deny the story of Jonah is to deny the foundation of the gospel."

The four chapters in the book of Jonah are summarized as follows:

Chapter 1--The first commission of Jonah, and his running from God, results in disobedience. Jonah does not want to see God spare the notoriously cruel Assyrians. To preach a message of repentance to them would be like helping Israel's enemy. The "I" in Jonah, along with his patriotism, put his country before his God and refused to represent Him in Nineveh. Instead of going 500 miles northeast to Nineveh, Jonah attempts to go 2000 miles west to Tarshish (Spain), where he paid his way to catch a ship to the opposite direction. God, the creator of the sea and land, created a great storm to disrupt Jonah's course. His sleeping during the storm caused chaos for the captain and sailors of the ship who feared for their lives, and they cast lots to see who was the cause of this terrible storm. Their attention turned to Jonah, the odd one of the group, and they quizzed Jonah to find out who he really was and where he was from. Jonah witnessed to them of his identity as a Hebrew who is fleeing from the Lord, and that the storm was the cause of his turning away from God's direction. The ship's crew tossed Jonah into the sea, but they prayed to Jonah's God for mercy in throwing Jonah overboard to calm the sea; it made them believers in the Lord. That was not the end of Jonah, as was expected; God created a great fish to swallow Jonah to prevent him from drowning. He was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights. This symbolizes Christ in Jonah; it anticipates Christ's death and resurrection, and shows that salvation is available to all people.

Please note as we recap what the great fish is, that in some translations it is described as a whale. Now a whale is not a fish; it's a mammal. The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek--not in English. And both "whale" and "great fish" are English translations of the original words. The Greek word translated "whale" is ketos (pronounced kay-tos), and it means "a huge fish" gaping for prey.

Chapter 2--God has a creative series of counter-measures to accomplish His desired result. While Jonah is inside the belly of the great fish, it is his prayer closet to spend time with God, where he utters his prayer of lament and thanksgiving to the Lord from the psalms. Psalms 130 was in the mind of Jonah: "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord" (vs. 1). You can imagine Jonah praying to the Lord when he was in the stomach of the great fish that swallowed him when he had made a mess of his life, running away from his duty to Nineveh: "Out of the belly of hell I cried, and You hear my voice. ... I have been cast out of Your sight, ... yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God" (Jonah 2:2, 4, 6). God hears his prayers and orders the great fish to vomit Jonah to the dry land, back to the place where God wanted him to go to, Nineveh. So, all that time in the belly of the great fish, God had ordered the fish to navigate to Nineveh. Actually, Jonah gets free transportation back to Nineveh, courtesy of God.

Chapter 3--The word of the Lord came the second time to Jonah to go to Nineveh, which would take a three days' journey to the heart of the city. God prepared Jonah to say just five words in Hebrew, that there will be forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown! Incredible words, a one sentence sermon that brought belief to the people of Nineveh. It turned them from their wicked ways, and they proclaimed a fast. The prophet is a walking object lesson from God, his skin no doubt bleached from his stay in the fish, convinced people to believe. Jonah's words of coming judgment are followed by a royal proclamation from the king of the city to fast and repent. This message reached the whole city. It's an incredible act to see that everyone turned to God with repentance and fasting, turned from their wicked ways. Examine the following verses (5 and 6): "So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes." Because of His great mercy, God "relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them" (vs. 10). This is also reflected in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If My people, which are called by My name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Chapter 4--God's everlasting love and grace are contrasted with Jonah's anger and lack of compassion. He is unhappy with the good results of his message, like how could this be so credible, because he knows God will spare Nineveh. God uses his creative ways through a plant, a worm, and a wind to teach Jonah a lesson in compassion. Jonah's emotions shift from fierce anger (vs. 1), to despondency (vs. 3), then to overwhelming joy (vs. 6), and then to despair (vs. 8) after God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day to attack the plant and it withered (vs. 7). In a humorous but meaningful account, Jonah is forced to see that he has more concern for the death of a plant than for 120,000 people (vs. 11). Jonah's lack of a divine perspective makes his repentance a greater problem than the repentance of Nineveh. If Jonah could have been compassionate to the Gentile people, we could benefit from a lesson on corporate repentance, and a selfless act of forgiveness.

When things in our lives are changing, be it wilting or gaining strength, we can see nothing as the culprit, or as the solution to patch up the problem. We need to turn our eyes to the heavens. God's hand and purposes can often go unnoticed and unrecognized if we aren't careful to consider His participation in life's events.

Romans 11:33 suggests that knowing God's will and perspective is beyond the reach of mere humans. While His ways are unsearchable and His methods are beyond our ability to comprehend, He will graciously lift the blinding veils and give revelation to those who come in humility with open hearts to hear and receive His Word.

Don't miss God's concern, care, and attention to detail when He crafted the specific methods to teach Jonah. The plant wasn't just any type; it had to be substantial enough to form a roof and provide shade. While many animals could have made Jonah's stay uncomfortable, God chose a worm to harm the plant. Finally, the hot wind came from the east. According to Jonah 4:5, the prophet had gone east of the city. This means he could not have benefited from any protection the huge walled city could have afforded him on the other side. God was strategic and detailed with the methods used to relay divine purposes to His beloved prophet.

All hardship does not come from God, but we must consider the divine implications of our difficulties. If we only see the physical aspects, we may miss the deeper spiritual truths our Father is teaching us. God desires the same from us as from Jonah, an intimacy with Him that molds our hearts into His image. Even if it takes a storm, a fish, a plant, a worm, and a hot east wind, He'll bend over backward to get it done.

--Mary Chun


Friday, July 17, 2015

Lesson 3: The Unlikely Missionary

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Biblical Missionaries
Lesson 3: The Unlikely Missionary

The story of this unnamed captive young girl captures the essence of the spirit of evangelism: love and concern for others regardless of whether they deserve it, or what they have done to you or the people you hold dear. This girl could easily have nursed a hatred for the military man who was responsible for the victory that led to her capture. No doubt, her early education in the agape of God prepared her for this encounter, but she still had a choice to make. Being a spoil of war was also part of her education, which could have sent her choice in the wrong direction, but it didn't. What made the difference? How can we understand that difference and apply it to ourselves?

The unique ideas of the 1888 message are based on a proper understanding of Isaiah 53 and its description of the Messiah's word. His first job was to convict the world of sin. Naaman had just about everything a pagan could wish for. Because of his expertise and prowess in overcoming people on the battlefield, position, reputation, wealth, power, military victories, and what sounded like a nice home were all his, except for one thing.

Many in the world who have a reasonable position and station in life believe they should be happy, but have a nagging sense that something is missing. Television, Internet, radio, even our phones tell us that we can fill that void by buying a new car or some trinket that will capture our interest for as long as it takes for a pampered cat to become bored with another toy.

The way to reach these folks is never to mimic the world's methods, but to follow the method of Christ, to convict the world of sin. The only way to effectively convey that concept is to acknowledge our own sin in proper humility. How do we do that? Many spend their lives trying to achieve greatness instead of quietly accepting our position in life as part of God's plan for our specific witness. Had our little captive girl decided to hate her new "family," she still would have had to act her part, but many would applaud her for not letting them "have her mind."

Paul has instructed us to "count it all joy" when different trials and disappointments happen to us, and be content. How can this happen? It's against everything a self-focused mind believes.

Once again, it's at the foot of the cross where we learn this lesson. One of the more difficult aspects of the 1888 message is the teaching that Christ died for every person ever born into the human race. Our evangelistic efforts can therefore be directed and tailored to each individual's needs rather than the "one-size-fits-all" approach. We tend to find the biggest auditorium to fill with "sinners" and give them the 28 fundamental beliefs, and fervently urge them to be baptized. From a human standpoint, this seems most efficient, but it was not Christ's method. He lived and traveled among people and considered them friends. His mission was always based on the fact that His death was for each and every one of them individually, not collectively, so He didn't deal with them collectively. Rather, He healed them one by one.

If we learn to treat each person we encounter as someone for whom Christ has already paid their penalty for sin on the cross, we recognize they are no different from us. We can love them as family, and let our concern for their welfare flow from Christ through us to them.

The Christian evangelical community generally believes: "The initial requirements for Naaman's healing were belief and compliance. As soon as he conquered his pride and complied with God's expressed will by bathing seven times in the muddy Jordan, he was cured." [1] The idea is that if we comply with all of God's pre-conditions, He will look on us favorably and heal us.

The 1888 message teaches the opposite. We cannot conquer our pride, but we can accept Christ's victory over it through the working of the Holy Spirit. We can never "comply with God's expressed will" enough by doing things to get His attention. The cure for sin demands payment of its penalty, which is the second death. God healed Naaman from his leprosy, the biblical symbol of sin, not because he bathed seven times in the Jordan, but because as surely as all sinned, so surely has the Lord already laid that iniquity upon Christ (Isa. 53:6). In other words, Christ has already paid the full debt for every man's sin, which is death. But the sinner carries that burden on his sinful heart and conscience until someone tells him the gospel and he accepts the Good News.

Over the face of the whole earth, the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin because the sacrifice of the Lamb of God has been applied to atone for every "curse." Conviction of sin is possible only if Christ has already paid the penalty for that sin (Zech. 5:1-4).

"All this deliverance is 'according to the will of our God and Father.' The will of God is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). He wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). And He 'accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will' (Eph. 1:11). 'Do you mean to teach universal salvation?' someone may ask. We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches--that 'the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men' (Titus 2:11, RV). God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it and throw it away. The judgment will reveal the fact that full salvation was given to every man and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession." [2]

When Naaman bathed in the Jordan, he was demonstrating his acceptance of the drawing of the Holy Spirit Who was convicting Naaman of his great need. Naaman made the choice that healing was worth his pride. The change had taken place in his mind, and his actions flowed from that. Once we realize how good the Good News is, humility and gratitude are the natural responses. Naaman's expressions of gratitude were his witness of God's power to create life out of death.

"The gifts which the gospel offers are not to be secured by stealth or enjoyed in secret. ... Our confession of His faithfulness is Heaven's chosen agency for revealing Christ to the world. We are to acknowledge His grace as made known through the holy men of old; but that which will be most effectual is the testimony of our own experience. We are witnesses for God as we reveal in ourselves the working of a power that is divine. Every individual has a life distinct from all others, and an experience differing essentially from theirs. God desires that our praise shall ascend to Him, marked by our own individuality. These precious acknowledgments to the praise of the glory of His grace, when supported by a Christ-like life, have an irresistible power that works for the salvation of souls." [3]

--Arlene Hill

[1] Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, p. 26.
[2] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp.13, 14.
[3] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 347.

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lesson 2: Abraham: The First Missionary

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Biblical Missionaries
Lesson 2: Abraham: The First Missionary

Last week's "Sabbath School Today" concluded with the statement: After sin had caused man to run away from God, He called a man who was willing to listen to His voice, Abraham: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing" (Gen. 12:1, 2). ... The purpose of this special call was to make Abraham and his "nation" to be a blessing to the whole world: "And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (vs. 3).

Because our Sabbath School lesson gives an interesting account of the progression of Abraham's life and calling, we will not revisit that ground. Our focus will be on God's promises to Abraham, and how an understanding of the two covenants became one of the most important aspects of the 1888 message.

What impresses many people with the beauty of the message is its unique view of the New Covenant, it's "most precious Good News." Simply stated, the 1888 message view is this: (1) the New Covenant is the promises of God; (2) the Old Covenant is the promises of the people.

Inherited from centuries of controversy, the general Christian view of the two covenants was that they are two "dispensations." It was assumed that God had invented the Old Covenant to be in force until the time of Christ, when a new "dispensation" would begin as the first manifestation of the New Covenant.

At the time of the 1888 General Conference Session, it was difficult to find any two of our ministerial leaders who could agree on the details. Into this situation stepped the "special messengers" (A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner) whom the Lord had "sent." They declared that the "dispensational" idea is not taught in the Bible. The two covenants are not matters of time, or dispensation: they run side by side all through history since the fall of man at the Garden of Eden. They are matters of heart-conviction. It was possible for people living in Old Testament times to be living under the New Covenant if they had true faith in Christ; it is possible for us living today to be under the Old Covenant if we don't understand the Good News of the gospel. [1]

Ellen White's testimony is vital, but she has always wanted us to rely primarily on Bible evidence on this important subject. Waggoner and Jones had been enabled by the Holy Spirit to break through the fog that had enclosed this subject for many centuries. The Bible became clear to them once they grasped the import of the theme of the great controversy between Christ and Satan and saw justification by faith in this light. In a vision given her in 1890 she was shown, "Since I made the statement last Sabbath that the view of the covenants as it had been taught by Brother Waggoner was truth, it seems that great relief has come to many minds." [2]

The original New Covenant promise was what God promised in Genesis 3:15--a Saviour who would bruise the head of our enemy, Satan. God made no mention that Adam and Eve were to promise anything in return.

The Apostle Paul cites God's promises to Abraham as the clearest statement of the New Covenant (Gal. 3:8-18). There are seven wonderful promises in Genesis 12:2, 3, all for Abraham and his descendants by faith: (1) "I will make of thee a great nation; (2) and I will bless thee, (3) and I will make thy name great; (4) and thou shalt be a blessing; (5) and I will bless them that bless thee, (6) and curse him that curseth thee; (7) and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

Later (Gen. 13:14-17; 15:5) God promised to give Abraham not only the land of Canaan, but the whole earth for his "everlasting possession," which Waggoner wryly remarked must include also everlasting life or he couldn't enjoy it and that meant also it must include the righteousness by faith necessary to inherit it. [3] In other words, in Waggoner's view (which, as mentioned previously, Ellen White endorsed by vision), the New Covenant was the essence of the "everlasting gospel," the righteousness by faith which is the "third angel's message."

Waggoner and Jones were impressed that when the Lord made those seven promises (and others) to Abraham, He did not ask Abraham to make the same kind of promises in return. Instead, He asked Abraham to believe that His word would come to pass. They insisted that when the Lord "makes a covenant," it's a one-sided promise on His part.

"That is all we can do--receive. God promises us everything that we need, and more than we can ask or think, as a gift. We give Him ourselves, that is nothing. And He gives us Himself, that is, everything. That which makes all the trouble [here he refers to the opposition he has been receiving from the brethren] is that even when men are willing to recognize the Lord at all, they want to make bargains with Him. They want it to be an equal, 'mutual' affair--a transaction in which they can consider themselves on a par with God." [4]

"The gospel was as full and complete in the days of Abraham as it has ever been or ever will be. No addition to it or change in its provisions or conditions could possibly be made after God's oath to Abraham. Nothing can be taken away from it as it thus existed, and not one thing can ever be required from any man more than what was required of Abraham." [5]

Abraham's response to God's promises was the simple Hebrew word AMEN, which implies a heart-felt appreciation, a heart-agreement with God, a heart-commitment to Him just as when we say "amen" to something we heartily agree with. That's what God wants from us, for He knows that it will also produce all the obedience the law requires.

The New Covenant was the central pillar in the "most precious message" of 1888, and is the best mission-focused Good News that could be given to the world. May its truth be resurrected in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] Waggoner's clearest presentations of this subject are found in his two books, The Glad Tidings, and The Everlasting Covenant (a series of Present Truth articles published in the 1890s). Both can be found on in the Book section.
[2] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, letter 30, 1890, pp. 622-626; see also letter 59, 1890, pp. 599-605. For easy reference, both letters are posted on
[3] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 72.
[4] Ibid., p. 71.
[5] Ibid., p. 73.

Note: "Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: Due to travel, there is no video this week of Pastor Paul Penno's Sabbath School class.

Raul Diaz